Cafe Zen Den

Here it is, the first post in my journey to fall back in love with food.

Fact: hipster’s flowers will die if not stored in mason jars or glass milk bottles. Sugar will not taste as sweet if not stored in a similar fashion.

It’s mildly depressing that making myself leave the house to go eat something, so I could write about it here, was a serious effort. My lacklustre approach to food is really getting out of hand.


On the suggestion of my friend, Rudi Edsall, and after researching gluten-free friendly eateries close to my home, I chose Café Zen Den, which recently opened in Eltham.

Menu. Note: no bill splitting.

The menu included a few vegetarian and vegan options, but as far as gluten and lactose intolerance combined goes, my only option on the savoury front was rice paper rolls.

Considering I usually eat them at least twice a week, I wasn’t excited, and getting excited about food again is the whole point of this blog.

Instead, my eyes locked onto the vegan, raw, gluten free cheesecakes. “How?” I hear you gasping. Hazelnuts, almonds, coconut oil, dates, and cacao, apparently.

Nuts can be tricky with fructose malabsorption. Some are quite high in the natural sugar, and the Internet is full of conflicting information about how to consume them. Monash University, pioneers of the low FODMAP diet, recommend avoiding cashews and pistachios, and consuming other nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, in moderation.

Such chocolate. Very vegan. Much raw. Wow. So rose petals.

The cake was pretty great. Not overly sweet, as I’d expected it to be. Just the right amount of creamy, chocolate flavour. The base was chewy and packed a punch of sweetness.  It was very heavy and rich, though, and I did feel a little sick afterwards.

Ugh. Soy.

I also indulged in a flat white, made with soy milk, of course. The fact this coffee tasted good was a testament to the ability of the bearded barista, cause lets be honest, soy milk is just the worst.

As I’ve stated previously, I’m writing this blog because my largely ornamental gut has stopped me from finding any joy in eating. Yet, while I sat alone in this cafe, listening to the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast and devouring cheesecake, I was quietly content.

I left with my pretty photos, a full stomach, and a desire to return so I can try the bright pink raspberry cheesecake. This is as close to food making me happy as I’ve been in a long time.

Although I did enjoy my brief but passionate affair with Cafe Zen Den, there weren’t many options for people with dietary restrictions. One great raw, vegan, gluten-free cheesecake does not an accommodating eatery make.

I’d recommend Cafe Zen Den to food intolerants who want a slice of a killer cheesecake and a decent coffee, but not much else, I’m afraid.

Three and a half bearded baristas out of five.

Good thing I’m not allergic to petals.

Have you been to an excellent eatery I may like? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, or Tweet me: @missclaireh

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