20 Customhouse Quay, central Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays; closes 4pm
Bircher muesli $13; Mojo coffee; Noble & Savage tea
The Lab café has four branches in Wellington. This one, in the XXCQ building on the corner of Customhouse Quay, is the biggest. The building is the only one in Wellington with both seismic base isolators and an exposed X ‘diagrid’ of structural beams, so you should be as safe here as anywhere if the projected ‘big one’ hits the city. And its not a bad place to be stuck in for a while – the food is excellent and the surroundings pleasant. Lets hope they have generators and a big tank of water to keep to kitchen going if you have to take refuge here.
Bircher muesli – cold, soggy oats – seems such an unpromising dish. Yet each time I try it in Wellington I think, ‘Wow, that’s not bad’, and then I try another and that one is even better. So The Lab had some tough competition and yet it ranks as good as, if not better, than any of the rest. The mix itself was quite stiff and seemed to include large oat flakes, sunflower and chia seeds and a small amount of yellow fruit I couldn’t identify. It was topped with some nicely sour yoghurt, freeze dried raspberries, a delicious berry compote and poached pears. And no gratuitous honey drizzle in sight! Served in a lovely bowl too. I couldn’t fault it. The Americano coffee was excellent too.
My companion had smashed avocado on toast with tomatoes and decided that was pretty tasty too.
The place was about half-to-two-thirds full on a weekday at about 8am (it doesn’t open in the weekends, being at the business end of town). The very high ceiling seems to take care of the noise you would otherwise expect from the hard floor and large glass windows. And seating was varied, from stools to reproduction mid-century tables, padded dining chairs, arm chairs and sofas.
I had tea at the Victoria St branch in June 2021. It is served in a glass teapot like you get at Mojos, so you can see how advanced the tea is brewing. The milk comes in a cute lab beaker, in line with the eatery’s science theming. There was no extra hot water supplied, and the cup was a repurposed coffee cup, but the tea was leaf tea and my Noble & Savage Earl Grey tasted great. The place was nearly full at around lunchtime on a Saturday and several of us had to negotiate reading the single café copy of the Dominion Post.
Great food, excellent coffee, nice environment in a corporate building foyer sort of way.
Reviewed September 2019.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.