I love a good cafe. So much so that I'll find a way to fly interstate to suss one out. It was 2 months ago I first came across this place as a friend had mentioned it, and so we lunched there. I was blown away! Fast forward another month, I was there again. Brekkie one day, lunch another, a smoothie post training on a third, and then to pick the brain of the guy behind it all (and eat some more). The place I'm talking about, is Sprout Cafe and Grocer on Sydney's lower north shore.
Pop down to Naremburn on a weekday and you can retreat with a smoothie in a sunny corner reading your latest book or doing some work outta home in peace. Come by on a weekend and this place is pumping. The service is impeccable and a friendly waitress will acknowledge you and give you an estimate as to when a table might be free, and then how long your meal may take, making sure you're doing fine in the interim. This alone is more than I can say for most cafe's service and attention to their customers on their busiest days.
Then you get the menu - and I've gotta say smart thinking on now keeping their brekkie and lunch menus separate - saving time making decisions on what to eat, instead of drooling over everything you could have had if you didn't miss the change over (although you can get all day brekkies on the weekend). Both menus are mouth watering though. Brekkie is what you would imagine - plenty of eggs done scrambled, poached, fried, or as a 3-egg omelet. You've got your sourdough breads, gluten free and paleo mueslis with almond milk or sheep yoghurt, buckwheat pancakes with cashew cream and coconut nectar, and a list of smoothies and juices that will have you ordering one for everyone just so you can try a few.
But lunch is my favourite. And twice I got the warm nourishing bowl or brown rice, wilted kale, avocado, smoked ocean trout with shallots and black sesame, made complete and so satisfyingly delicious in a miso tahini dressing. Add a little seaweed just to ice the cake and I'm sold. Like I said, twice.
Besides this (although I'm happy if that's all they had) you can get organic beef burgers, soups, kale and feta fritters, quinoa and veggie salads, a falafel tabouli bowl, or a choice of wicked salad amongst plenty more.
Everything is sourced local where possible. Everything is either certified organic or natural (un-certified) wholefood. It's fresh, colourful, amazingly good, and you can take anyone to eat with you as these guys cater to all - paleo, vegan, vego, raw, meat lovers, yogis, crossfitters, you name it!
So let me tell you a little about the enthusiastic passionate man you're likely to bump into when you head down to Sprout - Joe - and how he got into it all.
How did you come to be where u are donning an apron at Sprout Wholefoods?
It all started so to speak, back in 2003 when I opened my first Subway franchise. I was running my own construction business at the time and was on the road a lot. I hated KFC, McDonalds, Oporto, but I also didn't like making my own sandwiches from home 'cause they'd go soggy. And I didn't like taking all the ingredients to make my own either. So I was eating at Subway twice a day - this was before it had really boomed as well. I was getting them to pull out most of the inside of the buns and loading them up with chicken and veggies. I was still training 5x a week around running my own business but there came a point when I had had enough of construction, and my wife suggested opening my own Subway franchise.... Fast forward a few years and I had 4 stores in total.
It was later on my wife started researching more into health and nutrition. Looking into REAL food, cancer, illness, and the hows and why's to so many people now having intolerance's and allergies. We got into reading a few health blogs as well, and then decided we needed to change... Organic! Let's do it, start there, and get back to the farmers.
So we sold the Subways, I got into business development, but knew I would always end up back in food as I was so passionate with it. Googling organic places to eat on a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns, I was always looking for good food.
We put in an offer for an Italian restaurant, and when it fell through my wife said it was probably for the better - we wouldn't have eaten the food anyway; we were only thinking of an income.
It wasn't until an organic detox retreat in Koh Samui my wife and I went too that really had me thinking. That place was amazing, and it catered for everybody. So we went there and came back, and thought let's do it ourselves! Let's open our own place and cater for everyone. That was July 2013.
Around the same time my wife fell in love with Xtend Barre - a ballet infused Pilates workout - and wanted to open a studio above the cafe. We looked at sites and then found this one (where we are in Naremburn) which is perfect. We've got the cafe, the grocer, the outdoor deck, the back garden, and the studio upstairs.
My wife and I partnered up with my cousin Chris and his wife Karen as they wanted to be a part of it and both already keen on fitness and nutrition, we knew they'd be just as passionate as we are about the business. And now it's become a wellness centre - eat well, train well, live well.
This guy has an infectious passion for food, organics, fitness, health and nutrition.... I had to ask him where it all stem's from?
Wanting to make sure my kids live a healthy lifestyle - I've got a 4yr old, a 6yr old, and a 19 yr old daughter.
My wife's passion to lead a healthy lifestyle for our kids as well is a huge influence for me. And I now love what I do. My cousins say if they could bottle my passion - they'd be millionaires.
3 non-negotiables when it comes to health and wellness:
1. No McDonalds
2. No KFC
3. No hungry Jacks
(That was exactly what came outta Joe's mouth in record time!!)
No fast food full stop! - and no Subway anymore.
No refined sugar, No white bread, No processed meats.
Hard to think of anything else... all comes down to food for me coz I love it!
Train daily - except during the first 6 months of opening a business!!
However I would love to learn to be more relaxed, more mellow, and to use my passion the right way.
So what are the big differences between Sprout and other cafe's?
- We only use organic (certified) and natural (non-certified) produce - we cant get everything organic and like to support the little guys who may not be able to get certified (for financial reasons)
- All food is based on Wholefoods
- No refined sugars in our bottled drinks - even if they're organic
- No refined sugars in the grocery section at all, or the cafe
- All food in our front cabinet is 100% gluten free, 90% dairy free, wheat free, with plenty of raw options (hello sweet treats!!)
- We're catering for everybody (and they do it so well can i say) - we're not just a raw cafe, or a paleo cafe... we're everybody's cafe!!
So there you go. Pop on by and check out the Sprout Cafe and Grocer for yourself at 272 – 274 Willoughby Road, Naremburn. And why not schedule in an Xtend Barre class while you're there. I'm obsessed with it so I'm sure you'll love it too!
You can also find these guys on Facebook and Instagram.
You can also find these guys on Facebook and Instagram.
And for the record, I am not being paid to do this. I approached Joe for the interview after seeing the place, loving their concept and trying their food. I did however score a chocolate brownie we shared :)