We all could do with a little more happiness, but how many of us eat to feel happy? Obviously not in the sense of gaining pleasure from the eating experience, which in food crazy Melbourne is not all that surprising, but rather, in eating particular foods to change the chemical balance of the brain. Certain foods, such as those high in the amino acid tryptophan, increase serotonin levels, and serotonin is important in the regulation of mood, sleep and digestion, thus contributing to well-being and happiness.
This concept is the basis for Serotonin Eatery, the founder and owner of which is Emily Hazell. Having discovered impressive results from a personal experience of a diet high in tryptophan, she has since promoted a similar plant-based lifestyle, hoping to spread the word about its benefits.
Serotonin Eatery was originally going to be a Japanese place, hence the sunken tables, but the idea slowly morphed into a more general healthy cafe and happiness education centre. Soon after launch, requests for sugar free, gluten free and low FODMAP dishes came rolling in, and the menu has been further developed to cater for these needs. Thankfully the idea of the cushioned seats has remained, offering a cosy alternative to normal tables. Those with fond, happy childhood memories of playgrounds can take a place on swing seats near the courtyard. Attempting to swing as high as you can isn’t recommended indoors – it’s highly likely that you’ll disturb other patrons, upend plates and tables, and destroy furniture in the process – but you can always relive your memories in the playground across the road. Still, it’s a novel concept that’s also perfect for those with itchy feet.
There aren’t many places where you can actually consume a smiley emoji, but this is one of them. There’s a whole range of lattes, from the ever popular matcha and chai, to the more unique and popular varieties of peanut butter and gingerbread. All come with a dusting of powder that beams up at you until you suck, mix or scoop it away. The golden latte, the one that bears the most resemblence to our happy friend, is a house-made blend of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and coconut milk. In fact, almost everything at Serotonin Eatery is made in-house if possible. The cacao coconut latte is 70% dark hot chocolate with raw cacao, grated cacao butter, and coconut milk. We have it served ‘dirty’, with a shot of espresso for extra kick. Coffee and chocolate together is a great combination.
There’s also a big range of juices, smoothies and teas on the drinks menu. The teas mixes are expertly conjured up by a tea mixologist from Impala & Peacock. The strikingly coloured acai smoothie contains mango, banana and apple and it’s a satisfying dose of fruitiness.
In the food menu there’s been an effort to include organic ingredients that are healthful and nourishing for both the mind and body. Dishes are typically colourful – a practice that’s widely encouraged – to facilitate the intake of a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. The nutrition bomb is pricey at first glance, though it’s a bowl full of healthy, on-trend ingredients and is of a large portion, resulting in a stomach full of goodness. The winter edition of Serotonin Eatery’s signature dish has a base of brown rice and quinoa, which is then adorned with a colourful arrangement of kale, broccoli, roasted vegetables, sauerkraut, nuts and seeds. Though we didn’t opt for it today, mushroom and avocado can be added on. There are hints of spices, like cumin in the pickled sauerkraut, and others in the tasty hummus that’s where most of the flavour lies. It’s not the traditional smooth and saucy hummus that we’re used to, being more like a thick chickpea mash, but its texture does make it easier to distribute it to taste.
Serotonin serves a plant-based menu, but that doesn’t mean sweets are left off the table. Dishes to satisfy the sweet tooths among us are available in the form of banana pancakes, fruity chia puddings and raw desserts that, even from a typical point of view, are delicious. The Positive Pancakes are composed of ground dehydrated banana flour and ricotta, topped with ice cream made purely from bananas, and showered with berries, coconut yoghurt, roasted sliced almonds and agave. The pancakes are not the fat and fluffy type, but are still nice and moist, and the berries keep the sweet side in check. They’re healthier than normal pancakes, but you probably wouldn’t know it if you weren’t told. It’s no surprise that these fly off the kitchen pass in great numbers.
There’s a whole menu for their raw desserts, which are on display at the coffee window. Most of the raw desserts on offer at the moment are chocolate based, but one of the most popular ones, that also happens to not be chocolate, is the Lemon and Lavender Tart. Made from lemon, cashews, almonds, coconut, vanilla, turmeric and lavender oil, it delivers a big zesty lemony punch that’s well suited to enjoying with a cup of coffee. Again, coffee and chocolate calls to us and we try the Espresso Tart with hazelnut crumble. The smooth espresso cream filling is created from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut and the tart also contains cacao and hazelnuts. The tart casing in both desserts is almost biscuit-like in texture. I have to say I haven’t had many (or any?) raw desserts before this point, but these leave a very good impression.
Apart from the brain chemistry effect of the ingredients used here, you may feel a sense of happiness knowing you’re consuming food that’s nutritious but doesn’t taste like cardboard, despite the low salt and refined sugar and flour content. Come to Serotonin Eatery and allow Emily and the serotonin dealers to inject some health and positivity into your day, and hopefully, your lifestyle too.
Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Serotonin Eatery. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit
52 Madden Grove
Burnley, VIC, 3121
(03) 9428 8256