Michael and I stumbled on Cafe la Terra during our Monday wanderings, noticing the word 'vegetarian' featuring prominently on their signage and a menu of cheap Vietnamese meals stuck to the window. We stopped by for a meal the following evening, refueling between bands at what will probably go down as our gig of the year (sorry, Pulp) - the reformation of Snout, in honour of the Tote's 30th and Wally Meanie's 44th birthdays.
Contrary to our initial impression, Cafe la Terra is neither 100% vegetarian nor 100% Vietnamese. There's also a substantial list of breakfast-themed sandwiches, some of which contain meat. The lunch and dinner menu looks meatless (and largely vegan-friendly); Vietnamese style meals and drinks feature prominently but give way to pasta dishes and milkshakes further down. Nothing costs more than $10.50, and at $4.50 each our coconut juices almost seemed expensive.
I started out with a samosa ($3), handmade and stuffed with tender vegetables.
Michael shied away from the 'tofu country and steam rice', which is cooked in Napoli sauce, and ordered the curry vegetables and rice ($9.50). It was simple and hearty.
Having done a little blog research during the day, I chose the steamed spring rolls ($6.50) and was really impressed. The veges were cooked perfectly, soft but not squidgy, all of them retaining their distinct flavours. With a little sweet soy sauce poured over, I didn't spare a thought for their supposedly-tastier deep-fried cousins.
Eating at Cafe la Terra is almost like visiting a welcoming stranger's home. The dining area felt like a cluttered loungeroom, the food was modest but tasty, and the staff were lovely.
Fashion Rebel wrote a positive review of Cafe la Terra earlier this year. You May Call Me Frank recounts a bad experience three years ago; we don't know if the cafe is still under the same management.
Cafe la Terra
corner of Johnston and Campbell Sts, Collingwood
veg snacks and meals $3-9.50
Accessibility: This cafe has a small step on entry. There are tables outside on a wide footpath; the interior is quite cluttered but the tables appear reasonably spaced. We ordered and paid at a low-ish counter.