There’s just something about the Groove Cafe that is rather irresistible. Located in (what is now the heart) of the Nightcliff shops precinct off Progress Drive, there is some wonderfully rich history here for students of town planning. As a child new to town, I grew up in this neighbourhood post-Cyclone Tracy – an event that happened some 40+ years ago, and yet we still measure time by it in the same manner as the western world counts their calender before-Christ and after-Christ.
The location in the late 70s was just lawned area between rows of shops, and then I went and got married and the place transformed itself into one of the preemininent centres for anything related to macro-organic and healthy (if not bordering fringe) lifestyle.
And here is one of my gripes, dear reader. If the organic and vegetarian/vegan movement was ever to take ground, it will be as soon as they shed the 60’s happy hippy-cum-alternative lifestyle image. I suspect it will be this year – 2018 – when we will see the movement… nay, healthy lifestyle philosophy… surge forward; but only when it promotes itself as THE healthy lifestyle alternative for the mainstream, and not the fringe dwellers.
Having said that, the Groove Cafe was one of the earliest healthy food oriented cafes that I can remember. I recall having my first ever vegetarian lasagne here back in 1996 – and what a revelation that was! A hearty meal that filled me up and not an ounce of animal based protein in sight?! No way…
The dining area is essentially a large al fresco seating area across the walkway from the kitchen and ordering counter. The foods range from the usual cafe suspects through to macro organic delights – both savoury and sweet. I’ve heard people react differently to the pricing, which I think reflects how wide ranging their appeal is – the healthy tribe who are used to being stung a few extra dollars for the words ‘fresh’ and ‘organic’ being associated with their menu invariably find the Groove Cafe reasonably well priced, and those who prefer the traditional cafe fare invariably feel like the pricing in a bit overboard. Personally I think the pricing is somewhere in the middle and reasonable, once you start eating. To prove a point on this visit I ordered the vegetarian omelette with a cup of skinny flat white coffee…
The counter is manned by a family who are both charming, and also a bit on the abrupt side. Depending on who serves you they appear either grateful that you have arrived to sample their fare, or annoyed that they had to wake up this morning to serve the likes of you…. nothing in between. There is no table service to speak of; just pay at the counter and take a number. The tables and chairs are an eclectic mix of whatever odds and ends have been accumulated over the years and have endured the harsh weather.
My coffee came out first and it was excellent. Strong, robust, aromatic… what more can I say…. hints of chocolate in the aftertaste….
Quite some time later my omelette arrived. Now, I realise there’s all different ways to cook an omelette. In much the same way we used to say years ago ‘put five cabinetmakers in a room and ask for a box, and you’ll get five different boxes…’, chefs and cooks seem to deliver omelettes on the same premise.
Today’s omelette was served by a young server who wasn’t sure whether it was day or night. After taking a few attempts at landing the plate on the table the omelette almost resembled a frittata. Perfectly round and glistening, the eggs must have been beaten and whipped very heavily in order to get such an airy and fluffy omelette, and then poured into a skillet and left. How else could I explain it? It was served up piping hot on top of two slices of wholemeal toast. Just toast – plain, buttered and dead unsexy.
But the taste of the omellete was a knockout. Cheesy, salty, with bursts of herbs and sundried tomato, this was a sure-fire winner. Yes it was different and challenged my preconceptions of what an omelette should be, but it was perfect. Cooked through, but not over cooked; flavoursome with the minimal amount of ingredients, and rustic without appearing overly simple. After a touch of black pepper I simply loved every mouthful of it.
Was it value for money? Yes. Is the cafe quirky and charming and alternative with a range of dishes to suit all tastes? Yes. Could the shop and surroundings do with a bit of a spring clean or even a facelift? Perhaps. Could the staff lift their game – sure they could.
Could they improve on the coffee? Please don’t, it was awesome! As was the food once you got stuck into it.
At the Groove Cafe there is just something amongst all this that simply oozes irritable charm……