Pana Chocolate – Raw, Healthy, Handmade & Guilt-free!

panda 5 rating

Pana Chocolate was founded by Pana Barbounis – who is passionate about raw and slow-cooked food – and following on from the success of his 45 gram raw, vegan chocolate bars has opened his first standalone raw-dessert shop.

Pana Chocolate is a wonderful addition to the Church Street, Richmond area and serves up healthy handmade raw, delicious tasting and looking desserts, as well interestingly flavoured chocolate bars. Pana Chocolate uses natural, vegan and organic ingredients like cacao, nuts, coconut and 100% pure essential oils to create wonderful and unique flavour combinations – which include Fig + Wild Orange, Sour Cherry + Vanilla, Rose and Mint just to name a few.

Prepare to be overwhelmed with the number of selections here which leaves you wanting to try out one of each. As mentioned before no desserts are made or sweetened with sugar but are all natural and made from plant-based, organic ingredients sourced from all around the world. Cacao beans come from the Amazon, Coconut Oil has been cold pressed in the Philippines,  Dark Agave Nectar comes from Mexico, Cinnamon is organic and certified from Sri Lanka (where I am from!!), Cacao Butter is organic, cold pressed and fair trade from Peru and organic carob comes from Spain.

The space is simple and clean – with most of its offerings for takeaway patrons – however if you did want to eat in there is a row of seats available by the window looking out onto Church street. I love the décor of Pana Chocolate – there is an entire wall that is covered with clipboards that have cute, inspirational quotes and sayings on them. This adds color, brightness and wow factor in such an easy and simple manner. Such an awesome idea – Love it!

There are 10 different types of chocolate bars to choose from– Eighty (80 % Cacao), Raw Cacao, Orange, Coconut + Goji, Fig + Wild Orange, Rose, Sour Cherry +Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nuts and Mint. All chocolates are low in GI, have no dairy or soy, are Gluten Free and are handmade. In fact they are all handmade in a small scale kitchen located at the back of the shop. A major difference with these chocolates is that you can envision and see the love and care that has been placed into each bar of chocolate or dessert for that matter – down to the packaging and wrapping of each individual piece – it has been done by hand and provides a human connection.

I have tried the Sour Cherry + Vanilla, as well as the Fig + Wild Orange flavours. Between those two the Sour Cherry + Vanilla would have to be my favourite – the chocolate is smooth, silky and not overly rich and literally melts in your mouth – with the sour cherry adding a great tangy sensation that glides over your tastebuds. The Fig + Wild Orange was also great – the combination works brilliantly together and if you are into the citrus flavours this would be one for you to try.

The piece of resistance at Pana Chocolate is the cabinet of goodies. The first row is full of their raw cheesecake / desserts of the day which are in a slice format, that can range from Raspberry Ripe (their version of a Cherry Ripe), Chocolate Strawberry & Rose, Spiced Apple, Blueberry & Ganache, Banana & Chocolate – these range from $6.50 to $8.50.
Their second row has smaller bite sized treats such as Lamingtons, Lemon Slice (this is new!), Pana Pop (more on this later), Brownie, Vespa Wheel (their version of a Wagon Wheel – complete with a buckwheat wafer biscuit and a soft coconut marshmallow centre encased in a gooey raspberry chia jam and dipped in cacao) and Fudge just to name a few – these range from $3.50 to $5.50.
The third row is full of individual raw chocolates like hazelnut mousse, coconut barrels and truffles – in flavours such as Coconut & Mint Cream, Rose & Pistachio, Hazelnut Praline, Sneakers (yep spelt like this), Lavender & Macqui, Mango & Salted Caramel and Coconut Barrel – there are more flavours in store!
At the very bottom of the cabinet are their chocolate bars in all the 10 flavours mentioned above for sale ($6.50).
There are also other healthy goodies for sale – from coconut water, coconut + cacao balls to their very own hot chocolate sealed with the pana heart of approval.

After marvelling at the cabinet of goodies and spending a good 5 minutes oohing and aahing I decided to ask the friendly staff member of what she thought would be good try out and settled on the Pana Pop as well as the Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice.

The Pana Pop – was a white chocolate cheesecake with a berry centre coated in delicious cacao – represented a mini Magnum. From the very first bite you could tell this would be a memorable treat – the soft textured coating coupled with the creamy white chocolate cheesecake and zing from the berries worked perfectly together. You could almost eat the entire Pana Pop in one mouthful – but I would advise against this and instead treasure every mouthful; or you could just order another Pana Pop!

The Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice was another winner. There were three distinct layers – the bottom layer being a combination of cashew and brazil nuts, the centre layer being the mint and the top layer representing raspberry. The consistency of all layers was dense yet smooth – with the perfect level of sweetness across all three layers. I couldn’t really taste the mint flavour that strongly – although the strip of green at the very top held quite the minty flavour. I love the use of the fresh raspberries through the raspberry layer which not only added texture but extra flavour. The base was wholesome and added further texture and flavour bringing the whole slice together.

I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Pana Chocolate – I actually perched myself in a corner seat by the window and enjoyed these treats whilst working away on my laptop. On my way out I ordered a lamington to take away (as I had been told by a friend that these were simply superb!) which was packed away in a takeaway bag and sealed with a massive heart sticker – the Pana symbol – which I thought was really cute.

Whether you are into healthy eating, have certain dietary requirements or not – Pana Chocolate is definitely a place to check out. It produces great tasting chocolate that have been lovingly prepared using quality ingredients for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – The dessert menu changes daily but no doubt whatever dessert treat you get it will be delicious!
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Simple, Cosy and Enticing
Standout Dish: Pana Pop
Service: Very very friendly and helpful (especially when you are overwhelmed with choice and don’t know what you want)
Restaurant Details and Location:
panachocolate.com
491 Church St, Richmond

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panachocolate
Twitter: @pana_chocolate
Instgram:pana_chocolate

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Stables of Como – Historical Country Style Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

The ICKE and IGBY group – who are behind the popular Friends of Mine (Richmond), the great Snow Pony (Balwyn) and one of my favourites Porgie and Mr Jones (Hawthorn) – have opened up a café in the former stables building in the heritage listed and historic Como House – called Stables of Como, located in Toorak.

The Stables of Como café is located at the rear of the main Como House building and is situated in a secluded courtyard area and reminds you of visiting a farmhouse. The aim was a country house style chic with a rustic charm and from the moment you step foot inside you realise this brief has definitely been met. Stables is very popular and usually there is a wait for a table, the atmosphere inside is lively and fun – you can tell people just genuinely enjoy being here.

The theme is white, green and wooden – from the 6 metre long rustic counter which houses sweets, cakes and slices of almost every type and variety – to the tables, lights and coffee machine! Back to the counter of sweetness – there are things such as Raspberry and Pistachio Tea Cakes, Christmas Mince Pies, Honey Joys, Lamingtons, Giant Freckles, Choco Crackles and soooo much more!! They provide not only a colourful but enticing look complete with flowers and greenery, that you are almost tempted to skip eating a proper meal and just ask for one of each. There is also an option of high tea available as well as picnic baskets to take out into the gardens and enjoys. There are even rugs and Frisbees included! How awesome is that!

There is a homely feel attached to the Stables, it looks like a cross between a country kitchen and an olden day tearoom, with modern accents along the way.

The menu is from Jason Flygenring and covers the basics such as Toasted English Muffins, Bircher Muesli, Granola, Toast and Egg anyway you like it. There are also Crumpets available however they aren’t made in house and seem to be store bought. Most of the produce comes from the venues very own garden – there are chickens that lay the eggs that are used in the egg dishes! There are Stables Staples such as Smashed avocado, Toasted banana bread, Three egg omelette and Gardeners Breakfast which their take on the Big Breakfast.

The Lunch menu consists of Toasted Piadini – Honey roasted pumpkin and Prroscuitto, Baguettes – Ham as well as roasted veggies and Sourdough Sandwiches – Poached chicken and rare porterhouse beef are options. There are also smaller dishes such as Bruschetta, Soup, Smoked Salmon and Quiches as well as Main plates which include Lamb Loin, Tuna Nicoise and a CapeGrim fillet minute steak.

As mentioned before there is High tea (Devonshire Tea) available and the cost is $15 per person – and you get the famous Aggie’s lemonade scones, tea or coffee and you get to select one Jill Cross chocolate truffles to finish.

To start off with I order a vanilla bean milkshake and A orders an OJ. The milk shake comes out in a metal cup with extra milk on the side if you want to dilute the milkshake. The syrups are made in house and the milkshake was delicious and you could taste the freshness of the vanilla bean. Just what was needed on this warm morning. A’s OJ came served in a brown glass bottle with a straw and was fresj;u squeezed.

For food I decided to go with the Smashed Avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast.  The dish came out with the toast acting as the base, with the avocado placed on top, followed by the thyme buttered mushrooms and topped with a poached egg (this was an addition I made) and finished with the feta and basil sprinkled around. The combination of all these ingredients was really good – the flavours were perfectly balanced and the mushrooms were fresh. My only gripe was that the toast was a tad bit hard. The feta was creamy and tangy and worked well with the basil and avocado.

A had the eggs from happy chickens folded with herbs and served on toasted, buttered ciabatta.  I loved who the omelette looked when it came out – the way in which it was cooked it resembled a rose or flower, with the herbs sprinkled on top. A dish that not only looked great but tasted the same.

The staff are generally friendly and knowledgeable, although the first waitress we had seemed kind of lost and had to take our order twice as she didn’t get it the first time.

I do have one gripe though – the very first time I went to eat at Stables was with my family for my sister’s birthday, and we arrived on a Sunday at 9:30am only to find that it was opened at 10am. My sister had to go to work by 1pm, so we would need to have left by 12pm at the latest. We were located at the main entrance which required us to walk thru the gardens to get to to the cafe, and this entrance was opened at 10:10am and by the time we got to putting our names down for a table of 4, the list was quite long, as the side entrance to where the cafe is situated had been opened at 10am. I do understand that there is a list that people put their names down for, and I explained to the girl at the front that we would need to be out by 12pm at the latest and she said she would wait and see the best that they could do. I also explained that we were here at 9:30am and we were at the main entrance which was clearly opened much later than the side entrance, but she really wasn’t listening. There were many tables of 2 going at a rapid pace, but after an hour of waiting and seeing lots of sets of 2’s we had to leave. It was really disappointing and I guess that is why it has taken me so long to actually come back and give this place a try. I get that busy café’s have a process that they follow, but I have seen other café’s be accommodating in circumstances like this, and Stables just wasn’t.

So just to note my rating that I have given is to do with the food, venue and atmosphere of the place, and not really for service.

Overall, Stables is a great addition to the historic Como House Building and I do love that they allowed people to have access to this beautiful site. The Picnic Basket idea is a wonderful idea and I think I will come back to try it out – along with more of the sweets!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is a Breakfast menu served all day, a Lunch Menu and an Afternoon Tea Menu as well as a High Tea Menu which can be found at http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!menu/ckiy
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Cosy and makes you feel at home. Great for a summery day to sit outside.
Standout Dish: Any of the sweets that are located on the 6 metre long rustic counter!
Service: Friendly and Knowledgeable in general, but had a pretty bad experience the first time I went there.
Online Booking: No. There are generally queues on most days. 
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!home/mainPage
Corner Williams Road & Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 6886

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Stables of Como on Urbanspoon