16 Riddiford St, Newtown, Wellington
Opens: 7:30am weekdays, 8am weekend; closes 2pm weekdays, 4pm Sat, 3pm Sun
Porridge $14; Mojo coffee, t-leaf-T tea
The Riddiford Bar & Bistro is now permanently closed.
It was at the north end of Newtown’s main street, just after you get to the hospital opposite if heading north. A decade or so ago it was the Pasifika-themed Malo Café and the current owners have been there for two and a bit years. They are currently advertising for a full-time chef, so who knows if the porridge will stay, but The Riddiford is one of the few places in Wellington where you can get a bowl-full in summer.
The porridge is cooked with milk and cream, so you notice a skin forming on top if you don’t start eating straight away. It is made from large whole-grain rolled oats, but has a nice balance between the substance and chewiness this offers and the more gelatinous mix between the grains. This suggests it is cooked a decent amount of time, unlike the porridge I’ve had at Capitol and Southern Cross, which was all grain. Chia seeds appear to be mixed in at the last moment, preventing their own gelatinous swelling and giving a bit of texture.
The seeds have also been sprinkled across the topping of a few banana slices and berry compote. The banana is described on the menu as caramelised. Maybe, but I didn’t really pick that up. And the compote is plain fruit, not sweetened (= good). It is described as cinnamon compote, but I missed the spice too. It may be been present. And finally, brown sugar is listed on the menu but I didn’t see that either. The porridge was piping hot, and as no milk that might have cooled it down was served (plenty in the porridge I guess) I had to eat the dish very slowly, especially as the deep bowl held the heat. I’m sure you could ask for milk – and sugar – if you wanted it though.
The Americano coffee also came very hot. I’m not sure that was good for it but it tasted fine to my fairly uninformed palate. Maybe boiling water was added after the expresso process had been done. At most cafés my coffee gets cold as I take photos, so I was pleased to have it so hot here.
The décor seemed a bit grim. There are photo prints of paintings on the walls, the varnish is peeling off the chairs, not to mention the paint worn off the floor, and the light bulb above my table was not working. In other circumstances you might consider all this rather rustic. The darkish interior is not helped by the near-black tables and dark brown wooden doors and trim. There are two window seats, and one had a ‘reserved’ sign on it. It think a couple may have sat there briefly. Regulars? The only other patron had grabbed the best seat and was also having porridge. Maybe porridge is a thing here?
I was disappointed there were no copies of the Dominion Post newspaper to read, though there were a few magazines. I got the same response I often get when I ask staff about the lack of a newspaper: mumblings about maybe it hasn’t been delivered today, and an unclear response to my question of whether in fact it does get regularly delivered. I was a bit annoyed about the fairly loud pop music rubbish being played too. In a full café you wouldn’t notice it, but with just the two of us eating it was a bit too dominant for me. On the other hand, staff (owners?) were very pleasant. I was asked not once, but twice, how my porridge was.
And I should add that I’m not 100% sure if I have the opening hours correct. They are as stated on the café’s website, but Google has an 8am weekday opening, 9am Sat, and 8am Sunday. However, I have seen the place clearly operating at 8.45 on a Saturday. Also 2pm weekday closing seems odd for a place that includes the term ‘bar’ in its name but this is as stated on the website, and is only a bit later in the weekend.
The porridge was quite good. Nothing too special but it was done better than some places. If I was having this at home I’d sprinkle some chopped walnuts or hazelnuts on top. The place suffers from being located in a no-man’s land of takeaway joints, closed shops and the industrial open spaces of the hospital more or less opposite. The interior is tired-looking. I think some lessons could be taken from Pranah up the road, where a smaller space is somehow made to look more inviting.
Reviewed January 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.