Crush Fresh Food Café and Juice Bar

An inner city oasis of healthy, delicious food and drink

‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food’ — the quote is the first thing that catches my eye as I settle into one of Crush’s many window seats, a perfect perch from where I can watch the goings-on of Cape Town’s bustling pedestrian walkway, St Georges Mall.  The saying is written in bright letters on the chalkboard menu and supports the restaurant’s philosophy: ‘handmade food with the finest and freshest ingredients’.

 “I’ve always been passionate about nutrition and healthy eating,” says owner Shonah Gallichan. Petite in stature and like a physiological testament to her statement, she has eyes that sparkle with vitality. Along with her partner Liz Bullen, Shonah took over the business in 2011, and transformed it from a simple juice bar to a healthy food café that caters to all kinds of diet preferences and food intolerances. She says Crush deals in, “the feel good energy of living cuisine.”

The small restaurant is unpretentious and welcoming. It’s decorated with a personal touch, from the Skinny laMinx cushions to colourful chalkboards that cover the back wall. It’s a look that’s meant to make you feel right at home, and that’s the sentiment the food delivers too. “We craft our food with the love and care your mother would; it’s made from scratch with raw ingredients we buy from ethical producers.”

Let’s eat!

What’s more, the food menu has been designed to highlight certain health benefits, and dishes receive symbols next to their descriptions: from a ‘GF’ for gluten free to an ‘OM’ for omega rich. 

Catering to vegans, vegetarians and even meat-eaters (so you don’t have to compromise when out on a date), there’s a range of light meals to choose from. For lunch, tuck into wraps, salads and sandwiches; not to mention, there are always daily specials which generally provide a heartier alternative, from ostrich bobotie to vegetarian lasagne with lemon ricotta.

“We’re famous for our soups (think sweet potato soup with roasted cashews or a spicy roast corn chowder),” says Shonah. She continues to tell me that the inventive broths are so popular that the restaurant has a mailing list to let people know about the weekly flavours. Plus, gluten free bread is baked every morning. 

Hot sips and cold drinks

The coffee is a delight; my cappuccino is perfectly rich and foamy, and as a bonus, it’s made with organic fair trade beans. Plus, for the vegans, health conscious and lactose intolerant, soy and rice milk are available as dairy substitutes.

There’s also fragrant chai on the hot sips menu as well as herbal teas and a Giluc, the latter which Shonah is sipping while we chat. The drink is a brew of mint, ginger, honey, lemon and cinnamon—the perfect elixir for a sore throat or low spirits.  

On a similar note, the bustling bistro is renowned for its health-packed smoothies and juices. Loaded with nutrients, the colourful concoctions are as delicious as they are good for you. For a summery sip try the Tropical Twister with pineapple, banana, apple, ginger and coconut milk, or if you’re in the mood for more of a ‘super sip’ try one of the Superfood Smoothies, which come with antioxidant powerhouses such as goji berries and cacao. Interestingly, there’s also a hemp seed smoothie blended with cacao nibs and almond milk called Choco Hemp Protein Booster. 

Shonah brings me one to try. It’s a creamy and moreish drink, made all the more delicious with the knowledge that it’s good for me too. There is also an option to ‘boost your health’ with additions of powdered nutrients. There’s acai, which is a rich fruit from the depths of the South American jungles that’s good for everything from anti-ageing to helping to prevent diseases. You can also add a shot of pure wheatgrass to any drink; the bright green liquid detoxifies, and invigorates. And lastly, spirulina, like the hemps seeds, is a complete food and is an extra that offers a full house of nutrients.

The range of freshly squeezed juices changes with the seasons to not only suit the produce but the weather too. Try the Pear and Ginger Cleanser for an unusual and refreshing juice or the beetroot driven Red Red Wine; there are also specials: in summer, you might find a Watermelon Mint Chiller, or in the depths of winter, a Citrus Blast.

Even the naughty drinks subscribe to the café’s artisanal philosophy, from organic wines to microbrews.

From breakfast to fast food

Crush is open daily at 7am, and the breakfast menu is as varied as the lunch offering. Diners can choose from traditional morning favourites to a more inspired first meal of the day. All the dishes are healthy yet somehow indulgent; for example, how about gluten free blueberry pancakes drizzled with honey? Or an organic farm cheese and bacon omelette?

“Cape Town doesn’t really cater for healthy food,” says Shonah. “Especially healthy fast food. Everything on the menu is offered as takeaway, and we deliver before noon and after 2pm.”

The future for Crush? “To develop vegan and raw food-inspired products, from vegan ice creams made from cashew nuts to plant-based food such as raw pizza.

Here at Crush I’ve discovered you don’t have to sacrifice flavour for health, and as Shonah says, “If you eat well, you live well.”

Tip: With advanced warning Crush can create a snack platter for business meetings or private social affairs.

Bill: Very reasonable for a health food restaurant, a culinary genre in which high prices are usually the norm.

By Malu Lambert

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Looking for more eateries that will help keep you fit, not make you fat? Read our overview of healthy restaurants in Cape Town

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