4 Blair St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 8am Mon to Sat; closes 3.30pm; closed Sun
Granola $10; Acme coffee, Tea Total tea
Squirrel is a relatively new addition to Wellington’s café scene, launched in April 2018. It is physically joined to Small Acorns – an up-market, very feminine homeware/lifestyle store – by a door but also through family ownership. It carries through certain aspects of Small Acorns: wooden floor, quality crockery, tasteful décor (including sprigs of flowers and foliage on every table) – and a largely female clientele.
But where Small Acorns is overwhelmingly dense with products that, truth be told, nobody really needs, the stated philosophy of Squirrel is ‘Simple, well done’. So the blackboard menu is concise: granola, toasts (4 options), salads (in the cabinet) and crumpets.
My granola had a medley of mostly usual ingredients, including sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almond slivers, dried apricot, cranberries and pawpaw. But there were also the less conventional additions of cashew nuts and dried blueberries. I would describe the mix as granola in that there was a clumping of grains into very small clusters, but there was little evidence of oil or sugars used to bind them.
The berry compote was unusual. It had a bland filler fruit in with the berries that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. Like stewed apple, but perhaps not. I’m not sure what ‘blossom’ compote’, as described on the menu, means. Yes, there was a small stalk of flowers added to the granola, but not as part of the compote. Anyway, no complaints really about the compote. It was neither tart nor too sweet.
There is a selection of counter food, mostly high-carb stuff, including meat filled sandwiches, breakfast burritos (also with meat), caramel and custard buns, chocolate afghan biscuits, etc. The salads were not out when I was there, but some promising looking cheese scones were delivered at 8.30am.
Since the granola was good and the atmosphere pleasant I thought I would come back to try the tea. It is leaf tea, placed in one of those pouches in a cute teapot that poured very well. Nice teacup (Acme) too. But the tea was fairly average I thought. And I wasn’t impressed by the low volume held by the pot: about a cup and a bit. The cup, the jug and the pot were all nice designs on their own, but are quite an eclectic bunch when put together!
And I decided to try the above-mentioned cheese scones. I was somewhat disappointed. Not that much cheese in them and too salty to boot for my taste. They will toast the scones in a sandwich press by default if you ask for them to be heated, but when I objected I was offered the option of oven heated.
Squirrel catches the sun at that critical time of day for breakfast. The wooden floor, natural wood tables and touches of foliage make it a pleasant place for a coffee and granola. There are newspapers on hand too. I don’t know about Saturdays, but there are plenty of seats early in the mornings on weekdays. Then it fills up mid-morning through to lunchtime. This may include a few dogs of the pedigree variety. The acoustics can make it quite a noisy place when it’s packed.
Excellent value for money granola and good coffee (though no filter available). I really like the slogan ‘Simple, done well’, and am glad that granola made it onto the list of simples, as most cafés would not consider it a core dish.
Reviewed September 2020. Granola price and availability confirmed Dec 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.