Hunters' Roots

Kylie Northover
Natural health: Hunters' Roots.
Natural health: Hunters' Roots. Photo: Justin McManus

26 Katherine Place Melbourne, Victoria 3000

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Opening hours Monday to Friday, 7.30am - 3.30pm
Features Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 03 9629 9587

It’s a wholefood cafe but not as you know it; despite the seeds and ground berries, bee pollen and baobab, this tiny space, run by husband-and-wife team Kerry and Jeffrey Chew, is turning out smoothies, salads and breakfast dishes that balance extreme healthfulness with genuine tastiness. (Although I’m still not game to try the Green Day smoothie, made from kale, cos, pineapple, banana, coconut water and raw fermented protein, $10.50.)

Other smoothies are proving popular breakfast takeaways in the ever-expanding food hub at the bottom of Flinders Lane – such as the Purple Rain, with dragonfruit, berries, banana, coconut yoghurt, coconut milk and camu camu ($10.50) and the Nutbush City with banana, almond butter (churned in-house), brazil nuts, coconut yoghurt, almond milk and cinnamon ($10.50) – but you can dine in at the cosy timber-lined space and enjoy a ham and cheese jaffle ($10 or $12 with sauerkraut or kimchi), a well-priced double slice of toast with toppings ranging from house-made raspberry chia jam to Vegemite ($7) or the extraordinarily photogenic Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl, the Purple Rain smoothie base topped with buckini granola, cacao nibs, flaked coconut and seasonal fruits ($14 – delicately scattered pansy petals no extra charge).

Almost everything is made in-house, down to the lunchtime noodles cooked on a tiny induction hotplate behind the counter.

Dragonfruit smoothie bowl.
Dragonfruit smoothie bowl. Photo: Justin McManus

The Chews have always been healthy eaters, but Hunters’ Roots is their first hospitality venture: Jeffrey was a personal trainer and Kerry an architect.

‘‘It’s been our dream to work together in something we both have a passion for,’’ says Kerry, adding they were motivated by the CBD’s lack of wholesome food options.

‘‘We live in the city and we also like to have Asian-inspired flavours and produce, and that’s not been easily accessible in the CBD.’’

White Wolf Bellocq tea.
White Wolf Bellocq tea. Photo: Justin McManus

Jeffrey is Malaysian born and bred–Chinese but his mum is Taiwanese, and Kerry’s dad is from Hong Kong and her mum is Vietnamese-Chinese.

‘‘So it’s a bit of a mix,’’ says Kerry of the influences on their menu. Much Asian food, she says, is naturally healthy ‘‘but it’s not marketed that way’’.

‘‘Chinese food, too, is rooted in a lot of seasonality; in winter you nourish yourself with herbs and spices and in summer it’s more about cooling vegies and broths.’’

And while coconut has become the ingredient du jour here, it has long been a part of Asian cooking.

‘‘We don’t normally drink dairy or have much bread – that’s quite a Western influence,’’ she says; their use of nut-based milks and ice-creams is more traditional than fashionable. As the weather gets cooler, the pair will introduce more porridges and soups, but the Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl will remain.

‘‘It’s been really popular,’’ Kerry says of the colourful dish. ‘‘We have a saying in Chinese, that you eat first with your eyes, then with your nose, then your mouth.’’