Cuba Street, the Mecca of good cafes.
You simply can’t go to Wellington, New Zealand without visiting Cuba Street. Best to describe it as the Newtown for the kiwis, a bohemian area packed with an eclectic collection of cafes, op-shops, small fashion boutiques, art galleries, lounge bars and music shops.
The street is actually named after an early settler ship, the Cuba, arriving to New Zealand in 1840. Despite it has nothing to do with the island country in the Caribbean, it doesn’t stop the locals turning the street into their own little exotic Latin quarter in the heart of the Wellington city and naming the shops Havana, Ernesto and of course the more obvious, Fidel’s which I have fell in love with.
Fidel’s is high on my must-visit list even before arriving in Wellington with three other bloggers for Wellington On a Plate. I don’t care how many meals I have to take in one day, but I simply have to squeeze Fidel’s into my already well-stuffed pre-scheduled itinerary. I am glad I did, in fact I visited Fidel’s – twice!
Fidel’s is actually located further away from the rest, on top of Cuba Street but that doesn’t stop Helen and I to hike all the way up there to check it out, albeit we only have 20 minutes to spend in the cafe before our lunch at Matterhorn. We simply couldn’t resist, push the door and step through the mosaic-tiled Fidel Castro‘s welcome mat into a cosy space with warmth radiating from the kitchen cum bar at the back and the bold red walls. There is also more dining space through the alcove into the next room but alas, this place is so busy and all the seats are taken. As we are about to give up, a couple comes through the back door and only then struck me that there are actually more seats out at the back.
We walk through the corridor covered in camo netting, into a sheltered courtyard where the decor is even more Fidel-ish. Faces of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are spray painted everywhere, table, walls and even the menu. Despite we are surrounded by eye-catching murals, Helen and I are more interested in the Asian fashionista who is sitting at another table, knitting away. So boho, so chic.
We only order two cups of flat white during our first visit as we can’t really stay long. We found coffees here in Wellington at most cafes are very strong comparing to those back home, just how we like it. The Havana coffee here at Fidel’s is freshly roasted each day from the roastery just around the corner, they are exceptionally bold but seductively smooth, served in mismatched saucers and cups for that quirky touch.
We come back again the next day with Peter G joining us this time and we are going to have a chillax afternoon with something sweet. The banana smoothie possibly the healthiest item we’ve ordered. The tall glass of refreshingly chilled smoothie seems to satisfy Peter G regardless by the look of it.
Helen took charge of the ordering and I never doubt her decisions. The halved lemon meringue pie is a true beauty, an inch thick of rich lemon custard baked in a sweet caramel crust and a fluffy cloud of soft meringue on top with a much satisfying caramalised skin concludes the dessert a sweetness overload. Instead of serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the waitress suggested to have it with some much needed light yoghurt to cut through the richness. It is a strange combination, I think I’ll stick to the pie.
“Do you know why they called Afghan?” Helen is rather excited to amuse us with a story about this biscuit. The Afghan biscuit for some reason is a favourite for the New Zealanders. While there are so many theories regarding the origin of the name, the biscuit/cookie itself is deliciously simple – a crunchy cornflake chocolate cookie/biscuit with set chocolate icing on top then bejeweled with half a walnut in the middle.
“Well, apparently the biscuit resembles the Afghan people from a top view. The cookie is the skin colour of the Afghan, the chocolate icing is the hair and the walnut is the turban.” Whether true or false, it is sure one rich chocolate cookie we happily devour.
If that’s not enough sweetness for one afternoon, we also order a Snickers thick shake just for the sake of it. (Told you never doubt Helen’s decision) The Snickers thick shake is served in a tall old school metal milkshake tumbler, “Oooh my goddddd…..!” that’s the only words Helen can express after the first sip through the straw, beaming us the widest grin on her face.
The thick shake actually tastes nothing like a Snickers bar, but it is INCREDIBLE! It takes some effort to suck the shake through the straw, but every sip will be rewarded with a flow of caramel sweetness and a strong flavour of peanut butter. Thank god we have three mouths to share and manage to finish it without the help of an insulin shot.
The thick shake is gurgling in my stomach as we are leaving Fidel’s, light headed and absolutely on sugary high. All I could think of is to collapse on the comfy bed in the hotel room for some much needed snooze with some sweet sweet dreams.
Then I scream from the top of my lungs, “HELEN!!!! LOOK!!! HELEN!!!”
I spy with my little eyes a Helen’s review outside Le Metropolitan restaurant displayed on the window pane! Helen is famous, and I am simply having a short moment of ADHD!
Don’t forget to enter and WIN a dinner for two at WLG ‘pop-up’ restaurant in Kings Cross, Sydney to celebrate everything Wellington!
Fidel's Cafe 234 Cuba Street Te Aro 6011, New Zealand P: +64 4 801 6868 Opening hours: Monday to Friday 7.30am - late Saturday and Sunday 9am - late
[ATFT visited Wellington as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism]