A fresh look at vegan food

Simply satisfying: The Greenside Café is a haven for lovers of healthy vegan foods.  (Clarissa Sosin)

Simply satisfying: The Greenside Café is a haven for lovers of healthy vegan foods. (Clarissa Sosin)

No meat, no wine. This is a vegetarian place, and damn near vegan.

On a recent afternoon all the people at lunch seemed to have a healthy, well-scrubbed look. One table ordered the maki rolls (R32), made with red rice, avocado, lettuce and mango. They came — as they should — with pickled ginger and a dab of wasabi, on a little board, but they were too chewy and, while quite tasty, are perhaps best left in the hands of experts.

Try the Yogi pizza, with sliced preserved artichoke, olives, sliced baby tomato, sliced mushrooms, spinach, basil and sliced avocado. It comes on a thin base of rice and tapioca flour, which is very tasty and kind of nutty and smoky. The whole thing then gets lashings of rich, savoury macadamia nut mayonnaise. It is served with chopped garlic and chopped chilli in oil, which somehow makes it more authentic. I didn’t miss the cheese.

The Victorino is a classic macrobiotic meal that includes a complex carbohydrate, such as brown rice, with a protein (tofu) and green leafy and raw vegetables. The plate certainly looked healthy: a small pile of brown rice dressed with gamasio — a salty sesame seed condiment — with a pile of steamed spinach, a piece of steamed broccoli, sliced sweet potato, cubes of sautéed tofu and grated carrot and beetroot. This was very comforting and so mildly spiced that you could taste all the vegetables.

I loved the raw wrap. Astonishingly, the wrapper is made with banana and apple (puréed, rolled flat and dehydrated for half a day). Savoury and slightly sweet, it’s used to encase “spiralised” sweet potato — which looks a little like noodles — mixed with pesto and macadamia mayonnaise. This was rich and savoury, and it’s hard to believe there’s no Parmesan in the pesto.

I also had a taste of the Italian pasta dish — a loose tomato sauce, with artichokes, olives and basil —  but unfortunately chose to have it with tofu ribbons, which were disconcertingly chewy.

It seems you eat and eat, and don’t get really full, or at least not in the same way you would if you’d eaten a steak and fries. This is guilt-free eating, which means you can order a whole lot of desserts. The Mila Rose (named after one of owner Dimitri Gutjahr’s daughters) is a puck of ground pecans, dates, a little salt and coconut oil encased in Belgian chocolate. The mixed berry pudding is bright pink and made, apart from the berries, with something called branflake peanut butter and cashew nut cream. It was smooth and tart and again it was hard to believe it contained no dairy products.

Gutjahr says that in compiling his menu he has been guided not only by what tastes good, but also by what feels good, leaving the diner “energised, sparkling”.

He rails against diets that include mostly processed or refined food, saying “people don’t realise how much shit they’re eating”, and believes we should all pay greater attention to proper nutrition.

Greenside Café is a small, unadorned shop and the preparation of all these nut pestos and pastes means there’s a lot of blending going on in the kitchen — set at the back and open to the restaurant — so if noise bothers you, get a table outside.

34 Gleneagles Road, Greenside. 011 646 3444



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