Re­laxed fo­cus in ve­gan cafe

Whanganui Midweek - - NEWS - By LIN FER­GU­SON

Chef Damian Oehlrich’s mantra is: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

It’s a fa­mous quote from an­cient Greek physi­cian Hip­pocrates, and Damian says it cre­ates the ba­sis of his daily life.

The quote is writ­ten across the back wall of Oehlrich’s just weeks old ve­gan eatery The Green­house Aotearoa in Taupo Quay.

Walk­ing through front doors into the sooth­ing am­bi­ence of this new eat­ing house im­me­di­ately al­lays stress.

His plant-based menu of­fers a de­lec­ta­ble vege­tar­ian feast which would even tempt the most ar­dent dairy and meat lover.

His duck-egg blue plat­ters even shaped like a duck egg care­fully piled with de­li­cious veg, nuts, lentils and pulses look beau­ti­ful and taste in­cred­i­ble.

While quiet mu­sic plays in the back­ground, cus­tomers savour their food, re­lax, gaze through the wall of front floor-to­ceil­ing win­dows which are also bi-fold doors.

There’s no rustling of news­pa­pers or mag­a­zines be­cause there aren’t any.

It’s very Zen and ex­tremely peace­ful.

Oehlrich is pas­sion­ate about en­cour­ag­ing good eat­ing, he said.

Even his cof­fee brought in from the Hawke’s Bay is a spe­cial roast. He of­fers al­mond milk and soy milk but if you want dairy milk then it will cost you 50 cent ex­tra, he said.

There is no gluten in any prod­ucts here, he said.

Though Oehlrich has fam­ily in Whanganui, his early life was spent in Mal­bor­ough.

His ca­reer to date has fo­cused mostly on fine din­ing and he de­scribed him­self as a New Zealand’s only yoga chef.

“And I’m the only chef in the coun­try who cooks for yoga re­treats.”

He has de­signed and made most of the furniture in his ve­gan cafe.

Long ta­bles of hewn macro­carpa planks from a farm near Kai iwi with round padded cush­ioned seats are the main fea­ture.

Even the tops of the seats lift up for cus­tomers to stow their bags rather than leav­ing any­thing on the floor.

He wants peo­ple to come in and be amazed to en­joy good-tast­ing food that won’t leave you bloated and un­com­fort­able.

“Veg­eta­bles are far from bor­ing. It’s not like the old days where veg­eta­bles were boiled into grey mush,”he said.

This week he is in­tro­duc­ing his Spring Fling din­ner at night.

To­gether with his main menu, he’s in­tro­duc­ing a menu of de­lec­ta­ble ta­pas which means a diner can or­der in five or more small plates of food and share a feast with their friends.

The daily menu fea­tures five savoury dishes, five sweet dishes, five juices and five smooth­ies and will change reg­u­larly, prob­a­bly daily, he said.

The day and night menus will be all ab­so­lutely fresh su­per­foods.

There’s al­ready a good food scene in Whanganui, he said.

Whanganui is fast be­com­ing a great arts, mu­sic and food town.

The Green­house Aotearoa is all about stay­ing healthy.

“It’s all about nur­tur­ing your­self in the right wayin ev­ery way.”

Stev El­lis cook­ing up a storm with the Har­courts team for Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month.

PHOTO / LIN FER­GU­SON

Pas­sion­ate chef Damian Oehlrich has pro­duced a plant­based menu at his new eatery.

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