227 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 10am weekend brunch; closes 2pm; open 5pm dinner Wed to Sat
Muesli $18; L’affare coffee, Harney & Sons tea
The first thing you should know is that Liberty is only open for brunch on the weekends. And then not until 10am. So if you like your breakfast at a conventional hour you are out of luck. It could be worth waiting for Liberty to open though, and you could always fit in a gym or yoga session beforehand.
The venue was previously Grill Meats Beer. What can I say, other than pleased that one bit the dust. Liberty is rather a polar opposite, with an emphasis on fine dining and a small number of perfectly done dishes. Meat does still feature fairly heavily though, including a gruesome octopus arm in one of the evening menu items.
The muesli (listed as granola, but definitely not) is fairly pricey at $18, so I had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. You get a massive squirt of what they call ‘coconut yoghurt foam’. It is indeed pretty foamy, not thick and heavy like coconut cream. It has a tangy berry taste too (though that might partly be the freeze-dried raspberries scattered on top). The other topping is a section with chunky cooked rhubarb pieces and raw tamarillo. The sweetness of the rhubarb nicely complements the tamarillo.
As for the muesli, I couldn’t help thinking it was from one of those expensive, quality packets of store-bought muesli, but I have since checked out a good number and can’t find a match, so I guess not. Besides oat flakes it had pieces of macadamia nut, a few pumpkin seeds, almond slivers, the odd bran stick, lots of goji berries and an array of dried fruit such as sultanas, pawpaw, cranberries and cherries. There was a generous volume of toasted coconut flakes as well.
I visited at about 10.30 on a Saturday. There was a couple eating at another table, and nobody else came in until I was about to leave just after 11am. Meantime, Floriditas down the road had probably been heaving since 8.30 (with Olive and Loretta pretty busy as well). I think it could be a hard sell to create awareness that Liberty is open for brunch but only from 10am on the weekends. And popularity may be difficult to achieve without offering the usual plethora of egg dishes.
However, lack of patrons was to my advantage. I received very attentive and rapid service. There wasn’t any background noise (someone on Tripadvisor complained how noisy it was, but that must have been in the evening). And I could enjoy the background music set to a perfect volume. Easy listening stuff (in the good sense) like Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone and Dolly Parton’s Jolene.
Liberty is arranged a bit like the new Astoria, with a large bar and counter in the centre of the space and seating down either side plus a little to the front. But Liberty doesn’t have the wretched bar tables and stools of Astoria, only a few stools around the bar itself. And there are comfy bench seats down both walls. There is a curious entrance to the toilets at back made of blocks of rough-cut wood. I will have to explore that next time. I wonder if it was left over from Grill Meats Beer, or if it is intended as a Scandi design touch.
Filter coffee is not served (I don’t think the waitress knew what filter coffee was – she offered that their coffee was filtered!) but the Americano was nice and hot and I was offered a jug of hot water with it as well. On the subject of jugs, possibly the muesli could do with a small jug of milk, but I managed with just enough moisture from the fruit and the yoghurt.
This is a top quality dish: good tasting and healthy composition, nicely balanced and interesting combo of fruit topping, and delicious yoghurt foam. The amount of dried fruit in it didn’t bother me as it usually would as the result didn’t seem too sweet. And the environment was pleasant. No newspapers, but you can’t expect that for a venue open only on two mornings a week.
Reviewed July 2022.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.