Floor 17, James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, 147 The Terrace, Wellington
Breakfast 6.30am–10am (to 10.30 weekends)
$26 continental buffet; $36 cooked buffet; filter coffee, Dilmah tea
I’ve had enough mid-priced hotel breakfasts to know they are all much the same: buffets of cheap muesli, cornflakes, stewed fruit, pastries, toast, juice and as much filter coffee as you can drink. But does the same apply at the upmarket end? Could the choices be greater, the quality better? Might there even be muesli that didn’t come out of a caterer’s pack? With these questions in mind – and halfway wondering if I might bump into a lonely heiress at a loose end – I headed along to the James Cook Hotel’s Whitby’s Restaurant & Bar on a Saturday morning.
The James Cook was a pretty flash place when it was opened in 1972 and I was imagining that there would be a good view of the harbour on the 17th floor, but alas, it had been built out. There was only a panorama of tall, glass office towers spread before the dirty windows to the front and side. At least the sun shone into the room and there were plenty of vacant window tables.
Alas, also, the toasted muesli sitting alongside the cornflakes and Sanitarium’s ‘Light n Tasty’ flakes was something pretty standard. However you could add walnuts, slivered almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Better, the toppings section had some nice options. The stewed black Doris plums, apricots and fat prunes were all good and light on sugar. Also admirably low in sugar was a selection of three different compotes and a yoghurt. There were also small bowls of bircher muesli here and cut grapefruits that looked like they had been sitting around for a day or so. Unless I missed something, the only milk was that already in jugs at the tables. Maybe you could ask for trim, or plant based ones?
Oh, and there were bottles of berry smoothie to drink with a paper straw. In the interests of research I had a bit of everything, and then some. The muesli turned out to have little added sugar, though it had raisins and a small amount of dried pawpaw or something. With all the other good offerings its mediocre quality was less of an issue. Likewise with the bircher muesli. It was fairly average, with mainly oats plus grated apple and raisins.
I also had some French toast, which was so-so. It was very limp from effectively being steamed in a covered warming dish. More like French bread actually. As for the breakfast toast and spreads, these didn’t really entice me and I’m afraid I didn’t take notes, except to observe that there were squares of white and brown bread plus some light coloured raisin variety for toasting. No Vogels, sourdough, English muffins or anything. And the pastries didn’t look very attractive. I don’t even recall croissants to have with the sliced cheese and meats, but there must have been some.
Wait staff circulated with coffee top-ups and you could also go and help yourself. The coffee was nice and hot and seemed pretty good to me. For an extra $3.50 you could get an espresso. I noticed T-Sips tea on a counter too. Perhaps you could also order that as an extra. No food was available à la carte though.
Newspapers – both the Dominion Post and the Herald – were available on the bar counter. You had to search for them, but nice to have a choice of newspapers.
To get to the Hotel you can enter either at its main entrance on The Terrace or through the James Cook Arcade on Lambton Quay, approximately opposite Grey St. You switch lifts when you get up to reception level.
EXCELLENT value for money if your stomach can accommodate everything. Best to go when you are very hungry. Cereals themselves nothing special but the toppings are. Pleasant environment though rather lacking in character. Gentle background music and very quiet acoustics. A good place to go if you desire a low stress experience with minimal human interaction.
Reviewed November 2019.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.