Don't mention the plant-based meat at Flave

The menu's entirely plant-based origins won't cross your mind if no one mentions it.
The menu's entirely plant-based origins won't cross your mind if no one mentions it. Photo: Dean Sewell

FLAVE ★★★★, 89 Hall Street, Bondi, (02) 9130 4279 flave.com

The key thing about Flave, a new diner-style restaurant five minutes from Bondi Beach, is that the food is excellent. The menu's entirely plant-based origins won't cross your mind if no one mentions it. There are no big signs advertising each dish's non-animal origins and people left, right and centre in this bright-and-breezy lunch and dinner spot are wolfing down mushroom-based brisket, vegie chorizo bits and burgers made from soy protein with the same gusto as any beef-lover.

Diehard beef-lovers, particularly, could order the Epic Flave Burger and find themselves swooning over a chunky gluten-free, protein-rich, soy-based Buds patty, layered with maple-glazed "bacon", vegan cheese, battered onion rings, pickles, barbecue sauces and a whacking great roasted mushroom on a sesame seed bun, despite any preconceptions of vegan food. I'll vouch for it.

Be sure to leave space for a dessert.
Be sure to leave space for a dessert. Photo: Dean Sewell

Sitting in a sunny, cushioned booth in the heart of Bondi eating Flave's luscious, melty cheeseburger with smoky sauce and hot burger juice dribbling down your fingers is ideal stuff. And not just because it's ethically and environmentally sound.

Founded by husband-and-wife team Samantha and Stuart Cook, Flave opened in December nearly six years after a bacterial infection on the pair's honeymoon in Costa Rica transformed their diet.

"I was airlifted to hospital due to something I ate and I had a severe bacterial infection," Samantha says. "By the time I arrived, my heart was going into secondary complications."

Diehard beef-lovers won't be disappointed by the burgers.
Diehard beef-lovers won't be disappointed by the burgers. Photo: Dean Sewell

She recovered but the life-saving broad-spectrum antibiotics stripped her stomach's microbiome. A doctor's suggestion of a plant-based diet led to blooming health but eating out uncovered the sparse range of non-animal options in restaurants.

"It was either a leafy salad or your typical carb-heavy pasta Napoletana," Samantha says. "There wasn't something in between that was just as amazing as everybody else's food."

Stuart, a formerly chief executive of Mexican-inspired food franchise Zambrero, and Samantha, former chief executive of charity One Disease at a Time, imagined their own restaurant and brought in executive chef Scott Findlay – who has trained under Gordon Ramsay, has cooked for Beyonce, Elton John and Rod Stewart and was private chef to Paul McCartney.

Advertisement

Findlay created a flavour-focused plant-based menu ranging from burgers to bowls including Southern-style cauliflower steak in a "baconnaise"-laced bun, rendang "beef" curry, Italian "meatballs", spicy Jamaican jerk "chicken" and fruit-based soft serve in a waffle cone.

To a view of tanned, barely clothed types wandering by outside, we finish the burger and start the So Su Me Bowl, a landscaped vegan hillock mirroring a tuna tartare poke bowl. Beautiful to behold, it is an unexpected tastebud ally with spinach, carrot, cucumber, quinoa, rice, pickled ginger, edamame and avocado seasoned with Japanese togarashi spice and miso ponzu dressing and served with a crunchy nori tempura.

Also excellent are the Japancini balls, four crunchy golden orbs made from crushed edamame, nori, ginger and a chilli and miso glaze, served with pickled ginger and wasabi aioli. Paired with crunchy hot chips and a Total Tropic smoothie blending orange, pineapple mango, banana, ginger, turmeric and carrot, the bikini-ed but anxiously masked world outside Flave's neon, wood and smoothly concrete-edged plant-based haven is forgotten.

Are you sure that's chicken? Cauliflower does a great job as a substitute.
Are you sure that's chicken? Cauliflower does a great job as a substitute. Photo: Dean Sewell

We polish off a luscious brownie made from sweet potato and almonds, and a frozen acai soft serve made from beetroot, orange and carrot as the sun sets.

The Cooks' goal in the next 10 years is opening more than 1000 Flave outlets across Australia, the US and China, that appeal to every palate, meat-eating or not.

"We had Argentinians come in recently and not realise it was plant-based," Stuart says. "They said, 'Get out of town, we know our meat'. And we said, 'Yeah, that's not chicken, that's cauliflower'."

Hard at work behind the scenes, just 5 minutes walk from Bondi Beach.
Hard at work behind the scenes, just 5 minutes walk from Bondi Beach. Photo: Dean Sewell

THE LOWDOWN

Main attraction: Luscious plant-based burgers, bowls and desserts with drinks ranging from juices to cocktails, beer and spirits.

Must-try dish: A toss-up between Epic Flave Burger, a big fat sauce-dripping cheeseburger, and crunchy Japancini balls made with crushed edamame.

Insta-worthy dish: So Su Me Bowl, ribboned vegetables, quinoa, rice, pickled ginger, edamame and avocado with crunchy nori tempura.

Drinks: Juices and smoothies $8-$10; water $4.50- $6; tea and coffee $3.50-$5; cocktails $16-$18; wine $10-$15 (glass) or $40-$66 (bottle); beer, spirits and cider $8-$11.

Prices: Burgers $8-$24; bowls $13-$18.50; dessert $4.50-$15; sides $5-$12.50

Hours: Sun-Tues, Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm