108 Manners St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens: 7.30am weekdays; 8am weekend. Closes: 4.30pm weekdays, except 8pm Thurs, 4pm weekend
Açaí bowl with granola $13; Mojo coffee; t-leaf T tea
Willi’s Kitchen is easy to miss. It is in the Oaks complex, next to Arty Bees bookstore and somewhat hidden by bus shelters that have sprung up in recent years. It has been going since 2017 and is run by William, who has the good credentials of formerly working as a head and sous chef at The Library and Chow respectively. There is a vegan emphasis, with a large range of vegan burgers, but meat dishes are served as well.
I wasn’t sure whether an açaí bowl would qualify as granola for my site, but there is plenty of the latter piled on top of a smoothie made from açaí berries. You might be wondering, as I was, what açaí berries are. Well, to start with, the name is pronounced ah-sah-ee. The berries grow on a South American palm tree and look a bit like a blueberry. They are typically dried and sold as a powder. Claims have been made for açaí as a superfood, but there isn’t much evidence to back this up. The level of antioxidants is good, but only around the same as cranberries and less than blueberries.
So here we had a purple-pink slushy of açaí as a base. The taste was fruity, but a bit hard to pin down. On top of this was spread a well toasted layer of very oaty granola, drizzled with honey (but you can have maple syrup as a vegan option), and around the sides an attractive arrangement of diced green kiwifruit and banana. Over everything was a light sprinkling of chia seeds.
The granola had almonds and pumpkin seeds in it, but otherwise the main ingredient besides the oats was dried fruit: sultanas, pawpaw, banana chips, etc. This was a major problem for me. Not only because I dislike the sugar load dried fruit adds to muesli and granolas if you already have fresh fruit, but also because here the nearly frozen açaí smoothie below transmitted its low temperature to the dried fruit, making the pieces very hard. I was really worried about cracking a tooth or losing a filling with the stony lumps of fruit.
On the plus side, the Americano coffee, served in a glass, was really, really good. I would go here again just for the coffee, even though filter is not served.
Willi’s Kitchen is small, seating about 20 people. And on the day I was present – a Thursday at about 8am – very few customers came in, and all for takeaway coffee or food. I suspect the bus shelters must have gone up in recent years, after the place opened. This does nothing to help the profile of the café. Added to this are the homeless people who seem to have set up in residence almost outside and who pedestrians tend to give a wide berth. I am concerned for Willi.
Interesting combination of an icy fruit smoothie with granola. I found the freezing effect on the dried fruit a risk to my teeth. Excellent Americano coffee. Pleasant ambience within; not so good outside.
Reviewed October 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.