Power Plant Cafe

Light and bright: Power Plant Cafe is about enjoyable, healthy, sustainable food.
Light and bright: Power Plant Cafe is about enjoyable, healthy, sustainable food. Photo: Jesse Marlow

2-6 Swilk Street Templestowe, Victoria 3106

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-3.30pm, Sat 8am-3pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Family friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 8838 1282

Stick the label "vegan" on a cafe and all kinds of cliches spring to mind: Birkenstocks (but not the leather ones); dreadlocks; almond milk lattes …

But if you call the food you're serving, say, plant-based, sustainable and delicious it could feel like you're playing in a whole other ballpark.

The ballpark in this case is a family-owned leisure centre across the road from the Templestowe Bowling Club. It's a tilt-slab complex that houses a swimming school and a day spa. And now, in a big, bright room at the front is this plant-based-food cafe, Power Plant.

The black bean burger is a surprising success.
The black bean burger is a surprising success. Photo: Jesse Marlow

The active and pampering surroundings are key here, because Power Plant is about enjoyable, healthy, sustainable food – leave your hair shirts at home (but feel free to come in Lycra, preferably straight from the gym).

The food menu, which has only been available for a couple of weeks, is a brief two-pager of breakfasts and lunches, and skimming the breakfast bit it's easy to forget that animal products are (mostly) off the bill: you've got Melbourne breakfast standards like a parfait with granola (the creamy bit is house-made coconut yoghurt) and french toast with fresh berries (and house-made cardamom coconut butter).

Avocado toast comes with a walnut, cashew and truffle pate instead of goat's cheese, and the big breakfast substitutes tofu for eggs in the scramble.

Looks like beef, tastes like beef: Thai 'beef' noodle salad.
Looks like beef, tastes like beef: Thai 'beef' noodle salad. Photo: Jesse Marlow

The lunch dishes have fooled people, too. There's a Thai beef noodle salad, with strips of "beef" made from soy protein and mushrooms. They look like beef, they have a texture kind of like stir-fried lean beef – maybe softer – and the combination of soy and mushroom gives them a Chinese-style black-bean beef flavour. The rest of this dish is a regulation noodle salad – nicely al dente rice stick noodle, fresh coriander, bean shoots and a spritz of lime. Flavour-wise it needed a bit more fish sauce (oh, wait …) and more palm sugar – a bigger kick of sour-sweet-umami flavours.

Lunch features more faux-meat in a spaghetti and (house-made TVP) meatballs with napoli sauce, while a macro bowl of brown rice, tempeh, pickled beetroot, kale and activated almonds – seasoned with cashew, ginger and miso sauce – sticks to the vegetable superfood playbook.

A surprising success was the black bean burger. The secret is that rather than building it around a soy protein patty doing a poor imitation, the kitchen has gone for loosely compressed black beans and corn, like a refried bean patty, which has more flavour and texture than a mash of whatever it is they put in food-truck vegie burgers sometimes. Add sweet mango salsa and a serve of excellent twice-cooked chips, and this dish stands on its own two vegetably feet.

Vegan chocolate mousse cake.
Vegan chocolate mousse cake. Photo: Jesse Marlow

A special of (whipped soy) chocolate mousse cake was maybe a little bit more like a ricotta cheesecake than a mousse in texture, with a nice hit of coconut, while coffee is from Clark Street Roasters – good black, available with almond or soy milk (naturally) and, if you really must, with cow's milk.

 give "beef" a chance
Don't… miss the Six Barrel Soda Co soft drinks
Vibe Shiny happy people