9/06/2014 11:56:00 PM

Thr1ve's Signature bowl - baby spinach leaves, sweet potato & cauliflower mash, char-grilled lemon and herb chicken, roasted peppers and basil pesto - $9.90

Hey hey! Those of you who know me, will know that I can get a little bit obsessed with the most random things and remain fixated on them for ages, before the next shiny object comes along and diverts my attention. A few examples that come to mind: Embarrassing Bodies (link NSFW), cooking all the recipes out of a Nigella book, Law and Order: SVU, the drinks menu at Krispy Kreme. (My current obsession with Napoleon Cosmetics is deeply fabulous, but very expensive. I think I have a problem!)

Over the past few months, I've gotten really obsessed with Thr1ve, that health-focused fast food outlet in the Emporium Food Court. I've tried a good selection of the menu now and want to tell you all about it! (N.B. there is absolutely no affiliation between myself and Thr1ve and I have paid for everything I've eaten or drunk there with my own money - like I said, I just got obsessed!)

Shop 3-026
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9650-9864
Thr1ve on Urbanspoon

So, Thr1ve was founded by a team of health and fitness enthusiasts, a nutritionist and a personal trainer, and the menu is inspired by the Paleo and Primal dietary protocols. They say their foods are "high protein & low carb, always gluten free, and [with] no added sugar". All the stuff that my gym junkie friends like to eat! Full disclosure, I am deeply suspicious of the Paleo diet as a concept - who wants to look like a caveman, anyway? - or indeed, any diet that blanket bans entire foods. And don't get me started on the futility of going gluten free without having an actual diagnosed allergy or coeliac disease! However, I am really down with Thr1ve's focus on nutrition in context. To quote some examples from their website:

Customers seeking to lose body fat will typically enjoy the greatest and most sustainable success by curtailing carbohydrate intake... such customers would enjoy the breakfast bowl of eggs or egg whites with added protein and vegetables, and for lunch or dinner would utilise greens as their lunch bowl base

Those engaging in vigorous exercise regimes... will often take advantage of the post workout window to replenish glycogen stores utilising a smart carb. Specifically, such a customer could... for lunch or dinner utilise our sweet potato and cauliflower mash lunch bowl base... Such utilisation of carb cycling, using low GI carbohydrates or so called 'smart carbs', at specific times post workout, is highly effective for those seeking to both lose weight and gain muscle at the same time

And further down on the page, they say "Get educated" and "Please conduct your own research". I really like that - it's not just them telling you to buy their food because they say it's healthy or is surrounded by buzzwords, it's them encouraging customers to tailor the foods available to their own needs and exercise regimes, which I think is pretty great. It's an attitude that seems to be lacking in the current trend for #cleaneating.

As far as I'm aware, you can buy protein and workout supplements from Thr1ve too, and they maintain a health and fitness blog, so check it out if you're keen. I have no interest in that side of Thr1ve, as I'm already really happy with my current training regime and I'm SUPER INTO IT. (I'm a terrible bore and will talk endlessly about deadlifts, walking lunges and sled pushes to anyone who will listen. Rar!) Even if you're not interested in exercise or nutrition or whatever (in which case, thank-you for reading all of this so far!), the Thr1ve signature lunch bowls are a great option for city workers. A quick and tasty lunch bowl, full of vegetables and lean protein for less than $10 is a win in my opinion.

Ok, let's look at the food. Thr1ve have a breakfast and a lunch menu. Starting with the breakfast options...

I'm a big fan of Thr1ve's toasts - they have protein toast and a date and walnut bread.

Coconut milk latte - $3.50
Protein toast - $6.90
with bonus smashed avocado - $2

The protein toast looks like regular multigrain bread, and is full of different goodies: sesame seeds, flaxseed, almond meal, golden flax meal, chia seeds, pepitas, sunflowers seeds, cinnamon and whey protein. It is gluten free (as are all of Thr1ve's products), but it doesn't taste like gluten-free bread to me. It just tastes nice! For anyone who monitors their macronutrient intake, the protein toast contains 16 grams of protein, 2 grams of carb and 3.6 grams fat per serve (two slices).

Date and walnut bread with grass-fed butter - $7.90

The date and walnut bread is a little sweeter than the protein toast, but certainly doesn't feel like cake. I love it, especially with a little butter. Somehow they make it so that each serve contains 10 grams of protein and only 12 grams of carbs.

Both toasts are a little pricey, at $6.90 for the protein toast and $7.90 for the date and walnut bread, but they are engineered to be gluten free and to hit certain macro-nutrient targets, which makes them more expensive than conventional bread. As I am fortunate enough not to have any dietary restrictions, my preference is to eat (cheaper) normal toast at home, but these are a good option for when I'm in a rush.

I also enjoy their paleo pancakes - these are quite similar to the coconut flour pancakes I make, but with added almond meal, and they come in little spherical shapes. (They use a poffertje maker to make these). The serve is small but the pancakes themselves are quite hearty. They come served with honey and cinnamon, and optional free banana slices.

Original paleo pancakes - $5.90

Look at the innards! Both hearty and fluffy.

Fluffy pancake innards

They seem to put different limited edition pancake flavours on from time to time - I've had berry and raw chocolate, but neither of the flavours were particularly prominent, and I'm happy to stick to the plain ones from now on.

Berry paleo pancakes - $6.90

Berry pancake insides

Raw chocolate paleo pancakes - $6.90

Their breakfast bowls are awesome! You start with a base of three free-range, scrambled eggs, and can include brown rice, wilted spinach and / or roasted tomatoes for $8.90, and then can add extras like smoked or grilled salmon, free-range bacon, smashed avocado or tomato salsa. I love a hearty, nutrient-dense breakfast, and think these are a great option.

Breakfast bowl - three free-range, dairy-free scrambled egg whites with one yolk, natural brown rice, wilted spinach - $8.90
+ spicy tomato salsa - $2

As you can see in most of the above photos, I've tried Thr1ve's coffees - they have all the standard coffees (lattes, cappuccinos, whatever), and offer regular, skinny, soy, coconut and almond milks. (The coconut and almond milks are made in-house). On a side note, I've discovered that I don't like almond milk in coffees, finding it very grainy and insipid when heated - full cream dairy milk all the way!

Almond milk cappuccino - $3.50

They also have a couple of signature coffees. I really did not like the island coffee ($4.90) - a long black coffee with coconut milk and cinnamon. It sounded like it would be really nice, but was all watery and grainy (not sure if that was the coffee or just coarsely ground cinnamon, but the effect was unpleasant).

I prefer the mountain coffee ($4.90), which is Thr1ve's version of bulletproof coffee - black coffee blended with butter (yes, really!) They add enough butter to make the coffee look like a strong latte, and it's certainly not for the faint hearted. I enjoyed the taste and the foamy top, but felt it was a bit too intense to be drunk more than once in a very long while - you're literally drinking melted butter!

Mountain coffee - long black coffee with MCTs & grass-fed butter - $4.90

Overall, I can't say Thr1ve's coffees are particularly impressive, but I'm happy enough to get one of their standard coffees with regular or coconut milk to have with my breakfast. However, if all I want is coffee, then my preference is to go to a specialised, coffee-focused cafe.

I've tried one of the smoothies, a banana-walnut smoothie (banana, walnut butter, nutmeg, maca, cinnamon, organic honey), which was $6.90. I found it watery and not particularly pleasant, so have not been tempted to try any of the other flavours. I personally prefer the smoothies from Five Plus, which are a similar price, but a lot more wholesome and substantial. (N.B. I have no affiliation with Five Plus, nor have I received any freebies, I've just gone and bought them a couple of times, and really enjoyed them!)

Just FYI, in addition to the toasts, pancakes, breakfasts bowls, coffees and smoothies, Thr1ve also offer "gluten free" oats, and a cinnamon and cacao granola, neither of which I have tried.

Something to note: oats themselves don't contain gluten, but are generally grown on the same fields, and using the same harvesting / packaging equipment, as wheat, barley and / or rye, which all contain gluten and thus contaminate the oats. "Gluten-free" oats are grown in a pure-oat environment, meaning there is no gluten contamination. However, while oats technically don't contain any gluten, they do contain a protein that is similar to gluten (avenin) and some coeliacs react to it in the same way, so even "gluten-free" oats might not be safe for coeliacs to eat - I'm sure any coeliac readers will know what their system can handle. Either way, it costs $6.90 a bowl at Thr1ve and I often make porridge at home, so I've never felt inclined to try it.

The cinnamon and cacao granola sounds like it would be really nice - it has shredded coconut, pepitas, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pecans, cacao, cinnamon, coconut oil, sea salt, organic honey and vanilla extract, but it's $9.90 a bowl and I just can't see myself spending that much on a single bowl of granola (especially when it's so easy to make at home). Note to self: make some granola.

And finally, let's look at those lunch bowls that are so popular. (I've noticed the queues at lunchtime are getting RIDICULOUS!) You start with a base of baby spinach leaves, sweet potato and cauliflower mash, leafy greens or brown rice, and choose your protein: char-grilled chicken, pulled beef, shredded pork, grilled salmon or salad greens with a boiled egg. So far I've tried the char-grilled chicken (comes with pesto - soooo delicious), the pulled beef (with caramelised onions - pretty nice!) and the grilled salmon (meh). My favourite is the char-grilled chicken, which is so so tasty!

Signature bowl - baby spinach leaves, sweet potato & cauliflower mash, char-grilled lemon and herb chicken, roasted peppers and basil pesto, with added roasted broccoli, almonds and chilli - $12.90

Signature bowl - leafy greens with balsamic dressing, sweet potato & cauliflower mash, spicy BBQ grass-fed pulled beef w caramelised onions and roasted peppers - $9.90

So that's Thr1ve! As you can see, I like some items more than others, but most things I've tried have been very good, and I really like the health-focused menu. The $9.90 lunch bowls are such a good option for city workers!

I should say, though, that I've found the service to be quite uneven. Even though each individual staff member who's served me has been very friendly and pleasant, it still seems like the store is still settling in, even though they've been there for a few months now - they often seem to run out of certain menu items, or even bowls, and the queue control is poor. I do hope these issues work out soon, because Thr1ve is a great concept and I think they could do really, really well.

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  1. As you know, I've been on a new regime that's really paying off...but I always find eating out to be the hardest bit. Who wants to be the person eating a salad when everyone else is munching on ribs and burgers right?

    It looks like Thr1ve could solve that issue for me with an overall healthy approach, rather than an all or nothing! :P

  2. Hahaha this post made me laugh :) I have a shopping addiction too and once I like something I go nuts lol I'm recently crazy about teapots and tea cups hehe

    I wish there was a The1ve near my work because I would be obsessed and go there heaps too!

  3. Anonymous4:48 AM

    Damn delicious and healthy dishes,
    the photograph really tickle my taste buds....

  4. Every winter Thr1ve serve "gluten free" oats. Australian regulations are quite clear that even "clean oats" not grown near other gluten crops are not to be labelled "gluten free". Thr1ve have been cautioned repeatedly by the Coeliac Society about this but persist. Watching them this year. Their "always gluten free" signage would be false advertising. A pity because everything else about the place is great.



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.