Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mo Mo Bubble Tea & Coffee House

June 21, 2013


My sneaky visit to Hobart was more about art than food (I've pulled together some more highlights below), but I made sure to fit in a final lunch at Mo Mo before gathering up my gear and returning to the airport. Mo Mo's city outlet (there's another in Sandy Bay) has a modest takeaway set-up with just a few seats for eating in.

Like any bubble tea shop worth its pearls, Mo Mo offers several dozen different flavours - milky or not, cold or warm with all manner of add-in jellies, pearls and popping juice balls. I picked out a regular passionfruit tea ($3.50) with coconut jelly (+$0.50).

Though this shop's name boasts primarily of its beverages, Mo Mo has some great veg food going on. A hot box held spring rolls and quiches, a neighbouring display case contained ready-made rolls and the overhead menu listed 8 different vege burgers (half of which contain mock meat). A coeliac would struggle, but the menu board promises "vegan available". My soy fish was surprisingly light and flaky, backed up with tartare and sweet chilli sauces, lots of greens and tomato, some fairly superfluous grated cheese and a sturdy bun ($8.90).

Mo Mo's staff were as sweet as the bubble tea, and I thought it offered great value for money. It's just a short hike from the wharf and Salamanca Place and I'd certainly make time for this diversion again.


Mo Mo Bubble Tea & Coffee House
69 Murray St, Hobart
0421 762 097
veg snacks & burgers $0.70-8.90
facebook page

Accessibility: Mo Mo has a small lip on the door and only limited space inside. There are a couple of small outdoor tables on a sloped footpath and a high bench lining the window inside. I ordered and paid at a low-ish counter. There's no clear toilet access.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chai Vegetarian Cuisine

June 19, 2013


Last week I made a brief solo escape to Hobart. This city's vegetarian-targeted food is at its most accessible for weekday lunches, so I strategically booked my flights to fit in a couple of those. In fact, my commitment was such that I travelled directly from the airport to Chai Vegetarian Cuisine before checking into my hotel.


Chai is tucked down a city arcade and has the workday lunch look. Here you grab your own drink from the fridge, join the queue and peruse the display cabinets and menu boards, choosing amongst the ready-to-go wraps and hot dishes, and the pricier made-to-order options. Most of the menu features Chinese-style mock meats, though you can find some mock-free noodles, stir-fried veges and rice paper wraps amongst it all. I was most intrigued by the spicy and satay rolls ($5 each) - generous slabs of saucy mock meat and lettuce leaves bound together with a strip of turmeric pastry. But this would be my one visit, and I was greedy, so I turned my attention to the bain marie.


I started with a soya drumstick with a slick of sweet chilli and ginger sauce ($3.50). This was dense, grainy mock chicken with a thick batter coating - one for the most devoted mock meat connoisseurs.


Otherwise the rice plus two dishes ($11) seemed like a reliable measure of what Chai does. Although these dishes had clearly been on display a little while, the greens were still vibrant and toothsome. My double-meat dish (chicken and duck, perhaps?) was deeply caramelised, no doubt helped along with added sugar as well as heat and sweet spices.


This hefty meal had me satisfied for many hours as I sorted out my home base and began my less edible explorations (see photos below). In spite of its workday lunch ambience I felt comfortable and unrushed at Chai Vegetarian Cuisine, most likely put at ease by the smiling and helpful staff.


Chai Vegetarian Cuisine
16-18 Mathers Lane, Hobart
(03) 6231 5556
veg dishes $3.50-18.00

Accessibility: I remember the entry as flat but somewhat narrow. Food is ordered and paid for at a low counter; options are clearly displayed but there is a large pillar interfering with queue space. Tables are low and moderately crowded but easily rearranged (see above). I didn't see or visit a toilet, I suspect it would be outside the venue as part of the arcade.


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Aunt Maggie's

June 18, 2013


Three Thousand alerted me to the latest veg-friendly development on Gertrude Street - the opening of a Fitzroy branch of longtime southside favourite Aunt Maggie's. It's predominantly an organic grocery store, bringing an array of vegan friendly products to an area that's been surprisingly under-served since Organic Gertrude moved out to Fairfield six or seven years ago. 

There's fresh fruit and veggies, lots of fancy teas, flours and other groceries and a couple of fridges loaded up with tofu, mock-meat, dips, the full Botanical range and heaps of other vegan and/or gluten-free goodies.



They also have a small juice bar and soup stand, which offers up three different organic and vegan soups for lunches. At $6 a pop it's probably the cheapest lunch in the neighbourhood, and my spicy red lentil soup was a rich and tasty treat - loaded up with beans, veggies and enough chilli to combat Melbourne's shift into single digit temperatures. There's a table you can plonk at, but it's served in a convenient takeaway cup and is just the kind of speedy, healthy lunch I can use when I don't have time for Sonido or Trippytaco.


With just a handful of soups on offer, Aunt Maggie's is probably more exciting for its grocery range than its lunch options. Either way, it's a welcome addition to the Gertrude Street landscape.

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Aunt Maggie's
188 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
9417 5504
veg soups: $6
www.auntmaggies.com.au (and their slightly more informative facebook page)

Accessibility: Aunt Maggie's has a flat entryway and is pretty spacious. The soup is ordered and served at a low counter, and then payment is via the checkouts.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Feta & mint filo parcels

June 16, 2013


June's calendar recipe is the kind of simple crowd-pleaser that every vegetarian should have in their repertoire. Feta, mint and lemon zest make a pastry filling that's bright yet rich, and ready in minutes. They're folded into layers of filo pastry, which can be wrapped up small for party bites or large for a meal. These cheese triangles are so flaky and tasty that no-one begrudges the shower of pastry shards caused by each bite.

For convenience, I used a powdered egg replacer instead of the real thing. It didn't seem to offer much binding power to our firm feta and I didn't really mind so you can skip the egg entirely if you please.



Feta & mint filo parcels
(from Robyn's Recipe Calendar 2013)

300g feta, crumbled
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons mint, finely shredded
1 egg, lightly beaten
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
375g packet filo pastry
125g butter, melted

Preheat an oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with paper.

In a medium bowl, mash together the feta, parmesan, mint, egg and lemon zest.

Unpack the filo pastry and roll it in a slightly damp towel. Retrieve two sheets of pastry, lying one on top of the other, and roll up the rest. Dab the pastry with melted butter and fold it longways once or twice, to form a long thin rectangle of half or a third the width of the original pastry sheet. Spoon a triangle shape of cheese mixture into one corner of the pastry and fold the triangle over and over to completely wrap up the pastry. (Since my instructions aren't great, take a look at this video.)

Repeat the pastry filling and folding to use up the ingredients and brush any extra butter over the pastries. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bayte

January 2016: Bayte closed sometime in the middle of 2015, the space is now a trendy Thai place.

June 15, 2013


We've been meaning to check out Bayte for ages, but every time we've felt like cafe food with a Middle Eastern vibe we've opted for the lazy (and consistently brilliant) option of Mankoushe. We finally got our act together on the weekend and trekked off to Collingwood.


It's a cosy place - particularly during miserable weather when the courtyard is out of action. We lucked into the last vacant table at about 12:30 and then watched a steady stream of people turned away or forced to wait. The breakfast menu has some excellent options: walnut-filled semolina pancakes with rosewater, pistachios and Persian floss ($15), zaatar spiced poached eggs with hommus and pumpkin and pinenut kibbeh ($14.50) or baked eggs with okra and tomato spiced stew served with shanklish ($15).

We pondered for a while, but eventually decided that the mezza options on the lunch menu would give us a broader sampling of what Bayte do. Cindy started out with rosewater soda ($3.80) while I put away a coffee or two.


But onto the food. First up a really excellent baba ganoush ($5) that had a deep smoky flavour and smeared perfectly onto the freshly baked khoubiz el saage (chargrilled flatbread, $3.50). The bread was so good that we went back for a second (despite the slightly annoying fact that they charge per piece).


Next up: a serve of the kibbeh rass bi la'teen (fried pumpkin kibbeh filled with caramelised onions and almonds, served on hummus, $7.50). This was possibly my favourite dish of the meal - the sweetness of the pumpkin nicely offset by the onion and hummus and the whole thing built on a solid base of frying.


We shifted from fried goods to salads for the next course: roasted quince salad with zaatar labne balls, pomegranate and an orange and white vinegarette ($15). This was almost dessert-like in its sweetness - at least until you stumbled across one of the whole roasted garlic cloves dotted throughout. The quince reminded me a bit of poached pear, which worked perfectly with the spiced labne balls. I could have used more labne, but I suppose cheese is best served in moderation.


Cindy's never seen a roast potato she didn't want to try, so we were always going to order the batata meshwi (potatoes barbecued and served with homemade tomato sauce, $7).


They were a complete success - look at that crispy skin! The sauce tasted more like a slightly fruity chutney than a simple tomato sauce and worked just as well smeared on leftover bread as it did on the spuds.

Our final course was the one I was most excited by: falafel with almond taratour, radish and baby coriander ($5 a pop).


First of all: $5 per felafel is a bit of a stretch, when places like Tiba's, Half Moon or Mankoushe crank them out so much cheaper. To be fair: these are biggish felafel balls and pretty good ones too - heavy with spices and with a smooth sauce on top. The radishes provide a bit of freshness to cut through, but I must admit I was hoping for something a bit more exciting.

On the whole though, Bayte was very, very impressive - an interesting menu executed well. There are loads of vegetarian options, and vegans could probably scrape by (I imagine if you called ahead they'd be reasonably accommodating - the menu has plenty of veganisable options). Service was efficient and reasonably friendly in spite of a fairly intense lunchtime rush. It's not the cheapest lunch in town (we would up at around $60 total for lunch + non-alcoholic drinks), but you don't walk away feeling like you've overpaid - there's a quality to the experience that lives up to the prices. I'm pretty keen to try out some of the breakfast dishes at Bayte, so I imagine we'll be revisiting before too long.

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Bayte
56 Johnston Street, Collingwood
9415 8818
veg breakfasts $6.50-$15, mezza dishes $3.50-$15 (you're looking at about $20 a head for a big meal)
http://www.bayte.com.au

Accessibility: Bayte is split level - there's a small step up on entry and then another couple of steps up to the top level. Things are pretty jammed, particularly when there's a rush on. We ordered at the table and paid at a medium-level counter.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Small Victories II

June 13, 2013


I was fighting off jetlag, so Cindy kept me occupied with a quiet workday breakfast. We decided to make a return visit to Small Victories, recently named Melbourne's best breakfast spot by The Age. Our first visit had been pretty successful, and I was keen to sample a few more of their well-cooked side dishes.

Firstly: I'd been missing Melbourne coffees on my travels, so I dived straight into a couple of excellent flat-whites. Small Victories use the Wide Open Road blend and they do an excellent job with it. I had poached eggs ($10) again this visit, but swapped my sides around going for the baked beans ($5) and leek and cheddar croquettes ($5)


The eggs were excellent, the beans plentiful and the croquettes crispy and delicious. The staff at Small Victories clearly know there way around the kitchen - they take standard breakfast sides like beans and add just enough of a twist to make them interesting. I'm still not sure that I should be paying $20 for breakfast (and I wish they wouldn't stack the two slices of toast on top of each other), but at least you're getting something well prepared and original for your money.

Cindy headed for the sweet end of the menu, somehow passing up the buttermilk waffle ($15) in favour of the poached pears with rhubarb, elderflower yoghurt, puffed grains, sesame crisp and rhubarb glass ($13).


That's a pretty damn impressive dish for a local cafe breakfast, I mean rhubarb glass!? Above and beyond. There are lots of varied flavours and textures here: smooth and crunchy, sweet and tangy, some vanishing from the tongue in a moment, and others inviting more meditated chewing. It might leave you looking for a mid-morning snack, but it makes up in taste what it's lacking in bulk.

Small Victories is a pretty slick outfit - the staff are friendly and professional, the food consistently excellent and the fit-out stylish but low key. It's not a cheap experience, but you get what you pay for I guess.

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Since our first visit, The City Lane, bonjourchickie, grazing panda, Temasek (for one of their no longer offered dinners) and MEL: HOT OR NOT have all had positive experiences.

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Small Victories
617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
9347 4064
veg breakfasts $7-20+
http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/

Accessibility: Small Victories has seats on the footpath, a step up into the cafe and a couple steps more up to extra seating. Tables have average-to-crowded spacing. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets but expect that they'd require at least a couple, if not a full flight, of steps to access.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pâté en Croûte

June 10, 2013


It's very much time to crank the oven and warm up the kitchen, so I pulled out Wrapped in Pastry over the long weekend and invited rad relly Carol over for dinner, wine and a movie. This pâté en croûte was Michael's favourite of the recipes we tested for the book (and I made sure there was enough to share with him when he returned home).

Instead of fatty minced meat, this French-style vegan pastry loaf is full of mushrooms, lentils and herbs. Contrary to the whole winter-warming intention, it's actually supposed to be eaten at room temperature. I cheated and sloppily sliced steaming sections for Carol's and my dinner, then popped the remainder in the fridge. It certainly makes for more presentable, self-supporting slices in its traditional morning-after form (see photo above).

I couldn't track down tarragon on the fly and so my loaf came across a little strong on the sage, but not so's anyone else complained. You could doubtless tinker with the fresh herbs to suit your own tastes, just so long as you use lots of 'em! Along with some lemon zest they supply important top notes to a dish that could otherwise descend into brown stodginess.


Pâté en croûte
(adapted very slightly from a recipe in
Leigh Drew's Wrapped In Pastry)

lemon mushroom mousse
3 cups button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped
1/3 cup chives, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

lentil pâté
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced into half moons
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cans brown lentils, drained
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

4 sheets puff pastry, frozen

Use a food processor to grind the mushrooms to a fine mince. Heat the oil in a frypan and add the mushrooms, sauteing until the mushrooms release their juices and they have mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Take the mushrooms off the heat and stir in the lemon zest, chives and salt. Transfer the mushroom mousse to another container to cool.

Return the frypan to low heat and add the oil for the lentil pâté. Add the onions and saute them until thoroughly softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the pepper and garlic and saute the onion mixture for a further 5 minutes. Allow the onions to cool down.

When the onions are near room temperature, place them in the food processor with the 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and puree them thoroughly. Add the lentils and blend again until smooth. Fit as much of the sage and parsley in as you can and keep blending until all the herbs are blended into the lentil pâté. Sprinkle over the yeast flakes and remaining red wine vinegar for a final thorough blend. 

Preheat an oven to 200°C. Defrost the puff pastry sheets. Line two loaf pans with baking paper.

When the pastry sheets are ready and completely flexible, use them to line the loaf pans. Leave lots of pastry overhanging the edges to fold over the top later. Spoon one quarter of the lemon mushroom mousse into the bottom of a pastry-lined loaf tin, smoothing it across the base, and repeat with another quarter of the mixture in the other tin. Divide the lentil pâté evenly between the tins and spread it evenly. Spread the remaining mushroom mousse equally over the two pâté loaves. Fold the overhanging pastry across the filling and seal up the pâté en croûtes.

Bake the loaves until the pastry is cooked through, up to 45 minutes. Keep an eye on them and cover the tins with foil if the pastry looks at risk of burning. Allow the loaves to cool to room temperature, or even refrigerate them overnight, before turning them out of the tins and serving them in thick slices.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Carnival cookies

June 10, 2013


This was one of the first recipes to jump out at me from Super Natural Every Day, and it doesn't even include a photo! Mixing choc chips, peanuts and popcorn into cookie dough will do that. AOF's success with the recipe only made me keener. Sadly for some, these cookies also contains bananas, so I've been saving them up for while Michael was away.

As I popped my own corn, I found that 20g actually means 3 cups of the stuff! But even gently folding them into dough at the last minute, they broke down quite rapidly and I'd defy anyone to recognise them in the baked cookies. Instead the cookies are soft with much mashed banana and chewy with rolled oats. Even the peanuts just barely retain their crunch. Stealthily vegan and free of added sugar, these cookies are still plenty sweet thanks to the choc chips and banana.

While Heidi's carnival cookies are soft, sweet and comforting in their own right, they've also got me wondering how I might concoct something with a bit more crunch, a real showcase for the popcorn.



Carnival cookies
(a recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)

340g ripe bananas (about 2 1/2 large)
1 teaspoon vanilla
60g coconut oil, just barely melted
120g rolled oats
60g almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g dark chocolate chips
100g peanuts
20g (about 3 cups loosely packed) popcorn

Preheat an oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with paper.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas thoroughly. Stir in the vanilla and coconut oil.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, stir together the rolled oats, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Tip them into the banana mixture and thoroughly combine them to form the cookie dough. Fold in the chocolate chips and peanuts, then lastly and most gently the popcorn.

Scoop generous tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the baking tray, using a second spoon to help shape them. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until they're golden. Allow them to cool a while on a wire rack before eating.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mister Nice Guy's Bakeshop II

June 9, 2013


Sunday sent me to Moonee Ponds in the morning, so I strolled south to Mister Nice Guy's Bakeshop for lunch. While their modus operandi is sweet-sweet-sweet, they now also offer a range of bagel sandwiches (including a gluten-free option!) and a couple other savoury selections...


... like a dawg in a blanket ($6.50). Chomping down on sweet bread dough baked around a mock sausage, all at room temperature, I felt like a kid at a carnival.


I followed up with a clownishly large and lairy slice of peanut butter chocolate cake ($5). While there was chocolate and peanut butter (and some lovely crushed macadamias) to be found, they were outperformed by sugar, sugar, sugar. Next time I'll grow up and stick to a, ahem, cupcake.

Mister Nice Guy's Bakeshop nourished my inner child more than my adult body. It's lovely that they extend this indulgence to Melbourne's vegans and coeliacs - every staff member and customer in the shop was grinning from ear to ear.

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You can read about our previous visit to the Bakeshop here. Since then it's received much vegan love on melbourne with the rocket, Appetite Affliction, In The Mood For Noodles and veganopoulous, plus some omni interest on Consider the Sauce.
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Mister Nice Guy's Bakeshop
151 Union Road, Ascot Vale
0424 422 878
desserts $2-9
http://www.misterniceguy.com.au/


Accessibility: From memory, Mr Nice Guy has a flat entry. There's a wide corridor inside and the display cases are clearly visible and well labelled. Ordering and payment happens at the counter. The toilets are down a slightly narrow and uneven corridor, are gendered, and pretty narrow themselves.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mule

08/03/2014: Mule had a sign out front today announcing that it was their last day of trade before closing down.

June 8, 2013


Mule has been nestled amongst the Sydney Rd shops for longer than we've lived in Melbourne; I can remember spotting it in our first edition of the Cheap Eats Guide purchased mid-2006. Yet somehow we've always looked past it to Tom Phat, Green Refectory or Wide Open Road. I pointed Mule out again to Michael a few weeks ago and he shrugged it off, so I popped by during my own Brunswick errand run on the weekend.

The menu's mostly all-day breakfast and very veg-friendly, with almost everything boasting a (v) or (v available) and one utterance of (vegan available). There's lots of eggs and toast with trimmings, but also corn cakes, rosti, Cajun tofu, French toast, pancakes and (on the weekend) doughnuts. There's a single brief reference to gluten-free toast up top.


I tried the mushroom croquettes ($14), which come with scrambled eggs on toast, onion jam and a scattering of spring onions. The croquettes were crunchy crumb-crusted and then almost pureed inside, adding some nice depth to a breakfast standard. They called for a little extra seasoning at the table and I almost guffawed at the presence of powdered pepper in a shaker.

Pepper snobbery aside, Mule actually had me a little nostalgic for the cafe scene of five-to-ten years ago. In preference to the third wave coffee roasteries and 63-degree eggs of the 2010s,  I'd gladly return to Mule's salvaged furniture, Hollandaise asparagus, berry pancakes and cheery young staff.

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Mule got the thumbs up on easy as vegan pie, a generally positive review on The MelBourne Identity and a definitive thumbs down on Breakfast About Town.
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Mule
146 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9388 8933
veg dishes $4-15

Accessibility: I believe Mule has a flat entryway and a clear reasonably wide path through its middle, though most tables are tightly packed. I didn't visit the courtyard or the toilets. I ordered at my table and paid at a low-ish counter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tomato frangipane tart

June 2, 2013


When Michael headed out of town, I went straight to the #tomato tag in my recipe wish list. At the top of it was this tomato and almond tart recipe from Ottolenghi in The Guardian. The (admittedly optional) inclusion of anchovies in a recipe marked (V) gives me an irritable-vegetarian-tic but I think they're easily replaced with capers.

Between the sheet of puff pastry and thick tomato slices lies Ottolenghi's clever savoury riff on frangipane. The usual butter, eggs and almond meal get the cheese and garlic treatment instead of sugar, and it's no less luscious. The butter and garlic made the biggest impression on me so if I were concocting a vegan version, I'd hesitate to replace the butter entirely with margarine. Supplementing with cashew butter, then going hard on the garlic and nooch might have a comparable effect.

This tart needs nothing more than some green leaves to support it; it's fabulous both freshly baked and later, at room temperature.


Tomato frangipane tart
(slightly adapted from this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe)

1 sheet puff pastry
70g butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup almonds, ground
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
50g ricotta
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, finely grated
salt and pepper
500g tomatoes, sliced 1cm thick
2 teaspoons capers
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat an oven to 220°C and if your pastry sheet is frozen, take it out to thaw.

Using an electric mixer over a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Keep the beater running and add the egg. If it stubbornly won't beat in completely (mine wouldn't), add a few breadcrumbs and beat some more. Stop the beater and thoroughly stir in all the breadcrumbs, the ground almonds and the garlic. Next stir in half the thyme leaves and all of the ricotta and cheddar, plus a generous sprinkle of salt.

Line a baking tray with paper and place the puff pastry on it. Spread the almond mixtures thickly over the pastry, leaving a 2cm border around the edge bare. Arrange the tomato slices over the almond spread, allowing them to overlap. Sprinkle over the capers and the remaining thyme, a little salt and a lot of pepper, then drizzle it all with the olive oil.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Give it at least a couple of minutes to rest before slicing and serving. It's also great at room temperature.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Belle's Diner II

June 1, 2013


Michael departed on his usual mid-year work trip rather swiftly after his birthday. As a consequence I've been plotting a few meals and activities that interest me more than him. On a clothes-mending mission, I made a point of stopping by Belle's Diner to try their fried green tomato burger ($13).


Though it starts out sitting pretty, there's a lot of moisture and potential for mess here. The tomatoes are poised to slip out of their crumbing; the lettuce leaves were freshly washed; the caramelised onions, tangy mayo and pickles are ready to slip'n'slide. Taste-wise the burger is rich and piquant - the buttery brioche, mayonnaise, pickles and tomato dominate.

My side of Old Bay spiced French fries ($4.50) were mere slips of chips, tasting of celery salt and a dash of paprika.

I notice that the Diner has expanded its menu and there are many more options for vegetarians (though vegan and gluten-free items remain unmarked). The staff were available when I needed them, and generously allowed me a booth to myself. It's a little pricey, but after a slightly underwhelming brunch last year, I'm now more convinced that Belle's has some substance to back up its style.

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You can read about our breakfast at Belle's Diner here.

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Belle's Diner
150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9077 0788
veg lunch $13-15.50
http://www.bellesdiner.com.au/


Accessibility: There's a small step in the middle of Belle's Diner, but flat entryways at either end. The corridor through the centre is moderately wide and booths are packed end-to-end for the length of the building. While the booths don't appear particularly wheelchair or pram-friendly, I've previously noticed some fellow diners in the far booth with a(n empty) wheelchair tucked in beside them. I ordered at the table, paid at a low-ish bar and didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Albert St Food & Wine II

January 2016: Albert Street has had a redesign and has reopened as Albert & Sydney.  
 
May 28, 2013


For Michael's birthday dinner we gave Albert St Food & Wine a long overdue try. Their menu's pretty meaty, with distinctly non-vegetarian charcuterie, grill and mains sections, but Marieke has reported several happy vegan meals there and Carla's given it a shot too. I suspect even Michael was keen to test chef Philippa Sibley's reputation for spectacular (albeit largely non-vegan) desserts.

Sadly his level of anticipation didn't stretch to packing the camera, so we're presenting some fairly ordinary phone photos. Sorry!


We picked through the starters, specials and sides and found plenty to share. First plate up was grilled haloumi topped with zucchini pickle ($16). We've eaten a lot of haloumi in our time, but nothing quite like this. It was like some kind of divine cheeseburger.


The next dish caused a little confusion but also plenty of pleasure. We thought the waiter called it cauliflower, but we couldn't find any of that. We later discovered that it was our avocado starter ($18), although there wasn't any of that in it either! (When the kitchen figured out their omission, they made sure we didn't pay for it.) As it was, the walnut skordalia proved rich enough to bring together the potatoes, sorrel and gem lettuce leaves.


The ancient grain salad ($12) was like something straight from Plenty - all quinoa, dill and pomegranate seeds, scattered with fried onion.


The cauliflower ($14) - when it actually arrived - was crisp and finely sliced, sweetened with grapes, tossed with micro-leaves and teamed with uneven chunks of blue cheese.


Our last and most substantial savoury dish was a seasonal mushroom pizza (~$20). It had a soft, light crust, was sparing on the cheese and generously drizzled with oil.


We made sure to leave room for dessert and met with Iggy Popcorn ($18), a milky chocolate mousse on a popcorn biscuit base with poached pear, pear sorbet, more popcorn and chocolate. Props for lending milk chocolate the kind of composure and sophistication that's usually reserved for higher cocoa content.


Goldy Hawn ($19) was a little upstaged by Iggy - the gingerbread cream lacked spark but the fresh pineapple propped it up, and who could quibble with doughnuts?

We had a lovely evening at Albert St - special but not starchy, with capable staff and vegetarian dishes that ranged from good to really great. I can't quite decide whether the price was right. Their variation from dish to dish didn't correspond directly to how much they filled me up or how I'd rate them. Like Cutler & Co, I left wondering if they'd be amenable to a 9pm dessert drop-in.

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We previously wrote about their breakfast here.

Albert St Food & Wine has had the vegan treatment on easy as vegan pie: Carla loved the food but baulked at the price. You will struggle to find a bad word about the restaurant on an omni blog. Since our last visit it's been covered on two Munch, Almost Always Ravenous, Gourmet Chick, I Eat Therefore I Am, Kit's Cucina Culinaria, my seasonal table, Eat. Play. Shop., MoMo & Coco, Food Amie, Fitzroyalty, The Glutton and The Lush, grazing panda, A Sheepish Flog, This Food Guy, ChopinandMysaucepan, The City Lane, where Adles Eats and bonjourchickie.

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Albert St Food and Wine
382 Sydney Road (cnr Albert), Brunswick
8354 6600
veg dishes $9-$30
http://www.albertst.com.au

Accessibility: Albert St has a ramped entryway and is fairly roomy inside. Ordering and payment happens at the table. We didn't visit the bathrooms.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Industry Beans

May 28, 2013


We almost had Industry Beans to ourselves on Tuesday morning. I suppose it's not prime time for a fancy breakfast but we had Michael's birthday as an excuse. This cafe is another converted warehouse space with a coffee roastery and brunches that creep towards $20/plate. And in spite of that warehouse aesthetic, none of the food could be construed as minimalist. Muesli boasts chai-infused milk and smoked chocolate, steel cut oats are studded with superfoods, French toast includes 'cold drip coffee maple pearls'. The 9+-component Oolong Tea Salad would fail Michael Pollan's great-grandmother test, although with its sprouts and besan balls it could be the most nutritious dish on the menu.


Lucky for me, this coffee roastery also takes tea seriously. My quince-vanilla green tea (~$4) was served with a double-walled glass and timer for optimal brewing.


Michael tested out their deep fried eggs ($18), perched on asparagus spears, orange-infused sweet potato puree and parsnip puree, garnished with capsicum curls. They passed, and then some.


I had paid little attention to the stream of Industry Beans posts in my feedly, and only perked up at @cupcake_central's tweet about their vegan tofu brûlée ($14). This, I had to try. The brûlée is lemon flavoured and mildly sweet, dotted with air bubbles and covered with a crisp sheet of 'torched sugar. It's unmistakably tofu, but that didn't irk me at all. The brûlée comes with blueberries, a few dabs of pomegranate molasses, and several sprigs of caramelised rosemary. I wasn't sure quite what to do with that rosemary - it's really too woody to eat, but its fragrance adds to the experience anyway.


At first glance the menu looks vegetarian- but not vegan-friendly: oats, beans, burgers and avocado all seem to be laced with dairy, and breakfast eggs abound. But beyond the above brûlée and lunch time salad, I have a hunch that other items might be vegan-adaptable. After all, they're going to the trouble of offering 'housemade margarine' with the toast!

On paper Industry Beans is outrageously pretentious. Regardless, our breakfast was well executed and satisfying, and the staff were highly personable. The bill didn't vastly exceed what we're typically hit with around Fitzroy. I'd choose it again over St Ali if I felt like something a little froufrou.

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The adventurous spirit of Industry Beans' menu has excited many bloggers, though there are mixed opinions as to whether they've followed through with the goods; see PETIT MIAMx, Poppet's Window, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Fitzroyalty, The bare necessities and then some....., the coffee edit, thehangrybitch, I'm So Hungree, Yellow Eggs, grazing panda, HAPPY.LITTLE.FRUCTARD, peach-water, Popcorn & Toast and Let's Get Fat Together.
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Industry Beans
Warehouse 3, corner Rose and Fitzroy Sts, Fitzroy
9417 1034
veg breakfasts $5-18

Accessibility: The cafe has a flat entry and generously spaced tables, with tables varying in height. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.