Who is Emily Brindley? I’m chef and co-owner of Sweet Bones vegan cafe and bakery in Braddon.
Best recent dining experience: Monster Kitchen in NewActon. My two girlfriends and I shared many dishes, but by far my favourite was the macadamia satay cauliflower with house-made sambal. It was one of those share dishes where everyone wanted to be polite and offer each other more while secretly hoping they wouldn’t take you up on it. I wanted to lick the plate clean. The use of macadamias was such a delicious take on a classic satay sauce.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Probably the variety of cereals we have. I used to make these amazing gourmet breakfasts but now it’s such a rush in the morning that it’s convenience over quality.
Must-buy ingredient: Nutritional yeast, aka nooch. We sprinkle it on all our savoury meals at home.
Next big thing: We used to travel overseas a lot before the pandemic, getting inspiration from everywhere, and I’m really missing that connection to the outside world. My lemon tree is full of ripe, beautiful organic lemons, so at Sweet Bones, the next big thing might include lots of lemon treats or a lemonade stand, which our sons would like to do.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: With the kids, we don’t make it out to breakfast much these days, but for an awesome treat, we love Local Press on Kingston Foreshore. They’ve always got delicious, hearty vegan meals. We also tried Gang Gang Cafe in Downer for the first time the other day and their baked beans special was amazing. Can’t wait to get back there.
Canberra food secret: We’ve been eating the spinach tamales from the Salvadorean food stall at Canberra’s markets for years (they’re currently at the Southside Farmers Market s in Woden on Sundays). They’re delicious – gluten-free, flavourful, and the salsa is so tasty and authentic. They sell out quickly, so get in early and make sure you save some for us!
Biggest culinary influence: My biggest influence early on would definitely be my parents – amazing cooks and gardeners who set me up for a life of loving to cook fresh produce and to really enjoy the process. I’m also inspired by my cousin Jeff Cavanaugh, who was head chef at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, New York, for years. I also worked for an amazing female entrepreneur and chef, Marilyn Schlossbach, in New Jersey. She had multiple restaurants and I worked in all of them, doing anything from cooking to waitressing to counting money.
Favourite cookbook: The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook by Louise Hagler – a beautiful hippie book from the 70s.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Wow, this one is really hard. I’d have to say Malcolm Hanslow, head chef at Pilot in Ainslie, who was our chef for a little while when we opened our first location at Lonsdale Street Traders. He’s a very talented, passionate chef doing delicious, creative things.
What’s on the menu this week: If you’re after something sweet, our loaded banana bread served with coconut maple butter and fruit is always a winner. If you’re feeling savoury, the spicy jack burger, loaded with house-made BBQ seitan, coconut cheese and fresh veg served on a Turkish roll will hit the spot.
Where I’m going next: I can’t wait to get back to Karuna Vegie House in Lyneham. I’m embarrassed to say we only discovered it a few months ago despite the fact I’ve lived in Canberra since 2007. It’s mainly volunteer-run and only operates on Friday and Saturday nights. Get in early as they can sell out of things quickly, but man, it’s so delicious.
Death row meal: A slice of NY pizza (from Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn) with a side of vegetable chorizo tacos from Bouldin Creek Cafe in Austin, Texas, accompanied by my parents’ homemade garden Letcho (Hungarian tomato and capsicum stew). To finish, it would be a tiered lemon raspberry cake from Sweet Bones, with the top tier being death by chocolate, finished with our Big John cookies and Cinnabons. That’s allowed, right?
My COVID-19 response: We thought about closing straight away when the fear initially hit, but our solid team wanted to work. Together, we simplified the menu, created specials with extra things in the pantry and just went with the flow. We decided early on that we would go to takeaway only, which went against our values for sustainability, but felt like it offered our team and customers a bit of protection. We also hopped onto the Uber bandwagon as a delivery service. We felt really supported by the government and by our amazing customers. People were so generous buying gift vouchers and sharing our stories. It was a tough time for all, but what an amazing community Canberra is.
My really simple recipe tip: I learned this trick long ago from my mum. If someone popped over unexpectedly or we were out all day and late starting dinner, we’d just sauté onions in a frying pan while we had a quick brainstorm about what we’d make. It would smell amazing and buy time. The onions were usually turned into soups or sometimes quick dishes such as stir-fries with noodles. For the latter, sauté onions in sesame oil over medium heat, let that cook while you chop carrots, garlic, broccoli, cabbage and red capsicum, then add them to the pan. For a quick sauce, whisk soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, orange juice and corn starch in a bowl and add it to your veggies. Whip up some rice noodles and serve with sriracha and fried shallots.
Sweet Bones vegan cafe and bakery is at 18 Lonsdale Street, Braddon. It’s open seven days for breakfast and lunch, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.