The quintessential South Freo resident would probably wear a kaftan, drive a VW, make their own rhubarb wine, smoke a little weed, listen to Neil Young and live in a ramshackle share-house near South Beach.
And of course they would have to shop at Manna Wholefoods on South Terrace, a sort of hippie mecca where everyone wears hemp underwear and looks about two spliffs in. Opened in 1988, the locally-owned shop/cafe is a bit of an icon in South Freo because of its mind-boggling array of fresh organic produce and bulk whole foods including natural, raw, gluten-free, vegan and hard to find items for those on special diets.
They’ve also been ahead of the curve on the recycling front; doing away with single-use plastic bags more than a decade ago.
Walking around the store, it’s almost overwhelming as you marvel at all the different products and are subjected to a blitzkrieg of aromas and colours.
They also have a great deli with everything from cakes to sausage rolls and pies – yes you can get pies too – and a small cafe open for brekkie and lunch.
The cafe menu had a nice variety of dishes including vegan arancini, keto vegetable omelette, and tofu and pea samosa.
Don’t fret club-wielding, red-meat junkies, they also sell beef rendang pie and organic lamb and rosemary pie.
My wife “Special K” and I have eaten at the cafe on a few occasions and can highly recommend the vegan curry of the day, gluten-free lasagne and the salmon frittata.
It’s testament to the cafe’s popularity that on a stinking hot Tuesday lunchtime, at the fag-end of summer, the cafe’s pavement alfresco was nearly full.
I wanted to try some of their takeaway boxes and wraps, which had caught my eye on previous visits. You get your takeaway goods from the deli and pay at the till beside the door on the way out, which works well and speeds up the whole process if the place is busy.
My gluten-free, dairy-free chicken lunch box ($15 and thankfully not flavour-free) was a well presented affair with the chook and accompanying veggies divided into perfectly straight rows of bright colour, like some health food military parade.
The dish worked best when you drizzled the tamarind sauce over everything and combined the tender strips of chook with the chickpeas, house-made sauerkraut, cucumber and pickled radish.
There was a nice heat from the sauce which kept the tastebuds zinging, but the star was the thick strips of juicy eggplant which tasted like they were marinated and added a lovely flavour twist. Lurking underneath was some fresh green salad.
It was very tasty and filling, but I would have liked a bigger tub of sauce or maybe some sun-dried tomatoes as it began to get slightly dry in places as I neared the finish line.
I rolled the food dice and got my young kids a huge felafel and tempeh wrap to share (tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans which is considered less processed than tofu).
They thoroughly enjoyed the mix of tempeh, store-made hummus, salad and tahini dressing, and wolfed it down. At $13 it was great value.
Across the table my wife was enjoying her vegan, gluten-free tofu rice box ($15) with black and brown rice, spring onions, cucumber, pickled daikon, green and edamame beans, and tofu.
“It’s delicious and very filling, and I really like the beans and wild rice which add a lovely texture to the dish,” she said.
The lunch boxes look quite small but are deceptively filling and my wife and I couldn’t finish them. The Chook’s takeaway lunch from Manna Wholefoods gets four kaftans out of five, and we can’t wait to go back and buy a sack of ethically-sourced walnuts.
Manna Wholefoods & Cafe
274 South Terrace, South Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK