107 Lyall Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington
Opens 7am; closes 3pm weekdays, 4pm weekends
Porridge $14; Muesli $14; Supreme coffee (incl filter), t-Leaf-T tea
Maranui Café is one of my favourite Wellington cafe’s and, it seems, just about everyone elses. So much so that when royal visitors Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited the city in 2018 their itinerary included morning tea there. And on the cold winter’s morning when I turned up at 7:50am there were already several people hanging about outside waiting for the door to open. The couple and young child before me raced up the stairs and straight for the premier seat in the middle of the view window. Clearly they had been here before.
I had heard that the Maranui porridge was pretty good, but when I went to have some around November or so last year I discovered that it was a seasonal dish and I’d need to come back in the cooler months. I had muesli instead, which I rate as probably the best in Wellington.
What I also didn’t know was that the porridge doesn’t include oats. The grains (or seeds if you like) are red quinoa, millet and amaranth. I’m not sure if it is off-brand for me to review a non-oat porridge here then, but it was so good I will.
The porridge itself was hot, unlike chia pudding which is somewhat similar and usually served cold. It had largish lumps in it that took me a little while to identify as chopped pear. They certainly added variety to the textures on offer. On top was a dollop of boysenberries (pleasingly devoid of sweet syrup); some toasted muesli/granola with crunchy buckwheat to complement the pudding-like porridge; and some melting coconut cream. I thought the latter was just some coconut cream from the bottom of the can gone solid, but the menu describes it as ‘coconut vanilla whip’.
I think this dish is best described as a symphony of tastes and textures. As mentioned, there was the crunch of the granola topping contrasting with the smoothness of the porridge, plus the coconut adding a fatty richness to an otherwise lean bowl, the pear making the texture of the porridge more complex and interesting and the berries contributing the refreshing quality of fruit to the starch and fat of the other components.
By 8.40am I counted around 45 people seated in the cafe. That’s still a comfortable number at Maranui, but I imagine it would be a full house within an hour, if not earlier. (The Google charts of patronage are interesting viewing – Saturday fills up more quickly than Sunday morning, and Tuesday is the least popular day.)
I was lucky to grab the table seat at the window next to the early couple and with a high tide and even surf break around the bay got a good view of early morning winter surfers.
The Maranui Café occupies the upper floor of the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club. The Maranui premises were built in 1930 and a second story added in 1956. The building is on the city council’s heritage list, which means it has an online assessment about its merits.
One of the best porridge dishes I have tasted, though it isn’t made with oats. It is both gluten free and vegan. Good filter coffee. Some acquaintances claim that the food is uneven at Maranui but this has not been my experience over three visits. Expect the place to be full during the weekends unless you turn up within the first hour.
Reviewed June 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.