135-137 Featherston St, central Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 9am weekends; closes late
Muesli $12.50, porridge $12.50; Whistling Sisters coffee, L’affare Enzo Orient tea
In Covid level 1 the hours have reduced to 10am opening Sat to Tue and 7.30am Wed to Fri. No breakfast Mon, Tue.
Leuven brands itself as a ‘Belgian beer café’, and is named after the town Leuven in Belgium. This town is the home of Stella Artois beer, and said beer is heavily featured in graphics at the bar/eatery. I’d certainly always thought of it as a pub until I discovered it also serves Belgian themed breakfast with both porridge (havermoutpap) and muesli (muesli met yoghurt) on the menu.
There wasn’t really much to the muesli. It was served in two bowls, one for a fruit salad of orange, kiwifruit, banana and apple that was coated with yoghurt and topped with a leaf of mint. The other bowl had a toasted muesli of whole grain oats, with small amounts of sesame seeds, possibly some sunflower seeds and linseeds, plus a small quantity of sultanas and dried apricot (or maybe it was pawpaw – sorry, I didn’t take notes as it was so unremarkable as to not really be worth it).
Most people seemed to be having the $10 weekday breakfast special of bacon, tomato, a poached egg with hollandaise sauce on grilled bread, and potato cakes. If you eat bacon that could be a better choice than the muesli.
My Americano came in a smallish cup and seemed a bit bitter. I’ve twice been told by staff at Leuven that the coffee comes from Whistling Sisters, but they are a craft beer brewery, so I don’t know what they story is here. On a later visit I had Earl Grey tea. It was leaf tea of exactly the right strength in a 2.5-cup sized pot and tasted good enough, but the cup was a coffee cup and no pot of hot water was offered. Probably best to stick to beer here.
The interior of the eatery is quite spectacular, with a very high ceiling, ornate frosted glass, wood panelling, mirrors and clusters of hanging lamps. The building was erected in 1907 for rural merchants Murray, Roberts & Co. The offices were at street level and they stored wool on the upper floors.
I’m not sure why, but there is one section of tables up half a flight of stairs (maybe this is where the managers were seated). That’s where my next photo was taken from.
Below the elevated section there is another room, set down half a flight from ground level. Like the rest of the spaces it is decorated with vintage photographs and all sorts of historical knick-knacks that seem to relate to Belgium.
There are plenty of other cosy spots to sit as well. With only a handful of people at the tables on the early weekday morning I was there it felt like the sort of place you could stay awhile in comfort. A pity that newspapers didn’t seem to be on hand to read though.
A pleasant and unstressed environment where you can hide away from the city bustle. Unfortunately, the muesli is of the sort served in pubs: a cheap mix lacking nuts that could be out of a packet and accompanied by an easy-to-prepare fruit salad. Having the muesli and fruit in two bowls is quite nice in that it lets you mix the ingredients as you desire, but it also relieves the eatery of having to exercise any sort of skill in combining them itself.
Reviewed October 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.