Just in time for healthy new year’s resolutions! Canberra has some wonderful (but not always easy to find/know about) health food shops and places to bulk-buy or bring your own containers. Make sure you check they’ve definitely re-opened after the holidays!
I have a theory about the proximity of health food shops and art galleries – a good opportunity to improve your entire health and outlook…
Mountain Creek Wholefoods, Griffith: A classic favourite. Extensive, intense tea range and lots of health shop products, dry goods that can be measured out (hot tip: there are even barrels under the counter), and a separate area with lots of eco-gifts. Great range of frozen goods and a lovely café to boot.
Parking: Free (specific time limits), very close.
Closest gallery: M16 artspace
Let’s be natural, Mawson: The giantest health-food shop! Their display of bring-your-own-container goods is overwhelming. Lovely vibe and they have the easiest discount club, it’s an automatic percentage off every visit, you don’t have to remember anything. I think there have been yoga classes in the past as it’s such a big space, and beauty treatments are also available.
Parking: Free (specific time limits), very close.
Closest gallery: Mawson Gallery
Greenway organic, Tuggeranong: Interesting ingredients, staples like nutritional yeast and dairy-free ice-cream. Lots of dry goods for dietary requirements e.g. celiacs, as well as frozen food and a wide range of chocolate bars. They get new products in a lot, but it can be worthwhile to phone to check that what you need is in stock.
Parking: Free (Don’t park at Homeworld as it’s very expensive, usually Hyperdome is best as you can get a few hours free), relatively close. Or nearby on-street parking near the restaurant strip exit.
Closest gallery: Tuggeranong Arts Centre
As Nature Intended, Belconnen markets: Lots of what you’d expect in a health food shop plus fruit and vegetables and delicious cakes (see the cabinet). Really good vegan frozen food options, and lots of beauty products. Similar to Mountain Creek as it has a café component (very big) but many more meal options.
Parking: Paid, nearby carpark.
Closest gallery: Belconnen Arts Centre
ANU Food Co-op, Acton: Community-based, non-profit cooperative with bring-your-own-container options. Also sweets, vegan cheeses, unusual vegetables and fruit. Similar to As Nature Intended and Mountain Creek in that there’s an in-store café (the lunches are great value and generally vegan).
It has been around for ages, I don’t remember when it was in the Union building, but before the current bricks-and-mortar, it was in a transportable building near the Law Courts, and prior to that, a different transportable near the current site.
Parking: There is a loading zone out the front, but it’s more polite & good karma to park in the proper spots. There is a useful map on the Co-op’s website.
Closest gallery: Drill Hall Gallery
Naked foods, Braddon: I must admit, I was surprised when this opened, given the long-standing ANU Food Coop isn’t too far away. This is on my “to visit” list, as I never seem to get there during opening hours – “The store is set out in the style of a lolly shop – but the wares for sale are anything but.” – …and I’m like a little kid leaning my head on the glass trying to open sesame the doors.
Parking: Paid, nearby or up the road.
and the best for last…
Canberra Organic Food Collective, Dickson: Grass-roots, affordable organic dry foods. Bring your own container options, it’s easy to decide what you want to order from the price-list (kilogram quantities). The only place I’ve found in Canberra that sells real, genuine, potent cinnamon. Worth it for that alone, but also other good spices, rice, nuts, beans and more.
Parking: Free, on-street.
Closest gallery: ANCA
There are a few health food shop chain stores in Canberra (Go Vita, Healthy Life), but they are pretty easy to find so I haven’t listed them. You can also buy health foods in giant containers at Costco (dates etc.), but I didn’t visit there as I balk at paying a nightclub cover charge, let alone a discount shop admission fee. I have found that Supabarn have really well-stocked and unusual “health food” aisles, too. And some places I’ve missed are in this fulsome list from Vegan ACT.
For fresh vegetables and groceries, there are lots of good independent places like Choku Bai Jo, the regular farmers’ markets (North and South), Fyshwick markets, Organic energy, markets at the Botanic Gardens, and more…
As always, this post is not sponsored (my own time, money and opinions), but probably contains some South/North Canberra bias! All photos are from today apart from the Let’s Be Natural one (taken in April).
An update on finding vegan food in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle, Parkes ACT, Australia. Previously tried and tested in my post of June 2013.
With over nine months since last battling for vegan fare, you would be forgiven for thinking there was ample gestation time for a new veg*n establishment. Nay! So here’s a summary of what you can get from the existing non-veg*n places – not entirely comprehensive, but there are limits to being a vegie legend in a lunch break.
Old Parliament House Terrace Café (prev. The Kitchen Cabinet with Ginger Catering, who are now at the Arboretum) is now under new management (Restaurant Associates), so they no longer sell farm vegetables or vegan chocolate (disappointing). There is a vegetable wrap but I’m not sure about the condiments.
Pork Barrel still offer basic pizzas (but on a special occasion, a great beetroot tart), Coffers (Treasury Building) and Café Milieu (John Gorton building) still offer sandwiches and basic rice and vegetables).
Bookplate (National Library) still have custom salads (pro tip: ask for hummus), but all the ready-made salads have meat (including the grazing plates). The less formal Paperplate downstairs (not open on weekends) has ready-made wombok noodle salad and couscous broccoli salad that are both vegan, but you’d best check the dressing ingredients on the day.
Portrait Café (National Portrait Gallery), like OPH, is now under new management. The previous people (Broadbean Catering formerly known as Portrait Catering, now at National Museum) offered custom salads, lentils and zucchini balls, but they preferred a phone call ahead. The good news with the new management is that they have something on their menu that is already vegan! I can’t overstate my excitement about this development. It is a jewelled quinoa salad with sultanas, toasted seeds, confit garlic, herbs and preserved lemon. Brian the friendly besuited manager even checked that the confit was vegan. The heirloom tomato salad can be made vegan sans feta, but it wasn’t as amazing as the quinoa. Be wary of the chai latte liquid mix, as it contained honey (at last check).
NGA Café (National Gallery) no longer have their vegan cupcake, and continue to occasionally have vegan items (as surprises rather than standard). With some prompting they can make a custom vegan salad. On special catered occasions they’ve made wonderful veg*n things but they just aren’t on the everyday menu. Be wary of the chai latte powder mix as it may contain dried dairy products, but if the lovely Amanda is at the counter, she can make a delectable chai tea (make sure it’s the chai tea bags) with soy milk on the side or in the teapot.
Galileo Café (Questacon) have sesame crackers and fruit cups, and are willing to make custom vegan wraps in quiet periods (i.e. not the school holidays). The manager Lianah was very accommodating and happy to check all ingredients.
At the other end of the triangle, Hideout had no vegan options, I asked if they’d consider stocking Veganarchy cupcakes, which would be delicious and worth making the trek.
Double drummer had lentil and pearl barley salads, as well as lots of ingredients for fresh juices. It was so busy that I didn’t get to ask about the options – make sure you check the salad dressing first.
The café at National Archives has a vegetable wrap, be careful of the hot chocolate as it has milk products in the mix. Across the road, the café at Prime Minister and Cabinet building has sushi, salad and boiled vegetables.
It doesn’t really abide by the rules, but I went to Waters Edge for Xmas dinner and they made some wonderful vegan dishes (modified versions of menu items). Waters Edge and the Hyatt (haven’t been back since the last post) are the most expensive on this list.
Places I haven’t tried for lunch during the week are Queen’s Terrace Café (Parliament House), Lobby Restaurant, and the Deck (Regatta Point) and others. I haven’t included establishments that aren’t in reasonable lunchtime walking distance of the cultural institutions, I would like to go to Maple + Clove for their focus on handmade and nutritious food, but the person on the phone was quite firm about not catering to vegans.
Please remember that it is safest to check that menu items are definitely vegan and allergy friendly, and that they haven’t changed since last check – and let me know of your experiences with vegan food in the Parliamentary Triangle.
It’s encouraging to see the progress at the Portrait Café, and that their staff are happy to verify that menu items are genuinely free of animal products. I’m really thankful that they’ve actively responded to feedback. I’ll provide another update in the future, I’m hopeful that there may be more good news of permanent vegan menu items (not just salad!) to plant-power the Triangle masses.
I toiled away in the heat today, for a harvest of potatoes and some fetid compost. The plants could have kept going for a little while, but the hot spell had made them faint in their enclosure. I couldn’t contain my anticipation as I dismantled the “cat-proof” fence. Witness Ms. Cat’s squinty-eyed disapproval of the boundary line.
The cats did work out how to get in through a gap, but the wire was still better protection than last year’s attempt to grow potatoes in a tractor tyre. Those plants lost the will to live after Mr. & Ms. Cat both thought it was a pleasantly private place to attend to their needs. After that we called it the “shittery” because it was a horrible wreath of awful. Understandably the plants preferred the great nursery in the sky. Later I read theories about tyre chemicals leaching into the ground, so I washed the tyre and gave it to a friend for her dog (not as a toilet, you attach hessian on the top to make a hammock).
It was quite exciting to discover all the potatoes hiding under the sugarcane mulch like savoury easter eggs. I scrabbled through the ground like a mole and continued the excavation, there were so many layers like dirt chocolate with crunchy bits (my favourite pre-veg*n chocolate was Bertie beetle which had similar textural surprises).
I had been told that piling up the mulch near the potato plants would make it easier to harvest. Lies! Although this shouldn’t be considered a thorough scientific study as all our plants grew from potato scraps in the compost. It was sheer luck they were in roughly the same area to make for convenient fencing.
I made a great find with four sprouted avocado seeds! I put them in a container for the windowsill. I just checked them – they haven’t grown anymore, but a worm had hidden inside one of them during the 8 hours since the relocation. Protip – leave the avocado seeds on the edge of your garden to give any earthworms the chance to crawl out. I’ll have to see if he’s vacated the premises in the morning. There are more instructions on growing avocado plants on Australian avocados site. I always feel tempted to write “avocadoes”, like a deer herd of green fruit.
The reason we let the potatoes go was because we planted tomatoes two years in a row, and I freaked out about crop rotation. Some of the tomatoes didn’t know they were banned this year so they still woke up. Of course I didn’t realise that potatoes and tomatoes are family, so that was a bit of a waste of time. Anyway, we grew tomatoes in pots this year. Compared to our past bounties, this year’s crop has been quite disappointing. The heat is sort of an excuse, but there are a lot of other gardens in Canberra that have done better.
Mr. & Ms. Cat have reached their own goals for the season, having killed 2 ½ cucumber plants (the third was mostly killed by the heat), 2 zucchini plants and at least several potato plants. How are they so nefarious? They like to dig, or just squash a plant by sitting on top: “It was in my spot”.
You can see Ms. Cat likes to guard the stump near the black zucchini, “the last of his kind”. She’s a pirate cat with a pegleg on each front paw. Miaowyarr.
It’s difficult to get vegan food in many parts of Canberra, but especially so in the parliamentary triangle. I propose that the current amenities review of the parliamentary zone result in a vegan food truck or wandering cupcake seller, it could be called govsnack (copyright Cush, @cu5h).
I’m providing this summary of my experience with cafés and restaurants in the parliamentary triangle in the hope that they’ll recognise the vegan/vegetarian market, without the requirement to phone ahead or make a special request. Look at the success of Sweet Bones in Braddon, only 4 kilometres away from the parliamentary triangle (but with a fair chunk of time trying to find a car park there and one on return).
I went to The Kitchen Cabinet (Old Parliament House), I’d been to their 2012 Chocolate Maker talk (see if you can find me in the photos!) which was very accommodating to vegans (but then it is pre-booked so it’s a different thing altogether). Today I was incorrectly enthused by their roast vegetables with pine nuts listed on their menu, before their staff member kindly pointed out that it was a quiche filling. Clearly subheadings on chalkboards are not my forte. There was lots of blocks and gift packs of Lindsay & Edmunds organic chocolate for sale, but solely milk or white chocolate combinations. If there was dark chocolate I could have bought it, as Peter is very insistent about not putting milk solids in chocolate (he mentioned this at the Chocolate Maker talk).
Lots of other produce including pumpkins, but I had already used up too much of my lunch break walking around so I didn’t have time to buy, chop, cook and eat vegetables from start to finish.
Lovely roses outside Parliament House, maybe I could eat them – rose petal icecream and lavender truffles are my top favourite foods of all time.
Here’s a list of other places to eat in the parliamentary triangle, if you want lunch on a weekday. Some of these places have excellent call-ahead vegan options but I hope that they become permanent menu items:
Promenade Café at Hyatt Hotel (custom risotto if you turn up for lunch without a call-ahead), I have also attended the weekend high tea where I’ve had a separate special meal (everyone else accesses the buffet), there was a chargrilled vegetable sandwich (average) and dessert plate (excellent). Make sure you mention it when you book the high tea tickets.
Pork Barrel (tomato or mushroom pizza with no cheese, depending on your view of veganism relating to yeast, no call-ahead),
Coffers at the Treasury building (basic white rice and vegetables, no call-ahead),
Bookplate at National Library (custom on-demand salads, call-ahead needed. They also do excellent vegan catering with lime-soaked coconut strawberries). Paperplate (LG1 level of the Library) has a noodle salad that could possibly be vegan,
Portrait Café at National Portrait Gallery (custom on-demand salad, zucchini balls, call-ahead definitely needed, which sometimes goes to their voicemail which means they are very busy and probably won’t make it),
Café Milieu at John Gorton building (sandwiches, basic rice with vegetables, no call-ahead), and
NGA Café (National Gallery) inside on lower ground level has an apple blackberry cake (but there were none today, very sad) and occasional dairy free salad. The Turner Tea Room on level one offers cream tea, lunch and high tea – I’m unsure if there are vegan variations on the menu offerings. The outside café might sometimes have vegan soup and bread at the during winter (today was wombok soup, which was apparently vegetarian but not vegan).
Places I haven’t tried for lunch during the week are Galileo Café (Questacon), Queen’s Terrace Café (Parliament House), Waters Edge, Lobby Restaurant, and the Deck (Regatta Point) and probably some others.
Sometimes it takes a lot of phone calls, planning and walking just to get lunch. Perhaps instead of parking spaces in the parliamentary triangle, we should convert all the parking spaces into community gardens so there would always be something to eat.
Thanks for visiting! An art practice sits within general life experience, so sometimes I will write about things which may not be explicitly art-related but might be conjuring up a body of work or some new ways of thinking.
TEDxCanberra 2011 was over a month ago, but it still continues to inspire me – idea digestion takes a while! I’ll also justify this by noting that these events are meant to be a wake up call, so a delay is inevitable as ideas are put into practice.
I was lucky enough to attend TEDxCanberra 2011 through a complimentary ticket from my workplace.
I really enjoyed Nick Ritar’s talk about living sustainably – and from this, I have embraced permaculture in a small way by answering nature’s call in our garden a few times, but I will need to find a more long-term solution.
Especially as we have recently removed the privacy-enhancing Diosma shrub from our yard.
Nick spoke about the importance of growing our own food, and there are lots of ways to learn more – naturally from your library, which supports your community and encourages sustainable resource-sharing.
Blatant book name-dropping (book-dropping?)
Clive Blazely says that:
“Growing your own vegetables is the single most important step to a sustainable, healthy life. When vegetables are grown at home they are fresh and free of chemicals, eliminating food miles and cutting CO2 emissions by up to 30%. It takes a few hours of work a week. In just 40 square metres you can grow 472kg of vegetables which is enough for four people.”
From Growing your own heirloom vegetables: bringing CO₂ down to earth, p. 24. You can find out more about the Diggers Club here.
Feasting on Floriade’s “Tasteful Sensations”
Recently Floriade – a festival of flowers – was held in Canberra, with a “Tasteful sensations” display showcasing the beauty of bush tucker, herbs and vegetables. In the Floriade picture below, my culinary ignorance asserts itself as I can only identify parsley and perhaps rhubarb. A beautiful garden and knowledge of plants are definitely only aspirations at this stage!
Australian bushfood cuisine
As well as growing our own food, we can minimise the environmental impact of our food choices by looking at sustainable, local Australian cuisine.
Vic Cherikoff’s book Uniquely Australian: a wild food cookbook: the beginnings of an Australian bushfood cuisine is very readable with lots of glossy, lust-worthy food pron pictures.
In his book, Vic discusses the possibilities of using eucalypt, desert wattles and desert oak saps as natural sweeteners. These could really change the landscape of the sugar and artificial sweetener industry, as we have seen with xylitol and stevia.
You can find out more about Vic and his Australian recipes here.
You may also be interested to read The urban homestead: your guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city which has very easy step-by-step instructions and down to earth advice about reducing your footprint. You can see Kelly and Eric’s blog here or follow them at @rootsimple
Here is my burgeoning compost heap, resplendent with the TEDxCanberra catering floral decorations. The rest of our yard – for now – is a very successful dirt garden.
The book links above will lead you to Trove, which is an Australia-wide discovery service – a catalogue for many libraries. To find a book in your local area, from the individual Trove book record, click on the “All libraries” tab and then the relevant state/territory tab. Click on the library name to go to that library’s catalogue. See the Trove help for more information.
Happy reading and gardening!