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Penny University: Food to go with a healthy twist

Natassja Hoogstad Hay

It’s not easy to find a decent breakfast or lunch when you’re in a rush. The quick options are usually the least healthy.

But Penny University in Kingston is changing all that with a new takeaway menu focusing on fast yet healthy and delicious food to go. This pared back version of their full menu is designed to be prepared in a flash for busy, hangry people.

I head there for lunch one workday to find out more about their new menu. I started working in Kingston recently so I’m still getting to know all the local lunch spots. The coffee from Penny University is consistently excellent, but this is my first time eating there.

Restaurant manager Emma Roff greets me at the café to tell me a bit about the menu.

“We’ve always done takeaway food from the kitchen,” she says. “The idea was to give people something they can grab on the go that tastes good, is healthy and affordable.”

All the takeaway salads and sandwiches are made fresh every day. Takeaway items are ready at 7.30am so you can grab breakfast or even lunch while you’re picking up your morning coffee. There are delicious sweet treats to choose from too.

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The menu overall is fresh and healthy, with bursts of Asian and Middle Eastern flavour. I’m happy to see that the menu caters for dietary requirements too, with lots of gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian options.

I’ll be back to try the breakfast menu next time I’m faced with an empty fridge on my way to work. The chia and rice pudding ($10) and seasonal fruit and toasted granola and coconut yoghurt ($10) are ready to be plucked straight from the fridge.

Hot items like the Egg n’ Bacon roll (fried egg, Pialligo estate bacon and chilli jam roll, $10) or the avo on toast (avocado, goats cheese and lemon on rye, $8) are made fresh to order, and can be whipped up in five minutes, about the same wait time as a coffee.

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As for the lunch menu, it features a selection of sandwiches and salads loaded with lots of fresh fillings and you can grab these straight from the fridge. If you’re after a gluten free version, the kitchen will make a fresh sandwich for you.

I decide to go with one of the vegetarian sandwiches – the aptly named ‘avo sanga’ – filled with house made zaatar spread, avocado, goats cheese, tomato and kale ($11). I order the gluten free version (add an extra $1 for gluten free bread). The sourdough grain sandwich in the fridge looks excellent, but gluten free bread normally can’t compare.

My sandwich arrives and I’m a bit surprised. It looks like, well, regular bread. I have to double check that it’s gluten free (it is).

After I get over the shock of this amazing bread, I dig in. It’s delicious.

The vegetables are fresh, and the goats cheese has a lemony, salty flavour that complements the zaatar’s nuttiness and crunch. At $11, these sandwiches are great value and will keep you full until dinner. I’ll be back to try the chicken sanga and the mighty vege soon, and if you’re wondering about that bread, it’s from Canberra gluten free bakery Le Bakehouse Exquisite. They don’t have many stockists, but the folks at Penny will happily order some in for you to pick up.

I also try two of the salads (both $15). First up is the quinoa tabouleh with charred corn, lettuce, semi dried tomatoes, asparagus and Persian feta. This salad is very fresh and green, a good option for a light lunch after an indulgent weekend.

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My favourite of the two is the Szechuan master stock poached chicken, crisp fresh vegetables and apple tossed with toasted sesame dressing and crushed peanuts. The chicken is tender, it’s well balanced and the sesame flavour from the dressing makes it a bit different.

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I’m sent on my way with a salted caramel and chocolate raw ball ($4.50), which turns out to be the perfect afternoon snack. They’re a perfect sweet hit but small enough that they’re not too naughty. If you’re thinking about picking up takeaway with a few friends, call ahead to order and avoid the lunch rush. 

the essentials

What: Penny University
Where: 15 Kennedy Street, Kingston
When: Open 7 days from 7am to 4pm
Contact: (02) 6162 1500
Web: pennyuniversitycafe.com

The author dined as a guest of Penny University but her opinions remain her own.

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Natassja Hoogstad Hay

Natassja Hoogstad Hay is a communications professional working in Canberra. An unashamed foodie, she loves cooking and going out to eat, and has a special love of coffee and wine. She’s obsessed with social media (handy in her field!) and is working on perfecting her Instagram game. In her spare time you might find her at a yoga class, cosied up on the couch with a book or the TV, or outside taking photos of beautiful Canberra sunsets. More about the Author

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