120 Riddiford St, Newtown, Wellington
Opens: 8am weekdays, 8.30 Sat, 9.30 Sun; closes 3 pm
Muesli $11; Peoples Coffee, t-leaf-T tea
Pranah Café is a vegetarian café in the shopping area of Newtown. Prāṇa is a Sanskrit term widely known through yoga that means breath, or more generally, energy or life force. I presume this is what the café is titled after, though the signage has some uncommon accenting on the three middle letters and adds an ‘h’ (Práńáh).
Pranah has a special significance for me as a place I would visit over 15 years ago with a companion when I lived in Newtown and it got me started on the pleasures of weekend brunching. Though I can’t remember if I ever had muesli there, it is, in a way, the original stimulus behind this muesli reviewing site. So I had a special interest in going back to see how it measured up against the scores of café breakfasts I’ve now reviewed.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much for just $11, especially with the mention of a jam topping in the menu listing. But I was pleasantly surprised with the attractive presentation of a nut-rich muesli topped by five different fresh fruits and a few leaves of celery poked through the centre. Mercifully, there was a relatively small amount of jam and it was tasty enough, but I’d still prefer to go without its sugar load. It would also make more sense if pitted against something like a sour yoghurt, but the yoghurt in this case was Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt, so no luck there.
The muesli base was mainly composed of nuts – walnuts and cashews in particular – with oats, dried cranberries, a few currants, and a smallish quantity of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. It was ‘maple toasted’, though any sugar taste from maple syrup wasn’t really noticeable, so I would say that (aside from the jam and cranberries) it is a relatively low sugar dish.
It was quite a dry roast, and even though mainly nuts, the low volume of milk provided wasn’t enough to wet the mix for me, especially with the minimal quantity of yoghurt, so I had to ask for some more.
Pranah is very compact; too small for me to really photograph. I counted eight tables, all singles except one where two tables were joined. But this didn’t seem to be a problem at around 9am on a Saturday morning. There were three customers when I arrived at 8.45am. And nine at about 9.20am, which I guess would count as half full, but it does pack out later on. There are also a couple of tables outside. I like the table in the window with cushions on the bench seat. On a winter’s day it’s a sunny spot to warm yourself.
My Americano coffee was served in a cup and was quite strong, but I get a sense that Peoples Coffee does come strong. Cold brew options are available. There is a good range of counter food, and Pranah has to be one of the few cafés to list it all on its website, though images would probably do a lot to help you make a choice in advance.
There was one copy of the Dominion Post newspaper, so I had to read it in stages while fellow patrons read through other sections. Jazz music played softly in the background, helping to make for a pretty relaxed setting.
I enjoyed the variety of fresh fruit, attractive presentation and nut-rich muesli mix. Downsides were unnecessary jam (a fruit compote might be a better alternative) and overly small quantities of yoghurt and milk. You can have a vegan option. After all these years I still like the low-key environment of this ethically oriented café, though my taste in coffee has grown beyond the espressos still on offer. In summary, a modestly priced muesli worth eating and a pleasant setting.
Reviewed November 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.