859½ Swarthmore Ave.
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
As Pacific Palisades reopens and customers are once again welcome to dine-in at their favorite spots, Matthew’s Garden Café is back to offer a fresh selection of lunch and breakfast items—with the option to dine socially distantly on a quaint patio.
Before diving into a review of the food, I have to start with the ambiance at the café. From the first step inside, customers are transported a world away from Swarthmore Avenue.
I can’t think of a better description than you feel like you’re sitting in a secret garden. This was my first time at the restaurant and I instantly began to plan a return trip, as I could picture myself enjoying a meal while reading a book.
In fact, this is where the name of the restaurant came from—aiming to surround customers with landscapes and a comfortable setting, creating the feeling of being at home in your own garden.
The ambiance is rounded out with European-inspired decor, including a fountain, brick flooring and displayed “French café” fine china.
And, to help adhere to social distancing measures, Zara Guivi, who owns the restaurant with her husband Matthew, explained that the café has spread out tables into the driveway, separated with umbrellas. Zara said that the expanded seating has been well received within the community, that customers are enjoying being seated in an open space next to the garden.
Zara added that they have one of the prettiest restaurants in the Palisades, touching on the fact that people can wrap up a day at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine and head to Matthew’s Garden Café, as the space shares the same healing ambiance.
The café, which has been a part of the community for about nine years, has developed a reputation for serving imported coffee, paninis and an extensive menu, including vegan soups, omelets and salads, all crafted with organic produce. Zara and Matthew both shared stories about regulars who come in for breakfast and return in the afternoon for a late lunch or early dinner on a daily basis.
Zara explained that the food is made fresh daily—nothing served at the café is pre-made or from a can: “Everything is fresh.”
When asked what the most popular dishes are, Zara and Matthew both mentioned the Chicken Pesto Panini, Melody’s Omelete, Huevos Rancheros and the Jasmine Salad.
Taking their suggestion into account, we started off with the Jasmine Salad—mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, heart of palm, garbanzo beans, pine nuts and dried cranberries with a balsamic dressing.
The tartness of the dressing blended with the ingredients, making for a flavor that was overall sweet and refreshing, nailing the ratio of mixed green to toppings to ensure each bite came packed with a punch of flavor. The salad would make a perfect dish to enjoy on a summer day on the patio.
Next up was the famous Chicken Pesto Panini, crafted with chicken, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, served with a pesto aioli sauce. True to their everything-made-fresh word, I would describe everything on this sandwich as fresh, down to the housemade pesto sauce. The chicken, which was cooked well and remained tender, meshed with the softness of the bread.
Each sandwich comes with a choice of potatoes, fresh fruits or mixed green salad. We went with the potatoes and it was not a mistake: The crispy bites of potato were cooked with bits of peppers, blending together to make a side that was both crunchy and soft.
Then we took a walk on the sweeter side, opting to dive into a plate of Nutella and Strawberries Crêpes. I can sum up the dish in one word: Wow. The crêpe itself was served thick and filled to the brim with toppings, making for a delicious treat.
The plates are served with a choice of fresh fruit or mixed green salad, and this time, we ordered the fresh fruit, which truly was a full medley, featuring bites of everything, including pineapple and strawberry.
Matthew’s Garden Café also offers a selection of daily soups. On the day we dined, it was Chicken Vegetable Soup, which included a wide array of vegetables—mushroom, zucchini, carrot, onion, celery, potato and squash.
The soup was the ultimate comfort food, well seasoned and easy to eat. Each day, the café serves up two kinds of soup, all of which, apart from the vegetable soup, are purees with no cream or broth.
Matthew shared that another popular dish, one that we did not get to try but that I look forward to going back for, are the Quiches: Ham and Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom, and Tomato Basil and Goat Cheese.
In addition to food, Matthew’s Garden Café has also become a local spot for private dinners and events, with everything from weddings to baby and bridal showers taking place after hours. Zara explained that the restaurant is happy to host a minimum of 25 people and maximum of 65—with no venue fee or corkage charge.
“It’s a beautiful place at night with candlelight and wine glasses and the linens,” Zara shared.
Events include a pre-set, three-course meal—appetizer, main dish and dessert—at a “very reasonable price.”
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