Sunday, December 07, 2008

December 3, 2008: Gujju's Cafe and Chaat House

When Aduki's Melbourne Veg Food Guide came out, I didn't expect it would tell us much we didn't already know. After all, we knew all about The Vegie Bar, The Vegie Hut, Soulfood, Bowl of Soul, Trippytaco, La Panella, Shakahari, Enlightened Cuisine, Bodhi, Lord of the Fries, Bo de Trai, Invita, Mr Natural, The Moroccan Soup Bar, Gopal's, The Tofu Shop, Soulmama, Lentil as Anything, Vege2Go, Vegetarian Nirvana and White Lotus - plus places like Las Vegan, Plush Pizza, Fo Guang Yuan and Ganesh that we've yet to blog about - how much more could Melbourne have to offer?

Quite a lot as it turns out. The best thing about the Veg Guide is that it identifies vego places lurking in all kinds of Melbourne suburbs - and in regional Victoria. There are many, many places to discover. So this week we decided to start discovering them, turning a standard Wednesday night into a mini-adventure to Melbourne's south-east. The destination: Gujju's Cafe and Chaat House in Malvern East. Gujurat, in western India, is almost entirely vegetarian, and is famous for its veg-cuisine.

Gujju's, in south-eastern Melbourne, is entirely vegetarian and deserves to be famous for its thalis and chaat. It's a fairly unassuming place - concrete floors, plain wooden furniture and a tv in the corner pumping out Indian news. The menu is pretty simple: choose from around a dozen chaat options, including potato dumplings, lentil cakes, soups, puri and many others; or just dive in to the all you can eat thali.

Of course, we chose the thali: undhiyu, daal, kadhi, pickle, salad, roti, thepla, a curry of the day (palak paneer in our case), dessert of the day, buttermilk and a few little fried delights that I can't name. And all of it is wonderful. The soup comes in spicy and sweet versions - both perfect for dunking roti into, the battery fried treats concealed roasted chillies and a mashed vegie filling, the pickles were salty and sharp, the daal was chunky and flavoursome, the undhiyu lightly spiced and filled with fresh vegies and the palak paneer was just heavenly. One of the finest palak paneers that I've tasted. And I tasted quite a bit - getting a couple of top-ups and sneaking a bite of Cindy's. The breads were fresh, hot and plentiful - everything was just wonderful. We ordered mango lassis to drink - thick, tasty and cooling.

Even the buttermilk, which I've never been a fan of, was drinkable. The dessert was a tiny plate of semolina-based sweetness - a nice little end to a ridiculously good meal.

It's not the cheapeast thali around ($16.90), but it's more than just a simple thali - it's an all you can eat feast! Every few minutes the friendly staff stopped by out table offering us more roti, more fried treats, more curry, more soup - they seemed almost disappointed when I finally declared that I could eat no more. As well as endlessly offering us food, the staff were really helpful - pointing out to Cindy which of the dishes were likely to test her spice-eating abilities and which were going to hit the spot.

To sum things up: this place is a hidden jewel, easily accessible by public transport (#3 tram or Caulfield train station), overflowing with stunning vegetarian Indian food. Make the trip people, it's well worth it!

Address: 1/131 Waverley Road, East Malvern
Phone: 9571 1188
Price: thalis $16.90, chaat $3.50-$7.90


  1. I have wanted to visit here since I first read the review - the all you can eat element really appeals!

  2. wow, sounds good. must remember this

  3. Sounds great - albeit a bit far flung - need to try and remember it when over that side of town - I admire you two for heading off after work on your adventures!

  4. Lisa, I reckon it's the most generous all-you-can-eat place I've been too. If only I could eat more. :-)

    It was, Ran! Definitely worth filing away.

    Johanna, though the travel takes a little time, it's less tiring than the weeknight cooking I've been known to subject myself to. :-)

  5. Will definitely have to try next time I'm in Melbourne -- I had trouble finding a good thali last time I was there. Any other thali places that you can recommend?

  6. Michael, this is easily the best thali we've eaten in Melbourne. Nila City offers much cheaper ones, but they're not as special. For cheap non-thali Indian food, I'd also recommend Red Pepper.