h

Aunt Maggie’s is bringing back their vegan high tea

No expense in consciousness has been, with delicate little cucumber and almond fetta sandwiches being vegan-friendly, all ready to be washed down with a refreshing kombucha mocktail.

  • }

Aunt Maggie’s vegan high tea is bringing a cheeky dose of English opulence to suburban Melbourne. The organic grocery store and café have lovingly curated the perfect Sunday indulgence – a high tea fit for the Queen that comes vegan friendly and freshly made from high quality products.

Held once a month during the winter and every fortnight during the summer, it has proven to be highly successful and popular. Served in traditional English style – an array of gorgeously and lovingly prepared cakes are arranged atop a dainty tiered cake stand. All of the food is prepared fresh by a loving and committed chef on the Sunday morning, to be indulged in later that very day. No expense in consciousness has been spared for vegans, with even so far as the delicate little cucumber and almond fetta sandwiches being vegan-friendly, all ready to be washed down with a refreshing (and healthy) kombucha mocktail.

Aunt Maggie’s is a family affair owned by wife and husband team Mandy and Wayne. Today Wayne takes me through the stores’ plentiful shelves, pointing out the wonderful wares, all with a story of origin that warms the heart. Each detail of Aunt Maggie’s is well thought out; nothing is spared in creating an environment that – well – loves the environment.

There’s olive oil pressed in Mount Zero that you can buy in a pre-filled bottle or bring your own to fill it up yourself, and soaps, crafted in the town of Yarck that smell of absolute heaven, and are created for different skin-types in mind. Everything at Aunt Maggie’s is served with the reassuring benefit of knowing that it’s nasty chemical free, and good for you.

We stop by a stand where a jolly staff member is creating Aunt Maggie’s signature nut butters. Wayne kindly lets me taste one, saying playfully, “I challenge you to find a better tasting peanut butter”. The peanut butter tastes like peanuts! Not overly salty, nor overly sweet.

Aunt Maggie’s even has a florist. They supply chocolates created just up the road in Brunswick by Monsieur Truffle and they stock ready-made meals by We Feed You, also created in the heart of Melbourne.

Into the kitchen we go, where the delicious foods served in their cafeteria are created. The air is rich with garlic and one of the chefs explains that it’s because they’re currently making Xinxim, a Brazilian curry, done vegan style. The kitchen shelves are packed with lovely spices, and another chef bustles past with a container of something labelled coconut bacon. She retrieves the container and kindly lets me sample this feat of modern cuisine. It is in fact a bacon alternative made of coconut. Smokey, delicious and fabulous in texture.

The amount of care that goes into every corner of the Aunt Maggie’s stores is quite incredible. Wayne stops and has a long, friendly chat with a couple who express glee in being able to find bamboo underwear (environmentally sustainable, and extraordinarily soft). Towards the entrance are boxes for people to carry their groceries in – saving on a paper bag.

Good, community-based, conscientious stores like Aunt Maggie’s are a remedy for big corporations churning out unsustainable products. Their investment on also being educational is refreshing, and most importantly, the products they stock are amazing.

To book for the Vegan High Tea call the Carlton store on (03) 9349 4651.

KEEPING IT FRIENDLY

Tell us about the namesake, Aunt Maggie. There was one aunty who regularly cooked and provided, and enjoyed feeding the extended family and that’s where the inspiration came from. Everyone needs an Aunt Maggie’s.

There are a few stores, did you ever think it would blow up beyond one small store? Not a week would go past without someone asking, “can we open up here, can we open up there?” Because it’s just a family operation, there’s a limit to what we can physically do. We like to be in and around the stores. They’re personal, they’re real, they’re not franchised, there’s no big corporation.

Have you noticed a difference in attitude towards food in the time the stores have been open? It’s definitely changed. One of the sparks behind Aunt Maggie’s was that there was a time not that long ago where 90% of people knew where their food had come from and they knew somebody directly – family member, friend – who lived on a farm and who grew things. So the whole idea behind Aunt Maggie’s, and the recent interest in food, is people just rediscovering that connection.

What’s your favourite comfort food? I think I like just a good old-fashioned, simple pasta dish. I’m awesome at making gnocchi, that’s my forte – with sage and burnt butter. I like that idea of something simple, three or four ingredients max.

Do you have any tips on affordably eating healthy? Buy bulk, and as few unbranded products as you can. And buy in season. When it’s in season the growers, farmers, retailers need to sell the produce, which means it’s cheaper. 

Find Aunt Maggie's at 72 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern & 188 Gertrude St, Fitzroy & 7 Lygon Court Shopping Centre, 380 Lygon street, Carlton.