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 #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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