With more cafes and restaurants recognising Australians are hungry for food with purpose, it’s never been easier to eat good while you eat out. To highlight some of the best sustainable cafes and restaurants in Melbourne, we talked to The Weekly Review’s food editor and all round badass, Alice in Frames (aka Alice Zaslavsky).
Getting close to the source
For Alice, a big part of eating sustainably is actually getting closer to where food comes from – and what better way to do that than to grow some of it yourself? “Ultimately when you grow something yourself you respect every bit of it more. Matt Stone’s garden at Oakridge is awesome. It’s absolutely thriving, and I love that customers can actually pick from the garden and take something home with them.”
Closer to the city, Tommy Collins’ pop up patch (in association with Little Veggie Patch Co) is a gorgeous “destination” garden and venue for hipster weddings. “Gotta get the hipsters involved,” she half-jokes.
The link between food and dirt also challenges the whole concept of “clean eating,” and this is where Alice invokes Simon Bryant’s “dirty eating” philosophy. It’s about getting closer to the source of your food that’s not just good for you, but for the health of the land and the people working on it to bring you that food.
Plant based perfection
Judging by the almost religious fervor over burgers in Australia, it’s always pretty exciting when chefs don’t (literally) put meat in the middle of the meal (especially when only 6% of Aussies get enough fruit and veg). Matt Wilkinson’s Pope Joan is one of Alice’s go-tos when it comes to shifting veg back to the centre of the plate. “I love that they’re making veggies fucking cool!”
Further afield, she’s crushing on Dan Barber’s veggie-centric plates in the US. “It’s up to use to change the very shape of what we eat. Dan’s approach is to make veggies the hero, rather than making meat the villain. He’s for less meat, and choosing the best quality possible.”
Scrapping the concept of waste
If you think you’re the only one with a worm farm, think again. “Tim Peach at Mesa Verde feeds his restaurant’s food scraps to their worm farm to make organic fertilizer.”
But what about preventing food from becoming a scrap in the first place? “Every time I’m talking to Jesse McTavish at Kettle Black they’ve got new ideas about building sustainability into their food. At the markets one weekend they came across 200kg of fruit that was going to waste but they bought it, and vac sealed all of it. Soon they’ll be hoping to start up BBQ for that fruit to feed the homeless. How awesome is that?”
And if anyone can make food waste truly sexy, it’s Joost Bakker. “He makes sustainability sexy with his velvety voice.” Importantly, he brings that sexy voice to unexpected crowds (not just the converted crowd). Think recycled displays at Spring racing carnivals, and composting at malls like Eastland shopping centre.
Of course, there are also some stellar organisations working with cafes and restaurants longer term to make sure food is rescued. “Second Bite and Fare Share are doing amazing work to redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste, to those who need it most.”