In Nagaland, in the north-east of India, if a community member comes into money it is tradition for the whole village to be invited to an enormous feed. The party includes the well-heeled and the poor and disadvantaged. Everyone shares in the new-found wealth. It’s called the Feast of Merit. This is also the philosophy and the name of a new cafe on Swan Street.
Feast of Merit is an initiative of YGAP (Y-Generation Against Poverty), a charity that supports youth education and leadership projects in Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Australia. With all profits going directly to these projects, co-founder Elle Critchley explains the cafe is an attempt to develop permanent funding for the charity. “We support projects that try to build their own world without relying on handouts too much,” she says. “We want to do the same thing.”
Head chef Ravi Presser (former Kinfolk, Cumulus and Circa) has come up with a vegetarian-friendly menu, concentrating on raw foods and grains, along with sustainably produced meats. Massive salads with ingredients such as roasted Dutch carrots, mint, pistachio, freekeh, harissa and preserved lemon line the bar, and can be adorned with extra protein such as roasted Milawa chicken.
The booze list, designed by Shaun Anderson, is also local, focusing on biodynamic wines and smaller-batch beers such as Coburg Lager.
Ultimately, Critchley says, Feast of Merit is about feeling good about eating together. “It’s based on that tradition of convivial dining and all coming together for the greater good.”