EAT Magazine January|February 2020

Page 14

The Dream Café


There’s nothing quite like Bunny’s Nook Kitchen in Esquimalt. I’ve never been a fan of anything cheesecake or vegan. Bunny’s Nook Kitchen changed my mind. “Try this cashew lime cheesecake bite,” says Jenny Smart, handing me a small square. She exudes a particular sincerity and warmth that makes me want to sample her food, whatever it is. The sharp bite of the lime balanced with the thick, sweet cashew and the just-right crust— it was exquisite. Bunny’s Nook Kitchen opened early November 2019 in Esquimalt, serving breakfast, lunch, and a tasty array of baked, mostly gluten-friendly, maple syrup-sweetened, and vegan fare. The first meal I enjoyed in her casual and welcoming space was the Vegan Breaky Bowl. I figured if she could completely overturn my life story about cheesecake, she was probably onto SHERRI MARTIN

a few other things. Plus, as I mentioned, something is compelling about Jenny—her kindness? Openness? Talent? The Vegan Breaky Bowl has oven-roasted potatoes with sautéed vegetables, Very Good Butcher savoury sausage, tofu drizzled with a vegan cashew hollandaise with just the right lemon brightness, and kale pesto. The pesto includes nutritional yeast—it is salty, smooth, and yummy. Paired with a drip Caffe Fantastico? That’s a good morning, any day of the week.

Oven roas ted potatoes topped with sautéed vegg ies, a choice of Red Barn sausage or Ver y Good Butcher sausage, free run eggs, tofu driz zled with vegan hollandaise and kale pes to. I’ve been in three times since Bunny’s Kitchen opened. It’s always lively. “I thought I’d just have a quiet start to my little café,” Smart admits. Her life plan had not included being a café owner and operator. She grew up in an unstable family of five, where dinner was a box of Kraft Dinner, some hamburger patties, and a can of corn. “I didn’t expect much from my life. We were very poor.” As a kid, she was part of the Big Brothers & Sisters program. Her Big Sister Audrey taught her how to bake, roller skate, and swim. This was pivotal. Smart left home at 14 and at 18 started working in pubs. Whenever she liked something, she would figure out how to make it at home. Curious, attentive, and with an evident love of delicious, simple cooking, all of this is reflected in the food and feel you’ll enjoy at Bunny’s Kitchen. The menu is two-thirds vegan and one third not vegan at all. Hello Triple Garlic Turkey Burger, Chicken Tacos, Breakfast Sandwich, and more. “I want everyone to enjoy eating here. You’re a vegan? Great. You like your meat? Come on in.” And, wow, her Mocha Bars are solid, satisfying, and decadent, the Lavender Lemon Bars are luscious with a zing, and the vegan Chocolate Orange Cheesecake is a showstopper. Smart’s “Let’s just all eat together” attitude is refreshing. She played roller derby for six years, and that profound sense of community was really huge, she says. When she met her husband and had three children, she got more into healthy food. But a derby accident, motherhood, and also having a stressful and sedentary job at Peers Victoria lead to dramatic weight gain. She explored sugar-free eating. She also participated in Peers Victoria’s small business program and gives profound credit to her husband and everyone at Peers Victoria, including Julie, the program facilitator and her mentor, for giving her the support and knowledge to launch Bunny’s Nook Kitchen. “I didn’t get any nutrients as a kid, so I’m making up for it. I eat the garnish off the


chicken wings plates when I go out for a bite with friends,” she laughs. Her original idea was to have a kid’s café, somewhere parents could have excellent food and also be comfortable taking their kids. She was attending Strong Start with one of her children at George Jay Elementary, and other parents were floored that Jenny took her kids to restaurants regularly.

Jenny Smar t, Owner Bunny’s Kitchen