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Scandi-style cafe Smäk.


IT was a wise per­son (OK, it was Matt Pre­ston) who first sug­gested us­ing cof­fee as a mari­nade for meat, and de­spite my best in­ten­tions I had yet to put it to the bar­be­cue test.

That made choos­ing the cof­feerubbed porter­house even eas­ier at Smäk, a new South Yarra cafe where the nu­tri­tious menu is de­signed around sim­ple mix and match op­tions.

What a rev­e­la­tion. The cof­fee added a com­fort­ing, al­lur­ing umami depth to the char on a gen­er­ous piece of steak cooked pur­ple-pink. Fin­ished with a good sprin­kle of salt crys­tals, and served with a scat­ter­ing of mus­tard­sea­soned nutty crum­ble and a few crisp curly kale blooms, this plate of perfect pro­tein was com­plete.

Keep­ing an off-broad­way pocket of South Yarra in matcha soy lat­tes and cau­li­flower rice egg­white omelettes, Smäk (pro­nounced smark, from the Swedish for taste), is Tom Fis­senden and Cal­lum El­lis’s healthy eatery that thank­fully comes with­out preach­ing. There’s no polemic on the menu, just good-for-you, bet­ter-tast­ing fare.

Fit­tingly, every­one is beam­ing here, and the space crack­les with pos­i­tiv­ity. The room is de­signed around clean Scan­di­na­vian lines, with pol­ished con­crete and liv­ing green­ery ad­ding to the eter­nal youth vibe.

Other pro­teins on of­fer in­clude hick­ory smoked salmon, char siu pork, and tar­ragon-poached chicken, but sal­ads are the real heroes, as vir­tu­ous as they are de­li­cious, such as the curry-spiced cau­li­flower teamed with farro, cel­ery and wal­nuts.

Or try charred, crunchy-soft broc­coli with chilli and gar­lic and a hand­ful of edamame – a serene plate of greens more ap­peal­ing than any sup­ple­ment.

For those who want something sweet, or­ganic buck­wheat ba­nana hot­cakes fit the bill. And the cof­fee in the cup, thanks to Seven Seeds, is as good as it was on the steak.

From top: start the day with a matcha soy latte, the invit­ing in­te­rior, and buck­wheat ba­nana hot­cakes. 6C Daly St, South Yarra smak­food­

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