Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Savanna African Restaurant

February 27, 2018

We've had Savanna on our to-eat list since its Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine was recommended on Fitzroyalty more than four years ago, but we only just stopped in recently on the way to a weeknight gig at the Tote. It's been too long since we last sat down to a huge platter of injera!

There's a cursory salad, but the major attraction here is the ten veg*n wots and other vegetable dishes. One person can choose four of them with injera for $17.90, but bring companions you're willing to share with and the entire set is yours for just under $20 per person (e.g. $39.90 for our Ideal Feast for Two). In unfortunate news for some, the injera here include wheat flour, but there's rice on offer as an alternative.

We thoroughly enjoyed every stew - one or two pushed my spice limits and a lentil dish, rather than the more predictable potatoes, emerged as my favourite. The injera were tender and spongy, not as sour as we've eaten elsewhere; we were offered fresh ones whenever it looked like we might run out.

A bubbling little pot of shiro - made from ground chickpeas, spices and a slick of oil - was as dangerous as it was delicious. The staff gave us fair warning that it was high-temperature, and I still managed to burn my mouth terribly with it! Next time I'll remember that this deceptive dish needs time sitting on the injera before I greedily gobble it down.

Service was slow but friendly and informative at this family restaurant; we felt welcome to settle in a while and enjoy the experience.

In past years, Savanna has received positive reviews on Fitzroyalty and Gracious Expedition.

Savanna African Restaurant
7 Johnston St, Collingwood
9416 1462

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps on entry, and a couple more splitting two levels of seating inside. There's a reasonable corridor through the middle but the tables are quite crowded. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Shop 225

February 5, 2018

We were catching up with a couple of old friends for dinner and decided it was finally time that we tried out the vegan options at Shop 225. Tucked away on Melville Rd, 225 is a traditional Italian pizzeria that has for some reason decided to provide a full vegan menu alongside its regular offerings. We sat out in the courtyard at the back and sampled widely from the menu.

We were somehow talked into ordering the vegan calzone ($20), stuffed with tomato sauce, mock ham, fake cheese and real basil. I was sceptical, but this was an absolute delight - dense and delicious. I'm coming around to Ben Wyatt's point of view.

We also ordered a cappricciosa ($19), topped with tomato sauce, fake cheese, mushroom, olives and mock ham. I loved this one - they use a variety of mock meats, so when you get 'ham' you get something different to the salami or pancetta. It's a nice touch.

Our other two pizzas were a zio pino (mushroom, parsley, multiple mock cheeses and truffle oil ($20, left) and the il dottore (mock sausage, mushrooms, tomato sauce and mock fior di latte, $25, right).

These were both pretty successful as well - the toppings are generous without being overwhelming and there's a good mix of mock products and veggies to go around. Obviously the cheeses don't have quite the depth of flavours as the non-vegan alternatives, but they're surprisingly good and the rest of the toppings are diverse enough to keep things interesting.  

We had a really great meal at Shop 225 - there's so many vegan dishes to try out and they promise good gluten free pizza bases and pasta as well. The staff were super friendly (even talking us into buying some of their magnificent vegan nutella) and the courtyard was gorgeous on a sunny evening. Is it the best vegan pizza on offer in Melbourne? Red Sparrow is good, but our consensus was that 225 is better. Without travelling to Sydney you're not going to find a better vegan pizza option - check it out.

Veganopolous and THATVEGANLIFEDOE loved the early incarnation of this place, while Fitzroyalty loved the food but was annoyed by the dominance of Uber Eats orders.. There are a bunch of freebie reviews since the new owners took over that are unsurprisingly positive (see Penguineats, Lips Temptations and Fire & Tea).

Shop 225
225 Melville Rd, Pascoe Vale South
9077 4094
pizza, everything else

Accessibility: There's a flat entry into a pretty crowded interior. We sat in the back courtyard which is accessible only via a crowded and narrow pathway. The toilets are unisex, but up a few steps.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Small Axe Kitchen II

February 4, 2018

This summer we managed to schedule a Small Axe Kitchen brunch in sunnier weather, and nabbed a spot outdoors at their shared table. These guys always have a couple of good sweet options on the menu and on past visits, I've always picked the fruitier, more sensible looking ones. 

Not this time! I went all out with the miniature loaf of Sicilian orange cake ($19.50), served on a swirl of burnt honey mascarpone with a scoop of dark chocolate custard, cubes of blood orange jelly and a sprinkling of milk crumbs. I can't really convince you at all that this is breakfast, but it is a lot of fun to eat - the cake and custard make a splendid jaffa pairing, the mascarpone is firmer than it looks and lightly bitter, the milk crumbs add a salty pebbly texture and the jelly some bright sourness.

Michael's vegan zucchini fritters ($19.50) were less showy but (he reckons!) just as enjoyable - salty with a crisp crust, served with tahini mayo, artichoke heart, broad beans, peas, mint and lemon.

We noticed posters announcing that Small Axe is now open for dinner, too. Since then we've heard good reports from vegetarian friends who've tried it out. When we make it in ourselves, you'll be the first to know.


You can read about our first couple of visits to Small Axe Kitchen here. Since then it's received unanimous support from blogs A Chronicle of GastronomyHungry CookieMelbourne VitaSweet and Sour Fork, and Ferris Wheel Flights.

Small Axe Kitchen
281 Victoria St, Brunswick
9939 6061
food, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry (and perhaps a flatter entry through the garden side). Tables are densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle. Tables outside have small backless stools, high benches in the front room have tall backless stools, and tables in the back room have ordinary backed chairs. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ratio Cocoa Roasters

February 1, 2018

We roam Sydney Rd regularly, and keenly observe which of its businesses are launching, re-configuring and closing up for good. The Friends of Couture premises stood dormant a while, but when they came renovations were too fast for us to speculate about what was to come - up popped a bright, inviting chocolate shop called Ratio!

Ratio is spacious, even allowing for the extensive glass-protected area where all the bean-to-bar business happens. Up front you can browse the chocolate blocks ready for taking away and gifting, a few steps further in there's a cabinet of little treats to enjoy on the spot, and there's also a printed menu for those who take a seat.

Michael thought he'd get the best span of the menu by ordering the brownie tasting plate ($9.50, pictured top). Each has a different cocoa source and ratio, and though he enjoyed all of them, he had his Goldilocks moment with the 70% Peru-sourced cocoa slice.

He also tried out the Ratio hot chocolate ($5) - his report is positive, though he admits that he had too much chocolate going on all round to really savour and seriously assess it.

I had my dessert in a single glass, choosing the peanut butter and chocolate milkshake ($8). I requested a vegan version made with milkadamia (+ $1), which might even be an improvement on the standard dairy-based version! Here the chocolate flavouring is real but light, leaving plenty of room for the macadamia and peanut flavours to shine through.

Of course we took home a couple of bars to try later. Both the milk and (vegan) dark varieties were very smooth and quite sweet, with the flavourings pressed decoratively into one side of the bar. The salted caramel forms crushed glassy shards (not a soft centre, like the truffles in store), and the macadamia makes small nutty bubbles with only a subtle lemon myrtle seasoning.

Ratio's arrival feels like serendipity to us, though it's the culmination of years of hard work from founder Debb Makin. I'm looking forward to further familiarising myself with its wares this year.


Ratio Cocoa Roasters
186 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9388 8920
eats, drinks

Accessibility: There is a small step on entry to a spacious interior. Furniture is a mixture of low tables and chairs with backs, plus higher tables with backless stools (see above). We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, February 09, 2018


January 31, 2018

I’ve been vaguely meaning to visit Nostralis since reading about it in the Melbourne Veg Food Guide way back in 2008. It’s a long-running vegetarian pizza place in Caulfield that’s been in operation since 1981, surely a competitor for Melbourne’s second-longest running vego place after Shakahari. The décor betrays its age – lots of wood panels and old fashioned signage, but the vibe is welcoming and relaxed.

The menu has some odd options – a vindaloo pizza that includes banana and sultanas sounded very disturbing to me – but it also recreates some classics. There’s a margherita, mushroom and Mexicana pizzas and a whole range of other veg-heavy toppings. They’ve also added in a few mock meat pizzas for vegos who miss their pepperoni. Gluten free bases and vegan cheese (Cheezly) are available with small surcharges.

Cindy’s a sucker for ham and pineapple, so she went for a small Hawaiian pizza with dairy cheese ($11.50). I didn’t taste it, because pineapple on pizza is an abomination, but she was impressed. There was heaps of mozzarella and generous mock ham, but she would have added even more pineapple given the choice (because she's a monster). A step up from Eat Pizza's version.

I had a medium sized pepperoni with vegan cheese ($15 + $2.50), intending to take some leftovers home for lunch the next day. Instead, I smashed my way through the whole thing. These aren’t the authentic Italian pizzas served up at Gigi or Kaprica, but Nostralis really have the nostalgic '80s Pizza Hut vibe down. If we lived nearby I’d be going back a lot.

Nostralis is a steady success story in Melbourne’s veg dining scene, surviving with seemingly few changes for nearly 40 years. On a sunny Wednesday night we watched a steady stream of people grabbing takeaway or plonking down to share some pizzas – everyone seems to share an enthusiasm for this old school eatery.

There are a couple of Nostralis posts on vegan blogs Veganise This! and In the Mood for Noodles (twice), but nothing for ages that I could find.

55 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield North
9528 4961

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry into a fairly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at a high counter and didn't visit the toilets. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Rhubarb & coconut sago

January 28, 2018

The remainder of Jane's rhubarb gift went into this simple dessert - stewed rhubarb interspersed with a coconut sago pudding. It's another recipe I've held onto for more than a decade, this time from Cook (almost) Anything, and I'm glad it's finally having its moment.

Since it was a hot weekend, I made this a couple of hours in advance and popped it into the fridge to chill. That really sets up the sago! I'm going to enjoy remaking this dessert in cooler weather, when I can serve it warm with a more custardy texture.

Both the rhubarb and the sago are cooked with generous quantities of sugar and the overall effect is very sweet. I'll consider reducing the sugar in the sago component in future batches, to create a stronger flavour contrast. The sweet sago could also work well with tangy fresh fruit, like pineapple. I've got a lot of leftover seed tapioca to figure out my favourite combinations!

Rhubarb & coconut sago
(a recipe from Cook (almost) Anything)

stewed rhubarb
500g rhubarb
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water

coconut sago
1/2 cup sago/seed tapioca
1 cup coconut cream
1 1/2 cups water (I used 2 cups)
1/2 cup caster sugar

Slice the rhubarb into 1-inch lengths. Place them in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and water. Set them over medium heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb collapses.

In a separate, medium-large saucepan, stir together all of the coconut sago ingredients and set them over medium heat. Stir the pudding regularly as it cooks and avoid letting it boil! The sago is ready when the sago pearls are clear, and their starch has thickened the coconut cream.

Spoon the rhubarb and the sago into glasses in layers. It can be served warm or cold, though note that the sago tends to set into a gel in the fridge.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Apple walnut salad with rhubarb dressing

January 28, 2018

My colleague Jane kindly gave me some of her home-grown rhubarb after seeing this recipe here on the blog. We traded cake recipes, too, but even after reflecting on those beauties I pulled out two new recipes for this bunch! This cute little salad has been bookmarked over a decade, from the now-defunct food blog vanesscipes. (Thankfully the Wayback Machine can still dredge it up.)

Here the rhubarb is just gently sauteed with oil and balsamic vinegar to form the salad dressing. It's still quite firm and whole, a different texture to the collapsing puddles I'm accustomed to in many desserts. While I think of rhubarb as a cool weather comfort food, this salad shows how bright and refreshing it can be! That's mostly thanks to the apple matchsticks and radish rounds that make up the crisp, watery bulk of the dish. 

I was worried the apple might brown quickly, but the dressing preserves it well and it was still in good shape for packed lunches the next day. We paired this juicy, tangy salad with the simplest chickpea salad and they made a relaxed, happy summer coupling.

Apple walnut salad with rhubarb dressing
(a recipe from vanesscipes)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 long stalks rhubarb
1 teaspoon brown sugar
generous pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup walnuts
2 Granny Smith apples
6 radishes
2 handfuls green salad leaves

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium saucepan and set it over medium heat. Slice the rhubarb into inch-long segments and saute them in the oil for about 5 minutes - they should be softening a bit but still holding their shape. Add the sugar, salt, vinegar and second tablespoon of oil. Saute for a couple more minutes, then turn off the heat.

Gently toast the walnuts until fragrant. Slice the apples into matchsticks, and the radishes into thin rounds.

Time to assemble the salad! I layered up green leaves, radishes, apples, rhubarb dressing, then walnuts. We also tossed together the leftovers and the dressing helped prevent the apple from browning.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Fan's Notes IV

January 22, 2018

A Fan's Notes is still doing its fancy Friday night degustations, but for the rest of the week it's firmly a vegan-friendly dive bar. There are parmas, burgers, cheap tacos and so forth, plus reasonably priced booze, pub trivia and the occasional gig. It's a perfect little local. We noticed their Monday night specials - $5 vegan burgers - and couldn't resist heading along to check it out.

Of course, so did almost everyone else in the greater Melbourne area. When we got there about 7, the staff were visibly shell-shocked from the early rush and couldn't even tell us whether there'd be food available if we stuck around. The kitchen was closed temporarily and they suggested we check back in half an hour to see where things stood. We kicked back with drinks as things died down and were lucky that there turned out to be a few burgers left once the first wave of orders had been dealt with. Cindy requested the fish burger (a nori, tofu and lemon patty), while I went for the chilli burger (quinoa and beetroot patty with chipotle coleslaw, tomato and avocado).

At $5 a pop I had pretty low expectations, but these were both fantastic, way ahead of the more common mushroom or potato-based veggie patties and loaded with great condiments. The $5 price also brings out masses of people - too many for the kitchen to realistically handle. We've just seen that in future the Monday special is going to be a $15 drink/chips/burger combo, which still seems like an outrageously good deal - can't wait to check it out.


Nobody's blogged this place since we visited in December. You can also see our previous posts here and here.

A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
burger menu
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at the high bar. There's a single, unisex toilet cubicle, which is up a step off an uneven path. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Caramelised white chocolate icecream

January 20-21, 2018

This icecream recipe isn't quite my usual style. Nope, it's not from Ottolenghi's latest book. It's not a home-grown vegan trick. It doesn't really require an icecream maker. And it's flavoured with white chocolate, the least chocolatey of all chocolates. Yet Michael, who skips past every white Lindt ball in the box, declared it the best icecream I've made in years!

So what is this icecream? It's from the blog Delicious Everyday. It's mostly just made from double cream and sweetened condensed milk, which feels a bit like cheating, but is so sweet and thick and creamy that it really doesn't need to be churned. And it's flavoured with caramelised white chocolate.

Caramelising white chocolate was pretty funny this first time around - unwrapping it, popping it whole onto a baking tray, and roasting it in a low oven for over an hour, until it browned. The chocolate only kinda melts, and it's surprisingly difficult to work a spatula through it and make sure the chocolate roasts evenly. I was cautious, turning my oven to only 100°C, and as a consequence I spent an hour and a half on this job instead of the directed hour at 120°C. I'll know better next time.

The result is rich, rich, rich, with a touch of toasty caramel depth. I served small sensible scoops, with a fruit salad of mango and pineapple dressed in lime juice, when I had my international guest and his wife over for dinner. (The rest of the meal was much more predictable, with Michael and I tripling down on Ottolenghi recipes - a crushed lentil plattercoriander and yoghurt-dressed pumpkin, and a Spring salad.) 

Caramelised white chocolate icecream
(a recipe from Delicious Everyday)

150g white chocolate (make sure it's based on cocoa butter, not another vegetable oil)
395g can sweetened condensed milk
600mL double cream

Preheat an oven to 120°C.

Place the chocolate in a small baking tray and roast it for 60-90 minutes, stirring at 10 minutes intervals with a baking spatula, until the chocolate has developed a deep caramel colour. The texture is hopefully smooth, but unexpectedly thick! Here are some indicative photos from the source blog.

Transfer half of the caramelised chocolate to a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the condensed milk until smooth, then whisk in the cream until everything's well mixed.

At this point the original recipe suggests pouring half of the cream mixture into your freezer container, marbling through the extra chocolate, and repeating with with remaining ingredients before freezing. I chose to refrigerate the cream mixture overnight, store the remaining chocolate at room temperature, and churn the cream mixture before assembling and freezing. I found the chocolate too thick to marble, and next time I think I'll refrigerate it and chop it into chips that I can stir through the icecream.

Freeze the icecream for at least 4 hours before serving. I found that it was easiest to scoop after 15 minutes at room temperature.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Seitan gyros & lemon potatoes

January 13, 2018

Cindy's been going over all her old recipe bookmarks and reorganising them, which means she's been reminded of a few winning-looking dishes that we've never got around to making. These seitan gyros were one of them, from a 2011 post over at Veganise This! It seemed like a good Saturday kitchen project for me, so I got to work, adding in a batch of Greek lemon potatoes for company.

This was the first time I've baked seitan (I usually use Cindy's sure-fire slow-cooker version) and it worked out really well. The seitan had real flavour - the lemon zest in particular shone through, and the texture was great. This may be my new favourite version, and it was really easy. We sliced it up and fried it and then served them in pita bread with a yoghurt and garlic sauce, salad and some little pickles. Superb.

The potatoes were just as successful. They were tender, rich and lemony and reminded me of the old favourites we used to get at Lefkas 15 years ago. This was such a good Saturday night meal - it'll definitely move into our regular rotation.

Seitan gyros
(based on a recipe from Veganise This!)

1 1/4 cups gluten flour
1/4 cup soy flour
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
zest from one lemon
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons tomato sauce

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Mix the soy flour, gluten flour, nooch, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon zest and dried herbs in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the water, soy sauce, sesame oil, liquid smoke and tomato sauce and stir them together well. 

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and smoosh everything together thoroughly - you should get a really sloppy dough. Knead for a couple of minutes and then leave it to rest for 10 minutes or so.

Knead it again for about a minute and then divide the dough into two small loaves. Wrap them loosely in foil and bake them for an hour. 

Leave the loaves to cool and then slice them into little strips for your gyros.

Roasted lemon potatoes
(based on a recipe from Epicurious, who were excerpting it from this book)

1 kg of potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup of veggie stock (we used Massel mock chicken)
juice of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 4 cm cubes. Lay them out in a baking dish with the olive oil. Add the garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper and stir everything together. 

Bake for 15 minutes. Add the stock, toss and bake for another 10 minutes. Throw in the lemon juice and bake for another 15 minutes until the spuds are nice and tender. 

Season with more salt and pepper if necessary and serve.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rhubarb-iced yo-yos

January 11, 2018

For the past two weeks, I've been hosting an international guest at work. In a bid to break the ice with my coworkers, I brought in these biscuits to draw a crowd to my guest's first lunch in the office. 

Initially I was planning to bake a cake and set on trying something from my newest cookbook, Sweet. But, as I flicked through the pages, biscuits or little cakes seemed more sensible. They'd be less fussy to transport, and folks could help themselves whenever they were ready rather than waiting for me to ceremoniously portion out something larger. Oh, and I had rhubarb in the fridge! The rhubarb-iced yo-yos were an excellent fit.

I made one-and-a-half times the original quantity and turned out 20 generous biscuit sandwiches. I let my shortbreads get just a teensy bit brown around the edges, which I think is traditionally a bit of a no-no, but really worked out fine. The icing is the major novelty here, as it's prepared in a food processor and contains baked rhubarb! I was very, very worried about the fibres remaining stringy in the icing - they were visible, and I picked some of them out, but actually they seemed very soft and inoffensive in the couple of biscuits I ate. If I made this recipe again, I'd blend the rhubarb in my spice grinder attachment to give it more contact with the blade, then perhaps beat it together with the other icing ingredients in a bowl.

I stored the biscuits (airtight on the bench) and icing (airtight in the fridge) overnight before assembling the yo-yos, with the aim of keeping them fresh, uncrushed and non-soggy. This worked well; they needed gentle handling but none of them crumbled under my fingers and all of them looked handsome at the lunch table. Their buttery crumble was just right between the teeth, and I enjoyed the pink tanginess of the icing. I can't be sure whether the biscuits or the special guest was more enticing but there was a huge, friendly turn-out, an auspicious start to a lovely visit.

Rhubarb-iced yo-yos
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh's Sweet)

260g plain flour
100g custard powder
100g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

100g rhubarb
100g butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
juice of half a lemon

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

Chop the rhubarb into 3cm lengths and set them out on the baking tray. Bake them for 30 minutes, until softened. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Time to switch to the biscuits! Turn the oven down to 170°C, and line two baking trays with fresh paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, custard powder, icing sugar and salt. Chop the butter into cubes and drop it into the flour mixture. Carefully beat the butter into the dry ingredients, adding the vanilla as you go, until the mixture forms a dough.

Use two teaspoons to grab scant tablespoons of the dough, rolling them into balls and placing them on the baking trays. Use a fork to gently press down on the balls - mine formed biscuits about 3cm in diameter and 1 cm thick before they went into the oven. Bake the biscuits for around 25 minutes, catching them just as they start going golden around the edges. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring them to a rack to cool right down to room temperature. If you're not assembling and serving them right away, store the biscuits in an airtight container.

Back to the icing! Place the rhubarb in a small food processor bowl and blend until as smooth as possible. Blend in the butter, then the icing sugar and lemon juice. Keep blending for a few minutes until the icing is as smooth and whipped as possible. If you're not assembling and serving the yo-yos right away, transfer the icing to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.

When it's time to assemble the yo-yos, carefully choose matching pairs of biscuits by size and shape. Use two teaspoons to scoop half-tablespoons of icing, placing them on one of the biscuits and gently sandwiching the second biscuit on top. Serve the biscuits right away, or store them in an airtight container for a couple of days (I refrigerated mine because I thought the icing looked delicate).

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Moor's Head

January 8, 2018

Recently the restaurant/bar we long knew as Markov Place changed hands - it's now a welcome second Moor's Head! We've enjoyed this business' 'inauthentic pizzas' in Thornbury, and they've transferred the menu faithfully to a venue tucked ever-so-conveniently behind Cinema Nova.

We kept it small and simple on our Monday night there, sharing the roquette salad (with dots of shanklish & Iranian raisins, $9.50) and the Oum Kalthoum ($19), a pizza of tomato, ashawan/aged mozzarella, haloumi and specks of black chilli.

There's plenty of scope for a more extravagant meal, of course - cold and hot mezze, pides spilling with caramelised eggplant, tahini yoghurt, and multiple cheeses, sweets and set menus. I'm sure we'll work up to them in future visits.

You can also read about one, two of our visits to the Thornbury original.

The Moor's Head
rear of 350 Drummond St, Carlton
9977 5893
food, drinks

Accessibility: You can enter via Eva bar on Drummond St (straight corridor, uneven shared toilet space, down a half-flight of stairs) or possibly via the cobbled Markov Place (wide entry). Both low and high tables are available. We ordered at the table and paid at a high bar. We didn't visit the toilets this time, but we think they're individual cubicles (gendered in times past but possibly now unisex).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tootsie Roller

January 7, 2018

We were sad to notice that our old favourite El Chino on St Georges Rd had closed down. Luckily though, it's been replaced by an exciting new place - Tootsie Roller! It's a vego cafe with an Indian-inspired breakfast and lunch menu, Industry Beans coffee and a gorgeous courtyard out the back. We met up with Steph for a Sunday breakfast to try it out.

The menu is heavy on the savouries and on first glance not very vegan friendly. There are lots of Indian-inspired egg dishes: poached eggs with jeera potatoes ($17), eggs Darjeeling ($18), eggs on naan ($11) and so on. There are also breakfast tacos, a smoked tofu burger and a thali plate - so many excellent looking things to try! We had a quick chat with the waiter about vegan options and were reassured that they're happy to sub tofu in to make most of the egg dishes vegan - this isn't well labelled on the menu, but if you ask they'll come through for you. 

Cindy kicked things off with a chai boy ($5.50), which was gingery and delicious. I enjoyed the coffee too.

I couldn't resist the Mumbai scramble - an Indian spiced scrambled egg dish with fried onions, chilli, coriander and spinach on grilled kalonji naan ($15). I added a side of black beans ($4) because I'm out of control.

This was a superb breakfast - the eggs weren't massively spicy, but there was a great depth of flavour from the cumin and chilli (plus maybe garam masala?). The naan was great, and the big pot of beans really added some heft to things - a fantastic way to start the day.

Cindy wanted something a bit more summery, so she ordered the coconut and rice flour waffles with coconut yoghurt, compote, toasted almonds and a big ol' pile of fresh mango and strawberries ($15). 

She raved about this - the ratio of fruit to waffle was particularly impressive, but each of the components really hit the mark as well. Steph seemed happy with her smoked tofu breakfast tacos and we had excellent friendly service.

Tootise Roller is a fantastic addition to the neighbourhood - just writing this post has me wanting to go back tomorrow and try out more of the menu. The courtyard is particularly welcoming during summer. They're licensed, and will eventually open up for a few nights a week - it's hard to imagine a better way to spend a long summer evening then eating a smoked tofu burger and having a beer out back - can't wait.


Tootsie Roller
214 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
9071 1370
food, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small step as you enter and a clear corridor to the counter, but the tables are quite crowded inside. Access to the courtyard (and the toilets) requires negotiating a few uneven steps. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

where's the best in 2017?

The 'Samantha Ratnam' granola at Handsome Her

Our 2017 eating is done being documented, so we've spent an afternoon with our archives and picked some new faves to add to our where's the best? page. We bid farewell to El Chino, The Snug Public House St KildaDiscobeansMelbourne WokMiddle Fish, and Easy Tiger. Many of these have natural replacements - we'll soon blog the eatery at El Chino's address, The Snug's still in business in Brunswick, Middle Fish is scheduled to return in 2019, and the Easy Tiger crew are still working elsewhere in Victoria. Two of 2016's major closures have had Lazarus moments too - Enlightened Cuisine is now Vegie Kitchen and little but the name has changed; the former White Lotus address is now Melbourne's third Loving Hut.

The Tramway Hotel

There's never been a better time to get breakfast in the inner north. Handsome Her was our 2017 highlight, and we also had good times at Humble RaysSweet EvelynKines, and Merri Clan. More and more pubs are getting into decent veg grooves; this year we raise a glass to the The Yarra HotelThe Last Chance Rock'n'Roll BarThe Tramway Hotel and The Green Man's Arms. At long last, pizza and dessert are just as delicious and almost as accessible for vegans as for the rest of us, thanks to Red Sparrow PizzaCassellBella's Bakery & CafeGirls & Boys and Black Waffle. Kudos also goes to Dosa PlazaThe AlleyMantra LoungeBhangEttaA Fan's Notes and Feast of Merit

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

In our own kitchen, we've dined on tempeh taco saladpaneer butter masalamock fish sambal goreng, and tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce, smugly packing leftovers for work. Our most luxurious breakfast was a recreation of Smith & Daughters' corn & jalapeño pancakes, and we did our darnedest to impress our potlucking friends with spring onion pancakesmelon salad with jalapeno-pickled pineappleeggplant kataifi nests and butterbean hummus with red pepper & walnut paste.

Fig & walnut friands

I've been baking up a storm, making fig & walnut friands and banana & molasses cake just for us at home. The Twin Peaks revival inspired my first (then second, third and fourth) attempt(s) at cherry pie - it might become my signature dessert! I'm certain that my one shot at Ottolenghi and Goh's chocolate cake won't be my last, either.

We entered the new year with a broken oven, but I'm pleased to report that it's been repaired and is in the best shape we've had it. We're looking forward to showing you what else it does, and the other great places we eat from in 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Roasted sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette

December 25, 2017

Our second Christmas Day side came from Ottolenghi's Plenty. It's a lovely mixed tray of roasted vegetables - sweet potato and onion wedges, a whole head of garlic, cherry tomatoes - tossed through with herbs and dressed in a tangy caper vinaigrette the moment they come out of the oven. There's supposed to be parsnips involved as well, but I've not had much success baking them at home and I was planning to halve the recipe, anyway.

Initially I stretched the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic over two baking trays, then once they were becoming tender and I needed the extra oven space for sausage rolls, I piled the vegetables up in a single high-walled tray. They were going swimmingly until, 20 minutes before we were due to eat, our oven's heating element expired! The sweet potatoes and onions were tender enough but not as caramelised as I might've liked; the garlic was perfect; the tomatoes were near raw. It could have been a lot worse, and I'll be interested to see if I can recreate this a little better now that our oven's repaired.

Roasted sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette
(adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

600g sweet potatoes
2 medium red onions
1 bulb garlic
70 mL olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 190°C.

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into wedges. Peel the onions and slice each one into six wedges. Slice the garlic bulb in half horizontally, Place the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic in 1-2 baking trays. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil over the vegetables and toss it through a little. Roughly pull the thyme and rosemary leaves from their stems and scatter them over the vegetables. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until cooked through. 

While the vegetables are roasting, slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are roasted, add the tomato halves and bake everything for a further 10 minutes. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables as soon as you remove them from the oven, and serve them warm.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Smoky baba ghanoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils & pomegranate

December 25, 2017

We hosted Christmas at our place this year, with a few of Cindy's family joining us for a laid-back lunch. We looked to Ottolenghi for ideas of course - Cindy's post next up will showcase the sweet potato recipe we made - but we also delved back into Community for this fancy cauliflower dish.

I made it easy on myself by making the baba ghanoush a day early - you could probably do it while everything else was going on, but my multi-tasking skills aren't up to three concurrent processes. Besides, a day in the fridge does wonders for the flavours of the baba ghanoush. 

When you combine all the bits and pieces, you wind up with a wonderful combination of flavours - smoky eggplant, bursts of sweet and tangy pomegranate, coriander and golden roasted cauliflower. I left the lentils a bit too long in the saucepan, so they lacked a bit of texture, but otherwise this was fantastic. It's a bit much for a school night, but a fantastic option when you're trying to impress guests or taking something to a picnic. Added bonus: we had heaps of baba ghanoush leftover to smear on toast and crackers.

Smoky baba ghanoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils & pomegranate
(from Community by Hetty McKinnon)

2 small cauliflowers, cut into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil
300g puy lentils
1 cup baby spinach
small bunch coriander
juice of half a lemon
1 pomegranate, seeds extracted
pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

baba ghanoush
4 eggplants
4 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons yoghurt
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the baba ghanoush by roasting the eggplants directly over the flame of gas hobs (or under a hot grill if you don't have a gas stovetop). 

Give the eggplants 5-10 minutes, turning regularly until the skins are totally charred. Once they've cooled down, peel the skin off and pop the flesh and juices into a large bowl. 

Mash the eggplant roughly with a fork, leaving it a bit chunky. Stir through the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, yoghurt and olive oil and combine thoroughly. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Coat the cauliflower florets in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Pop them in a baking tray and roast for half an hour until golden.

While they're roasting, prepare your lentils - 20 minutes or so in boiling water should have them tender without being overcooked.  Drain them.

Combine the cauliflower, lentils, spinach, coriander, the rest of the olive oil, more salt and pepper and lemon juice in a bowl.

Serve the cauliflower salad alongside a big dollop of baba ghanoush and scatter pomegranate seeds over everything. Finish off with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and enjoy.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

December 15, 2017

We had leftover rhubarb from Cindy's birthday cake and Cindy had the perfect recipe to use it up in. Aside from the marinating time, this all comes together really quickly, so if you can plan a half day ahead this is an easy and delicious school night meal. Even if you're not that organised, a pre-marinated tofu would probably do the trick. The sauce is the real star, with a great mix of flavours from the ginger, chilli and especially rhubarb - it provides a sweetness, but of a particularly tangy kind. 

We really loved this dish - it's reasonably healthy, packs a big flavour punch and kept us going for a few meals of leftovers. We don't buy rhubarb too often, but I think we're going to start.

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

(adapted slightly from Mostly Eating, who adapted a Jamie Oliver recipe)

marinated tofu
1 tablespoon golden syrup (or agave/maple syrup)
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon peanut oil
500g tofu, sliced into 1 inch strips

4-5 sticks of rhubarb, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 red chilli
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons tamari

1 lime, quartered
1 chilli, seeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons roasted cashews
small bunch fresh coriander

veggie oil for frying
broccoli (or other green veggie), chopped

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and let the tofu soak it all up for a couple of hours (turning once if you can be bothered)

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend it all up until you've got a smooth sauce - it'll take a good 30-60 seconds of whizzing.

Pop the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a low simmer, for around 20 minutes (it can basically be left while you do the rest).

Heat the veggie oil in a frying pan or wok and throw in the tofu and marinade, cooking the marinade off and then getting a bit of a golden edge on the tofu. Throw in the broccoli and stir-fry for a couple of minutes, until it just starts to soften. 

Serve it all up - a layer of rice, some tofu and broccoli on top, generous dollops of sauce and then a scattering of the toppings and a squeeze of lime.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

CassellBella's Bakery & Cafe

December 14, 2017

CassellBella's Bakery & Cafe has been on our radar a while, and it took three visits to the neighbourhood before we managed to catch it open! This only reinforces the cheerful, casual and slightly haphazard vibe we picked up here. The tiled walls, lino and drinks fridge say 'takeaway shop', while the picnic tables & astroturf bring a bit of the outdoors inside. 

The menu is printed in an endearingly daggy suite of fonts, and liberally edited with texta. These probably mark the cafe's transition towards veganism - by my scan, just about everything is free of animal products with dairy options on a few of the beverages. Many, if not all, of the baked goods on display are vegan. Gluten-free folks probably won't find much to order here, and coeliacs might prefer to avoid a flour-focused bakery as a matter of safety!

For the gluten-eaters among us, there are a dozen wood-fired pizzas to choose from, breakfast fry-ups, toasted focaccias and pasties, which you can wash down with a juice, smoothie, milkshake or coffee. Mock meats, mock cheeses and coconut icecreams are in stock and featured in many dishes.

Seeking a tasty, simple dinner before a gig at the Northcote Social Club, Michael and I ordered just a single pizza to share (pictured top). The Mock Meat Lover ($19.90) fit our bill perfectly, layered with mock pepperoni, bacon and ham, charged with fresh garlic and oregano, topped with vegan mozzarella and a swirl of sweet barbecue sauce. The portioning is large; best for splitting, taking some home for later, or the most insatiable of appetites.

Looking through the rest of the menu, Michael's taking a raincheck on the Super Hot pizza, while I'm likely to splurge on a Classic or Mock Chicken Hawaiian pizza one day. We giggled over the the Thai Fish Supreme pizza, which has been texta-edited down to Napoli sauce, vegan mozzarella and Spanish onion.

Such quirks only served to entertain rather than irritate us. CassellBella's is a cute spot and we like what we've tasted so far!

This bakery has previously been reviewed on Veganopoulous.

CassellBella's Bakery & Cafe
371A High St, Northcote
9486 3892
facebook page

Accessibility: Cassellbella's has a flat entry and clear corridor through the centre, although the tables are somewhat densely arranged. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. The toilet is a unisex cubicle but not accessibly designed; there's uneven ground and several steps on the way there, the light switch was a mess and it's all pretty run-down.