DRINK UP: Jade Leiman serves up a wonderful coffee – every time.
DRINK UP: Jade Leiman serves up a wonderful coffee – every time. John Mccutcheon

Guilt-free dining a hit with customers after the good life

GOJI berries. Almond milk. Linseed.

Nervous?

How about gluten and carb free? What if I said the words "raw food"?

Don't fret, a visit to 9bar in Thomas St (next to Red Rooster) could possibly open your mind to a new way of eating. If not, there's always coffee ... good coffee.

This place began life as an espresso bar (it still is) but when customers saw owner Ben Leiman eating his hunter/gatherer food, they were intrigued, even envious.

"People would say, 'what's that, it looks good?', " Ben said. "I practise paleo eating, a hunter/gatherer way of eating like our ancestors did before farming began. There are a lot of raw natural foods, berries and nuts."

Customer interest in his own breakfast fare convinced Ben to introduce a small range of gluten and carb free foods, along with cakes and sweet treats made from raw ingredients.

A small breakfast menu evolved, quickly followed by a concise lunch menu.

A breakfast quinoa "pudding" with berries and organic granola shows inventiveness.

A Spanish omelette, not in the traditional sense with potatoes, but with onion, capsicum, olives and spinach folded into free range eggs,

has become a hit.

The breakfast wrap, simple bacon and egg with homemade tomato relish wrapped in dough, gives the satisfaction of a big Aussie breakfast without the guilt.

"We roll our dough (for the wrap) to order," Ben said. "It's super fresh. Not pre-made or bought in.

"Omelettes are whisked when an order comes through. Nothing is pre-done."

Smoothies are like none you'll easily find anywhere else. The Aztex Bliss is a mix of cacao, vanilla, banana, nut butter, avocado and milk. The Green Goddess (just the name makes you feel healthier) comprises apple, pear, mint, banana, lemon, spinach, cucumber and coconut water.

Lunch dishes, mostly salads, burst with health.

"Our haloumi salad is fresh fried haloumi on rocket, spinach, avocado, tomato, cucumber, sunflower and sesame seeds with balsamic glaze," Ben said. "We also serve roasted vegetables on the same salad."

Now - to the coffee. For that is where 9bar began its pop-up life out on the veranda of Mad Meg's pizzeria in Thomas St.

The grand coffee machine sits at the edge of the footpath, welcoming passers-by with its cheerful hiss.

Ben uses Flying West coffee roasted in Doonan and while he offers all the classic favourites, he's gone over-the-top with experimentation on varieties.

"The coffee won the bronze medal the last two years running at the Golden Bean Awards," Ben said.

"It's an excellent coffee."

Cheeky Monkey is the blend, and the quirky names continue with The Little Bird, a single shot with coconut milk and honey.

The Kanuck, a double-shot three-quarter flat white, has customers queuing.

The latest variety, named after a new staff member, is the Pocahontas: coffee with chai, coconut milk and cinnamon.

You can see you're not going to be bored with your coffee at 9bar.

Treats to enjoy with coffee are sweet, fresh, and raw.

A slice made from carrots, coconut oil and agave topped with goji berries satisfies the craving for chocolate or confectionery.

"Most of these treats are sugar free," Ben said. "We use berries, dates and coconut to sweeten them, and nuts for the bases.

"Our vegan cheesecake is made with ground nuts, cacao, and berries."

Ben's daughter, Jade, shares the business and duties with him.

We visited for breakfast, opened our minds and palates, and enjoyed 9bar's down-to-earth atmosphere.

The coffee machine on the wooden deck, low stools made from hessian-covered milk crates, a couch here, a chair there, plain wooden tables and benches are all informally inviting.

9bar has a "stop in the street for coffee" appeal or a "hang out for a little while" ambience.

It's rather funky, interactive, and we like the look of it in Thomas St.

IF YOU GO

What: 9bar, espresso bar serving breakfast and lunch

Where: Thomas St, next to Red Rooster (in front of Mad Megs)

Prices: Coffees from $3.50, omelette $12.50, brekky wrap $9, smoothies $9, salads: average $12 to $14

Open: 7am to 2pm, seven days a week (Sundays from 8am)


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