Newcastle has developed an underbelly of late. Or perhaps that should be a flat belly. It seems that for every burger joint, there has appeared a vegetarian cafe, for every bacon and egg roll, a green bowl with kale and quinoa.
In the thick of it all is the Apothecary Kitchen on Beaumont Street, Hamilton. Formerly foodie-favourite Three Bean Espresso, it rebranded at the beginning of last year to Apothecary Kitchen and more recently, has decided to take on a vegetarian ethos. The food is made fresh daily, the produce is locally-sourced from the Newcastle Farmers Market and much of the menu embraces a live, cultured food approach.
What does that mean? It means they ferment things by adding bacteria, yeast or fungi to an ingredient.
Why? Well, there are indications that fermented food provides good bacteria for your tummy and can make some foods more digestable. That ties in to the original meaning of apothecary: someone who prepares and sells medicines. The food at Apothecary Kitchen is made to be good for your belly, good for your health, good for the environment.
Not everything on the menu is fermented. But all of it is healthy. The offerings are focused on breakfast, soups, baked treats to take away and a cabinet of fresh dishes and salads which can be eaten in or taken away.
I pop in one morning before work. There are quite a few people here midweek. It's still a similar space to what it was before, with the atrium area as well as the indoor space, except instead of tables inside there are benches. The drinks area has taken over a large portion of the former dining space.
This is the chance to start your day off right. Try some of their life-changing bread – a dense loaf packed with nuts and seeds dunked in their slow-cooked eggs. Or get some avocado, salad and fermented cabbage to go with the bread.
For me, on a cold winter’s morn, a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea sounds like heaven. Made with fermented oats, the porridge comes with caramelised pears, creme fraiche and brown sugar.
The fermentation process adds a tang to the original ingredient: whether it’s the oats in the porridge to their home made ginger beer and kombucha; it’s an acquired taste for some, while others will love it straight off.
Perhaps I'm more of a sweet tooth than I realised, as I find it a bit of a shock. You can tell this stuff is healthy. It's like eating sprouts – I know I should eat them but I just want to cover them in butter and salt. I sneak a sachet of raw sugar on my porridge to take the edge off the sourness. It's such a hearty serving too – enough to fuel the body for hours. My cup of tea is wonderful.
A return visit for lunch is in order. A couple of dishes are baked daily – this day it's a spinach and ricotta pie and a leek frittata. You can then pick any of the salads to go with it including broccoli and cheese, carrot and kale, sprouts and sultanas, chickpea and eggplant, cauliflower and citrus, and baked potatoes, or you can just have a selection of salads. There are also three soups to choose from: French Onion, mushroom and Tuscan bread and tomato. The mushroom soup, served with a big buttered piece of toast, is chock-full of mushies. It’s hearty and wholesome and warms the cockles.
The spinach and ricotta pie is encased in thick, buttery crumbly pastry and very yummy. The leek frittata is rich and eggy. The cauliflower salad has hits of citrus and undercurrents of fennel. It’s bright and vibrant. The broccoli and cheese is crisp and salty and smacks of garlic. Roasted potatoes are yummy, they’re just...cold. The pie and frittata are luke warm. And while you can’t deny the array of flavours, on a cold day it’s hard to get excited about cold food.
Apothecary Kitchen is breaking new ground with food that is well-made, fresh and exciting.
- What: Apothecary Kitchen
- Where: Shop 5, 103 Tudor St. Hamilton. 4961 2020. Apothecarykitchen.com.au.
- Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 8am-12pm.
- Owner: Ben Armstrong
- Drinks: Single Origin Roasters coffee, tea, Fresh Fusion juice, home made ginger beer and kombucha.
- Vegetarian: Everything!
- Wheelchair access: Yes
- Bottom line: Breakfast $5-13; lunch salads small $11, medium $17, large $28.
- Do Try: Eggs and soldiers.