Meet Jessica of Gardener’s Lodge, Vegan Cafe & Dairy-Free Cheese Deli, OZ

by | June 10, 2019

Jessica Matino Ndibe is a Mum, Fine Art Photographer, and Restaurateur. Her family is vegan and recently opened a vegan cafe/ deli in one of Sydney’s World Heritage Listed buildings together with their business partner Aldo Cozzi. Jessica has had twenty years of experience in hospitality as well as managing the media for hospitality businesses including her brother Marco Matino’s world famous vegan pizzeria Gigi in Newtown and her business partner’s coffee brand Flying Pig Coffee. Over the years Jessica’s fine art photography has been shortlisted for some of Australia’s most prestigious photography exhibitions and festivals. She has also exhibited her work in solo shows which now form part of private collections in Chicago, London, Singapore, and Sydney. For now, though, Jessica’s main focus is Gardener’s Lodge and bringing all her experience and skills together to create a vegan cafe space which will inspire others to make ethical and more sustainable choices 

Raise Vegan had the chance to chat with Jessica and learn more about the opening of the fabulous Gardener’s Lodge.

vegan cafe
Photo: Alletta Vaandering

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Meet Jessica of Gardener’s Lodge, Vegan Cafe & Dairy-Free Cheese Deli, OZ

Here are the excerpts from the interview.

Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

First, congratulations on the opening of Gardener’s Lodge! You opened in February 2019, how are things developing?

Jessica: Thank you! Things are developing nicely. We are getting busier every week and the team is getting into a nice flow.

Bar at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

Your spot looks simply magical. Can you tell us more about the location & building? 

Jessica: Our spot really is magical, Gardener’s Lodge is a world heritage listed building in Sydney’s beautiful Victoria Park just 3km from Sydney’s CBD. It was built in 1888. The Gardener who used to look after the grounds of Sydney University lived there with his family. 

Jessica & her daughter Erika at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Angela Speranza

Can you tell us more about collaboration with Flying Pig Coffee & Gigi Pizzeria?

Jessica: Aldo Cozzi, founder & owner of Flying Pig Coffee (A rich, flavorful blend he created to work with plant-based milk after going vegan) is our dear friend and business partner at Gardener’s Lodge. My brother Marco Matino owns Gigi Pizzeria in Newtown and designed the menu together with chef Simone Crivello from Gigi. Marco also created some of the heroes of our menu including the lasagne, calzoncino and sticky date pudding, all exclusively made for Gardener’s Lodge. We also serve Gigi’s famous cannoli and tiramisu!

Image provided by Jessica
Lasagna at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe
-Calzoncino at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

Can you tell us about the range of plant-based milk on offer at Gardener’s Lodge? 

Cheese deli at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

Jessica: Together with our barista Steffan, we put a lot of time and thought into the plant-based milk we have on offer. After trying all the best plant-based barista milk on the market, we narrowed it down to the ones we felt complimented our coffee best with stand out flavor and texture. We use Bonsoy, Minor Figures oat milk, Macamilk macadamia milk, and Milk Lab almond milk. 

Inside Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

Can you tell us more about vegan cheeses you feature?

Dilectio dairy free blue at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

Jessica: The vegan cheeses we feature are made by some of Australia’s best ethical and sustainable cheesemakers. We have handpicked our absolute favorites based on exceptional flavor and texture including – Artisa Tasmania who uses sustainable ingredients such as vine ash made from vine off-cuts from a local vegan winery, YAY! Feta, who donate 10% of their profits to Edgar’s mission, Sprout and Kernel who offer package-free bulk cheese. The Vegan Dairy and The Enchanted Spoon who both pack their cheeses in re-usable glass jars and Dilectio Vegan Gourmet who support Moo to Ewe Farm Sanctuary 6

Mushroom Panini at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe
Fritters at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Jessica Matino Ndibe

You yourself are women of many passions and talents!  You are an established photographer, have done media for a number of restaurants, and now an established cafe owner. Can you simply share more about your life and what led to the opening of Gardeners Lodge, as well as, the synergy of all you do with food & media? 

Jessica & her daughter Erika at Gardener’s Lodge
Photo: Angela Speranza

Jessica: I feel the synergy of all I do with food and media was always leading to Gardener’s Lodge. I honestly feel this cafe was my calling, to be able to turn this beautiful space into a welcoming vegan cafe and cheese deli, giving people an immersive food experience which can help them to understand just how good vegan food can be and to inspire them to make choices which are better for humanity, animals and our Earth. 

Jessica & her daughter Erika & husband Charles
Photo: Angela Speranza

We had been looking for a hole-in-the-wall space to open a little espresso bar to showcase Flying Pig Coffee and just how good coffee can be without dairy milk, so when Gardener’s Lodge came up, we knew it was going to be a much bigger undertaking, but also knew that it had to be done, we put an application in for the space and after a few weeks, City of Sydney Council got back to us, saying it was ours!


Ever since I was thirteen, I started looking into ways I could help the environment, volunteering for environmental organizations and making changes to my lifestyle. A year later, I stopped eating meat. My concern for the environment, animals and humanitarian crises were portrayed through my art in high school and over three years at Meadowbank TAFE, where I majored in Fine Art Photography. During my years at art school and beyond, as well as practicing art, I worked in hospitality, gaining experience in many aspects of the industry including working in cafes, fine dining restaurants, catering, and functions, working as a barista and eventually moving into marketing and social media. It has been great to draw upon my experience and what has driven me over the years and bring it all together at Gardener’s Lodge.

Have you visited Gardener’s Lodge? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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Annika Lundkvist

Director of Public Relations & Media| [email protected]



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