We recently stepped into The Penny Black for the first time, on the recommendation of reader Leah. Though we glimpsed the beer garden out back, it was a rainy night and we crammed into the front room with all their other patrons. It's a grungy live music-hosting pub, with dim lighting and speakers blaring even when there's no gig scheduled.
The menu's typical pub fare with gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and veg-optional items helpfully marked throughout. The veg options are all under $17 and occasionally dive much lower - for example, large pizzas go for just $6 on Tuesdays.
The zucchini, fetta, mint and pea fritters ($8.90) weren't as fresh or nuanced as they sounded, crumbly balls of peas and what I took to be spinach (but might've actually been mint), improved enormously by a dab of the sumac labna.
We liked the vegan tacos ($9.90) more, rolled up with mushrooms, capsicum, corn salsa and a dairy-free dressing that Leah tells us is cashew cream.
The vegie burger ($16.90) was a sprawling hodge-podge of barely-bound pumpkin-lentil pattie, whole roasted mushrooms poised to slip out the side, roasted capsicum, rocket, vegannaise and (I think) hummus on a Turkish-style roll. I concentrated on the accompanying chunky chips, and ran out of puff long before the burger was done.
The Penny Black menu seemed a little hit and miss - I'd gladly eat those tacos again and the pizzas I spied at other tables looked pretty good, but the fritters and burger lacked a little lustre. The pub offered more consistency when it came to smiling staff and low prices, so we reckon they're worth a second chance.
The broke vego was disappointed by an undersized haloumi burger at The Penny Black last year. Otherwise, omnivorous bloggers have been positive but rarely effusive about this pub; see I talk too much my mouth hurts, Foodscrazy, Where's My Water?, Nick Riewoldt Put Some Clothes On and Parma Daze.
The Penny Black
420 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
veg meals $6-17
Accessibility: There's four steps up on entry, a wide door and then a relatively flat and spacious interior. There seem to be at least two sets of gendered toilets, most accessed by stairs but some at the main level. There was a sign for a unisex disability loo on the main level too. We ordered and paid at a high bar.