In 2016, Samantha Cook ate a bad coconut in Costa Rica that left her incredibly ill – so ill she had to be airlifted to hospital. She was eventually cured by two rounds of heavy-duty antibiotics, but they left her gut stripped of good bacteria. A doctor advised her to start following a plant-based diet to rebuild her flora, and in solidarity her husband, Stuart Cook – former CEO of Zambrero – decided to cut out animal products, too.
“It wasn’t necessarily a voluntary decision but, looking back, that life-threatening situation was actually a blessing, because it allowed us to discover the power of plant-based eating and I took my first step on a journey towards better health,” says Samantha.
It also marked the beginnings of Flave, the pair’s new plant-based restaurant, which opens in Bondi on December 7. Offering breakfasts, burgers, bowls and more, Flave aims to serve healthy, tasty and affordable meals, all of which are free from animal products. It uses meat-replacement products such as mushroom-based meat from Fable (in its smoked barbeque brisket); and “chicken” tenders and “beef” strips from Meet Co in its jerk chicken and rendang curry respectively.
“When we started plant-based eating we had more energy, we lost weight and we stopped feeling bloated all the time, but there was still one big problem – great plant-based food was hard to find,” Samantha tells Broadsheet. “It was mostly light salads or carb-heavy options like pasta, and when you’re sitting at a dinner table with your friends you want something just as delicious as anyone else’s [meal].”
Stuart’s experience running Zambrero meant he was up to the challenge of launching a diner. The couple recruited Bondi local and now-executive chef Scott Findlay, who trained under Gordon Ramsay before honing his plant-based recipes working as a private chef to well-known vegetarian Paul McCartney.
“Scott says it better than anyone – there’s no reason why plant-based food should be any less flavourful than meat,” says Samantha. “With his help we designed a menu that translates well into most countries and cultures, and provides delicious plant-based spins on a lot of famous international meals.”
The Italian not-meatball salad, a “sushi” bowl, and a cheeseburger with a Buds soy-based burger patty, maple-glazed “bacon” and smoky barbeque sauce are among the highlights of the all-day menu, which runs from breakfast (try the Mexican-inspired bowl with tofu scramble, paprika and “chorizo” bits – made with Omni Foods’ plant-based pork mince) to dinner (best finished with the gooey organic cacao and caramelised sweet potato brownie) in the light and airy diner-style space.
The design itself is clean and modern: curvy concrete walls, floors and ceiling recesses are warmed up with greenery, splashes of red (including neon lights) and floor-to-ceiling windows. And you can expect to see Flave’s fresh colour palette and vintage-style banquette and booth seating elsewhere soon: the Cooks also have their eyes on the US and China.
“We hope to be the catalyst for an increase in plant-based eating, but our true success will be about our normalising it,” says Samantha. “Come 10 to 20 years from now, people won’t bat their eyelids at the notion of plant-based food. The only thing they will be concerned with is flavour.”
89 Hall Street, Bondi
(02) 9130 4279
Mon to Thu 7am–10pm
Fri & Sat 7am–11pm