Saturday brought chores, mishaps and drizzle but it all led to a spontaneous and very pleasant lunch at Tom Phat. They were probably 80% full, with plenty of atmosphere but no problems fitting in groups of 1-4. Another great reason to visit in the early afternoon is that the breakfast, lunch and snacky options are all available for ordering. Vegetarian and gluten-free items are marked throughout, and there's a respectable proportion of them. (I believe vegans usually get good advice from the staff, too, and some menu adaptations are available - see the review links below.)
We each picked something off the refreshingly lengthy non-alcoholic drinks menu - a Vietnamese ice coffee for Michael ($4), and for me a glass of raw ginger and lime muddled and stirred with fresh watermelon and apple juice ($7). The coffee was strong and sweet, the double shot going down far too easily. Michael ended up ordering a second! My juice had a nice 'lil bite to it, though I didn't really fancy biting into the ginger chunks that found their way through my straw.
Michael's nasi goreng ($12.90) presented a lot more sticky sweetness, soy-style. He enjoyed this immensely, though he would've preferred more tofu, tempeh and chilli.
I was wracked by sweet indecision - coconut bread, black sticky rice (to compare with my own), or the roti pancake special? The roti pancake with icecream and mango and coconut jam ($11) won out. Though the waiter warned me that this was a dessert rather than breakfast-sized serving, I'd beg to differ. This roti pancake is hefty! Stuffed with mango slices and jam, then coated in a crisp dark shell of sugar, I couldn't imagine eating even half of this after a main. It was a meal in itself, and one I enjoyed.
Unfortunately the service wasn't quite so sweet as the food. The staff ranged from helpful to just-barely-friendly-enough, though all were competent. Everything took a bit too long to arrive. Still, our Saturday afternoon was for lazing and they set that pace just fine.
You can read about our first visit to Tom Phat here. It's one of the rare restaurants that seems to get blogged more frequently over time! Vegos first: Green Gourmet Giraffe enjoyed her visit, reviews are generally positive at crosslegged on the front lawn, a bit mixed on Vegan About Town, and tumultuous and frequently documented on easy as vegan pie.
Similarly, the broader blog response has ranged from positive (let's get fat together, Evelynism, Ipoh Mali Talak Sombong!, omnomnomnom & more ....., the hungry lawyer, tubbymasu.com, kezt17's posterious, MEL: HOT OR NOT, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), EatThis, Fashion Rebel, table to tummy, Seismic Change, tori eats, adventures of the ordinary, Food Rehab, melbourne gastronome, fitzroyalty, Breakfast About Town) to ambivalent (I'm so hungree, bellygood.net, angelkhong, Diary of a Pampered Housewife, Brunch Addict, Melbourne Culinary Journal, crushed guava) and negative (BOX CHALLENGE, 730 Days of My Life). While I'm not going to pull out my time series stats, I estimate that the most recent reviews have tended towards the ambivalent... perhaps expectations were high after a huge run of raves in 2010? SoCo Style and melbourne cafes photo blog have refrained from food commentary and focused on the décor.
184 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
veg food $5-14
Accessibility: Tom Phat has a small ramp on entry. Tables are aligned through the length of the building with a corridor through that starts off wide but gets a little more crowded towards the end. There is a disability-marked toilet out back. We ordered at our table and paid afterwards at the low-ish counter.