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New café offers change in both view and awareness

Raglan now has its first out-of-town café — and one with a view to dine for — after the opening this month of an organic, vegetarian eatery at Solscape eco retreat overlooking Manu Bay and the Tasman Sea.

Having a café at the thriving alternative accommodation business is a bit of a leap, admits owner Phil McCabe, but he stresses it was always “part of the vision”.

As the project’s been developed over the past six months Solscape’s productive garden space has been trebled, he says, to cater for a 40-seater indoor-outdoor café.

Conscious Kitchen — as the café’s called — is committed to serving up the tastiest possible organic and vegetarian dishes. The focus is on health and wellbeing, he adds, through everything from the classic ciabatta and fresh cottage cheese made on site to garden-fresh herbs and free-range eggs.

Ideally “everything we serve will come from Raglan”, Phil says. Raglan Roast coffee is already on the drinks menu, along with the kitchen’s own Kombucha or fermented tea garnished with mint leaves and slices of fresh fruit.

“The more things we can do on site — and get locally — the better,” he explains. “We are trying to close the supply chain.”

The philosophy behind the café is similar to that of zero waste, Phil insists, and he aims to make diners aware of exactly what’s in their food and where it comes from.

Eliminating waste in all its forms extends to using less water for washing dishes, less gas for cooking — and minimizing both packaging and transport of products to the cafe.

“We (at Solscape) can reduce our ecological footprint,” Phil told the Chronicle last week. He says it became apparent last year during an Otago Polytechnic workshop at Solscape on sustainable business practice that roughly 50 percent of our ecological footprint revolves around food and how it’s managed.

“Project Solfood”, as he calls it, has evolved from that and the café is now catering not only for on-site guests and students — who come to stay in everything from cabooses and tipis to eco baches and earth domes — but also for Raglan residents and visitors who want to explore what it means to eat “locally”.

Phil is no stranger to café management, having run family businesses down-country and in Auckland well before setting up Molasses in Raglan fifteen-odd years ago.

“It’s nice to be drawing from that experience in helping the team set up the kitchen (at Solscape),” he told the Chronicle last week.

Edith Symes

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