37 Jessie St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens: 7.30am daily, 8am Sun; closes 4pm, except Fri at 4.20pm
Muesli $13.50; Supreme coffee, unbranded leaf teas
Gypsy Kitchen has been located in Strathmore for some time and has established a reputation for good food. More recently it opened a hole-in-the-wall sort of takeaway café in Te Aro, opposite Moore Wilson’s grocery warehouse in Tory St. This has now rebranded to Mystic Kitchen. It is also diagonally along from Prefab in Jessie St and the contrast between the two cafés is marked: Mystic Kitchen, small, hipsterish and a little bit grunge, contrasted with the large, open, purpose-built Prefab and its high-volume turnover and smooth operation. Now the Jessie St eatery has expanded its seating to larger spaces so I went along for a sit-down breakfast.
The muesli and Americano coffee were rustled up surprisingly quickly, but just as well, as there are no newspapers to read. It was a bit hard to see what was in the muesli at first, as it was in a deep bowl, and you had to work down through stewed Golden Queen peaches, a Greek yoghurt and a strawberry compote to find it. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’d rather have a wider bowl so you can eat a mouthful of this or that as you choose, not be forced into a vertical sequence which ends in a dry volume of muesli at the bottom.
I’m not complaining about the muesli though. It was a very seedy mix that I believe has come straight out of packet sold at Moore Wilson’s across the road as ‘Superfoods Breakfast Mix’. I put a spoonful of this stuff on my breakfast every morning. So while in principle I don’t like the idea of a café muesli poured from a packet, I have no objection in this case as the product is very healthy and tastes good. The only issue is that it is hard work to chew through the large volume served here.
As for what’s in the muesli, I may as well just quote from the packet: ‘linseed, desiccated coconut, pumpkin kernels, sunflower kernels, buckwheat, almonds, puffed amaranth, black chia seeds, goji berries, cacao nibs and black sesame seeds’. Oh, and sulphite preservative. No sugar or other sweetener, no oats, no gluten.
Mystic Kitchen at Jessie St began as just a tiny operation that mostly served takeaway food and coffee. There were three small tables and four seats at a bar. You can see these in the photo above at left (the original space remains too small to photograph unless I take a panorama). (Note that my photos were taken when the place was called Gypsy Kitchen.)
Then the garage was opened. As you can see, this is pretty much a plain, unlined concrete garage with a table and chairs and, more recently, armchairs. It’s kind of fun in a surprising, homely, low rent way. But it’s also open to the street, has no connection through to the counter, and is pretty inhospitable in a Wellington southerly. I’ve never seen many people in there.
Now a hole has been knocked through to a space opposite the counter and padded diner bench seating installed. Again, it feels very ad-hoc, as though the seats were purchased in a fire sale. But more curious is that the space is only part used, with a row of 44-gallon drums topped with plants and a couple of neon sculptures demarcating the edge of the space and a throughway to somewhere on the other side. The layout has expanded a bit since I took these photos, but overall it is much the same.
There’s a pinball machine (Creature from the Black Lagoon) placed next to a huge Victorian display cabinet. And on the other side of the wall, an antique-looking Chinese lacquered screen with inlaid shell. Décor doesn’t come more eclectic than this.
The clientele seem pretty diverse too. When I was there early on a Saturday a young gypsy woman (more goth actually) was chatting to staff; there was a 50-something paunchy advertising industry type guy wearing a baseball cap and T-shirt with his partner; a young, conservatively-dressed Asian guy; and a young couple who could be read as hipster professionals. I’d say they were all nearby apartment dwellers.
The menu remains mostly counter food. I’m not sure why the ‘gluten free muesli’ is listed on the takeaway board. Maybe just no room on the other one. As for the cheese scones, there is a tale to tell there. A colleague told me the cheese scone she had at Mystic Kitchen was the worst she had ever tasted and thought that maybe it had too much cheese in it. Oh, no, I thought, you can’t put too much cheese in a scone. So I rushed off to try one.
Yes, it was indeed truly the worst I’ve ever had too. I think it was mostly shortening and flour. Little cheese actually. All that fat made it heavy and barely edible. And somehow it looks undercooked. I’ve tried it again four months later (July 2021) just to make sure and it is just the same. On the plus side, they reheat the scones for you by a combination of oven and microwaving. So crispy and warm throughout without being over microwaved.
I’ve also had tea here twice. Leaf tea in a nice teapot, plus you get a strainer. But not a proper tea cup and no extra hot water. The taste was OK but nothing special.
Excellent value muesli for money and healthy to boot. Coffee very good too, and plenty of it. The expanded space gives you some more seating options but the two additional spaces have a very temporary, opportunistic feel. You may not find the lack of coherent theming comfortable; or you might delight in it.
Reviewed March 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.