Hong Kong isn’t necessarily known for its abundant local produce, but Fresca is a shining beacon of hope for a growing farm-to-table movement. This cute, health-conscious cafe has been serving up nutritious dishes using organic produce from their own garden as well as fresh vegetables from the neighborhood open market, providing Central with a much-needed healthy lunch spot for salads, soups and homemade vegetarian fare.
Owner, Ivy Chow, is the driving force behind the cafe’s nutrition-first philosophy, having discovered the major benefits of clean eating after battling several health scares of her own. After retiring from a career in HR, Ivy started Fresca as a way to spread her passion for wholesome, nutritious and delicious foods being the key to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
As a social advocate, Ivy also strives to keep prices low, a tactic that’s more than paid off. The cafe is crowded most weekdays with residents and office workers in the area seeking a healthy, filling lunch for less than HK$80 – a rare find in Hong Kong’s Central district.
Despite being located on one of the area’s busiest cross-sections, Fresca manages to strip away the noise and chaos outside, with welcoming staff and a cosy ambience to make customers feel right at home. Daily specials are handwritten on a blackboard and quirky homemade decorations are scattered around the tables and countertops, from pottery figurines to miniature farms displayed inside glass jars.
Downstairs, the salad bar invites customers to mix and match their own lunchboxes, available for takeaway or dining in, while upstairs is a relaxing seating area for those who choose to linger over their meal.
Colourful, vibrant and packed full of protein, Fresca’s salad bar is a vegetarian’s dream: bowls upon bowls of spicy tofu, tahini zucchini and eggplant, roasted pumpkin with black sesame, smashed chickpeas, Greek salad, and beetroot with candied walnuts. Dishes rotate daily and new varieties are constantly thrown into the mix.
Soups are just as delicious, deeply warming and comforting particularly when the weather dips. Dig into a vibrant roasted tomato soup – a cream-free blend that highlights the natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes, the roasted broccoli packed full of greens, or the thick and creamy roasted eggplant and tomatoes.
Meanwhile, the dessert and bakery section offers up fresh treats baked daily, including the popular gluten-free and steamed muffins in a rotating roster of flavours such as mango apple, banana cinnamon, black currant orange, spinach orange and chocolate cayenne. These nutrition-packed treats make a virtually guilt-free breakfast or sweet snack during the middle of the day.
Fresca’s multicultural staff are encouraged to share new recipes every day and the influences can be seen in dishes such as Korean bean paste tofu, Middle Eastern lentil salad, and a take on raw pad Thai. With such diverse offerings on the menu, each return visit brings a new surprise.
Ivy’s friends advised her against setting up a cafe post-retirement, due to sky-high rents and the unpredictability of the restaurant business, but so far, things are working in her favour – a small but hopeful sign that the city is slowly moving towards clean eating with a renewed focus on local farming and sustainability.