I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
Published September 12th 2014
A review and interview with owner, a fitness trainer
The Paleo Den literally still smelled of fresh paint when my friend and I arrived. We settled in our less-than-comfy seats in the bright cafe, and tried a sample of a citrus corn muffin that was still warm from the oven. Neither of us are strict paleolithic lifestylers, though the menu does specify pure paleo items to keep things clear.
It was a quick decision on breakfast, as the menu is, let's say, concise. Six items to choose from, if you count the Vietnamese barbecue chicken; it felt a little early to be that adventurous.
I went for the poached egg, chorizo, spiced carrot mousse, grilled zucchini, and pickled beets (pure paleo), $17.00. The chorizo was very spicy for my tastes; other than that, the meal came out promptly, and delightfully presented by the chef, who stayed for a bit of a chat with us.
My friend settled on the house bacon with poached eggs, corn bread, tomato salsa, and guacamole, $18.00; more on the corn bread deviation from paleo below (long story short, the Paleo Den describes themselves as being "Metro Paleo", and allowing for some "flexibility" for those diners that don't follow a strict paleo lifestyle). I sneaked a few gratifying forkfuls of her breakfast; neither of us were disappointed with our choices. My friend later agreed with one review on Paleo Den's Facebook page that stated, "You gotta' try the house bacon; 'life changing' is putting it mildly!"
Trivaram Naidoo is the owner of the Paleo Den, and I had a chance to catch up with him and ask him a few questions:
DC: What's a paleo diet, in a nutshell (if nuts are allowed)? TN: A "paleo diet" is basically most foods which were available in the caveman era, before man evolved and added less natural foods such as grains, dairy, and various other processed foods to their diet ("seeds and nuts included," he winks).
DC: Triv, paleo is obviously more than just a fad for you; you talk about customers knowing what macronutrients they want and that sort of thing; getting ready for a bodybuilding show or photo shoot. What is paleo to you personally?
TN: Great question! While there are fairly strict guidelines to the "paleo diet" that many follow to the tee, I personally follow a natural, whole foods diet; this makes allowances for some foods that fall outside the strict paleo guidelines. Foods such as butter, nuts, sweet potato, wild rice, et cetera, which are still in their most naturally obtained form, generally non-processed foods. We do specify "pure paleo" next the the meals that meet the guidelines, but also offer other healthy, natural options for many of our customers who are not "by the book", yet still seek tasty, healthy meals.
DC: You obviously believe in incorporating balance into your diet, having the right mix of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. What's your philosophy of balance in life; you're a personal trainer, you just opened a restaurant, you have a five-month-old baby; are you finding it all a bit frantic?
TN: Not entirely. I am a very big advocate on looking after yourself in order to function well on a daily basis; this includes being very consistent with my nutrition, training, and supplementation, so that I am always functioning well. My immune system is in check, and my adrenals are taken care of. I obviously also ensure I follow a schedule, and not overbook my days. However, I certainly cannot fail to mention my awesome team that operate Paleo Den when I'm not around, namely the manager/head chef, Hai Tran-Phan.
DC: Would non-paleo guests enjoy dining at the Paleo Den? What would they eat?
TN: As I have mentioned, it can be restrictive, but we are not 100% strict paleo, rather we are mainly paleo with non-paleo options that are still natural!
DC: What's your favourite menu item at the Paleo Den?
TN: I personally love the Vietnamese BBQ chicken on slaw; delish!
DC: Do you plan to expand your menu, increase hours of operation, or add services (workshops etc) at the Paleo Den in the future?
TN: We plan on keeping the fixed menu the same in terms on number of dishes, but we'll be updating the menu based on seasonal produce. We'll also be adding the "construct menu" soon, which offers a range of different proteins, carbs, and fats to "construct" your own meals. This is the menu to refer to should you be following a more strict meal plan whilst preparing for a photo shoot or bodybuilding competition. We feel that there's a lack in the market for this when eating out, so want to cater for those who need to be super strict.
Delicious meals at competitive prices for the area, I will definitely be returning for the gluten free pancakes, and may even get to try that Vietnamese barbecue chicken when I return for lunch soon; secretly hoping they get some padding for the plywood benches before next time.