Back in November, The Lentil Institution spread the news that there'd soon be a new Loving Hut in Northcote. It's now been open a little over a month, and we stopped by for dinner before hitting the Northcote Social Club for a gig last week.
This is a huge outlet stocked with groceries at the front - bulk TVP, gallon jugs of vegetarian oyster sauce and the widest range of mock meats this side of Vincent. Behind the screen is a flouro-lit cafe with the atmosphere of a quiet food court.
The menu's largely what we've come to expect from Loving Huts worldwide, i.e. mostly Asian-style meals heavy with mock meat. There's spring rolls and sushi, noodle soups and stir-fries, with a couple of salads and Southern fried chicken breaking the mold. Everything is vegan (including the broken rice - apparently they're serving fake egg!) and the gluten-free, raw and onion-garlic items are clearly marked.
We started out with crispy wontons ($8) and they didn't make much of an impression - crispy enough, chewy enough, but a bit bland.
The Southern fried chicken on rice ($12) was much more satisfying - the huge chunks of 'chicken' boasted a thick and crunchy, subtly spiced batter and were even better dipped in the barely-spicy sweet chilli mayo. Carrot-radish pickle and cucumber slices provided some refreshment, and I would have enjoyed a meal with more vegetables still. This is one for the KFC-nostalgics, and now that Gasometer is gone, I know I'll be back for another fix.
Michael had a go at the fish clay pot ($14) with a side of rice ($2) and was impressed by their stock, though he caught himself wishing for more vegetables in the mix too.
The Loving Hut staff were eager to please and our food was served unexpectedly quickly. Mentions of Supreme Master were limited to an unobtrusive book shelf, and the TV mercifully showed a snowboarding show rather than the Master's own station. We're keen to return and try more of the menu, hopefully timing our trip to allow for some grocery shopping on our way out.
The Lentil Institution first broke the news about Northcote's Loving Hut. veganopoulous and The Lentil Institution later gave it a go and were both generally positive.
377-379 High St, Northcote
menu 1, 2, 3, 4
Accessibility: Lookin' good! A very wide automatic door, flat floors and moderately spaced tables. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets, but I spotted a disability-labelled unisex toilet down a wide corridor at the back of the building.