A couple of months ago, one of my workmates helpfully pointed out that a new vegetarian cafe was under construction on Albion St. A walk by and an online search had us hooked in to Little River's facebook page and we kept a close eye on them. To be honest, their original menu didn't inspire much excitement - there was fruit salad, toast, corn fritters, eggs with everything savoury and a coconut yoghurt option on the muesli as the only vegan breakfast.
Melbourne's vegan community pointed out this dearth quickly and politely, and Little River responded with a new, more varied menu. Now there's scrambled tofu in a brekkie wrap, a vegan option on the veggie breakfast, and a vegan waffle on the specials menu.
Michael's vegan veggie breakfast ($16.50) was big and bursting with colour, with grainy toast, scrambled tofu, mushrooms, tomato, saffron potatoes, avocado salsa, baked beans and veggie sausages. The 'sausages' had distinct vegetable flecks and weren't attempting to mock meat; Michael reported that everything was well prepared but within the realm of what we can achieve at home thanks to Vegan Brunch.
Of course I had to have a shot at that vegan Belgian waffle ($8). I must admit some bafflement on its arrival - it was barely two inches in diameter! On digging in, bafflement begot disappointment. This waffle had the character of stale bread squished into a waffle iron. (It's again thanks to Vegan Brunch that I know fluffy, flavoursome, crispy-edges vegan waffles are possible.) Little River did get the toppings right - the coconut-based icecreams, fresh strawberry wedges and dark chocolate sauce were all excellent.
As luck would have it, I'd also ordered a 'recovery smoothie' ($7) from the specials list. It certainly restored my faith in this cafe with its filling banana base, bold chocolate flavour and chewy toasted coconut and cocoa nib accents. This passes as a great chocolate thickshake even for a superfood-skeptic.
On our way out the door I noticed some handsome rolls, wraps and pastries in the display case - all good candidates for a low-fuss lunch.
With one major miss and a couple of solid hits, Little River is doing OK after little more than a month of trading. We're optimistic that they'll hit their stride soon.
Shop 7, 208 Albion St, Brunswick
menu: standard, special
Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door and a shallow ramp as an alternative to the three steps up inside. Tables are arranged quite spaciously; we ordered there and paid at a low-medium counter. We didn't visit the toilets but noticed a unisex label down the hall. As you can see from the photos above there are a couple of high chairs and a kids' corner.