Pimp My Plate #24 – Naremburn, NSW

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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 $19 or less.

‘Maca my day’

Sprout Wholefood Café

Naremburn is a small mostly residential suburb, squeezed between Crows Nest and Artarmon. It’s a pretty suburb with a small, eclectic shopping strip.

SPROUT joins a community of shopfronts that includes a local government Member’s office, a small bar, a picture framing business, a bottleshop, and a pizza restaurant that opened in 1972 and still serves great pizza.

The café occupies the space that was previously tenanted by a privately-owned hardware store of the old style that sold boxes of galvanized nails, brass screws, and cut and drilled timber for you on the spot. They were trusted and their DIY expert advice was as solid as the layer of dust carpeting the shelves.

It is fitting then, that ‘new’ tenant SPROUT also provides holistic components, in this case wholefoods.

It was lunchtime and I was in a hurry, and hurried people need to eat good, wholesome food to keep them happy as they hurry.

I saw lots of healthful bowls on the menu, and that’s great, but I prefer to only eat soup, porridge, cereal, or dessert out of a bowl, and preferably with a spoon.

I scanned hungrily past those delicious-sounding-but-not-for-me bowls of Tabouli Bowl, and Green Goddess Bowl (both $17.95), or Miso Trout Bowl, and other Protein Bowls (each $21.95).

Yumm… Sprout Fritters ($17.95), made from a mixture of feta, kale, chilli, and mint caught my imagination.

I had the option to add avocado, grilled chicken, bacon, or poached egg, for an extra charge but I wanted to see how these fritters would stand up to a taste test by themselves.

They did so splendidly. The two large fritters on my plate were springy and light, and a joy to munch through. And they were gluten free, which prompted me to ask what type of flour held this fairy-light mixture together – Brown Rice Flour.

With a long haul international flight on my horizon, I chose the Anti-inflammatory Super Smoothie – banana, turmeric, cinnamon, maca, goji berries, and coconut milk.

Like me, you might be wondering what maca is? Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and is part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family. It’s touted as a wonder food with a long list of benefits: an energy enhancer that aids stamina, athletic performance, and memory. Whether that’s true or not, its earthy flavour is a complementary addition to the smoothie I’m sipping.

I am happy to report that any of those potential health benefits come second to flavour. The smoothie has an earthy, refreshing taste, and the coconut milk flavour didn’t overpower the other flavours. In fact the flavour combination of banana, turmeric, and cinnamon made my tastebuds dance a tango.  Maybe this concoction could be renamed Flight Fit and made available pre-flight at every airport – just a thought.

Other drinks served at SPROUT include tonics, teas, lattes and macha, hot chocolate and coffees (with nut milk and coconut milk), super smoothies including a Gut Guardian (I so love that name), wellbeing juices, and the curious sounding Reishi Coffee ($5.50), which is ‘enriched with reishi mushrooms’. As a mushroom lover I wished I’d noticed it on the menu earlier. This certainly requires me to do a return visit for a taste-test.

SPROUT have a range of pretty vegan cakes on display if you’d like to reward your healthy eating with a sweet treat, to eat in, or take out.

Just a few doors down the street is specialty coffee store Forsyth Coffee House so if you prefer your coffee with dairy milk, head there for a coffee. They also serve specialty teas.

Before you do head out, be sure to check out SPROUT’s adjacent grocery section where you can buy organic fruit and vegetables, and a number of wholesome gourmet ingredients to create healthy meals in your own kitchen.

This is a feel good space to grab a quick, healthy bite, meet up with friends, or drop in for a cup of Mt Kenya-grown Gabriel brand coffee and a pretty cake.

RATED: Wholly pimped!  FOOD: 4.5/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 3/5   VIBE:  Busy, buzzy, healthy
SPROUT WHOLEFOOD CAFÉ & GROCER – 272-274 Willoughby Rd, Naremburn

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Chilli-Choc Bliss Balls

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‘Baby it’s cold out there’

For my chilli-loving friends like me, I decided to revisit my original Bliss Balls Sugar Hack recipe and add some heat.

This is my first batch. It has a lingering warm chilli flavour. It’s subtle, not rocket-heat, as I wanted to experiment with a bottle of Chilli Choc Sauce I had in the cupboard.

You can add more or less sauce, and I plan on working through my cupboard of other hot sauces and spices and moving UP the heat scale with this recipe – health AND heat. Win-win!

(makes approx. 20)

30 pitted dates (from a 250 g pack)
1 tspn vanilla extract (not essence)
1 1/2 level Tbspn very finely ground espresso coffee
3 rounded Tbspn organic cacao powder
3/4 cup walnuts (buy whole or walnut pieces)
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 Tbspn melted coconut oil
2 Tbspn Cranky Croc Choc Chilli Chocolate Sauce (made by The Chilli Factory)
3/4 cup dried dessicated coconut

Cut dates in half, and place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 10 mins, then drain and place the dates, vanilla, coffee, and cacao into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the mixture starts to blend together.

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Add the walnuts and hazelnuts to the mixture, and process again until the nuts are chopped into smaller pieces and the mixture starts to form a sticky ball.

Then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated.
Use a teaspoon to scoop out mixture and use your hands to roll the mixture into 1″ (2cm) round balls. Keep them small so they are just one or two bites.

Scatter coconut across a dinner plate, and roll the balls across to coat them.
Store in a sealed container, in the fridge or freezer.

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The Chilli Factory’s Cranky Croc Chilli Chocolate Sauce

Guilt-free ‘nutella’ recipe #1

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This recipe was created and posted online by Natasha Longo, a certified fitness and nutritional counsellor, in response to an article: http://www.realfarmacy.com/need-know-nutella/   which outlines undesirable chemical additives, and commercial practices involved in producing the current commercial version of Nutella hazelnut spread.

I wanted to test-drive this recipe and see how it shapes up as a substitute.

Using Natasha’s recipe as a base, I’ve adjusted by either reducing the quantities of the some ingredients, or omitting them completely. ** denotes an ingredient in Natasha’s original recipe, that I’ve left out.

This recipe uses hazelnuts.

Raw Hazelnut-Choc-Coconut ‘nutella’    

(makes about 1 cup)

Taste: pleasant flavour with a definite coconut taste – I rate it 7/10
Texture: a soft paste with light-medium texture and body

1 cup hazelnuts, soaked for 10 hours
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tspn vanilla extract **  
1/4 tspn sea salt **  
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2-4 T coconut milk

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Drain and rinse hazelnuts and place in food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. I didn’t want to wear out the motor on my food processor by processing for the suggested 10-15 minutes, so I just blended for 5 mins until the nut consistency was more like breadcrumbs than butter. If you have a commercial blender you could go the distance and create more of a buttery consistency.

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Add the maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cacao powder and blend until smooth. Slowly add the coconut milk until desired consistency. I used about 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk.

Serve on crumpets, or hot-buttered toast.

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Note: Because this recipe contains no preservatives, keep in air-tight container and refridgerate. Treat as you would fresh foods, and use within a few days.

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‘Have a DELiCiOUS day’

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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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Pimp My Plate #14 – Bondi, 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.

‘The good, the bad, the OMG that’s good!’

Sādhanā Kitchen 

Sādhanā Kitchen is an organic, raw, vegan café dedicated to vegan, plant-based meals that offer health and wellness.

After relocating from inner city Enmore to Bondi in March, Sādhanā’s new space is lighter, brighter, and larger. The vibe feels healthy as you walk in, or sit outdoors. As you walk by the cakes displayed on the counter, you can quickly reassure yourself that these desserts are actually good for you.

Maz Valcorza’s philosophy is to share how eating ethical, healthy, and delicious food can help us connect with our personal wisdom. Sādhanā is a Sanskrit term that translates to ‘one’s conscious spiritual practice’.

Valcorza’s café and new cookbook, Naked Vegan, evolved from her own transition from a career as a pharmaceutical sales manager, to yoga teacher, and her lifestyle change from chain-smoking party girl to eating a plant-based raw diet. She says that since starting her yoga practice, her attitude towards how she consumed food, has completely changed.

‘By using delicious and beautiful raw vegan food – as our sādhanā – we nudge our lives in a happier, more purposeful direction.’ Her meals and recipes have been mindfully researched and translated to offer diners an ethical, healthy food experience, using raw foods, and introducing us to new ingredients and flavour combinations.

Sādhanā’s menu is evolving, and includes fruit and vegetables, warm and cold elixirs, smoothies, cold pressed juices, nut and seed mylks (plant or nut-based milks), and fermented foods – no eggs, dairy, or honey. Raw foods are unprocessed and as fresh or wild as possible, and are organic, with no irradiation, preservatives, pesticides or GMO.

Where required, the ‘cooking process’ for raw food menu items is either by dehydration, or by using an oven at its lowest temperature setting – never heated above 45°C (115°F) – very low and very slow, to maximize the amount of enzyme and vitamin content in the food you eat.

So how did the menu taste? Up, down, up again.

I ate the Lasagne, the Cheezeburger, a dairy-free coffee, and a Tim Tam for dessert.

The Lasagne ($19) uses zucchini strips as ‘pasta’, layered with baby spinach leaves, walnut mince bolognaise, a slice of cultured cashew Cheeze, and tomato pieces.  The verdant green squeezed over the top is basil pesto.

It’s fresh, and alive with flavour and mouth feel, and you can almost feel the pop of vitamins and enzymes with every mouthful.

Presentation and plating here is mindful, and you can almost see the enzymes dancing on each plate in a colourful burst. Raw, natural food colour is big here, yey!

I guess with the whole of Sydney’s café society in the grip of burger-mania putting a Cheezeburger on the menu seemed like a good idea. It isn’t. A lot of foods translate well, and become more innovative when recreated with difference ingredients. Not this. The basic elements of a burger are: a bun, a meat or vegetarian patty, sauce, and lettuce or slaw, and a slice of cheese are an optional extra.

Burger buns vary from cotton wool burger chains, to sesame buns, to brioche, the salad can vary wildly from a crisp slaw to soggy lettuce, and the cheese is usually the consistency of salty melted plastic, and somehow some of them still taste ok.

Cheezeburger ($20). There is no such thing as an unhealthy burger here – there is no meat, no gluten, and no dairy cheese either. Sādhanā substitute ‘Neatloaf’ a nut-free raw vegan filling for meat, and that’s fine. The cheese substitute – ‘cheeze’ – in their cheeseburger is made from cashew nuts, miso, and yeast, (a cultured cashew cheese) but unfortunately it doesn’t have much flavour. It’s disappointing, but it’s no biggie.

The problem is the bun. With ‘deconstructed’ dishes still being a big ‘thing’, this is a moment to decide to discard the bun altogether, rather than try to replicate it. Bread of any type has to have texture. This had no flavour, no texture, no mouth-feel, just the consistency of stiff cardboard, and while I admire the attempt, I suggest they take it off the menu – now.

But thankfully, the burger is their only fail.

I’m someone who takes their coffee seriously – aka it’s an investment in my happiness – but this being a non-dairy space, I chose the Coco Coffee ($4.50) a flat white made with coconut milk. I’ll admit to being a little sceptical about the taste, texture, and body of the coffee, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Arriving in a beaker, the Earth Elixir ($8) contains the herbs South American Cat’s Claw Bark, Horsetail, Pau D’Arco, and Himalayan Goji Berries. Healthy, if not very flavoursome.

Time for dessert…

Tim Tams are an iconic Australian chocolate biscuit, and I was intrigued to taste Sādhanā’s version.

Boom! A decadent, pretty rectangle of chocolate Tim Tam ($6) arrived sprinkled with cacao nibs, and a what looked like crumbled dried purple açaí berries. On the plate beside it, Sādhanā’s logo ‘S’ written in a swirl of chocolate sauce was an edible, and elegant touch.

Spoon at the ready, I couldn’t wait to dive into this raw version of a Tim Tam. The thin chocolate coating cracked as I cut through the rich, fudge-like deliciousness, the nibs adding texture and crunch. S has managed to work their magic to create a refined sugar free dessert with crunch and texture and ‘I want more” mouthfeel. When I went to pay, I was tempted to add another Tim Tam to the bill to take home.

This is feel good food because it’s fresh and healthy, not comfort food, but it’s very comforting know this food is actually doing you good.

A raw diet doesn’t have to be a 100% commitment to eating raw foods, a ratio of 75% raw is widely recommended. To be able to enjoy access to raw food that has been created by mindful and committed ‘cooks’, even if only occasionally, makes a healthful addition to all our diets.

RATED: Good on the lips, hips, and conscious!  FOOD: 4.9/5
VALUE: 4.5/5  ATMOS: 3.5/5  VIBE: Fresh buzz
HINT: Pay cash (coins and notes) to avoid paying a surcharge
Sādhanā Kitchen – 132 Warners Avenue, Bondi, NSW (Mon-Sun)

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Pimp My Plate #12 – Mona Vale

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.

ROUGH & BARE Wholefood Kitchen

If you’re heading in a northerly direction towards Mona Vale Beach, take your tastebuds on a detour, and make a quick left turn off busy Pittwater Road into Waratah Street. Take another right turn and you’ll find ROUGH & BARE squeezed down the end of Bungan Lane.

It’s a detour for your consciousness as well as your tastebuds, because this kitchen is as committed to sustainable farming practices, as it is to serving fresh produce.

The philosophy of ROUGH & BARE is to ‘create meals the way nature intended – stripped back, nourishing and wholesome.’ And to ‘serve the best quality, organic, pasture-fed and wild caught food’. Yes, please!

ROUGH & BARE are catering to a healthy clientele with a menu ‘rich in ingredients like meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit’ rather than catering exclusively for a gluten-free or vegetarian clientele.

That energy flows into their hospitality too – staff at ROUGH & BARE are friendly, happy, happy to please you, and professional.

Their menu plates hover around $20 + so I chose the option nearest my budget, the Heirloom Vegetable Salad, with Seeded Crackers and Salmon Pâté ($19.90), although I wasn’t really in the mood for a salad, after a tough yoga session that morning.

That is, until I saw my plate of harvest of heirloom vegetables arrive, looking as vibrant and fresh as if they’d been plucked out the soil only minutes ago.

The salad was sensational – a colourful harvest of young heirloom carrots, white and red radish, sliced fennel bulb, and cucumber – served with two dips: beetroot, and sweet potato. The vegetables were fresh, crunchy, hydrating and satisfying.

Their Seeded Crackers are the ‘bizness’ and are made on site. Smeared with salmon pâté they are an instant palate pleaser – crunchy, chewy, and textured, using a delicious mixture of activated nuts and seeds including buckwheat, chia, millet, quinoa and sorghum. It’s worth a drive just to eat these!

I also ordered a Golden Latte ($6.50), containing turmeric. It arrived with a tiny bowl of honey, and a complementary bliss ball. Thank you!

Now to my score … the only thing that pulled my dining experience back from a top score were the flies. No one likes being buzzed by flies while they eat. It was an unseasonably hot day and every window and door was open. Maybe they don’t use an electric bug zapper for philosophical reasons, and I wasn’t going to get into a debate about that when everything else they do is so right. It’s worth taking a look at their website to read more about the ingredients they use and their food philosophy.

This café will become a must-stop whenever I’m in the Northern Beaches area – the beach may have to wait.

RATED: Pimped!   FOOD: 4.8/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 4/5   VIBE: Fresh is best
ROUGH & BARE Wholefood Kitchen – 1/1 Bungan Lane, Mona Vale, NSW
http://www.roughandbare.com.au

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Pimp My Plate #7 – Teneriffe, QLD

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

Sourced Grocer – café and organic grocer

This week I’ve had to pimp my budget! Only by $1, and only in the interests of reviewing and sharing an innovative dish from Sourced Grocer café.

I first heard about this café while chatting about art, life, and food with a young Brisbane hipster – thank you! Further online investigation uncovered an enthusiastic review for Cabbage Pancakes. Trying to imagine what these might look like, let alone taste like, became the incentive for my excursion to this foodie oasis.

The Sourced Grocer café is planted in the middle of an area of rapid residential development, in Teneriffe, on the outskirts of Brisbane CBD.

A wall of potted green welcomes you on arrival. Once inside, this airy converted warehouse space is divided into a grocery section – chock full of mindfully sourced gourmet produce – a cold room, and a small restaurant area next to the open plan kitchen.

I take a seat near the kitchen, and scan the menu. I notice one of the cooks is busily chopping through a bundle of kale. Love it or hate it, kale is still the queen of green, and its presence signals organic sensibilities, and no-fear vegetable bravado. Or maybe that’s just my interpretation.

The menu presented a dilemma of choice. My tastebuds had travelled to taste the Cabbage Pancakes ($17), but another menu item grabbed my attention: Saltbush Spaghetti ($19) with sorrel leaves, cured egg yolk, and burnt garlic. If in doubt, ask. I did. The chef recommended I try the spaghetti so I did.

I also ordered a dessert – Coconut Tapioca Pudding with passionfruit, basil, bee pollen, and coconut ($16).

The food here is ‘eating clean’ with top marks for mouth feel.

My plate of Saltbush Spaghetti arrived – a green tumbleweed of sorrel leaves, with green spaghetti nestled below.

I foraged through my bowl, twirling the crispy sorrel leaves and al dente pasta together into a happy green mouthful. Crunch! It’s rare to find crunch anywhere in a pasta story.

The sorrel leaves were light as air, and as crisp and addictive as air dried potato or kale chips. It’s never a crime to pick up food in your fingers in the name of research, and I started nibbling on them like a rabbit.

No soggy clingy sauces here. Instead, imagine a nest of crunchy dried green sorrel leaves sitting on top of perfectly al dente spaghetti, creating a crunchy-chewy contrast in your mouth. Difficult to describe, but I recommend it.

The pasta was served just-warm, and I was grateful because it would have added moisture into the leaves, and it was a really hot day.

Dessert arrived. A confident, pretty bird’s nest of colour, and textures: fresh mango pieces, strips of young coconut, passionfruit, and a sprinkling of bee pollen, nestled on top of a creamy tapioca pudding base. I loved the simplicity and texture of the ingredients.

The food at Sourced Grocer is all about quality of ingredients, combined with innovation. Their dedicated-to-good-food-and-innovation earnestness radiates from the kitchen.

Enjoy the joie de vivre of this food – it’s feel-good, eat-clean food with a creative edge.

There is plenty of on-street parking midweek, or you can simply take the City Glider bus, like I did, and get off at the last stop by the water, and take a 10 minute walk which also takes you by a Swiss chocolatier, should you want to savour a few pieces of quality chocolate to eat on the spot, or take with you – for much later.

RATED: Maxxed!  FOOD: 6/5 yes, you read right
VALUE: 5/5  ATMOS: 4.5/5  VIBE: relaxed, airy, with kitchen staff 100% focused on showcasing quality produce
Sourced Grocer Café – 11 Florence St, Teneriffe, QUEENSLAND

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Pimp My Plate #6 – Chatswood, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

*Good Vibes has been renamed DUCK PHAT and offers a simplified quality organic Vietnamese menu

Good Vibes Organic Restaurant*

OK, I have to make a confession about this review.
All Good Vibes’ tasting plates are $16.50 each so they do meet my under $18 per plate criteria, but they are served as part of a degustation menu. There is no regimen, you simply choose as many plates as you like – but you will want to try everything on the menu.

The energetic and friendly staff suggested ordering a minimum of 3 plates to share, per couple. But once you taste the food, you know that’s madness, and you scan the menu for your next flavour hit.

I love surprises.

The exterior of this restaurant is low key and a peek through the window says friendly, organic, certified, and welcoming. It could be cosy Glebe, but it’s cosy Chatswood, just a few blocks down from the corporate towers and slick retail arena of Willoughby City.

A glance at Good Vibes’ website reveals quality, and the words Cordon Bleu and Organic meld together in symbiotic deliciousness. Modestly, they call their style ‘a modern European semi-fine dining experience’. Who knows what that means, and who really cares, when their plates are pretty, professional, and delicately assembled. The focus here is on beauty and flavour, not fussy.

Quality food and attention to detail often comes with attitude, but this is an attitude-free zone. The only attitude is dedication to the food. The night I visited, two of the three wait staff had called in sick. Young Chef and owner Huey, had no qualms about pitching in and helping the one waitress in a very busy restaurant. A chef cleaning a table is a rarity. So we’re talking soul as well as quality.

The food … Arrabiata Pasta w Lamb Stuffed Capsicum; Seared Scallops with Chilli Jam Lentils; Mixed Mushroom and Aubergine Tart; Slow cooked Scotched Fillet w Pomme Puree and Red Wine Jus; and to finish, an Orange Caramel Crème Brûlée.

Each plate was delicately executed, and full of flavour, and needs no further explanation, beyond an exclamation of ‘Yum’.

Good Vibes is BYO, and all produce is certified organic where possible. Seafood is wild caught, but due to the nature of seafood, it is not certified organic. The menu features gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan choices.

If you thought you knew the dining scene in the Chatswood area – or thought there wasn’t one – think again.

RATED: Pimped to the stars! FOOD: 5/5
VALUE: 5/5 ATMOS: 4/5 VIBE: friendly, multicultural
Good Vibes Organic Restaurant – 172 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, NSW

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