"It's amazing what you can do with tofu!", says Emily from Sweet Bones, as we shovel another bite of her vegan chocolate and peanut butter cupcake into our mouths. It's about 12 months ago, we're sitting down with her to choose a flavour for a friend’s birthday cake, and Emily's responding to our near-disbelief at how good the cupcakes taste and how creamy and buttery the peanut butter frosting is (trust me, you wouldn't even know there was tofu in it).
You see, ignorant me had assumed that vegan baked goods just wouldn't be the same as ones with butter and eggs in them - but as is all too often the case, I was dead wrong! These were easily the best cupcakes I'd ever had, and there was nothing untoward or different about them that screamed 'vegan'. We also try the pina colada and cookies and cream flavours, which are both delicious - but the chocolate peanut butter is a clear favourite and that's what we decide on. Boom. Done. Wedding cake sorted, highlight it green in Excel, divert attention back to version 5 of the seating chart (with another glass of wine).
As far as Canberra success stories go, Sweet Bones is a great example of one. Founded by husband and wife team Russell and Emily, much of the initial capital for the bakery cafe was raised through a Kickstarter campaign back in late 2012. From there, they set up shop along the northern end of Braddon's Lonsdale Street (they're one of the originals amongst the current crop of Braddon eateries), supplying cupcakes to local cafes and quickly making a name for themselves. Before long, they would outgrow the space they had, and along with the continuing redevelopment of the strip, found themselves a new home on Elouera Street (opposite eightysix), where they now have a constantly busy cafe, do a roaring takeaway trade, and make stunning cakes for newlyweds.
So when it came time to catch up with a friend for lunch last week, I suggested we check out Sweet Bones, having not sat in and had a meal from there yet. She was a bit hesitant at first, but after looking at their online menu, any fears she had of not finding something to eat were quickly alleviated.
First walking into Sweet Bones, you'll notice it has a homely, lighthearted feel to it, particularly with the back wall imploring you to 'eat like you give a damn'! There's plenty of soft natural light coming in as well, and as you sit down and start to take in a bit more of the decor, the playfully gritty southern-USA vibe starts to shine through. The tabletop decorations mimic the tattoos you'd see on a bartender's arms in a NY dive bar, the table numbers are cut into skulls, and even the font on the menu has a decidedly desert-like feel to it that makes me feel like I've got cowboy boots on and a six shooter tucked in to my belt!
Speaking of the menu, there's plenty on offer here, and all of it sounds interesting. You can choose from all day breakfasts, light lunches, burgers and salads, Mexican-inspired dishes like the Boneyard Burrito and Nacho Mountain, and of course, all of their baked goodies. I opt for the Bacon Cheeze Burger ($15), which includes a marinated tofu patty with house-made smokey coconut bacon, cheddar-like cheeze, lettuce, tomato and onion; while my friend chooses the Veggie Stack ($16) of marinated portabella, roasted red peppers, garlic herbed pumpkin, eggplant and almond ricotta with balsamic reduction.
I also notice their range of organic drinks in the fridge, and try out a ginger lemon kombucha from Remedy to see what the fuss is all about. This one doesn't taste as funky as I'd expected, given that it's basically fermented tea that's been sitting out on the counter for about a week (mmm...yum!), and it has a slightly less gingery taste than a ginger beer - but overall it's refreshing and really easy to drink.
Onto the food - and my Bacon Cheeze Burger looks and smells pretty delicious. Biting in, there's a distinct bacon taste from the coconut bacon (which I believe you can actually make using coconut flakes, soy sauce, liquid smoke and maple syrup), the tofu patty is tasty and has a soft yet springy texture, and the 'cheeze' (not sure what it's made of but it has a coconut flavour to it too) is viscous and oozy like real melted cheese. Put together, it's incredibly tasty and the thought of 'this needs (more) meat' doesn't even cross my mind. Much respect, Sweet Bones! The burger also comes with a small salad of spanish onion, toasted seeds and julienned carrot and cabbage (like a slaw) which is a nice to have on the side.
The Veggie Stack is colourful and has a good bit of height to it, and there's a whole heap of flavour in the vegetables. They've been cooked well so that they're soft but not falling apart, and the almond ricotta acts as a second sauce (on top of the balsamic reduction) to bring everything together.
Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, coeliac, or just enjoy good cafe food (with a bit of a twist) - definitely pay a visit to Sweet Bones. If you don't believe me, grab one of their $5 cupcakes when you walk in and chomp it down at the counter - it'll make you want to stay for brunch/lunch (and more than likely lead to you taking home a few more cupcakes on the way out)!
Shop 8, 18 Lonsdale Street (entry via Elouera Street)
Mon-Sat: 7:30am-4pm, Sun: 8:30am-4pm