|Mana! Fast Slow Food|
|February 29, 2012|
Eat Like it Matters
The long wait is over. What has been about four years in the making is finally here. But Mana, the new healthy fast food place, isn’t like your average vegetarian joint. Founders, Bobsy and Christian G Mongendre have gone to great lengths to make this new restaurant as sustainable as possible, really pushing the envelope in the eco department.
The conscious lifestyle that Mana promotes hopes to usher in a fresh breed of business that is not only aligned to spiritual values beyond profit but is also revolutionary in terms of creating consumer awareness.
“It all started to come together last August, after many years of planning,” says Bobsy, who has made himself a name in Hong Kong as a pioneer of the green movement. “I met Christian [Mongendre] and then I met Nathan, our head chef. And then we found this location, all within a month! When Christian returned to Hong Kong again, he started talking to people, telling them that he wanted to create this vegetarian fast food place.”
“So everyone pointed me towards Bobsy,” Mongendre, who was trained as a vegetarian health food chef in France, chimes in, “telling me that I had to meet this guy.”
“And I heard the same,” Bobsy continues. “Everyone was asking me if I had met Christian. So we met up, and he was the first person who said something that was very aligned with my vision of creating a fast slow food concept. And off we went. I had already been scanning the neighbourhood for two years, but it just so happened that after I met Christian, this place came up. It just felt right”
“And we signed the same week we met,” Mongendre nods approvingly, revealing that he has always wanted to open up a restaurant and own a chain of small businesses.
The series of serendipitous events eventually led the two entrepreneurs to create Mana. And thankfully they did, as the place is not only a dream come true for people who want healthier food options in Central, but it is also a haven for like-minded people.
Mana’s outdoor seating area is decorated with reclaimed timber and organic tiles from Bali, and in the Babylon backyard people can while away and enjoy a glass of organic wine.
“From the beginning we’ve aligned ourselves to create a business that has values beyond the dollar sign,” says Bobsy. “We have three bottom lines, people, planet and profit (PPP). We’ve invested all our money in making this place eco-friendly. We have an eco-friendly toilet that saves 85% on the flush. We’ve used reclaimed wood everywhere. We used organic tiles, energy-saving lights, and all our packaging is revolutionary. This is Hong Kong’s first biodegradable coffee cup. It’s made from PLA, which is a vegetable derived material. We also have paper straws. The people aspect is how we treat our staff and how we treat our customers. So again we go to extraordinary measures to do this. We’re all working five days a week. So our staff has two days off to pursue their passion and spend time with their family. We are encouraging them to learn about this lifestyle.”
One of Mana’s specialties is its flats, which is a pioneering concept in Hong Kong. The veggie delights are organic wholesome flatbreads topped with savoury herbs and olive oil, layered with mouth-watering toppings of one’s choice and wrapped to go. It is the perfect healthy alternative to pizza, and a great option for late night after-party snacks. People can choose from toppings, such as haloumi cheese, spinach, avocado, tomato, potatoes, fries, hummus, roasted veggies, egg and spring onion. There are wholemeal and gluten-free versions too, and flats cost HK$65-HK$80, depending on the toppings.
Other tasty treats include tofu and haloumi burgers, fries, dhal, yummy salads and soups. Furthermore, the place offers what only very few or no other places in Hong Kong manage to propose, including raw ice cream and raw desserts, such as cakes, brownies and chocolate truffles.
All is complemented with juices, organic beers and organic wine, as well as free filtered water for all, which everyone can freely help themselves to.
“Our chef Nathan has been very clear on working with organic farmers and organic wheatgrass producers,” says Bobsy. “It’s all local. Even our soap is handmade in Hong Kong. It’s not just about business. We’re breaking new ground here.”
Furthermore, the selection is deliberately less is more. “The idea of coming into a place that has so much choice subconsciously stresses us out,” Bobsy continues. “So there is just a handful of juices, a handful of flats, a handful of salads.”
“We can really control the quality and the freshness of our produce better,” Mongendre adds.
What’s next? Are there plans for more Manas in the city? “The plan is for it to be a chain and to have Manas all over Hong Kong,” says Bobsy. “They don’t have to be this big, because this is the flagship. But we want to open the next one as soon as we can. It’s operated by Babylon, and the idea is to open a Babylon lounge sometime in the future.”
Mana is open seven days a week, and current opening hours are from 12pm – 10pm. The plan however is to open for breakfast and also late into the night.