Where: SMÄK Food House, 6c Daly Street South Yarra
What: Healthy brunch you’re obliged to eat in your activewear
Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream
Kale smoothies and chia seed puddings are so ’05 because there’s a new kid on the block – turmeric lattes. I couldn’t make myself order it at South Yarra’s latest eating establishment, SMÄK Food House, because I like my turmeric where it belongs – in my curries (or my mum’s curries because I’m not known to cook) – and ordering a turmeric cashew milk latte was too laughably bourgie.
Dining in a place that prides itself on its healthiness and was established by a triathlete isn’t usually my cup of cashew milk latte, but we’d reached an impasse within our brunch group. Tired of making the trek up north, the two resident southside dwellers suggested SMÄK, a café that derives its name from the Norwegian word that means ‘taste’ and claims not to be obsessed with the latest superfood. What South Yarra, in general, definitely isn’t obsessed with is parking, so we circled the block a few times before we found a reasonably priced car park. Probably not going to venture southside in a car again, because the North remembers.
To everyone else who isn’t a Northsider incapable of crossing the river without huge fanfare, SMÄK is close to South Yarra station, and therefore very easy to get to. It’s nestled in an industrial enclave of likeminded cafes, although the presence of Zumbo Patisserie nearby is likely to put paid to any healthy aspirations you may have had.
I was genuinely excited by the prospect of more than one non-dairy milk at SMÄK – you can choose between soy, almond and cashew. My cashew milk latte took some getting used to, but had a nice nutty flavour, although there were stringy bits of cashew in mine? I thought this was part of the ~authentic~ cashew milk experience, but my friend ordered one after and it was as smooth as can be. Obviously just got the dud one.
The turmeric lattes – dubbed golden soy lattes, which bear the misfortune of reminding me of golden showers – weren’t too popular. Those who were ordering it for the first time were understandably surprised by how strong turmeric is, especially when it builds into sediment at the bottom of a coffee cup. It does have those anti-inflammatory properties that our waiter espoused, although FYI Indians have been talking about this for ages, encapsulated in this irate comment below this article.
The menu at SMÄK is as healthy as you’d imagine – they have sweet potato rostis, turkey chipolatas, eggwhite omelettes and bee pollen as a smoothie ingredient. Prices are on the steep side, with dishes such as The SMÄK coming up to $27 if you order the side of sweet potato rosti, although others hover around the average price of brunch in Melbourne (between $14.50 and $18) – a travesty in itself, but not one that is unique to SMÄK.
The post-11am menu allows you to choose a protein option (consisting of things like pumpkin and tofu stew, poached tarragon free-range chicken and chargrilled char siu pork), which you can then pair with salads that include roasted pumpkin, spiced cauliflower and chargrilled broccoli and edamame. I was much more excited by this, but it was bloody 10.45am thanks to me choosing to hang out with people who are functional before 12pm on weekends, so I went with the buckwheat matcha crepes.
The crepes arrived with much aplomb, and how could it not with an ingredient list that included biodynamic SMÄK berry ricotta, lemon curd, lime coconut sorbet, olive oil emulsion and Brazil nuts? (please don’t stop reading.) The crepes themselves were light and airy, but I couldn’t help feel that the inclusion of the matcha was solely for the unusual dark green colour of the crepes. There was no discernible matcha taste, and the lime coconut sorbet drowned out the competing flavours on the plate. All in all, however, it was a pleasant experience. I was most surprised to find that I had room for lunch after and didn’t feel the slightest bit sick – a positive feeling after brunch, where I’m known to disappear towards the general restroom area shortly after taking the gamble to have a coffee in public.
My friend next to me had the baked eggs, which came with French spiced lentils, black-eye beans, kale, almond dukkah and a curiousity known as ‘life bread’ – a type of gluten-free nut bread. Being accustomed to the oily tomatoey goodness of a rich shakshouka, my friend was rather unenthused by SMÄK’s healthy rendition, although she did concede that it vastly improved towards the end.
I had serious FOMO when the other dishes arrived. The SMÄK – which is the café’s equivalent to a big breakfast – comes with turkey chipolatas, poached eggs, free-range bacon, Swiss brown mushrooms, truss tomato, kale, rye bread and a sweet potato rosti, if you so choose. It looked hearty and filling, yet not so overwhelming to leave you wanting for more stomach space as most big breakfasts make you feel.
And the silverbeet and leek pancakes with poached eggs, chargrilled corn, quinoa salsa and the option of smoked salmon was my first choice, were it not for the evil bloat properties inherent in leek and the fact that the salsa probably would have contained onion. See, I can be sensible sometimes!
SMÄK’s untested lunch menu is reason enough to come back and I’ve never had a smoothie with bee pollen, so yeah – I could see myself making the return trip to South Yarra. Despite the obvious fact that I haven’t worn activewear a day in my life.
SMÄK Food House is open everyday from 7am to 3pm.