Monday, December 03, 2018

A few bites in Brisbane

November 27-30, 2018

I've been back in my home town of Brisbane! It's now more than 12 years since I've lived there, and the Bowen Hills neighbourhood where I was based is unrecognisable. Thankfully Susan of Kittens Gone Lentil is still posting regular updates of vegan eats around town, and most of my choices were inspired by her online recommendations.

First up, I stopped in at Netherworld. It still has the architectural bones of the pub I've always known in this spot but it's been transformed into a low-lit, loud-music pub full of arcade games. The American diner-inspired menu has a vegan baseline, with options to add dairy and cheese on many dishes. I ordered a nice, house-made lemon soda and decided to check out their classic vegan cheeseburger, called the Burgatory ($14), with a side of shoestring fries ($3). This was a solid, salty mock-meat burger, tending towards the mushy-messy, and I liked the onion rings they snuck inside. The fries were pretty good too!

I got the word on I Like Ramen from a sharp-eyed vegan colleague. This eatery has been open in Brisbane only a little over a month and is completely 'plant-based'. I was picturing a small counter with just a few stools to perch on, but actually this is another sprawling pub-like environment. I boldly eschewed the ramen bowls and tried some more bunly food. First, a holy 'duck' bao ($8) with excellent crispy edged mock-duck and saucy 'slaw, but not all the subtlety of plum, mint, chilli and pomegranate that I was promised. 

I was nervous that the panko mushroom po' boy ($13) smelled so strongly of seaweed, but the flavours and textures in this roll were actually well balanced: the mushrooms were juicy but not too drippy, with thick crunchy panko crumbs, nestled in with more slaw. I had no regrets, even though I knew I had no room to try Doughlord down the street.

My trip to Tea Master was a spontaneous nod to nostalgia on my day off. I loved the vegetarian roasted duck noodle ($11.80): the mock meat was thick and fatty, the noodles had a dark sesame oil flavour, and the greens were sauteed in a sweet and salty soy sauce. My pineapple green tea ($3.70) with lychee jelly ($0.50) was indistinguishable from any other bubble tea I've ever ordered here - sweet and fun, but not flavoured with any precision.

I took myself out on a date on Friday night, picking out the vegan Greenhouse Canteen for dinner. It's got a light, instagram-wellness vibe, and friendly staff that were happy to squeeze in an early table for one. I was #blessed with a choice of house-made sodas again (not just kombucha!), and really liked the strawberry and balsamic one ($9). The zucchini flower stuffed with almond fetta ($8) was also a stunner, set on a pillow of broccoli puree with a refreshing garnish of cucumber and pickled onion. The cauliflower wings ($14) were less impressive, lacking crispiness and spiciness.

I rounded out the night with a Malt Brownie scoop ($5.30) at Gelato Messina. This is no Brisbane original, of course, but it's a chain of great quality gelato that I'm glad to eat in any city I encounter it. This special edition flavour was everything I hoped for, tasting unmistakably of malted milk powder, with a couple big cubes of soft brownie stirred in.

On this visit, I really felt the time and distance between me and this sunny city... but this wasn't sad at all! Rather, I enjoyed the changes I observed, getting to know what Brisbane has grown to be instead of looking for what I knew it once was.


  1. I'm glad my posts have been useful! i like ramen is very new, I have been there once so far, but not up on the blog yet! I also really liked the Holy Duck bao, though mine had pomegranate seeds on it, and I got it without the chili.

    1. Hi Susan! Hmm, maybe my bao was missing one or two key ingredients.

      I'm especially grateful that you put me onto Greenhouse, I might not have made it there otherwise and it was perfect for a fancy little dinner by myself.