Greenhouse returns to Melbourne for the first time since it’s inception in 2008, when designer Joost Bakker first set-up a waste-free restaurant in Federation Square. Since then, a permanent restaurant has been established in Perth, with a pop-up restaurant also appearing in Sydney until April last year, before packing up for a global tour to spread Joost’s message that “a world without waste is not that hard”.
The temporary restaurant that has been set up in Queensbridge Square, Southbank, is very cool (enough to bring out your inner hippie). There are a number of new features being trialed in the design of this building:
”All electricity is generated and fuelled by pure, unrefined canola oil, and wall cladding and structural bracing is all-natural, formaldehyde-free plywood, as the glue is made entirely from soybeans-a first in the building world. Additionally,visitor’s urine will be collected from purpose built lavatories to be used as soybean and canola crop fertiliser (Fact: The urine from 25 people can fertilise an entire hectare of land!), which will then be used to power and build next years Greenhouse.” - byJoost
For 20 days, Matt Stone will be serving up dishes made from local ingredients. Things you can look forward to include:
- bread and pasta made from Powlett Hill wheat, stone-milled in-house
- house-made butter and yoghurt made with organic cream and milk sourced from a local farmer
- Hopkins River beef
- Glenloth Game corn-fed chicken
- herbs from the restaurant’s own garden
Greenhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu is quite basic, comprising the usual toast, oats and a couple of hot options. Toast with butter and jam was very tasty; the bread was dense, chewy, and nutty and the butter was deliciously soft and creamy, so much better than the commercial stuff. Oats were served whole (technically called groats – the hulled but unrolled oat kernel) and we were given a hand-driven roller to roll the oats ourselves. Freshly rolled oats retain a lot of the proteins and nutrients that are lost when groats are commercially rolled under high pressure and heat and then left to sit. Coffee was served up in terracotta tumblers and was a general crowd-pleaser; low acidity with a chocolate-y finish and definitely helped along by very good quality milk.
The lunch menu is designed for sharing with items ranging from smaller dishes including oysters, olives, spiced almonds, flat bread with dips and salad, to rice, pasta and steak. The daily pasta special was hand-made, whole wheat, thick cut pasta with mixed mushrooms, goats cheese and poached eggs. The idea was to break up the onsen-style eggs to form a sauce and it went very well with the salty, sauteed mushrooms. The pasta had a nutty flavour that was much more interesting than the bland wholemeal varieties you get from stores, but was quite brittle.
We also ordered a pumpkin and chickpea tagine with green chilli yoghurt. Can’t go wrong with roast pumpkin really but the chickpeas could have done with a bit more cooking to soften them up and develop the flavours more.
Overall, food at Greenhouse is nothing extraordinary but the experience of dining at the restaurant is very much worth it, so get there before it disappears at the end of the MFWF 2012. Great to see a working example to prove that a waste-free, sustainable restaurant operation is possible, albeit a bit costly, but new ideas are always expensive to start with. Just one thing I’ll never really be comfortable with – using the water I just flushed the toilet with to wash my hands >.<