The chipotle chicken and coleslaw at Ora.
The chipotle chicken and coleslaw at Ora. Photo: Daniel Munoz

17A Whistler St Manly, NSW 2095

View map

Features Gluten-free options, Breakfast-brunch

To the uninitiated sceptic, it might appear the wellness bandwagon of bone broth and raw food has wrenched free of its earnest driver to hurtle down the path of food domination. However, amidst the preponderance of blogs and instagram hashtags, Ora cafe in Manly has managed to carve out a wholesome space within the real food movement, sans the pretension.

It does tap into the organic food lifestyle but it feels almost coincidental rather than contrived; honest and homely, rather than a deliberate attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist.

"Ora is always about what I would cook for you if you came to my house to eat," says Alex Johnson, 30, who opened the cafe with her husband Alex Rast, 31, in July last year.

Ora cafe in Manly, where the feature wall tells a nutritious story.
Ora cafe in Manly, where the feature wall tells a nutritious story. Photo: Daniel Munoz

For almost a decade, Johnson has filled innumerable exercise books with experimental recipes, building her contact list of organic and ethical food suppliers, and trialling her "funny food" on family and friends. The cafe's theme appears distinctly paleo to the untrained eye, with a focus on head-to-tail eating and shunning processed foods. Fans of the caveman diet will find plenty of options, but it's not what Johnson is aiming for.

"We do real food prepared properly," she says of Ora's philosophy. "We know what's in everything because we've put it in the pot ourselves."

We arrive late on Sunday morning to catch the tail end of breakfast. The cosy space brims with people perched at multicoloured tables, with a shared timber bench running along one side of the cafe. The cafe's feature wall is artistically scribbled with explanations of their ethical food choices mixed with nutritional information.

The breakfast plate at Ora includes ghee-fried eggs and gluten-free seed and nut bread.
The breakfast plate at Ora includes ghee-fried eggs and gluten-free seed and nut bread. Photo: Daniel Munoz

"It's all about educating people, providing a space for people to mindfully eat, and to make them 100 per cent aware that you are what you eat," Johnson says.

This isn't your regular street-corner cafe, so expect only a handful of dishes for breakfast and lunch, with seasonal specials. Gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and vegan appetites are catered for.

We opt for the popular Ora Breakfast Plate and apple porridge pie. Feeling adventurous, we ditch our regular caffeine routine in favour of a turmeric latte and a Friendly coffee, made with espresso, butter, coconut oil, cream, maple, salt and gelatin.

The latte, made with coconut milk and spiced with a generous powdering of cinnamon, is luminescent yellow and earthy tasting, yet surprisingly delicious. Cashew milk and almond milk, made onsite, can also be ordered for maximum nuttiness. The Friendly coffee is named for its perceived health benefits, and incorporates grass-fed gelatin (vegos beware) which is "good for gut health," Johnson says. A dash of maple syrup balances out the pinch of salt, but overall it is sweeter than a regular coffee, heavier and more nutty. Both drinks are great for something different, but we agree we wouldn't drink them regularly.

The breakfast plate is a hearty and vibrant serving of yolky eggs fried in ghee, avocado and mushrooms tossed with greens, tangy kraut and punchy sweet chilli relish. However, it is the accompanying slab of warm sai bread – a homemade, gluten-free seed and nut loaf – that wins the day. Served lightly toasted, it is lip-smackingly good.

Aimed at the sweet-toothed, the apple porridge pie is an autumnal delight best shared. Served in a rich moat of vanilla coconut cream, the generous hunk of pie poses a heavy challenge to a single stomach. The pie is made from a spice-infused mix of oats, apples, apricots and shredded coconut, with a smattering of walnuts adding crunch. Cinnamon dominates, but subtle notes of ginger and maple peek through with every mouthful.

After a languid stroll along Manly's beaches, we've (somehow) made room for a late lunch and settle on the chipotle chicken tortillas to share.

True to Ora's no-wastage philosophy, the chickens are cooked whole (including feet) in a bone broth for ten hours before the meat is picked from the bone, and simmered again in a brew heavily spiced with chipotle, cumin, coriander, fennel and kombucha. Meanwhile, the fat is scooped from the top of the broth to be used in later cooking.

The smoky chicken arrives piled high on a bed of crunchy slaw, cut with fresh herbs. The flavours are sharp and clean, so even the dollops of coriander cream don't displace the general healthiness of the dish. The tortillas - made from hand-rolled chickpea flour – are tasty, but lack the structural integrity for those wanting to dive in hands first.

We leave feeling thoroughly nourished, and perhaps even a little more open-minded.


Ora Breakfast Plate, chipotle chicken tortillas


Cosy and homely


Friendly and informative but not preachy


Organic blend from Background Specialty Coffee Roasters