Those that have adopted the Paleo philosophy will tell you that it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. Endorsed by celebrities and many in the fitness world, the Paleo way of life is also known as the Caveman diet for its devotion to all things hunter-gatherer. It's all about lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fruit, nuts and seeds – in other words, high nutrient, non-toxic food to nourish the body. But does that mean devotees are forever doomed to eat bland, boring meals? Of course not!
Melbourne cafe owners are quickly committing to the Paleo cause. Take a look around and you'll find several of the best cafes in Melbourne offering Paleo menus alongside their mainstream offerings, plus a growing tribe of dedicated Paleo cafes. Offering pancakes to risottos, omelettes to burgers, here's our guide to the best Paleo cafes in Melbourne.
PATCH CAFE | RICHMOND
A devotion to a healthy lifestyle by former footballer Tom Davidson was the genesis behind Melbourne's first paleo cafe, Patch. The Richmond cafe, all black and blue tiles and clean lines with a long cement bar as its centrepiece, radiates cleanness from the get-go. Menu items are helpfully marked as P (Paleo) or PI (Paleo-inspired), coffee comes from Brunswick's terrific Code Black and organic, cold pressed juices are from the local folk at TANKA. Paleo toast can accompany dishes like Wild Mushrooms (shitake, woodear, oyster mushrooms, thyme, truffle and poached egg) and Baked Eggs (tomato, chorizo, chipotle) – while to live the true caveman experience, nosh on the appropriately titled Cave Man dish (eggs, bacon, tomato, wagyu beef, sweet potato fritter, silverbeet and kale with relish). It's guilt free and delicious – count us in for return visits to Patch Cafe.
PALEO DEN | PRAHRAN
Paleo Den is such a new addition to Prahran's dining scene, the paint has barely had time to dry. Targeting the health conscious and gym junkies, Paleo Den's menu is packed with mouth-watering dishes like coconut confit salmon with herbs, orange, fennel and cucumber salad, and Vietnamese BBQ chicken with jalapenos, slaw and lemongrass. Meat, poultry, fish, nuts, sweet potato and rice play a prominent role, and stock-standard bread is substituted for corn bread in a Paleo-riffic breakfast of house bacon, poached eggs, tomato salsa and guacamole. Down the track, owner Trivaram Naidoo plans to launch a second menu for those that measure every grab of fat, carbohydrate and protein. There's also a selection of protein balls, nut slices, muffins and tarts available alongside organic coffee.
PALATE | PRAHRAN
Prahran's Palate is a comfy cafe-slash-bar that has a well-earned reputation for the best all-day breakfasts in Prahran. But did you know that the venue is equally as devoted to serving Paleo diners as it is to everyone else? There's a selection of Paleo dishes scattered throughout the huge menu (such as a Farmer's omelette of tomato, mushroom, goat cheese, spinach and red onion; and a prawn and quinoa salad). And if you're feeling adventurous, you can create your own meal from a page of 'Health Smart' options promising only good, nutritious fats and healthy oils – think roasted pumpkin with paprika, streamed broccoli or scrambled egg whites with your choice of herbed chicken breast or chilli garlic prawns. Wash it down with one of three Paleo smoothies, like the Chocochia packed with banana, coconut cream, raw almond, cacao butter and chia seeds.
THR1VE | EMPORIUM
Remember when food courts were nothing more than a run-down collection of pizza shops, take-away fast food outlets and – if you were lucky – a sandwich store? Emporium has well and truly upped the ante with its whiz-bang deluxe 'Cafe Court' featuring micro versions of some of the best restaurants in Melbourne like EARL Canteen and Jimmy Grants. In the middle of the action is THR1VE, a Paleo-inspired and completely gluten-free cafe. For a sweet start to the day, grab the original Paleo pancakes, a stack of Dutch mini pancakes of coconut and almond flour, free range eggs and maple syrup, served with cinnamon and organic honey. There's also a range of choose-your-own protein bowls, breakfast bowls, organic smoothies and protein bars if you're in a hurry.
THE DECK | BRIGHTON
With its prime position on bustling Bay Street, its sunny outdoor deck and its all-day breakfast menu, Brighton's The Deck is one of Melbourne's best cafes, and exactly the sort of place you want to waste away a Sunday morning. Paleo, gluten-free and vegetarian options are helpfully marked on the huge menu, with top picks including the bread-free brekkie burger (bacon rashers, grilled zucchini, tomato and spinach stacked between two fried free range eggs) and the cauliflower rice risotto (with zucchini, bacon, eggplant, pumpkin and tomato. There's also a separate mix-and-match Paleo menu, where you can marry the likes of citrus infused sweet potato and macadamia mash with smoked salmon or sesame crusted rare tuna loin. The Deck's also a winner for functions – choose from two separate rooms and a Paleo menu to boot.
PALEO CAFE | MORNINGTON
"Eat clean, live lean" is the motto of Paleo Cafe. The national franchise opened its doors in Melbourne late last year thanks to husband and wife team, Meghann and Andrew Birks, who live their website's ethos that the paleo philosophy "is not a diet, it is a lifestyle." Everything on the breakfast and lunch menus, from the banana pancakes and vegetable frittata to the seafood marinara and rotating menu of curries, is Paleo-friendly and made using only the freshest organic produce. There's also a super menu of smoothies like the Breakfast to Go (paleo granola, raspberry, honey and banana), all of which can be made with coconut milk, almond milk or Raw C coconut water. If you live in Melbourne, it's a great excuse to spend a day soaking up the sunshine on the Mornington Peninsula.
Editor's note: For those of you who aren't strictly Paleo, check out more of Melbourne's best cafes and restaurants.
Image Credit: Edible Perspective