Losing our local corner store was no great loss, especially when you consider what we’ve gained in its place. Gone are the ciggies, packets of chips and $5 fried brekkies. After a full reno, what emerged from the chrysalis-like shell was a light and bright health-conscious well-priced boutique eatery – one of the funkiest cafés in the ‘burbs!
This may be Taletha March’s first restaurant, but she knows a thing or two about food, and more importantly, about fresh food, what she likes, and what the market is looking for. Taletha tells me that when she sold Mermaid Fruit Market, she was going to take a break, but then an opportunity arose which was too good to miss!
So, what do you do if you’ve never run a restaurant before? Hire experts: experienced Chef James Lennon, fine dining barista and Floor Manager Martin Kralovic, who could charm the socks off your mother-in-law, and experienced wait staff. Smart is not the word!
Even though the reno’s industrial trendy in brown and copper shades, huge bifold windows open up to the sea breeze and make the most of the light. All the furniture’s custom designed: coffee beans trapped forever in resin tops will never be roasted, tables and chairs trendy but thankfully comfortable enough to spend a few hours in! There are a couple of aisles of organic groceries, that last minute quinoa you need to add to dinner, organic fruit and veg and coconut products.
The hub of the café is the ‘Reboot Bar’, the servery where you order meals, choose from delectable raw treats on display, as well as freshly made juices (enjoy ‘Morning Glory’ or maybe just ‘Mint To Be’) or organic Grinders coffee. It’s served with organic milk but still only $3.80 – $4. As I said, smart as!
From the time it opened, the line could be backed up to the door. So what’s the secret of their success? Besides being placed in a central suburban area which is easy to get to and has lots of parking, it’s the food and service that bring diners back.
Cleverly, Grocer & Grind treads a careful line down the middle of healthy food preferences, catering well for paleo, gluten-free, vegetarians and vegans as well as mid-stream wholefood diners. Meals are made to order, with no shortcuts taken.
Choose breakfasts featuring eggs, super greens, nitrate-free bacon and quinoa; salads of grains, seeds, nuts, greens and fruit; or healthy burgers and open-faced sandwiches to satisfy the bigger appetite. Meat is often an additional option on the popular plant-rich all day breakfast menu, rather than the other way around. While our favourite is the Super Green Brekky, the dairy-free Banana Paleo Pancakes are a huge hit, as are the Bacon or Salmon Eggs Benny.
There’s a personal ownership of this place that leads to constant review, evaluation and improvement. Since opening, the three least favourite dishes have been replaced every three months, concept and directions tweaked in the menu, and ‘meals to go’ from the fridge added to the food service on offer.
There’s that word: service. Martin is a constant presence on the dining floor. He tells me about his belief in ‘take no prisoners’ service: being constantly present, expecting the best, training to make sure expectations are met.
“Personally, I think the manager should not only oversee everything, but also be able to do everything,” he says. That appreciation of staff roles, plus being able to step in, makes it all work.
With honest healthy food, attention to detail, and great, responsive service, Grocer & Grind is an absolute winner. Like I said, who’s going to miss the ciggies, packets of chips and fried brekkies? Not us!
NOTE: Jan. 2015 – This is an updated version of the review first published in December 2013.
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