Late on Sunday morning, Michael and I walked down to the Queen Vic Markets for some fruit and veg. By the time we'd done a circuit of the delis and a double run of the organic aisle, my appetite was rising and I was keen on lunch. Quick-thinking Michael suggested Invita, a vegetarian cafe I've looked longingly at on at least two previous visits (with a stomach already full of donuts, probably). Their display case is full of soups, salads, pies and patties, all of them looking colourful, fresh and, dare I say it, good for you! (There are also a few sweet treats if it's time for a cuppa.) The menu is mindful of people's various eating quirks and allergies, with a full list of the ingredients in each dish and clear markings of what's vegan and/or gluten free. Above is my corn cake ($10.80, containing onion, capsicum, red kidney beans, corn, cumin, coriander, chilli powder, sweet paprika, rice crumbs, olive oil, avocado, sour cream, sundried tomato and tapioca starch). The extensive list of ingredients couldn't have been combined any better: the thick and slightly crunchy crust gave way to a soft, warm, comforting, wholesome cornmeal interior, dotted with caramelised onion and kidney beans and carrying a surprisingly strong chilli heat. Perfect for a sunny but chilly day. The three generous scoops of salad were great too, bursting with health and dressed lightly and tastefully.
Michael picked out the Shepherd's pie ($11, containing lentils, carrots, pumpkins, celery, onion, cumin, coriander, turmeric, tomato paste, potato, sweet potato, mustard oil, olive oil). He enjoyed the taste but was almost defeated by its volume. Definitely for the hardworking shepherds out there! Invita is a very open, outdoorsy space, perfect for letting the sun and the market atmostphere in and, on this morning, some 'refreshing' breezes. It's inevitable that you'll be sitting in close quarters with some strangers and perhaps overhearing their morning banter. I was bemused that the two groups of customers to use our neighbouring table were in moods ranging from cynical to downright sour. I, meanwhile, felt invigorated by the weather and by the food. Little more than twelve hours after Michael asked, "How will we ever enjoy another meal again after this?" I had my answer: with unpretentious, affordable and healthful food prepared at home and by the likes of Invita.
Address: 76 Therry St, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Ph: 9329 1267
Price: vege lunches ~$8-14