87 Upland Rd, Kelburn, Wellington
Opens: 8am weekdays, 8.30am weekends; closes 4pm
Muesli $10.80; L’affare coffee, Tea Total teas
Kelburn Cafe is a very small place on the main road through Kelburn. It is easy to miss because of the visual clutter all round it – from the beauty salon awning over half the upper building frontage to the truly awful real estate look-alike signage of the Village Pub next door. It is operated by a very self-effacing, middle-aged Asian couple, making it a Ma and Pa kind of eatery.
The muesli didn’t look terribly promising on the menu, which is one reason I’ve been holding back on reviewing this place. A price of just $10.80 reinforced my feeling that there wasn’t going to be anything special here. So I was quite taken aback with the attractive presentation. It features the unusual touch of grated apple next to a delicious looking berry compote of giant whole berries and yoghurt with honey drizzled over it. The whole disk was very lightly dusted with icing sugar.
A bit of a dig around in the muesli saw my pleasure turned to disappointment though as I realised why the price was low. We had the Highlands Muesli cheap catering pack here. It is served in a number of other eateries around Wellington and while it has its good points – lots of almonds and coconut flakes – it also suffers the wretchedness of banana chips, far too many sultanas and dried pawpaw pieces. So, overall, a very conflicted dish.
But the Americano coffee I had with the muesli was good, and I had tea here on another occasion. The latter was pretty blah: tea bag, standard catering tea pot, milk served in a cup, and a coffee cup for the tea. I had this with a coconut friand, which was good, but I must add that nothing much else in the cabinet appealed.
Despite all this, I really like Kelburn Cafe. And the reason is the ambience. It is very woody and sunny. Downstairs you have what feels like a sun room. It only has room for three tables, so is very intimate and it can feel like you are intruding if someone is already seated in here.
Upstairs is bigger, but not by all that much. Below is how it looks on a sunny day with my camera set to real estate (panorama) mode – far bigger than it actually is. There are five tables here, seating about 12 or 13. The front also opens to a balcony though, so on a good day you could take another four people outside.
And here is the reverse shot, also in panorama mode:
Below is how it looks on a grey day with a more normal angle of view. I think I might feel a bit claustrophobic in such a small space when it is full up, especially as it is a self-enclosed room with a narrow stairway up to it.
And here is a shot of the main wall using a normal angle of view as well:
As you can see, mirrors are used both upstairs and down to create a sense of space. The skylight upstairs helps create an airy atmosphere too. And notice the stack of newspapers and magazines in the corner. There is a week’s worth of newspapers, so if someone else is reading today’s edition you can always catch up on old news. There is a child’s high-chair squeezed into a corner too, plus some toys I think. And a glass chess set.
Lovely, intimate environment, best experienced on a quiet day. Muesli bowl looks good but the taste experience is limited due to the cheap pre-made mixture. Coffee is good, tea less so.
Reviewed June 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.