45 Tory St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 8am weekends; closes 4pm Mon & Sun, 11pm Tues to Sat
Granola $10; Good Fortune black coffee $3 on weekdays; Tea Total tea
Le Samourai is connected with the Asian-fusion eatery Chow and located downstairs from their Tory St restaurant. Maybe that’s why they went for the name Samurai (in French), though there is no trace of Asia in their food: it’s all French oriented, with such standards as croque monsieur and crème brûlée. The place is inconspicuous, standing a little above the street and featuring concertina windows by the bench table. Its a bit like a railway carriage from the outside, and inside the width is about the same – it’s a micro café.
Granola is not listed on the online menu but it is definitely on the printed one. I was intrigued by the space (how could they fit seating in there?) and whether there could be a French inflection on granola, so had to give it a go.
Well, the most interesting thing about the granola was the fruit on top. Sauternes poached apple, the menu said. The apple was at a perfect stage between raw and cooked-to-mush and coated in a clear pink sauce that tasted a little like rhubarb, but is actually red wine I guess (no trace of alcohol though). Not like anything I’ve ever had before.
The apple was draped over a very generous pile of thick, creamy yoghurt (our usual restaurant friend, Zany Zeus?) and below this was a fairly standard granola, with oat flakes, dried cranberries and pawpaw. It was chewy and very sweet. Lucky the dish came with a jug of milk. There was too much to finish, but I still felt a bit sick the rest of the day with that eaten-too-much-cake feeling. They seriously need to cut back on the sugar.
The Americano coffee was great. It was a big serving in an enamel tin mug and piping hot. I’d visit again just for that. Quite a few people were coming and going for takeaway coffee, so I guess it has a reputation there.
I popped back a couple of weeks after sampling the granola to try the tea and cheese scones. The scones were labelled as made with buttermilk, a key ingredient for good scones. I took up the offer to have mine toasted. It was good, and the toasting gave a nice crisp surface, but overall I’m afraid the scones somewhat below the standard set in Wellington by Nikau. Also, the tea came in a plastic tea bag. That’s a no for the environment.
The seating is all stools and high tables and the place also operates as a drinking establishment with a focus on French wines in the evening. I maybe you can get more bodies into a place with stools and high tables. I’m not sure about the physics of that, but it does allow people to stand when there aren’t enough seats.
Boutique café offering excellent value for money. Very generous servings of granola and coffee, but granola too sweet for my liking. Great coffee.
Reviewed September 2019.