23 Crowhurst St, Newmarket
VEGAN FRIENDS HAVE been on at me for what seems like – and probably is – years, to check out this café, and my one excuse for not doing so is summed up by this word: NEWMARKET. I hate it (Newmarket, that is). It’s almost impossible to get a park, and it’s one of those dull-as-dishwater shopping no-go zones, so I mostly avoid it.
But let’s not bring my personal prejudices into this review. The fact is that, as you can see, I did go to Newmarket, and I did get a park (in Crowhurst St just opposite Wise Cicada, in fact), and once I’d experienced this insanely good outlet for healthy vegan food, I was cross with myself for having avoided it for so long.
It’s an unusual operation, to say the least, with the café out front and an entire health food store at the back. That was my first surprise, as I had no idea that there was any real competition for Harvest Wholefoods/Huckleberries in the CBD. The counter to the left of the seating (behind which is the kitchen) features a cabinet containing a delectable array of raw salads geared to keeping the vegan happy and nutritionally balanced, and friendly staff who helped us negotiate the rather humungous range of options available. The counter to the right of the seating is for purchases from the health food part of the operation, but the same staff zip back and forth, just like the Joni Mitchell song: both sides now!
Apart from an impressive array of salads and power smoothies, there’s a menu, and as we were there right at breakfast time, we chose some cooked food. I went the whole hog and ordered the Big Kiwi Breakfast ($17), while Yoko went with the a Falafel & Hummus Platter ($12).
Maybe the Big Kiwi Breakfast was for big Kiwis, because it certainly wasn’t as fulsome as I had imagined, but even though it might sound like it, I’m not complaining. For the price, the quantity was much more cost-effective than the average egg-oriented café food, and it comprised a tasty variety of ingredients. My breakfast was made up of vegan sausages, a tofu scramble, sautéed mushrooms and baked beans, and instead of the advertised two slices of toast, the waitress brought ample extra slices, which suited me just fine. It was a hearty, and quite tasty breakfast, although there was no real “wow” moment in the taste department. But afterwards, I felt good. Yoko was impressed with the falafel, and with the fact that the hummus was a shade of purple. To be frank, it LOOKED like something the cat could have thrown up, but taste is everything, and the hummus rocked.
I’m discovering, however, that coffee in vegan cafes is seldom up to scratch, possibly because their espresso machines just aren’t kept as busy with many of their customers opting for protein drinks or smoothies or fruit juice. In any case, my soy latte was a bit weak and winsome.
We both liked the atmosphere here. It’s an open, high-ceilinged space and there’s always plenty going on… and it really helped that the staff were so willing to make our experience a pleasant one.
Next time, I’m going to indulge in the salads (full selection, large size for a mere $13.90), all of which are advertised as “living” organic salads with free extras for nutritional balance: tamari toasted seeds, hummus, egg-free mayonnaise, LSA, and so forth.
Save a park for me, okay? GARY STEEL
23 Crowhurst St, Newmarket