Review: Whole Meal Cafe (Surry Hills)

We had another Paleo meetup, this time for lunch at Whole Meal. The name dangerously implies a “healthy whole grains” philosophy, but the organiser had already made sure food was Paleo-friendly.

Right from the beginning you can tell they emphasize healthy eating, even when their idea of what’s healthy is skewed by conventional wisdom. They’ve got a few things right (gluten-free, high protein, free-range meat & eggs) and a few things wrong (low fat, grains, soy). It almost seems like they’ve tried to make everyone happy. But did they achieve it with us?

Whole Meal Cafe

The cafe is small, they’ve got only two cooks, and we were 16 people ordering individually at the counter. Needless to say, we didn’t get to eat at the same time but we were busy chatting anyway.

One of the main attractions for gluten-free and Paleo eaters is the ability to swap regular buns and toast with multigrain gluten-free bread or their own protein bread for a small fee. The protein bread has only 1 gram of carbs per slice, and while it’s grain-free I decided it wasn’t worth trying after having a look at the ingredients (flaxseed meal, almond meal, whey protein, pea protein, sesame seeds, linseed, chia seeds). I’m pretty sure I read the word “concentrate” somewhere, which indicates this is heavily processed stuff.)

Gladys was the first of the family to receive her meal. She had ordered the summer chicken burger with grilled chicken breast, short rindless bacon, pineapple, served with mixed salad greens, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce (on protein bread), plus an extra fresh garden salad on the side. Both the burger and salad looked small for the price (although she did feel satisfied after eating). She said the chicken was disappointingly dry, but her long black was very good (I had one, too, and concur.)

Summer chicken burger

Summer chicken burger ($10.90 burger + $3 side garden salad)

Bonnie was next. She ordered the lean beef burger, a homemade lean beef patty with caramelised onion, Dijon mustard, tasty cheese, fresh salad greens, tomato & beetroot, served with tomato relish. She ordered hers without cheese, tomato, tomato relish, and bread, and added extra avocado. She was happy with the burger and the generous chunks of avocado, although didn’t appreciate the canned beetroot and super sweet onions (onions have a lot of sugar, you don’t need to add extra in order to caramelise them!)

Lean beef burger with no bread

Lean beef burger with no bread ($10.90 + $2.50 extra avocado)

The photo below shows what the lean beef burger with its regular components in protein bread looks like. Next to it, the impressive almond meal pancake stack, high protein/low-carb pancakes, served with your choice of blueberries, ricotta and maple or fresh banana, coconut, ricotta and maple. Apparently they had ran out of blueberries and served strawberries instead. They looked delicious but were ranked at 4 out of 10 due to being dry.

Lean beef burger, almond meal pancake stack

Lean beef burger ($10.90), almond meal pancake stack ($14.50)

Alvaro and I shared a couple of dishes. First, the classic eggs Benedict (yes, they do breakfast til 2 p.m.) which were meant to come on multigrain sourdough but we chose to skip the bread and pay extra for bacon and grilled tomato. We were very unimpressed by the dish. Instead of real ham we got slices from a package. The tomato wasn’t grilled, and last but not least, the eggs were overcooked. I couldn’t tell but hope the hollandaise was made with real clarified butter.

Eggs Benedict + bacon and tomato

Eggs Benedict ($12 + $2.50 bacon + $2.50 tomato)

Egg yolk

Egg yolk

Our other shared dish was a “make your own” type of salad. The basic one costs $9.90 and it works like this: you choose a base (garden greens or seasonal veggies), a carb (brown rice, quinoa or roast pumpkin), a protein (poached chicken, tuna, boiled egg, feta cheese or raw tofu), a “good” fat (avocado, walnuts, almonds, cashews, seed mix or peanuts) and a dressing (Caesar, balsamic, satay, teriyaki, sweet orange or mustard). If you want more than one item in any particular category, you pay extra. We made ours with seasonal veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and zucchini), roast pumpkin, chicken, tuna, eggs, avocado and cashews, plus balsamic dressing. The salad was okay but lacked flavour (turns out the “dressing” was just balsamic vinegar. Some olive oil wouldn’t hurt.)

Salad with the lot

Salad with the lot ($9.90 basic salad + $5 for two extra proteins + $2 for extra cashews)

Here’s one of the cafe’s recommended salads, the Greek garden salad: garden greens, feta, olives, avocado and balsamic, ordered with extra chicken.

Greek garden salad + chicken

Greek garden salad + chicken

Whole Meal Cafe
6 Flinders Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 9358 3694

Whole Meal Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I love burgers without buns – they’re basically an amazingly tasty salad! I wish more places did them.. Its extra handy if you’re going gluten free too.. I also would have been super grumpy about the overcooked poached egg – the fun part is cutting into the silky yolk!

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