We went searching for healthy cafes and found wholesome food sometimes comes at a price.
Our pick: Bear Lion Foods, 78 Brighton Mall, New Brighton
Bear Lion really knows how to present food, even if we were a little unsure about what the food actually was (who knew bread could be made from sorghum and charcoal). Its focus is on real food prepared with organic, local, seasonal ingredients.
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The combinations were interesting, and the helpful staff were happy to talk us through the options. We opted to share a plate of salads (choose two for $14), an organic apricot nut slice and a cute little jar of cacao milk. The salads – miso roasted eggplant with corn and creamy avocado, and spicy roasted carrot with bulgur wheat – came piled high on a plate.
Both were delicious and generous. The slice was dense and very moreish. The milk – pricey at $8 – was slightly gritty, but we enjoyed the subtle cacao flavour.
Herb Centre Cafe, 223 Kilmore St, central Christchurch
It's not the newest or the flashiest, but this place is as cosy as a homespun wool jersey. There's a colour code for DF, GF and V to crack, but vegetarians have plenty of options.
Finding the busy chalkboard-wall menu overwhelming, we headed for the cabinet. The Indian samosa arrived piping hot and straight from the oven, accompanied by a salad medley, including lentils, quinoa, carrot, beetroot, lettuce and roasted seeds (for $13). The curry samosa and a chai were spicy comforts on a cool autumn day. Having a herbal dispensary and Piko Wholefoods as neighbours dials up the cafe's health factor a notch.
GT Organic Grocer cafe, 478 Cranford St, Redwood
This wee cafe is tucked into the corner of a store that specialises in organic products. It has an odd vibe, yet it's nice to browse while you wait for your order. Vegans and fans of raw food are spoilt for choice.
From the menu, we chose the breakfast fruit crepe and the vegan chocolate cinnamon apple waffles. Both meals were beautifully presented, but the cute heart-shaped waffles were disappointing in size and flavour for the price ($18.90). The crepe, however, was packed with delicious fruit and muesli and good value for $10. Of the many smoothie options, Kiwi Karvo was thick and tasty, without being too "green" or too sweet. We would definitely return for the smoothie.
The Origin, 95 Westminster St, St Albans
Crisp and zen-like, the cafe's Scandinavian decor is a drawcard. The only hint The Origin is vegan is the footnote on the menu "our food is pure vegetarian and contains no animal products".
Its fresh fit-out and pretty flower-adorned cakes gave the impression we were in for something special, but, sadly, the main meals fell short of our expectations. From a limited lunch menu, we chose Papa's spice noodle soup ($19) for its peanut and coriander flavours. The soup arrived minus any coriander and with just five peanuts. The portion was generous, but the flavour was lacking. The organic New Zealand-grown green tea was beautifully presented, but expensive at $7 a cup.
Antidote Juice Bar, 86 Brighton Mall, New Brighton
This is the place to head if one has a food allergy or follows a restricted diet. Everything in the cabinet is gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo.
From a small selection, we chose pizza with vegan cheese and sundried tomato, and a chickpea and blue poppy wrap. The food was nicely presented with two small side salads, but the flavours were underwhelming, and the sloppy pizza base fell apart when we tried to eat it. A turmeric latte was pleasant but a green smoothie wasn't great; kale made it gritty, and peanut butter and cardamom were strange additions. We left feeling virtuous, but still a little hungry.
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