Last weekend was unseasonably warm so, along with about half of Melbourne's population, we set out for St Kilda for lunch and some sun. Stickifingers recently alerted us that Slow Down! at Harley Court has a new menu that's two-thirds vegetarian and vegan so we resisted a return visit to the Galleon and checked it out.
Part of this restaurant's interest in veg-friendly meals no doubt stems from its slow food ethos: Slow Down aim to source 90% of their produce from within 200km and make it seasonal, sustainable and organic wherever they can. (This means that there's no guarantee that what we ate will be on the menu if you choose to visit.) One of their sneaky approaches to upping the veg ratio is offering four kinds of soup. Granted, they are great sounding soups (minestrone, pumpkin and garlic, cream of mushroom and celeriac, cream of cauliflower, nutmeg and pangrattato - made with soy cream!), but I generally prefer something I can get my teeth into when eating out.
Michael tried the casserole of the day, a mix of chickpeas and vegetables in tomato sauce, served with toast (~$10). We were surprised at how small the serving was and though the quality of the vegetables was good, Michael wasn't much inspired by the flavour.
My vegetarian rendition of the Big Breakfast ($14.90) was more impressive. The beans were similarly under-seasoned but the mushrooms and spinach more than made up for it, just bursting with flavour - I guess that's local, seasonal produce for you. And few things endear me to a cafe quite so much as a hand-made hash brown. The eggs were well poached but I'm more of a scramble gal myself - I forgot to specify my preference to our waiter, he didn't ask, and I guess the chef just took a punt. At least it was a skilled punt.
It's hard to get enthusiastic about a venue with a slow turnaround; we waited a looooong time for our meals to arrive even though there would have been little else queued up at that time. Some other bloggers have reported similar waits. The lunch menu was a mixed bag, largely saved by the quality produce rather than the preparation, and I'd be more interested in returning for breakfast or dinner - the options looks a little more diverse at these times.
Eat More Vegies found far fewer vegan options when visiting last year. All the omni eaters blogging Slow Down! have enjoyed the food, though there are mixed reports of the service; see Social Change Room, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, Pete Does Stuff and KC's Food Affairs.
Slow Down! at Harley Court
56 Acland St, St Kilda
veg lunches $9.50-$15
Accessibility: There is outdoor seating at street level (the ground is a bit uneven) and multiple stairs up to the covered and indoor seating; tables are somewhat crowded in together. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.