Pimp My Plate #16 – Sydney, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $18 or less.

Say ‘Yes’ to the good stuff!

About Life instore Cafés

Australian wholefoods store About Life began its life in 1996 as a juice bar “juicing up a storm” in Sydney’s Rozelle. Twenty years on, they are busily expanding and opening new stores, while some big name competitors are busy closing their doors.

About Life stores are the go-to for inner health. Their product range is extensive: dried fruits, activated nuts, meat, free range eggs, dairy, breads, fruit and vegetables, baking goods, health and beauty products and more.

They are very similar to the Wholefoods chain in North America, and both stores offer as many holistic consumables as your budget allows.

As part of their ‘food promise’ you can shop for products that have no artificial preservatives, flavours or colours; no  hydrogenated oils or parabens; and their fresh meat and proteins contain no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Each About Life store also includes a café, a self-serve food bar, and a catering service, although co-owner Jodie Stewart has said “the supermarket is still our core market.”

There are currently six About Life stores, and a new store opens in Crows Nest in June.

I visited three locations to try their café menu, which is the same in each store. It offers plenty of choice for breakfast, brunch, and lunch – you won’t go hungry. Meals are classified as Vegetarian, Vegan, Without Gluten, Without Dairy, Supercharged, or Paleo.

Only one meal item exceeded my PMP budget of $19 – the Wholefood Breakfast which included eggs and a regular organic coffee for $19.50. With most stores situated in prime retail locations, I was surprised by such reasonable pricing.

My Pink Raspberry Chia Pikelets ($10.90) were served with coconut vanilla yoghurt, raspberry chia jam, and coconut veganola (a grain-free alternative to granola, made with nuts, seeds & fruits). The pikelets were a soft spongey pink, with a tang of yoghurt, and a crunchy topping of assorted seeds.

The Edible Garden ($14.90) features a black tahini soil, with two poached free range eggs, tahini dressing, and pickled vegetables. I ordered this out of curiosity. The vegetables had texture and crunch, but the ‘soil’ was a little dry and bland.

Barra Bento ($15.90) was the star dish – a piece of barramundi glazed with miso, ginger, and sesame, served with a delicious nutty flavoured brown rice salad, with kimchi for crunch. Texture and flavour in every bite.

The Superfood Burrito ($14.90) contained cacao chilli beef with corn salsa, chia seeds, avocado, and coriander (cilantro). This could have been a hit if the burrito had been heated through.

I ordered Ginger Turmeric Latte ($4) made with hot coconut milk and cinnamon. I find these a pleasant alternative to chai or caffè latte. And I must go back and try their Raw Caramel Latte ($4.50) with raw tahini caramel sauce.

My Flat white coffee ($3.70 small, sit-down) is made from certified organic and fair trade coffee, and has body and flavour.

Other drinks include Smoothies – Superfood, High Protein, Raw Green, Rainbow, or Anti-Inflammatory. Or choose from Wellness Tonics, Herbal Tinctures, Vegetable Juices, or Fruit Juices. Sweets include a variety of raw cakes and vegan desserts.

The About Life café menu is imaginative and offers plenty of choice – perhaps too much.

Each store I visited utilized Pay as You Order counter staff as wait staff. Understandable and practical if you are not offering full restaurant – or dedicated café – service.

But multitasking means that the delivery of food to the table can be slow, which is not ideal if you’re on your lunch break.

At some locations the coffees arrived lukewarm (never acceptable) and so did the food. Or in the case of the meat-filled burrito, not heated at all.

It’s also tricky to manage multiple plates on those tiny fixed-to-the-ground football shaped tables – whose idea were those? – forcing diners to sprawl across multiple tables.

But let’s not miss out on the good stuff because of the annoying stuff…

The smart move is to order take-away if you’re on a deadline. Grab-and-go is faster. Reheat your food back at the office and enjoy eating it at a larger table or desk!

If you eat in, simply ask for your meal to be served hot, if that’s the optimum way to eat it.

About Life cafés offer high-grade fast food using organic ingredients, at very reasonable prices.

Stores tick all the boxes trying to provide healthy products for everyone – from apples to veganola.

A tip? Don’t leave the store without buying some bulbs of Australian-grown garlic.

RATED: Pimp my health!  FOOD: 3/5
VALUE: 5/5   ATMOS: 3/5   VIBE: We really care about your health – and I believe them!
ABOUT LIFE – Store locations: (NSW) Surry Hills, Bondi Junction, Double Bay, Rozelle, Lane Cove, Cammeray, and Crows Nest. (VIC) Port Melbourne. (7 days)

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Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or @pimpmyplate:)

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