Five of a kind: Organic cafes in Melbourne

Source @ The Age – 30 Jul 2011 – By Simone Egger

Produce sourced locally and grown organically is the star of the show when cafes embrace the slow food ethos.

SLOWPOKE

THOUGH young (two months old) and fresh, Slowpoke is traditional and proudly parochial in its preference for using produce that’s local. Owner-operator Curtis Riddington has a background in environmental science; he puts kilometres travelled and chemicals in the to-be-avoided-with-food bin. His simple all-day blackboard menu (almost all less than $10) might feature organic lamb shanks and barley soup, and roasted local cherry tomatoes, ricotta and torn basil on olive toast. Poke around and you’ll find that the ”slow” ethos abounds. There’s a communal table with fresh flowers (natives, naturally) and newspapers for shared dining, offcuts from local furniture-makers made into chunky timber wall ”tiles” and, past the open kitchen, a crackling fireplace and small courtyard.

157 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 9942 7813; Tues to Sat 7am-3.30pm, Sun 8am-3.30pm.

THE MERRI TABLE & BAR

IT DOESN’T get more local than vegetable plots at the doorstep. The pin-up of a community cafe, the Merri is a model of sustainable food service. Part of CERES Environment Park, what doesn’t come from the doorstep comes mainly from the park’s organic gardens and farm. Otherwise, suppliers are staunchly Victorian (and diners are invited to link into the supply chain by adding to the cafe’s next order for, say, Mount Zero olives or the organic house shiraz from Robinvale). Pasta and risotto make hearty foundations for the Merri’s winter menu (gnocchi with pumpkin sugo; peppery veg risotto); otherwise share plates include spiced battered vegies or filled mini pastries. The Merri’s design is smart looking and smart conceptually, with myriad energy-efficient features.

Corner Stewart and Roberts streets, Brunswick East, 9389 0166; Wed to Sat noon-9pm, Sun 10am-3pm, ceres.org.au/themerri

WILD ORGANIC CAFE

AT WILD Organic, the weeks can be measured in parottas – a thin wheat-flour wrap of Indian derivation. About 220 parottas equals one week here. They’re available for breakfast (filled with omelet, mushrooms, cheese and spinach) and lunch (maybe filled with chicken and lime curry, or dhal). Otherwise there are pides, piadinas, pies (beef and beer) and salads (quinoa and roast veg), all made on site daily primarily with organic ingredients. Much of the menu is available for takeaway. The coffee is good (Jasper, Fairtrade, organic) and the big street-front seating area – a block inland from the seaside – puts diners and dog walkers out in the elements.

122 Ormond Road, Elwood, 9537 7333; daily 6.30am-6.30pm.

BRIM CC

”WE JUST want our customers to be happy,” says Yasu, Brim CC’s owner. He’s not joking. Three years ago, he ran an organic produce shop here. Then his customers told him they wanted more ready-made options, so he transformed his shop into the simple Japanese soup and salad bar you see today. It’s high-turnover and lo-fi, with a hand-pasted picture menu representing the daily changing varieties of soup and curry made with organic stock and vegies (”organic is much tastier”). Brim CC (as in ”full to the brim of happiness + CC for chunky and cosy”) is a chipper little pocket at this dour end of town.

Shop 2, 601 Little Collins Street, city, 9629 6794; Mon to Fri 10am-9pm, brimcc.com.au

GERTRUDE’S KITCHEN

THE organic produce in the shop (Organic Gertrude) that fronts this small cafe is beautifully arranged and labelled. And it looks even better once you reach Gertrude’s Kitchen, at the back of the store, where the same produce has been seasoned, roasted and baked into a frittata. Or turned into salad (tuna, avo and brown rice) or slow-cooked in a casserole (Turkish lamb) or soup. Of the items on the blackboard menu, the take-home meals under the counter and the cakes (chocolate and beetroot) and slices on top, almost all are made from organic produce. The cafe leverages its buying through the shop, so prices are about on par with similar dishes made elsewhere using conventional produce.

108 Station Street, Fairfield, 9481 1029; Mon to Sat 8.30am-4pm, Sun 9am-3.30pm, organicgertrude.com.au

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