July 16, 2019
Issue 07 2019

Going Plant-Based? Meet Barley

The doors to new Palmerston North plant-based cafe ‘Barley’ were opened by store owners Matt McNelis and his partner Freya Thompson in May.

Matt has been working in the hospitality industry for around 15 years and is using his creativity as a chef to come up with zero-waste, vegan meals.


“It’s definitely a lot more challenging than cooking a steak. To create something solely from plants, herbs, and spices requires more trial and error but the taste is bloody good,” he said.

Freya is a health coach and personal trainer and says she has seen some of the best results in her trainees once consuming a predominantly plant-based diet.


“That’s not just weight loss, but also, gut issues, fatigue, and people riddled with arthritis.


“I’ve seen people go from wheelchairs to now training for the Machu Picchu track.”


The power couple combined their interests and business desire to create the comfort food eatery they saw a demand for. Nearly 300,000 New Zealanders have turned to a vegan diet in the last 12 months.


“We want to help people realise how easy it is, how delicious it is, and how great they can feel,” said Freya.

They were aware their eatery was a huge gamble, being in the heart of dairy country, however, surprisingly, only 50% of their clientele are vegans themselves.


“Our branding is all about whole foods, as people are becoming more aware of where their food is coming from and what is actually in it,” Matt said.

Barley’s prices have been raining positive feedback.


“We didn’t want price to be a barrier for people and want others to feel encouraged to try it. The positives of being plant based is that running costs in the kitchen are 30% less than a conventional eatery,” said Freya.


Barley is also zero-waste, ensuring all the plastic wrapped over produce is sent back to the suppliers.


“I don’t care if my fresh produce comes in a cardboard box. I source as many of my ingredients as I can fresh and locally,” Matt said.


Try the goods for yourself between Tuesday and Sunday on Church Street, Palmerston North.