‘Hygge’ is among Collins Dictionary’s Top 10 words of 2016. The Danish well-being concept (pronounced HOO-gah) inspired the launch of a new foodie destination in Bendigo’s CBD. Hoo-gah cafe chef Gina Triolo explains, “It’s about spending quality time with good friends; surrounding yourself with things you love in a warm social atmosphere.” In the famously uber-happy nation of Denmark, guests are welcomed on equal terms. Celebration of the ‘everyday’ is a way of life where fuss-free get-togethers are a lifestyle, not a luxury.
I tested these claims on my first visit to Hoo-gah. To begin, I performed a regular manoeuvre of mine that belies my age and experience – the unsuccessful opening of a door. When will I learn to follow signs indicating ‘Push’, ‘Pull’ or ‘Slide’? A waitress rendered assistance – laughing with me, not at me (I chose to believe). Close to Saturday arvo closing time, our party of three settled at a little window table. The warm welcome suggested ‘browse the menu and specials board, have a glass of water, take your time…’ Ice broken, the second test was passed, with our trio including my two mothers-in-law (one original, one step) instantly bonding in a chorus of, “This looks nice!” Comfy, contemporary décor provided quirky features to keep chit chat flowing. The menu was brimming with promise.
Signature dishes such as the Chorizo Scotch Egg and the Buddha Bowl (a medley of seasonal vegies, proteins and grains) were tempting. M-I-L #1 went with the latter. She was told a few ingredients had run out but could be substituted with a bespoke mix. The resulting combo went down a treat. I was richly rewarded for my choice of the Pulled Pork Noodle Salad. One of the finest bowls of salad I’ve ever been served – it was a riot of colour, flavour and texture. Finely-shredded elements (vegies, fresh herbs, vermicelli, nuts) made it easy to chew’n’chat. Guilt-free, healthy options aren’t the ‘poor relations’ here.
“I’m really interested in food that’s pretty pared down, almost naked,” Triolo says. ‘We make everything except the bread (local artisan Wild & Tamed sourdough) so we know exactly what’s in every dish. Chicken and eggs are free-range.” With a range of ‘special needs’ at our table, another test was passed easily. Triolo is experienced at catering for dietary foibles, adding, “Whether vegan or for an intolerance, people don’t feel uncomfortable when ordering.” Such dishes are no token offering, but as enviable as any other and not the same old predictable options. The Pear and Raspberry Bread was savoured by M-I-L #2, herself an expert baker of sweet delights. There’s smoothies, shakes, juices, local wines, and coffee from Malmsbury roaster Moto Bean. Enjoy a hearty celebration or just grab a magazine and light snack.
Open for breakfast and lunch. Also take-away and catering.
3 Mitchell Street (Shop 10 Fountain Court), Bendigo.
Phone (03) 5441 2488 or check them out on Facebook.
Written by Chris Lambie