01 February 2010

Caffe Astoria, Lambton Quay

Thanks everyone for putting up with the very infrequent updates this summer. Florence is still in Southeast Asia, but my stint in Christchurch is drawing to a close and I'll be returning to Wellington before I know it... Sunday morning to be precise, and I couldn't be more excited! That said, I've really enjoyed being in another city, exploring and discovering new favourite spots tucked away in little nooks and crannies, and best of all, getting out and about on a borrowed bicycle which I've fallen in love with. I'm determined to get a bike when I get back to Wellington, even if the hills make it a bit less appealing.

The subject of this post, like the last, dates back to a couple of visits I made to Caffe Astoria before going away in December. It's conveniently located at the Lambton end of town, so I sometimes stop by there in the mornings for a coffee and a quick bite to eat.

On one such morning, I had a flat white ($3.50). Astoria roasts its own blend, which I usually find decently strong, though it can sometimes be a little on the bitter side.

The dainty blueberry friand ($2.5) was the perfect size for morning tea - less substantial than a muffin, but rich in flavour and texture.

Inside, the blueberry filling paired well with the dense, moist, almond-y cake. Both the cake and the filling were delicately sweet rather than overbearingly sugary.

On another morning, I changed things up from my usual flat white and had a latte ($3.5). This is probably because I'm used to drinking flat whites, but it tasted mostly of milk with a hint of coffee (note to self: drink a wider range of coffee to get rid of my skewed palate!).

Lately I've been on a bit of a pain aux raisins kick and seem to be getting them from Moore Wilson's bread counter pretty frequently. Astoria's version ($4) was pretty good, but it didn't quite reach the near-perfection I've had from some of the French bakeries in town. This one was quite good in flavour and generously sized, but texture lacked a little. Perhaps it was a teensy bit undercooked; it was pretty soft in the centre.

As Astoria's a convenient spot for lunch (as long as you get in quick - the place fills up in a flash around lunchtime, especially the coveted outdoor seating) I stopped by one day for something from behind the counter. A pasta salad ($7) with pesto, pine nuts, parmesan, green beans and broccoli was delicious; the veggies cooked just long enough to retain some of their crunch (nothing irks me more than overcooked broccoli!) and the toasted pine nuts adding well, nuttiness. I'd have this again.

Astoria also has a menu with offerings for breakfast and lunch which are a bit more elegant than their counter food... and I often look enviously upon people enjoying splendid-looking fare with a glass of wine in the midday sun (though who's stopping me, really?). I always try to get a seat outside if I can, or by the window; the interior's kind of dark and cavernous. That said, it does have a sort of broody European feel which some people might enjoy. Service is prompt; tables are cleared quickly and staff are generally attentive. You will have to wait at the counter for your coffee but that aspect of ordering isn't too difficult to master. With its prime location right on Midland Park, plus caffeine and good food, it's not hard to see why Astoria gets packed with Wellington's office-going crowd.

RATING: 3.75/5

Caffe Astoria
159 Lambton Quay
(04) 473-8500