I am often asked for recommendations on where to eat out for breakfast lunch and dinner. I'm not really into fancy foams and overpriced menus that pay for Sydney views. I'm into clean wholesome fare that's ethically sourced and minimally processed. The big considerations for me are (a) pastured meats, poultry and eggs; (b) wild (as opposed to farmed) seafood; and (c) no manufactured/ processed /industrialised seed oils (eg vegetable, canola, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, peanut etc). Chemical-free produce is a bonus but I'm not going to die in a ditch over that as I think its toxic load is less than what grain-fed meat, farmed fish and industrialised seed oils carry. It's mighty rare to find places that tick ALL of these boxes. More often than not it comes down to negotiating the menu and the art of picking and choosing the cleanest dishes. Even though I don't often eat bread (I try to avoid gluten as much as possible but occasionally I have a piece of sourdough bread slathered in butter if i feel like it when eating out) I have noticed over the years that there's a direct correlation between the quality of a restaurant and the quality of its bread. So, somewhat paradoxically, I seem to select restaurants based on the quality of their breads. It comes down to this: a restaurant that goes to the effort of understanding and sourcing sourdough bread or making their own bread appreciates quality.
So without further a-do, here's THE LIST of my favourite clean eats for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner (I have blogged about some of these place before). I have tried to limit each category to my top 3 or 4 places:
Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen (Alexandria)- I love their biodymanic eggs with greens, tomato, sourdough bread with loads of butter and sides of kim chi and grilled halumi. Wide selection of teas, coffees and probiotic drinks all in a super colourful delightful setting decorated with all manner of fruits, vegetables and yummy treats. Communal tables. Housed in a big warehouse shared with Campos coffee and a sourdough bakery. Walking into this place always makes me feel perky and smiley.
Egg of the Universe (Rozelle)- great selection of traditional wholefoods properly prepared including kombucha, sauerkraut, and activated buckwheat pancakes. Felt like I was in my own kitchen with someone else serving me.Meals are only cooked in coconut oil as their fat of choice, and filtered water is used and served. Large kid-friendly outdoor area. Yoga studio attached.
Bitton Cafe (Alexandria) -Opened 14 years ago by the charismatic Frenchman David Bitton, his French flair comes through in his menu. David uses only Pepe Saya ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oils as his cooking fats. No processed oils at all. The chickens and eggs are organic. It's also open for lunch and dinner.
Three Blue Ducks (Bronte) - I just love their black pudding (blood sausage) with eggs breakfast meal (great to see some organ meats on a breakfast menu!).
Kitchen by Mike (Rosebury)- Great guy, great food, great open large warehouse shared with über stylish Koskela interior designs.
Orchard Street (North Bondi) - renowned for its juices in its original Macpherson Street Bronte appothecary, Orchard Street has opened up a new large eat-in or take away store in North Bondi. Owner and natropath Kirsten Shanks has created this new store that reflects her beautiful style and energy. Clean food, gorgeous atmosphere and kombucha on tap!
Henleys Wholefoods (Bondi Junction) - tucked away down the stairs from Oxford St, this little gem provides lovely meals and smoothies.
Thrive (CBD) - Grab a takeaway meal, sit in the Domain in the sun and enjoy a respite from office confinement.
Side Door (Vaucluse) - situated next to the butcher shop GRUB (with the food coming from there), the Side Door reopens again on Wednesday December 10 2014 from Wednesday - Friday 12.30-8.30pm. Everything on the menu has Paleo and Gluten free options.
If you want a fancier /more exy lunch then refer to any of the places listed under Dinner below.
If I'm at a pinch at Westfield or some other shopping centre the best bet is to grab 1/2 dz oysters at the seafood counter in DJs Food Hall with a small selection of local or imported cheese from the cheese counter - look at what cheeses are on sale to make it more affordable. No need to ever step foot into a food hall. Many people think that sushi is really healthy. The issue here is the cheap farmed fish often used in sushi and the fact that it isn't very high in saturated fats which leaves me unsatiated and hungry within 30 minutes.
Bei Amici (Darling Point): the high water mark in clean foods dining. Home-made Northern Italian fare using the best ingredients. Pastured meats from Feather & Bone, organic produce, home-made bread and organ meats adorn the menu including pate and tongue. Not that they wouldn't be welcome, but I personally wouldn't take kids here because its small, intimate and high-end. Take the rare opportunity to masquerade as adults.
4 in Hand Dining Room (Paddington): I love the organ meats that feature on the menu and the slow cooked lamb or pork for 2. There is also a suckling pig to share if you can gather a group of 10 friends together. Grass fed meats, gorgeous cosy ambience, and excellent friendly service. Chef Colin Fassnidge never disappoints. Organic veggies from Martin Boetz' farm. Butter or olive oil are the fats used for cooking except for deep-fried food. The gratuitous appetiser of smoked white fish with citrus and basil is a nice touch. Any restaurant that has butter and unrefined salt in a marrow bone on the table has already won me over. And I love the enormous triptych of the squid that hangs on the wall. This is my kind of place.
Seans Panaroma (Bondi): similar ambiance to Bei Amici- small, cosy and intimate. Book a babysitter and don't even think about taking the kids. Enjoy the gorgeous food in peace.
Porteno (Surry Hills) - traditional Argentinian (but need to carefully navigate the oils used in the menu). Big, fun, noisy and kid-friendly.
Felix French bistro (CBD) - they often have organ meats on the menu. Despite its massive size, it still feels cosy and manages to keep great service. Extensive wine list. Very popular with the CBD bankers and finance crowd. Wear a suit and frock up.
Alfie & Hettie (Glebe): elegant dining-room in a heritage-listed terrace which changed owners 3 months ago. Despite a bad experience with service (which I will put down to an aberration rather than typical) the food was exceptional. Slow cooked meats for 2 including 18 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder and 2 day slow cooked short ribs. Amazing. Who cooks dishes for that long nowadays?
LP'S Quality Meats (Chippendale): opened several months ago, ex-Tetsuya head chef Luke Powell has created a no-fuss American style diner featuring pastured meats, Thirlmere pastured chickens and pork from Vic Meats. No vegetable oils are used other than canola oil for the chicken. So watch that. The smoker is one of a kind in Australia imported from Tennessee. The staff are super friendly. We had the 10 hour beef short ribs (a bit too charred for me), pate and sardines and lambs belly.
Tea, coffee and a snack:
Ovvio Organics (Paddington)- the best quality tea in Australia bar none. No one is fussier than Anthia Koullouros in the source and processing of her teas and spices. It's one of the few places in Australia I can walk into and not have to ask about the provenance of the products nor examine the ingredients list on the products that line the shelves.
Bondi Wholefoods (North Bondi) - kid-friendly courtyard.
About Life Marketplace (Bondi Junction) - I like their drinks menu esp raw cacao spicy chai
Formaggi Occello (Surry Hills) - cheese heaven.
But whatever restaurant I land at (and let's face it we don't always get to choose!) these are the strategies I employ:
- ask for my meal to be cooked in butter or olive oil instead of any industrialised seed oils (most restaurants can accommodate this other than Mexican restaurants or cheaper Asian restaurants. Anyone feeling entrepreneurial?? And while you're at it open a clean fish and chips shop.....there's nothing wrong with dreaming BIG!!)
- or opt for a dish that isn't cooked in any fats or oils at all eg grilled fish or roast meat or casseroles tend to be cooked in their own fat
- avoid salmon and ocean trout on menus in Australia as these fish are ALL farmed (and fed some really nasty stuff including antibiotics, soy pellets, colour dyes etc) and are not wild
- avoid sauces or ask that they are put on the side if I think that they will contain vegetable oils eg hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce are typically are made with canola oil as the base
- avoid any deep-fried food (as they are almost always cooked in cottonseed oil even at the cleanest of restaurants), legumes or grains (other than sourdough bread if i feel like it) but a small amount of legumes or grains even if not properly prepared won't kill you (unless your celiac, have leaky gut, auto-immunity or other major digestive issues then it's just not worth it)
- I rarely have dessert (I'm content/full with an entree plus main though I'm always happy to share a cheese platter sans the crackers).
And more importantly if you've made a decision to eat somewhere (whether it's your choice or not) just enjoy the social experience and don't stress too much about it! And if you see something on the menu that really takes youre fancy then as I've blogged about before if you crave a food then for God's sake just eat it. As my guru Chris Kresser is fond of saying "It's better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude, than the right food with the wrong attitude!" Short of having food sensitivities or digestive issues (eg celiac, leaky gut, or some auto-immunity etc), the emotional nourishment you get from sharing a meal and a glass (or more!) of wine with loved ones will normally outweigh any physiological damage that the food/drink might do to your system. So better to just relax and enjoy the experience than wring your hands in distress. Obviously if you have food sensitivities, leaky gut, auto-immunity or the like, or if you are like me and are deeply concerned about the provenance and processing of what you eat, then take initiative and choose the restaurant if you can (pick up the phone and make enquiries of the kitchen staff ahead of time) or pick and choose from the menu wisely as I've set out above and then.... ENJOY!
Have you been to any of the above places? What did you think? What are some places that you rate that I have not mentioned? I'd love to hear from you.
Photo gallery below: