Chris Starke, the former owner and founder of popular wholefoods cafes Youeni Foodstores, has had his eye on the Hills District suburb of Norwest (about 35 kilometres north-west of the CBD) for some time. “I had looked at a site on the opposite end [of Norwest], which is more of an industrial area, back in 2014, but I felt it wasn’t quite ready,” he tells Broadsheet. “But when I saw the developments [of this building] … and met with the general manager, who is massive on building the community, that resonated with us.”
Starke grew up in the area and thought with the increased accessibility of the suburb thanks to the recently opened Norwest Metro train station, the time was right for his new project, Hohl (pronounced “whole”). It’s another wholefoods cafe and store and it’s on the ground floor of a newly built luxury apartment building overlooking Norwest Lakes. The naturally lit space has an open-plan kitchen with a mosaic countertop that doubles as a spot for bar seating.
Like Starke’s other projects, the menu is mostly plant based. There’s the Greens Dreams are Made of These, a jumble of roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, spinach, roasted zucchini, nuts, and a basil sauce. Almost everything – from cakes and pastries to jams, probiotic coconut yoghurt and chocolate bars – is made in-house using seasonal Australian produce, local where possible, and is free of refined sugar.
“Despite having trained at [fine-dining] Banc and Marque restaurants, I’ve been intentional in keeping things relatable,” he says. “My mission is to show people that healthy, simple food can be tasty, and can evoke the same conversation as the refined meals you’d get at world-class restaurants.”
Starke says there are a couple of meat dishes available and he hopes they remind people of meals cooked by their parents, in particular the beef cheeks, the Umami is Your Mummy (braised beef cheeks, cauliflower and quinoa rice), and the Mama’s Roast Dinner Between Sandwich (five-hour brisket pot roast served with a thyme potato bake, pickled red onions and green sauce). “I wanted people to feel a sense of homeliness. So many customers said they feel they just ate a meal cooked by their grandma,” he says.