Elemental | Braddon, Canberra

Every couple of years, whether we’re ready for them or not, a new wave of food trends gradually descends upon us. They range from being a whole genre of food (Vietnamese street food, Japanese izakaya, American BBQ), standalone menu items (ramen, cronuts, burgers) specific flavours or ingredients (miso, offal, soft shell crab, sriracha, matcha, salted caramel), or techniques and methods (sous vide, fermenting, raw).

(P.S. If you want to see which food trends have dominated the last 30-40 years, check out the New York Times’ ‘Fried Calamari’ index!)

Recent years have increasingly seen food trends based around health and nutrition, telling us that a certain type of diet or lifestyle will help us live to 140, shed a few spare tyres, or just feel more energised and ready to take on the world. One of the more popular of these diets, billed as the ‘healthiest way you can eat’, is of course, the paleo diet.

Now to be honest, I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to paleo (other than the mini scandal surrounding Pete Evans’ paleo cookbook for babies), most likely because I’d have a nervous breakdown pretty quickly if I gave up eating dumplings and noodles. But with paleo-specific venues popping up in Canberra over the last couple of years – starting with Paleo Perfection in Kingston, followed by Braddon’s Elemental, and more recently, Paleo Café – and the success of Canberra’s very own Merrymaker Sisters, Mrs T and I thought we’d treat ourselves to a healthy, paleo breakfast at Elemental and see what it was all about. 

Being a paleo café, Elemental’s menu is quite unique compared to most other places. Along with paleo ‘staples’ such as bone broth, chia pudding and granola with activated nuts, they’ve put their own twist on non-paleo dishes, offering things like nachos using sweet potato chips, brisket pie with sweet potato mash, and a naked (bunless) cheeseburger.

Since we’ve just done a gruelling session at F45 Braddon, I decide to go for a small cup of bone broth ($4) and the big breakfast of free range bacon, caramelised onions, poached eggs, roast tomato, grilled mushrooms and protein toast ($17). Mrs T opts for the Mexican Baked Egg, which includes free range eggs with Mexican spiced chicken, coriander, coconut cheese and harissa ($16).

Along with our coffees, the cup of bone broth arrives almost immediately (I assume they’ve got a big pot of it on the stove ready to go), and I’m pretty eager to see what it’s like. I’m not really sure why ‘bone broth’ has become so popular all of a sudden (or why it's called 'bone' broth), given that people have been making stocks and broths from bones for centuries – I suppose it’s a mix of some good marketing (and a captive audience) and a product of our busy lifestyle where we buy stock off the shelf 99% of the time, so perhaps a lot of us haven’t had the chance to make a stock or broth before.

I’m pleased to say that Elemental’s (bone) broth is delicious – it’s dark, meaty (in a good way), and salty (in a good way), and I immediately regret not ordering the larger cup! "Oh well", I tell myself as I finish off the cup – "next time!"

The big breakfast comes with a generous amount of mushrooms and not too much bacon (as delicious as bacon is, I find some places go a bit overboard with it and it leaves you feeling a bit heavy afterwards, particularly if it’s quite a salty bacon). The bacon rind is nice and crispy, and the eggs are well poached but a little bit over for my liking. The one thing I would add to this big breakfast is a bit of sauce or relish, particularly since the protein bread is quite dense, and it just needs a bit of moisture to lighten it up. Had it been a non-paleo café, I think just some butter on the toast would have done the job.

The Mexican Baked Eggs are served in a beautiful terracotta-coloured dish, with the scattering of coriander on top providing a bit of vibrance. The eggs have been beaten so they’re more like a frittata than the whole eggs you’d get in huevos rancheros, which means that this dish can also do with a bit of extra moisture and freshness – perhaps from a spoonful of pico de gallo and a wedge of lime on top. There’s a generous amount of shredded chicken underneath, and the coconut cheese adds an interesting flavour to the dish (reminding us a bit of the subcontinent).

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable breakfast - despite us being well conditioned to having dairy and grains in the morning! I’d definitely go back to Elemental for their delicious bone broth, and I’m keen to see how their menu keeps evolving with the change in seasons. 

Much like fashion trends, music trends and any other type of trend, we can choose to go along with the latest food trends, or try and ignore them as best we can. But try as we might, I reckon they catch up with us eventually! As Miranda Priestly so eloquently puts it (and yes, I'm admitting to having seen The Devil Wears Prada...):

"You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select... I don't know... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent... wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of...stuff." 

Wouldn't you agree?

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