Sure, I’ve eaten at vegetarian places before but never somewhere vegan that is completely dairy free, gluten free, meat free and raw. With all that taken out, what the hell is left, right?! As an omnivore I eat meat but at the same time I value vegetarian and vegan cuisine for the inventiveness and often more unique way that it approaches veg. The latest hotspot for this type of food is squirrelled away in the Northern Beaches at Warringa Mall, Brookvale (between the ANZ and the carpark).
oFarm’s head chef is the effervescent Peruvian Juan Carlos Miranda. He’s educated in classic cuisine and trained in Europe where he worked as a chef for 25 years. Four years ago he converted to veganism after the shock passing of one of his good friends who died of liver cancer at just 37 years old. Juan began to question what truly defined healthy living since his friend was a healthy guy who surfed regularly. After this awakening of sorts he found the ethics of conventional cuisine increasingly hard to justify, from the often negative cooking environment to the use of animal products and sacrificing health for flavour. When Juan speaks about veganism and being a vegan chef his enthusiasm is infectious. “When I talk about the food I get a special feeling inside me, you know?” beams Juan. His food philosophy and his approach to cooking at oFarm is to give the people healthy, vibrant and delicious food. We tried it out for ourselves.
We started with a few drinks – the Tumeric Latte ($5.50) is served hot mixed with cinnamon sprinkled on top and the lightest touch of cayenne pepper. It was mellow in taste (not overpowering as the bright yellow hue suggests) and had a pleasant smooth, creamy but light consistency. We chose to have it with the homemade cashew milk (of course, it’s homemade!) other dairy free milk options include Bonsoy, almond milk and coconut milk. The Cashew Chai Smoothie ($9.50 – Activated cashews with chai spices, banana, coconut water and vanilla) with the homemade cashew milk was silky smooth and hit the sweet spot with its not too thick and not too thin consistency. There was a sprinkling of sesame seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs on top. If you’re looking for a smoothie with a coffee kick the chef recommends the popular Wake Up Morning Smoothie ($9.50 – Almond milk with banana, a coffee shot and maca powder).
From the breakfast menu we had to try their spin on Avo on Toast ($15.90 – Sprouted bread with baby spinach, avocado, eggplant bacon, marinated tomatoes, sumac, smoked paprika sauce, coriander, mix sprouts). It had a delicious smokiness to it from the smoked paprika sauce and the eggplant bacon, yes the vegan chef has thought of everything! Juan creates it by drying strips of eggplant. The resulting texture was soft but with a bite that reminded me of meaty sundried tomatoes. Who says you have to give up bacon when you’re at a vegan eatery?
The mix of textures was really satisfying, the avocado tasted fresh and the hint of black sesame seeds gave it a nice nuttiness. The ‘toast’ was some sprouted bread (gluten free) featuring whole grains. I quite liked it cause I’m prone to bready bloat and this felt lighter than regular bread.
Cauliflower Rolls ($15.90) from the lunch menu are an ingenious raw vegan twist on sushi with cauliflower rice replacing actual rice. At first I was kind of puzzled as to why this seemingly random Japanese fusion dish was on the menu, however chef Juan told us that Peru boasted a large Japanese population dating back to the early 19th century. Many were drawn by Peru’s thriving fish industry and fresh seafood supply. With them they brought dishes like sushi and robata grilled skewers. “It’s pure Nikkei cuisine” said Juan. Pure indeed! The nori seaweed tasted of the ocean and had such a fresh ‘just rolled’ crunch, I wasn’t particularly fond of it but for my partner the seaweed was the standout.
The dipping sauce supported the fresh veg bouquets nicely, it was so tasty in its own right that I wanted to drink it! A well balanced with a mix of tanginess, sweetness and earthiness. The miso was a nice light broth that added warmth to the otherwise cold sushi.
The Sunflower and Quinoa burger ($15.90) from the lunch menu is tasty minus the guilt of a greasy meat patty. The quinoa and beetroot patty was tender and the homemade sauerkraut and the sundried tomato pickles struck a nice flavor balance that bolstered the meaty umami like flavours. The lip smacking smokiness from the avo on toast continues in this one with the smoked paprika sauce welcome here again. The only thing I missed was not being able to pick up the burger as the bread is gluten free and more delicate than regular bread. By itself the sprouted bun has a slight banana edge to it but as part of a whole you don’t really notice it.
The dessert display is your oyster here! You can’t go wrong with any of the decadent looking raw treats and you probably won’t feel as guilty knowing that they’re healthier for you too – technically you can eat double dessert then right?
Our favourite (and the chef’s) is the Salted caramel with mocha slice ($9.95). If you like sweet/salty desserts and don’t mind coffee this one’s a winner. Close second is the indulgent looking Triple avocado chocolate slice ($9.95) – the avocado mousse has a rich, delicious chocolate flavor, and not a hint of avocado that badly made ones can have. There are daily sweet specials too, we tried the Pina colada raw cheesecake ($9.95) – this divided us as some didn’t enjoy the natural flavor of the cocoa butter that wasn’t masked with buckets of sugar, however it added an amazing creaminess and went well with the pineapple, coconut and the nutty base. Go nuts!
All in all a great place to get a healthy feed whether you’re vegan or just wanting to up your veg intake. While it’s all vegan it’s approachable and delicious. You can even peruse the grocery store after for some hard to find organic and allergen free gems. Vibrancy and good vibrations is what Juan set out to achieve here, when we left we were humming.
oFarm Organic Café & Grocer
Shop 1233/34 Westfield Warringah Mall (entry between the ANZ and the carpark), Brookvale, NSW
Opening Hours: 8am to 3.30pm, 7 days
Phone: (02) 9905 6245
Video by Mark Starmach
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests oFarm Organic Café & Grocer