Go Green in Greenside

I’ve always admired vegetarians and vegans who make food choices with animal rights at the forefront of their minds.  I consider myself an animal lover, but enjoy chicken too much to ever contemplate giving it up, so I take my hat off to those who are selfless enough to give up not just meat, but also dairy, to contribute towards the movement of consuming less animal produce in South Africa.

Animal rights aside, the growth of the “meat free Monday” concept has led to many people switching to veggies only on a more regular basis. Cutting out meat, even for just 1 day per week, helps to prevent against four leading causes of death- heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. What’s more, eating less meat also helps mimimise your ecological footprint (as livestock breeding has a detrimental impact on the environment due to greenhouse gas emissions), and will lighten the load on your wallet, as meat is generally relatively expensive.

If, like me, you want to move towards eating less meat, but aren’t quite sure where to go (admittedly, the thought of preparing a tasty vegan meal at home is a little intimidating), these two Greenside restaurants will make you realise that vegan food can be just (if not more) as delicious as meaty fare.

Greenside Café:

Dimitri Gutjahr opened Greenside Café 4 years ago, when the vegan restaurant landscape in Joburg was barren, and personally conceptualised each dish on the menu, resulting in a food offering that is as rare as it is enticing. His focus is to create dishes that burst with flavour, while remaining balanced and healthy. I was amazed at how unique each and every item on the menu was. The highlight for me was our starter, the “Raw Wrap”, R36. The wrap, made of dehydrated apple and banana, is filled with spiralised raw sweet potato drenched in a macadamia nut mayo and pesto and topped with cucumber, avo  and tomato.

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We devoured the very generous portion, and then spent some time pondering over mains. After much deliberation, I opted for the “Victorino”, R79, crispy sautéed tofu, brown rice with sprouts, wilted spinach, carrots and beetroot, while Rishav decided to go for the “Mexican Pizza”-, R82, Napolitano with spicy beans, avocado, tomato and cashew nut cream.  Pizza bases are homemade sourdough, and contain a mixture of nutty wheat, rye, ground and white flour. We found ourselves picking the dishes apart, trying to identify the ingredients, while my carnivorous husband was bewildered as to how on earth it was possible that no animal products could go into a meal that enjoyable.

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While sitting outside on the airy deck, we people watched, spotting buff gym-goers picking up takeaways as well as a few regulars sitting at their favourite table and ordering without looking at the menu (Dimitri greets most visitors by name.)

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For me, it was so refreshing to look through a menu and know that each item has been well thought out and put together based on its nutritional value, instead of having to agonizingly sift out one or two isolated healthy options. Dimitri makes an effort to source organic ingredients where possible, and does not compromise on quality.  Even dessert was relatively guilt free. The “Raw Maple Cheesecake”, R45, is made from cashew, vanilla and lemon and sweetened with agave nectar ( a low GI sweetener extracted from a cactus.)

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Address: 34 Gleneagles Road, Greenside. Call 011 646 3444. Visit www.thegreensidecafe.co.za

Conscious 108:

Open less than 2 months, this vegan restaurant has quickly gathered quite a fan base, 60% of whom are meat-eaters. Apart from the food being good, the eatery’s contemporary design is definitely a crowd-puller. Lights are draped over wooden beams, while floating shelves display a lavish dessert selection.

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Owners, Grant and Misha, are passionate about animal rights (even their pets eat specially produced vegan food!) and opened Conscious 108 because they wanted to make this type of cuisine more accessible to the average Joburger. Aiming to prove that vegan food can be “normal”, the menu comprises homely, comforting meals like curries, gourmet bunny chows, sandwiches and burgers, mostly aiming to replicate meat dishes that we know and love- think soy or tofu replicates of a “chicken” mayo sandwich, “beef” burger, hot dog or BLT.

Bunnies are comprised of two freshly toasted buns- one is topped with your choice of curry (“beef”, “lamb”, “chicken” or beans), while the other is topped with a scrumptious potato and eggplant curry. I’m not a regular soya eater, so didn’t enjoy the taste of the soya lamb bunny chow, R52, too much, but I loved the butter bean bunny chow, R41- flavourful and spicy.

Lactose intolerant folk will be thrilled at the prospect of dairy free ice cream, churned on the premises. Other sweet treats include bubblegum or Oreo cupcakes, carrot cake, croissants and doughnuts.

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Address: 108 Greenway Road, Greenside. Call 011 646 7250. Visit www.conscious108.co.za