Delicious vegan & vegetarian food
Run mostly by volunteers, the minute you step inside the doors, the rich aromas and overwhelming sense of calm will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to a quiet corner of India.
Managed by Abhay and his wife Jayanti, The Bhakti Tree not only offers wonderful vegan and vegetarian food, both at their store front in Mayfield and on the University of Newcastle campus during semester, they also run yoga, meditation and cooking classes, offering something for everyone.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Abhay: I originate from New Zealand and I come from a horticultural background. Nearly 25 years ago I met a Hare Krishna follower on a farm I was working on over there, and he was very happy, peaceful and very knowledgeable, all the things I was wanting to be. I was brought up in a very materialistic way and I was always feeling stressed out, I had anxiety and I was very uncertain on what the world was all about. He invited me to go and check out a Hare Krishna farm and when I went there, it was such a wonderful experience. I helped them set up an organic vegetable garden on the farm and I just loved the food that they cooked.
Some say that Hare Krishna is like a cooking religion because food tends to be involved with everything that they do. I was brought up around eating meat and this was completely vegetarian, but I loved the food and I didn’t regret or miss the meat at all. I also realised the medium of food is such a wonderful way to build relationships with people and bring people together. The giving and receiving food is like a loving exchange, and I found that really satisfying.
From there I got more into cooking and learned more about Hare Krishna. I started traveling around New Zealand and feeding people at festivals. Then about five years ago I got married in New Zealand and I was looking to live a more simple and natural life, but unfortunately, there weren’t any self-sufficient farm communities that suited what I was looking for. The closest one was here in the Hunter Valley and so because of that we came over here. We spent a couple of years on the farm and then this Bhakti Tree started happening, so we got involved with helping to set it up. Now we go once a week to the farm to recharge our batteries. I enjoy life on the farm, but then I think about other people and wanting to help others.
What you do here at The Bhakti Tree?
We try to do a variety of things, because you know, not everyone is just focused on food, so hopefully most members of the community can find something interesting here. We do yoga and meditation, we discuss philosophy, and we do some cooking classes every now and then. So we try and do more than just the restaurant so people can come together and make new friends. When University semester is on, we feed 150 to 200 staff and students three days a week. We just ask for $6 donation and they just chip in what they can and we give them a feed.
It’s not really a normal kind of business. We source as many of our dairy products, vegetables and stuff like that from the farm, to cut down costs, and we’re mainly volunteer based. This makes the cost of the food less for the public, so everyone can pretty much have a feed here.
Tell us a bit more about the yoga, meditation and cooking classes?
It’s two nights a week, Tuesday and Wednesday night, from 6 till 7.30, and we have about four or five difference teachers who rotate and take turns, and they all have their own individual flair. We have Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, all sorts really. It’s not a competitive thing, someone can come if it’s their first time, we especially advertise that Tuesday nights are good for beginners. We have all types of people come, sometimes we get quite young kids and sometimes more elderly people, beginners to experts, all kinds of people come for different reasons. We then have a meal afterwards so people don’t have to worry about cooking dinner after a hard day’s work. People often come here straight from work, and if you do some yoga and then go buy some fast food afterwards you sort of counteract it. This way they also get to meet up with people they know and make new friends.
For the cooking classes, we usually do one every couple of months. We use to do more, but now our schedule is quite full and my wife told me if I do anymore she was going to leave me and go back to New Zealand (laughs).