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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Thrive! A new wholefoods eatery in the Sydney CBD

soullachamberlain

Today I had lunch at Thrive- a new take-away eatery in the MLC Centre  food court. It opened up a mere 1 week ago. And not a moment too soon. I have been lamenting the distinct absence of any type of remotely traditional wholefoods take-away eatery in the city for over a decade, thinking that this is an obvious gaping whole in the market and a cash cow for anyone who does it right. Sure, there are some great restaurants in the city that serve up fabulous traditional wholefoods fare (eg Felix French bistro and Rockpool are 2 of my favourites) but few of us could afford the time and money to eat at such places every week day. What is needed for city workers is a take-away establishment where you can have a quick affordable meal under $15 of the type that you and I would cook at home eg scrambled eggs for breakfast, and meat and vegetables or soups for lunch.

Enter Thrive.

I had the opportunity to speak to the owner, Josh, about his background and food philosophy. Josh has been eating a primal style diet for over a decade- well before most of us even know what that term meant. While Josh himself is grain free (like me) he tries to appeal to a broader market and offers some grains and legumes like brown rice, Brasserie sourdough bread, quinoa, chickpeas and cannellini beans.

Josh’s background is in high end designer retail brands so he brings much marketing and commercial experience to his new venture. If it takes off (and I think it will given that this place had the longest cue of all take-away eateries at the MLC today) then I won’t be surprised if Thrive turns into a franchise.

What I liked:

  • Even though not all of the ingredients are “certified organic” (Josh explained that the meals would be unaffordable as take-away meals if he only used certified organic ingredients) Josh pursues clean unprocessed ingredients as much as possible eg free range eggs and chickens, free range bacon, sourdough breads, and the menu is low on grains. The focus is on meat, eggs and vegetables taking centre stage. Finally. (If there was some broth, organ meats and lacto-fermented veggies in there too, we’d really be talking).
  • Coconut oil is used for cooking
  • No industrial seed oils (eg vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, margarine  etc) are used
  • Free filtered water is offered
  • Sea salt is used in the cooking instead of table salt (but the small sachets on the counter are table salt so avoid those).
  • The steak is pasture fed (grass is the ONLY things cows are biologically designed to eat).
  • The only oil used in the salads is olive oil
  • It’s affordable ($8.50 for scrambled egg breakfast with sides of wilted spinach, roasted tomato or brown rice. Other sides -  eg free range bacon, salmon, avocado, roasted veggies-  are additionally priced. I liked the fact that the eggs don’t automatically come with toast. You can ordered sourdough bread if you want to. The lunch bowl is $12.50 consisting of a choice of chicken, minute steak, salmon, roast veggies, eggs and fetta. All of the lunch bowls are served with either salad or brown rice)
  • The steak and minute salad with onion jam that I ordered only took 5 minutes to prepare as it is cooked fresh and not pre-prepared

What I didn’t like or needs work:

  • Macadamia nut oil and avocado oil are also used in the cooking. So the cooked foods are done with a blend of one or more of coconut oil, macadamia nut oil and avocado oil. You don’t have a choice as to what the food is cooked in.  I personally do not use macadamia nut oil and avocado oil and while I would venture to say that these oils are no where near as processed and toxic as the industrialized seeds oils I mention above, they would be much higher in mono and poly-unsaturated fats than the more desirable healthy saturated fats found in coconut oil and butter. As a result I don’t think that the oils in macadamia nut oil and avocado oil are as heat stable as coconut oil, butter and beef tallow. However on this occasion that didn’t stop me from ordering the salad with minute steak which is cooked in a combination of coconut oil and macadamia nut oil. What would be great is if people could ask for their meal to be cooked with a certain oil (eg coconut oil only) but I appreciate that with a fast food eatery the more streamlined processes are, the more efficient.
  • Quality control needs a bit of work as a piece of salmon found its way into my friends minute steal and salad bowl.
  • The grains, legumes and nuts are not properly prepared by long soaking to remove the phytates and other anti-nutrients found in all grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, so I would avoid these especially if you have any digestive issue. The exception to this is the bread which is sourdough (hence properly prepared through leavening).
  • The menu is touted as “high protein, low carb”. Technically it’s not a high protein diet that we are biologically designed to eat. In fact high protein diets have their problems including digestive issues and weight gain. Calorie for calorie it’s actually high saturated fat from natural sources with moderate protein and low carb (carbs generally take up more volume on your plate though than protein and fats as the latter 2 are more calorically dense). However I think the world – at least the MLC Food Court- is not quite ready for “high saturated fat” signage just yet….regrettably
  • Like any menu, you still need to pick and choose as there are things on there that I wouldn’t eat. For example:
    • grains/legumes – especially if not properly prepared;
    •  farmed salmon- toxic feed is fed to them;
    •  juices – not a wholefood and too high in fructose;
    •  smoothies made from pasturised milk or raw nut milks;
    • superfoods esp those containing protein powders- too processed and not a wholefood;
    •  sweeteners like agave syrup- too high in fructose.

Given the dearth of take-away places in the city that I would eat at I would certainly recommend this one and would happily eat there again. As I took my meal to venture outside to find a place in the sunshine to eat, my gaze fell upon IKU Wholefoods – the grain based vegetarian eatery- where I ate almost daily for 5 years when I worked as a corporate lawyer in the city. And at the time I thought that that food was healthy and that I was healthy. Boy, was I in slumberland. I glanced down at my pastured-fed minute steak and salad… and didn’t look back.

Have you been to Thrive yet? If so what did you think?? I’d love to hear from you.