Pimp My Plate #34 – Native Feel Real, Manly, NSW

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A ‘summer holiday vibe’ is just a ferry ride away…

Manly Beach is only a 15 minute fast-ferry ride from Sydney business district, but it feels a world away.

Thankfully there are no commercial high rise buildings blocking the beachfront, just towering Norfolk Island pine trees.

Bare feet, board shorts, and bikinis replace suits on the streets as well as the beach so it’s easy to embrace the holiday vibe even if it’s only for a lunch hour.

When you step off the ferry at Manly Wharf you have the choice of three beaches – Manly Cove, Cabbage Tree Bay, and Manly Beach.

On your left, West Esplanade runs along Manly Cove toward Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. If you turn right along East Esplanade you’ll be walking alongside Cabbage Tree Bay, and eventually arrive at Manly Yacht Club.

To reach Manly Beach itself, walk straight ahead through The Corso.

The Corso is the central hub of Manly, with lots of retail and several large pubs, and full of tourists, buzz, and buff. The smaller laneways connecting to it offer a feast of boutique cafés and bars.

Not many people know that The Corso was named after the Via Del Corso in Rome, and was originally a water inlet flowing from the harbour to the ocean.

Did you know that Manly was originally designed as a copy of the English city of Brighton?

Back in the 1850s, English-born merchant and politician Henry Gilbert Smith had a huge influence on Manly.

Smith envisioned Manly as an antipodean version of the famous Brighton seaside resort he revered.

He also introduced beachside attractions to cater for day trippers of the era – a miniature version of Vauxhall Gardens, a Camera Obscura, boat-shaped swings, and a bath-house located at the end of West Esplanade.

How I wish the Camera Obscura was still in operation, certainly a drawcard for me!

All these years later Manly has evolved its own vibrant personality and community. It is the birthplace of Australian surfing and was one of the world’s first surfing reserves.

It now has over 100 bars, cafés, and restaurants Manly has plenty to offer locals and tourists.

But that’s enough history, let’s eat…

Wandering down East Esplanade, I found Native Feel Real tucked just around the corner in Wentworth Street.

Native Feel Real is a small café with several tables outside. You can eat-in or takeaway.

Their menu offers raw and plant-based superfoods that are mostly gluten-free, and their philosophy is serving ‘nourishing food from Mother Earth’.

The lunch menu includes a Native Bowl ($17.50) – a salad of raw, seasonal vegetables; a Raw Pizza (cooked below 44°C) topped with homemade pesto, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, beetroot, pumpkin, sprouts and activated cashew cheese ($17.50).

Rawsome Spaghetti ($16) is made with raw zucchini spirals, homemade pesto, spinach, tomatoes and sprouts, and grated cashew parmesan cheese, and there’s also Rawsome Lasagne.

I chose the fully cooked Quinoa Risotto ($16.50) – a mix of seasonal vegetables pan fried with quinoa and coconut cream and served on a bed of mixed lettuce and topped with alfalfa sprouts and cashew cheese. Three words: It was delicious.

It’s hard to ignore the large range of raw sweets at the counter so I ordered an itsy bitsy white chocolate and berry cake ($6).

Native Feel Real is focused on raw and gluten free drinks, but has a nice arrangement with the bar next door. They have an espresso machine so you can buy a really good takeaway coffee to enjoy with your dessert.

Native Feel Real has a yummy list of power juices, and smoothies including Liver Scrubber, Be Yourself, and Mayan Warrior.

Their selection of naturopathic teas includes Green Goddess Detox, Fountain of Youth, and Golden Glow.

You’ll find lots of cafés in Manly, but I liked the peaceful and reflective vibe of this one.

Native Feel Real offers a nice yin-yang balance of healthy food and being able to hear yourself think.

Or write your own message on a post-it note, to add to the wall of café philosophy.

As things get pre-Christmas crazy in December, it’s especially nice to have a getaway from all ‘the noise’.

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RATED: Pimped!  FOOD: 4/5   Satisfies body and soul
VALUE: 4.5/5   VENUE ATMOS: Café philosophy
VIBE:  Feel real
Native Feel Real – Shop 1A, 40 East Esplanade, Manly, NSW

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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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