Thursday, December 21, 2006

In Hong Kong, health requires wealth - Life Cafe

The customer rep guy from PURE fitness (gym) called me the other day to remind me that my credit card entitles me to a reduced joining/monthly fee. I went into PURE about 3 weeks ago (?) for a free trial and I have to say, it's one of the best I've been to in Hong Kong. I can say this with a little authority because I had a lot of spare time on my hands when I first got back to Hong Kong so I did actually go and take advantage of quite a few of those "one-day free trials" out there. PURE costs quite a bit more than most of the other 'executive' clubs, but if you can afford it, it's worth every cent.

So I went in and had a listen about this deal, which turns out still to be about double of Fitness First and Seasons, so I suppose I'll have to give it a miss for the time being, considering my current situation.

A couple of days before this call, I visited a cafe on Shelley Street, next to Eat Right. I wonder if it was pure coincidence that these two cafes for the health-conscious are right next to each other. Maybe soon we can call Shelley Street "Vego Street"...

I remember reading about Life as a hippie kind of place with a Birkenstock-wearing clientele. When I read 'hippie', I think dreadlocks, sweeping beaded Indian cotton sari-like dresses, and colourful Tibetan prayer flags. To me, 'hippies' are vegans into raw food, and, in keeping with the theme of nature, marijuana. I imagined the café to be more of a crumbling (or at least made to look crumbling) wooden shack than the minimalist dark-wood ski lodge that it turns out to be.

The diners certainly aren't dreadlocked either; the look could indeed include Birkenstocks, but paired with hip leather biker jackets (animal activists: attack!) rather than faded, tie-dye cottons.

I've spent so much space to describe the customers because they better define the price range and target market of the café. Coming from Australia, where fresh produce is plentiful and organic is increasingly becoming the norm rather than a niche, the prices on Life's menu are a little astounding. The least expensive food items are the soup and dahl of the day, going for $35 for a small or $55 for a large (which, to their credit, lives up to the size). Both come with house bread, which was on this particular day, a yeast-free heavy millet-looking slice. (WTH do yeast-free and organic have in common anyway? What makes you think people who suffer from coeliac disease have to consume organic products? They're put together in the 'niche' category so often that you wouldn't be blamed if you thought it was common knowledge.) A serving of edamame beans, so often offered as a complimentary starter at Japanese restaurants, will set you back $45.

I went for salad, and was advised that a mini ($30) would only be a scoop and that the next size up (small) would be $75. The benefit of choosing this size is that you can choose a maximum of three salads, for a bit of variety, which was welcomed wholheartedly by this indecisive eater.

The roast pumpkin salad was great, the mushroom (white button - boring!) and potato was fine, the beetroot and chickpea, I suppose, would have been good for roughage, as the chickpeas seemed hardly cooked.

Although a little pricey, I must admit that the quality of the ingredients was very good on this visit, which is absolutely necessary for a place that offers so little in the way of culinary skill (salads, pizzas, simple noodles). For coffee, pop into Eat Right next door, unless half-heartedly frothed soy milk is your thing.

At least I left feeling I did something good to my body for once. Akin to a session at the gym, really.

Life Organic Health Café
10 Shelley Street
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2810 9777

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