132 Willis St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 8am weekends; closes 3.30pm weekdays, 3pm weekends
Porridge $16; Granola $17; Supreme coffee (incl filter), Ritual Tea Co tea
Neo Café & Eatery serves one of the best granolas (see separate review), and have good filter coffee, so what do they would do with porridge? Not so much in the past, but they have really improved their game with time.
I was a little apprehensive about this one. The menu said it had cocoa candied nuts and came with brown sugar and cream. Sounded rather unhealthy. But the brown sugar was nowhere to be seen; the nuts were not highly sugared; and the cream was minimal. In fact, I would consider this porridge a fairly modest but perfectly balanced version of the dish.
The porridge was nicely textured and seemed like it was cooked at least partially with milk, given its consistency. The blueberry compote tasted far superior to what usually passes for fruit compote at eateries. It was lightly spiced and perfectly balanced in sweetness. The candied nuts (pecans, or possibly walnuts) were delicious, and far better than the sort of candied nuts you find in supermarket bulk bins. The whole thing was lightly sprinkled with dried rose petals and freeze dried raspberries – in a quantity that had more effect on appearance than taste.
You get a small jug of cream with the porridge that’s so tiny it looks like it belongs in a dolls house. But it turns out to be just the right size, as you don’t really need any milk or cream with this porridge. So it’s just enough to give a taste but without that greasy feeling in the stomach.
Since Neo keep changing their porridge, and I keep reviewing it, this page is becoming a bit of a running commentary. Allow me to give a run down of the earlier versions.
The porridge I had in June 2021 was described on the menu as ‘chai spiced quinoa porridge’. I don’t know if there were any oats in it, but maybe there were, as it was not listed as gluten free and porridge from quinoa alone might be less palatable. It did have a lot of seeds in it though, and some soaked dried fruit. Underneath the porridge was a swirl of date syrup and on top a few orange slices, heaps of slivered almonds, and a light sprinkle of chia seeds and freeze-dried raspberries. There were supposed to be rose petals but I didn’t see them.
Porridge in July 2020 was much plainer. It was quite creamy and possibly made with oat milk. The topping was described on the menu as ‘berry compote, cinnamon & pumpkin seed crumble’. There was a small quantity of linseeds too – not sure if they were part of the crumble that had, well, crumbled out. The berry compote was almost jam-like in its consistency and sweetness. Too sweet for me.
And here’s the porridge I had in August 2019. Compared to the July 2020 version it had rhubarb instead of the compote. It was a pretty thin spread, but was nicely acid. The crumble was the same and the tiny jug of cream was present then too (when you really did need a decent quantity of milk or cream). This was a pretty minimal porridge and the larger quantities of fruit and crumble in 2020 were arguably an improvement.
The filter coffee is great at Neo. You used to get it in a mug, but no longer unfortunately. However, for a dollar extra you can choose bottomless if you really want to get buzzed up for the day. On another occasion I ordered an Americano coffee to see what they would do with it. It was served in a cup and tasted good. Nice to see they serve kombucha ($5) here too. Standard teas are Ritual Tea Co.
As per my previous visits I had real problems trying to read the large format Saturday paper on the small table, but the smaller mid-week paper would be more manageable.
The granola here is outstanding, the coffee great, and the space intimate. The porridge has significantly improved since my earlier reviews and it is now definitely worth sampling. It is now up there with the best in town.
Reviewed September 2021 (plus June 2001, July 2000 and August 2019).
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.