The Oatery

Oatery apple porridge close-up

7am–11am, Friday at Inglewood Place, Te Aro, Wellington
8am–1pm, Sunday at Harbourside Market, Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington
Porridge $10–$12, granola $10; L’affare batch filter coffee $3

The Oatery is an eatery after my heart – and the spirit of this site – for it sells oat based food. When I say eatery, it is actually a caravan that pops up in one of two locations. You may not know the name of the first, Inglewood Place, but it is an established caravan food spot on the corner of the Taranaki and Dixon streets. And the other, the Harbourside fruit and vegetable market, is a well-recognised Sunday scene and is jammed with food stalls these days. You will find the Oatery at the northern end of the stalls there, near the water.

I chose the apple porridge and filter coffee at the Sunday market. They necessarily come in a paper bowl and cup respectively. The bowl size meant a smallish serving – more of a snack than a hearty breakfast.

The bottom layer of the bowl is porridge cooked in oat milk. This is topped with a generous layer of whole and broken roasted hazelnuts combined with butter and coconut sugar. There is a bit of salt in there too, so you have a sort of salted caramel taste. Then there is a dense covering of thinly sliced raw apple. The hazelnut mix is just delicious, and a great complement to porridge.

The coffee was a bit on the lukewarm side. It was poured from a coffee jug and had been sitting in there for a little too long. It was the same temperature the second time I visited the caravan. Maybe the coffee pot needs a warmer.

The Oatery compote porridge

In June 2020 the selection of porridge on offer had expanded to include banana porridge and compote porridge. I had the second. It has a wonderful persimmon and tamarillo compote, Greek-style yoghurt and spiced granola over the top of the porridge. It was pretty tasty. I’ve long been sprinkling granola over porridge. You get the best of both worlds then and the crunch and variety of tastes of the granola contrast nicely with the soft and bland nature of porridge.

The Oatery carrot porridge

I went back to the waterfront market a week after trying the persimmon and tamarillo compote porridge, thinking I’d have the banana so I could say I’d sampled all The Oatery’s offerings. But lo and behold there was a more enticing option that now replaced the compote, a carrot porridge with walnuts, coconut slivers, sliced fresh pear, ginger, maple syrup and Greek yoghurt.

You can’t see it in the above photo, but the porridge is tinged yellow by being cooked in carrot juice and oat milk. And there is an amazing medley of tastes and textures, from the ginger flavouring that pops up here and there to the puffed grain, walnuts, toasted coconut and thick yoghurt. Oh, and those are amaranth sprouts on the top. I’ve never encountered them before but they sure look pretty. Maybe other cafés should forget about decorative flowers and have something like this with more nutritional value?

And, just to round things off, I finally got to the banana porridge on another Sunday, and it is a case of last but not least. Here we have porridge topped with sliced banana, crunchy peanut butter, coconut yoghurt and ‘cacao crunch’.

The peanut butter was salted, which I would normally avoid, but here the salt enhanced the more neutral porridge. The choice of coconut yoghurt was a great idea, as it avoided the sort of double fat addition from both peanut butter and, say, a Greek yoghurt. The use of cacao nibs was also inspired, as it avoided the problem of adding chocolate to porridge and getting a sticky, gluggy result, as I have noted in other reviews (Fix & Fogg, Ti Kouka). And finally, as with the Maranui porridge, the buckwheat contributed a satisfying crunch to an otherwise softly textured combination of ingredients. This porridge was by far the most filling of The Oatery offerings because of the peanut butter.

The Oatery sells its own brand of spiced granola, which is pretty good. You can get it at the caravan, at Moore Wilsons, or online. And their website has some interesting recipes (under ‘journal’) for oat dishes, including delicious sounding fried banana and tahini porridge.

So where do you eat your Oatery porridge or granola? It will have to be standing up at Inglewood Place, as there is no seating, but there is a Scottish tradition of standing while eating porridge, as I’ve noted on my porridge page. At the Harbourside Market there is the lawn at the side of Te Papa (pictured below), or on seating by the water. And if it is windy there is a little-known patch of grass hidden around the back of Te Papa up a ramp to the marae, just south of the lawn (best in late summer, when the grass is drier and sun shines into the space).

Conclusion

A great idea to have a specialist oats-based food outlet. I’d love to eat the porridge in a real bowl where the ingredients can spread out a bit, and to have a bit more of it. Here’s hoping the business can expand to further options.

Which porridge is best? Hard to say. The apple porridge is still memorable after eating it around nine months ago. You can’t say that about many dishes. But I might have the carrot porridge again, just because it is a bit different from your usual and has a medley of tastes and textures.

The Oatery may deserve a place at the very top of my rankings on my porridge page for its porridge alone, but it doesn’t score on things like eating from a real bowl, café ambience, etc. True, the Wellington waterfront is as good an eating environment as you could get, but it does depend on the weather…

Reviewed October 2019; June and July 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.

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