132 Willis St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 8am weekends; closes 3.30pm weekdays, 3pm weekends
Granola $17; porridge $16; Supreme filter coffee, Ritual Tea Co tea
Neo Café and Eatery has been going for at least 20 years and is always full when I walk past to work in the mornings. Even on Saturday mornings it is substantially filling up by 9am. It is quite a small space, so best to pick your time.
Neo was one of the first places that got me going on the muesli reviews. I was impressed with its filter coffee and beautifully presented, not to mention delicious, granola. That’s the version in the photo just above. At that stage the dish had a bed of ‘ancient grains’, no dried fruit, and was covered in coconut yoghurt and cashew and coconut butter. I was less keen on the jam-like drizzle, but it did make for an artful appearance. So much so that I chose it for my introduction page on this site.
That was June 2019. By December, though the muesli itself may have been the same formulation, the bowl was not quite so eye catching:
Then in September 2020 the dish had evolved to the header image at the top of this page. And the filter coffee was now served in a cup:
And, two years since I had my first granola at Neo, this is how it appears in June 2021:
The general theme has not really changed over the years even if appearances have somewhat. The base is a nut and seed-rich mix. In 2021 it has no grains in it at all. Components currently include pecan nuts, almond slivers, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a smallish amount of dried cranberries and even smaller quantity of sultanas. There are tiny seeds that might be quinoa, and chia seeds are sprinkled over the top of everything. These last two are consistent in all four versions.
Also consistent is a lack of binder welding the ingredients into crunchy chunks. So I would probably call this a muesli now, but I started out putting it under my granola category (the café’s term) before I knew better, so will stick with it.
Coconut flakes are sprinkled over all four versions and, in the last two, dried rose petals have replaced fresh flowers. The last version also has a chunk of honey comb and beetroot(!) coconut yoghurt.
You can have your filter coffee as bottomless for just a dollar extra. I think most people drinking filter chose that option judging by the wait-staff circulating with a thermos coffee jug. You could always order a jug of milk and make your own, sort of, bottomless flat white by this means. Standard teas are Ritual Tea Co and there are flavored ones by Noble & Savage and t-leaf-T. Neo also serve porridge and I have a separate review on that.
I tried the tea on one of my several visits. It was fine. There was a good quantity of it in a pot large enough not to dribble, and the coffee cup it was served in was the narrower, teacup shape variety, so no real issue there.
Newspapers are available but the tables are a bit small for spreading one out. It’s a common issue in cafés. As for patronage, I was the first to be seated at about 8.10am on one Saturday and by 8.40 there were about six or seven people, and noise level was low. At 9.30 on another Saturday it was getting pretty full, and on a Friday at 8.30 it was fairly sparse but approaching packed out by 10am.
The granola base is near perfect – plenty of seeds and nuts, little dried fruit, low sugar. Good amount of fresh fruit too. Presentation is usually excellent. A variety of options for filter coffee exist (single cup, bottomless and barista’s choice) and the tea is pretty well done. My only gripe is the shift from mugs to cups for filter coffee (maybe I should bring my own?) And the very small tables. Still, Neo is one of my favourite cafés. And clearly I’m not the only one who is a fan, so do get in early.
Reviewed June 2019 to June 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.