Pollen Tea Room

$-$$
56 Hampden Road, Battery Point
03) 6224 8000
Open: Friday, Monday and Tuesday 7.00am to 4.00pm, Weekends 8.00am to 4.00pm. Takeaways.

Room, singular, is the operative word. And a very small cottage room at that, at this time of the year nicely warmed by a wood fire with just one communal table, another for two in the corner, a window bench with stools, a galley-like kitchen/coffee/servery and alfresco tables out the back for summer.

The style of food is announced on a specials blackboard headed GF, SF, DF, VG and RAW which, for me, spelled “Graeme, what are you doing here?” But it was deadline time and…. Well, I’m glad I stayed. Not quite an omnivore’s epiphany but a most enjoyable experience for someone like me nonetheless.

Shea McCrickard and Matthew Botakis opened Pollen around two years ago serving the sort of ‘clean food’ they like to eat themselves. Since a breakfast of devilled kidneys wasn’t on offer, I chose chia seed pudding where the small black chia seeds are soaked for a few hours in house-made cashew milk until they swell to become pudding-like and are served topped with shredded coconut, walnuts, assorted seeds and fresh strawberries drizzled with real maple syrup. Chia, Matt explained, was one of the Aztec’s super foods which, like quinoa, is heralded once again as a modern super food, both coming to us from Central and South America as our potatoes, tomatoes, corn, chocolate and many other foodstuffs did centuries ago.

As Matt explained to me – and no doubt many readers will already know – so-called “super foods” are those that contain exceptionally high concentrations of mineral and nutritional goodness. “Growing up in Melbourne, I was living on the usual deep-fired crap that most young people eat. Until Shea introduced me to the food at a little vegan café that she used to deliver flowers to”, Matt said. “The effect of the change on our health, energy levels and lives was profound”. Shea, Hobart-born and a former dancer, added, “So I asked the cafe if I could have a job in their kitchen. And, after a lot of research, here we are, our first venture”. Meanwhile, she is studying holistic nutrition with the aim of becoming a health coach.

I was on more familiar ground with the dishes that followed. My wife declared her house-made organic Bircher with yoghurt, cinnamon, honey, fruit and a jug of almond milk on the side “Delicious. The best I’ve ever eaten”.

For me, the cayenne chilli beans with a baked egg were fine, the chilli heat milder than the 7/10 Matt had advised. However, I felt the smashed avocado, feta and coriander on sourdough would have benefited from more avocado, less of the fetta’s drying acidity and a lot more fresh coriander, mint, pea tendrils or similar to lift it. Then came a slice of an uncooked cocao and avocado tart on a base of crushed, dehydrated hazelnuts – recycled from making their hazelnut milk – sweetened with rice malt syrup. I’m not sure quite how it held together but it was beautifully flavoured and textured.

Breakfast had started with a fashionable jar, not a glass, of cold-pressed beetroot, ginger and apple juice and finished with spiced chai, a wonderfully rich hot chocolate and an excellent locally roasted, single-origin coffee. Alternatively, I could have chosen non-alcoholic kombucha to start or a tea from the array of 22 green, white, black, spiced, organic and botanical teas from India, China, Japan and South Africa, the largest and most diverse selection of leaves I’ve seen on offer in a restaurant since the days of Chado The Way of Tea in Elizabeth Street.

Altogether, it was an interesting, instructive and enjoyably healthy start to my day. And I admire the consistency of their philosophy as well as the fact that, rather than proselytizing, they’re simply doing what they believe in, doing it very well and, in doing so, providing Hobart with something unique.

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