27 College St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 8am Sat, 9am Sun; closes 4pm
Porridge $12; L’affare coffee (incl filter), Enzo Orient tea
Caffe L’affare set up a coffee roasting business with an attached café (or was it the other way around?) in the light industrial and warehousing area of Te Aro in 1990. It wasn’t a promising location for a café but things took off: other cafés offering ‘real coffee’ (i.e. locally roasted espresso) were grungy places like Midnight Espresso, Espressoholic and Deluxe. L’affare was industrial chic and the concept found a strong fan base as the area itself gradually gentrified.
I visited once or twice in the early 2000s for work-related meetings and hated it. Industrial tends to mean noisy, and it was. I wasn’t into coffee then and never went back. But then I started this website and discovered they served porridge.
I made an exploratory foray one afternoon when I thought I could get some photos without too many people. It was another bad experience. All I wanted was a cup of tea but I was told to take a seat and someone would come over. Someone did indeed bring a glass and a flask of water. And then nothing. I decided to see how just how long it would take before I got served. Twenty minutes later I gave up and left.
However, I was on a mission to try their porridge. So back I went back on a Sunday morning a few minutes after opening at 9am. Already there were 15 or so people seated, and by 9.30 about 40 present. The waiter told me that people would sometimes be lining up at the door on a weekend morning. So much for my plan to get in early and take some photos of the interior without people.
There is good news though: service second time around was very efficient, the porridge was very reasonably priced, bottomless filter is served (in a mug) and there were heaps of newspapers to read.
The porridge itself was a generous quantity of fairly straightforward rolled oats. It wasn’t quite as hot as I would like, but otherwise OK. It was topped with stewed rhubarb and roasted and broken nuts. I would have preferred a bit more rhubarb but the quantity of nuts was ample. The dish was accompanied with a jug of cream and some brown sugar.
There are two parts to L’affare: the dark, barn-like bit behind the counters, and in front, a quieter section with limited seating and natural daylight. You can buy coffee and coffee-making equipment here too.
In case you were wondering, the name Caffe L’affare combines the Italian words for coffee and business, bargain or deal. Exactly what you are left with I’m not quite sure. Strictly speaking, the first word should have a grave accent like so: caffè.
L’affare has a lot in common with Prefab. Which is not surprising, since the original owners sold L’affare to create Prefab. They are in the same neighbourhood and share the industrial aesthetic, the large seating accommodation, tight quality control and high level of popularity.
I guess L’affare is not dog friendly, but the dogs don’t seem to mind waiting outside.
Good value for money porridge with a decent sprinkling of roasted nuts. Great filter coffee. I’ve got over my aversion to the place now and will be back for coffee at least (bearing in mind that its another eatery where its best to get in early).
Reviewed August 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.