Late last year we saw posters promising "The Brunswick Mess Hall" in a vacant building on Sydney Rd. For some reason, perhaps the proportions of the building, I imagined a live music venue. Instead the now-open Mess Hall looks like the kind of beer barn I'd expect to happen upon on Brunswick St Fitzroy, full of backless seating and splashes of neon.
Not much of a party person, I slunk in at 6pm on a Wednesday night with a novel as my dining companion. Having peeked at the menu online, I knew what to expect and what to order. I'd been drawn in by their helpful marking of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. All intended for sharing, vegos can choose edamame, mostly-fried small plates and medium-sized salads, with pickled vegetables or rice on the side - each at less than $10 a plate. The large dishes are pricier and meatier.
My first exposure to Chinese doughnuts was pretty special; they were home-made by Steph for last Lunar New Year. Here I simply had to order them on sight ($5.50) - these were just the right combination of crunchy, chewy and airy, though a little greasy and not as boldly spiced as Steph's. I liked the edamame dip, too, though I thought it lacked seasoning.
My paw paw salad ($9.50) came through with the contrast I sought - cherry tomatoes, basil, shredded red chilli, fried shallots and peanuts made every mouthful juicy-herby-hot-hot-HOT and just a little crunchy-savoury.
Staff were friendly and very attentive at that early hour; I might adjust my expectations as the night wears on. While the Mess Hall does offer bookings and banquets, it seems primarily to be a bar and vegos are best off considering the food as bar snacks. They're pretty good and pretty cheap (when they're meat-free).
raD fooD loved the food at The Brunswick Mess Hall; BarAmigo didn't taste it but liked the booze and Friday night atmosphere.
Brunswick Mess Hall
400 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
veg dishes $4.50-9.50
Accessibility: I ascended half a dozen steps to enter and didn't notice any alternatives. Tables inside were reasonably well spaced, a mixture of tall tables with stools, low tables with benches and a more lounge-like area. I ordered and paid at a high bar, then received food at the table.