We've had some excellent vegan-friendly meals at East Elevation this year, so we booked in as soon as we heard they were putting on a special five-course vegan degustation night. At $60 a head, they were clearly aiming at something fancier than their semi-regular ping-pong nights. After a bit of Facebook-wrangling, we wound up as part of a very enthusiastic group of 13, all excited to see what delights East Elevation would serve up. As we've said every time we've written about this place - it's a lovely, lovely space, with beautiful high ceilings and an effortlessly stylish fit-out. Things were particularly beautiful for this dinner, with loads of candles casting a romantic glow over everything.
Things got off to a promising start - they'd prepared a special vegan drinks list (a half dozen wines plus a few beers and ciders) and they dished up a special pre-dinner course to "say hello". We got one of these little plates between two people, with the mix of artichoke hearts, dijon and dill starting things out very promisingly.
The first of the proper courses was a coconut and cauliflower soup with almond and cacao nibs.
This was superb - creamy and rich with the nibs giving a bit of crunch to break up the smoothness. I quickly ditched my spoon and drank it down like a delicious soupy cocktail.
Course #2 was a silken tofu and caramelised onion tart with shaved fennel and lemon vincotto.
Some very unscientific post-meal polling had this dish come up as the table's favourite of the night. It's easy to see why - the pastry was great, the creamy tofu filling delicious and the sweet caramelised onions like buried treasure. The whole dish was a great combination of sweetness (the vincotto and the onions), tanginess (the fennel and the lemon) and savoury (tofu, pastry). Hopefully something like this will sneak onto the East Elevation lunch menu.
Next up was my favourite dish of the night: foraged mushrooms with white polenta and NSW black truffle.
It's possible I'm just a sucker for the gimmick of this dish - it all came out sealed in a wire bail jar and, when you popped the lid, you got an intoxicating hit of earthy, truffle-y aroma bursting out into your face. Yum. The dish itself was just as good as it smelled, the soft white polenta soaking up all the fantastic mushroom juices.
Our final savoury dish was chipotle tempeh with vanilla parsnip cream, burnt orange cavolo nero and carob syrup.
I'm such a big tempeh fan that I was always going to enjoy this, but again the East Elevation kitchen took things to brilliant new levels. The parsnip cream walked a fine line between savoury and dessert, while the smoky chipotle marinade on the tempeh was spicy with just a hint of sweetness. Throw in the citrussy greens and you've got another fantastic set of flavours.
The meal was capped off with a single dessert course: chestnut cake, quince and chocolate ganache.
This was the only slight disappointment of the night - the ganache was outstanding (chocolate is clearly going to be a strongpoint here), but the chestnut cake didn't really work for me. The texture was a bit rubbery and the flavour was overwhelmed by the quince and chocolate.
This was an exceptional, exceptional meal - $60 for five courses of vegan food seemed like a bit of a risk when we booked in, but this turned out to be among the best value degustations we've been to. Each of the savoury courses was a highlight - there were interesting ingredients (including protein, yay!), smart flavour combos and an overwhelming sense that the dishes had been devised as vegan, rather than being recreations of non-vegan dishes with things removed. We had a fantastic night, meeting some lovely new people as well as eating outstandingly well.
It's not entirely clear how often East Elevation will be repeating their supper club or whether it will consistently cater for vegans. Fingers crossed they realise how responsive vegans are to places that serve them great food and schedule a regular veg degustation. We'll keep you posted!
351 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
351 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
special supper club set menu: $60
Accessibility: Excellent. A ramp on entry, lots of space and unisex toilets (including one with wheelchair access). Things are a bit dim in the evenings. On this occasion there was a set menu and full table service (with option bill-splitting at a low-ish counter).