Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wide Open Road II

October 27, 2012

We enjoyed our recent visit to Wide Open Road so much that we were back barely a week later for a again (this time with the Moody Noodles). I was hungrier this time around (which is what happens when breakfast starts at 10 rather than 8:30) and decided to order the vegetarian version of the full English breakfast (confit tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, scrambled eggs and spinach on sourdough, $20). I didn't actually check what we paid for this, but the straight swap of bacon for spinach seems like a bit of a sad one to me. Luckily though the spinach was delicious - lightly fried and just a little bit crispy, with some excellent seasoning (lemon juice + salt maybe?). The rest was great as well - perfectly scrambled eggs, loads of great mushrooms and a big pot of the excellent smoky beans. 

Cindy went the more virtuous route, ordering the bircher muesli with rhubarb, orange and pistachios ($13). This was as good as it looks - I never order muesli at cafes because it seems like such an anti-climax, but this reminded me why it's sometimes a good idea. Loads of pistachios, beautiful tangy rhubarb and plenty of fresh orange pieces. It was heaps of food too - I had to pitch in to help Cindy finish.

Wide Open Road are really banging out some consistently good breakfasts (added bonus: K discovered that the scrambled tofu can be done gluten-free). We had friendly and sharp service again and I really love the post-renovation space. It's a new contender for my favourite breakfast place in town. 

Read about our previous visit to Wide Open Road here.

Wide Open Road
274 Barkly Street, Brunswick
9387 6079
veg breakfasts $7-16.50

Accessibility: Tables outside are on a sloping footpath and there are a couple of steps up on entry. There's a fair bit of space inside, although they manage to squeeze plenty of tables in there. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Spotted Mallard

October 23, 2012

Michael got wind of the newly opened Spotted Mallard on Mess+Noise and immediately scheduled it in for pub club. The menu looked alright (solid vegetarian options, though nothing vegan or gluten-free was clearly marked) and I suspect Michael wanted to scope the venue for trivia.

The interior is quite striking and hints at the premises' previous lives as a French restaurant and, before that, a Greek wedding venue. The stained skylights, antique chairs, wall mirrors and lampshade clusters had a few of us questioning whether this really counted as a pub. The tone of the menu, the bar service and the downstairs bandroom settled it for me. The main vegetarian offerings are a burger and an eggplant parma, and the meat-free snacks currently include marinated olives, spiced nuts, chips, hoummus and fetta on Turkish bread and chickpea fritters.

I checked out those chickpea fritters ($12). They're eerily similar to the ones I enjoyed at Mamasita, though here they're served with a superbly smoky chiptole mayo. The rocket, fennel and pine nut salad rounded out this dish nicely, though I wish it had been served on something more dish-like - flat boards just mean spills for all but the most dextrous diner.

Michael ordered the Spotted Mallard Vurger ($19), which was a messy but tasty experience - the brioche bun was stacked with a grilled portabello mushroom, pickled onion, beetroot, goats cheese, tomato relish and rocket. The thick Jenga-stacked chips were better still, though the coleslaw didn't excite.

The Spotted Mallard has been open little more than a fortnight, so it's hardly surprising that the dining area was relatively quiet on a Tuesday night.  Our group of more than a dozen pub clubbers had their pick of the tables and probably constituted half of their evening's customers. However, in even this not-even-quarter-full circumstance, the kitchen couldn't keep up. Some of our friends waited up to an hour and twenty minutes of their food to be served. We wouldn't like that at a busy restaurant, and it's even more irritating to experience at a quiet one.

Once fed, everyone spoke well of the food at the Spotted Mallard. It's a really pleasant space and the staff are friendly too. Let's hope they work out how to streamline up their kitchen operations.

The Spotted Mallard
314 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9380 8818
veg dishes $8-19

Accessibility: The Spotted Mallard's dining area is located up a wide flight of stairs, and some tables are accessed via further stairs; we didn't see any alternative means of entry. Tables are well spaced. All food and drinks are ordered and paid for at a high bar, then food is delivered to the table. We didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The annual lab culinary competition

October 19, 2012

My workplace's annual culinary competition is still kicking on, though sadly without our usual most honoured guest this year. The event has developed a formidable reputation; we had at least a dozen new students and staff on the invite list and many of them seemed more nervous than excited. They proved highly competitive on the day, with many of the prizes awarded to first-time competitors. 

The most epic entry in the competition's history was contributed by a group of newbies. Though they professed not to be keen cooks, they constructed a stunning "panscape" from pancakes, sponge cake and all manner of lollies, covering several square metres and documenting many of our research group's favourite ecosystems. Other visual highlights included a biscuit-based eggs-and-bacon breakfast and some chocolate truffles that appeared to have dropped from the wrong end of a wombat.

Michael skipped his own work responsibilities and joined in for the first time. (He also took most of the photos in the slideshow above, while I fussed around with my entries.) We both focused more on favourite flavours than fancy looks and this paid off with three prizes for three entries. Michael tossed together Ottolenghi's quinoa salad with feta and Persian dried lime, I baked a gluten-free choc-cherry cheesecake, and then I conceived san choy BLTs - lettuce cups containing slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated tofu 'bacon' cubes and a dab of kewpie mayonnaise.

The usual annual disclaimer applies: the slideshow above will probably contain some pics with meat. The lab culinary comp aims to be an inclusive event and I extend that to my documenting of it.


You can check out past competitions: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dan Dan Mian

October 17, 2012

Cindy spotted this recipe on Steph's blog and knew straight away it was for me - tempeh, chilli oil, noodles - this is right up my alley. We decided to cook it almost immediately, taking full advantage of our breakfast with Steph to get some last minute tips on the best noodles and chilli oil options. We made a few small changes - Cindy's pretty down on dried shitake mushrooms, so we just subbed them for a handful of diced button mushies, and we simplified the condiment mix a bit to suit our stocks. It was brilliant - the chilli oil and Sichuan peppers bringing burn and tingle to the meaty, salty dish. It's more or less a noodley soup and eating it is a combo of fork, spoon and messiness. This makes about three serves - enough for me to get lunch leftovers anyway.

Dan Dan Mian
(adapted from this recipe on vegan about town)

1-2 teaspoons ground Sichuan peppers
2 tablespoons chilli oil (something like this)
2 cups of mushroom stock
2 tablespoons tamari
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon tahini (heaped)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil

200g tempeh, chopped into 1 cm cubes
6  button mushrooms, chopped into 1 cm cubes
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1-2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons tamari
3 green onions, chopped (white and green parts separately)
1 carrot, grated
peanut oil

300g noodles (we used vacuum packed yellow noodles), boiled for a couple of minutes

Combine all the sauce ingredients thoroughly and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat up the oil and stir fry the garlic and ginger with the white bits of the spring onions. After a couple of minutes, throw in the tempeh, carrot and mushrooms and keep stir-frying, for about 5 minutes until things start to brown up. 

Pour in the tamari and stir-fry for another minute or two. Add the mirin and stir-fy until it cooks off. 

Serve in layers: noodles on the bottom of a bowl, pour over a cup or so of sauce and layer the stir-fry mush on top. Garnish with the green parts of the spring onions and eat, sweating profusely.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wide Open Road

October 17, 2012

Behind this rather unimpressive facade is Wide Open Road - awarded 'best new cafe' by The Age in 2011 and sibling to Brunswick favourite A Minor Place. I dropped in here a few times when it first opened - it was a tiny cafe with a simple menu that was basically a subset of A Minor Place. Since my last visit a lot has changed - they've renovated like crazy, more than doubling the floor space and adding a proper kitchen. They've also added a bunch of vegan-friendly dishes to the menu, leading to a series of recent visits from Melbourne's veg-blog mafia, in turn leading to our visit pre-work on a Wednesday morning (joined by Steph, who's making up for lost time breakfast-wise after being in China for much of the past year).

The new interior is gorgeous with lots of space, big windows and beautiful wood everywhere. They've really done a wonderful job with what used to be a pretty crowded little room. We settled into the back corner and knocked back some delicious hot drinks (chai for Cindy, soy flat white for me) while perusing the menu.

The new menu has three vegan options (one for lunch, two for brekkie) and loads of vegetarian dishes to choose from. Steph went back for the tomato and smoked paprika beans, which I was sorely tempted by. But knowing that like Carla I'd inevitably compare them to the famous Henry's Beans, I decided to branch right out and tackle the scrambled tofu (with capsicum, spring onion, zucchini, cavolo nero and cumin with confit tomatoes, mushrooms and avocado on whole grain toast, $16.50).

Here's me happily hoeing into it. It's a dry tofu scramble, but not in a bad way - just packed with goodies and fried up beautifully. The cumin added a hint of spice and with a squeeze of lemon on top I was pretty damn impressed. The mushies and avocado were great as well (I'm sure the tomatoes were too but I'm just not a fan). Scrambled tofu comes in so many varieties - liquidy and Asian-inspired at Dench, straight egg-replacement at Kopps and weird paste at Grigons and Orr to name a few - these are in the top bracket, and well worth a special trip.

Cindy couldn't go past the pancakes, covered in toppings aimed squarely at her interests (coconut, strawberries, lemon curd and whipped mascarpone, $16.50).

These were so good that I didn't even get a taste - Cindy polished them off all by herself. From her report they were fantastic - fluffy pancakes and wonderful toppings. A sweet breakfast to tempt even the staunchest savoury-lover.

Wide Open Road is hitting it out of the park - it's a lovely space, with friendly and efficient staff, great coffee and a brilliant and well-executed menu. It's hard to pinpoint anything they could be doing better (aside from keeping Henry's beans on the menu!). No doubt the weekend brings with it queues and a slightly more hectic experience, but on a lazy Wednesday morning, it can't be beaten.


Veg bloggers have been getting stuck into Wide Open Road - check out vegan about town, Green Gourmet Giraffe, easy as (vegan) pie and every night a one night stand.

Wide Open Road
274 Barkly Street, Brunswick
9387 6079
veg breakfasts $7-16.50

Accessibility: Tables outside are on a sloping footpath and there are a couple of steps up on entry. There's a fair bit of space inside, although they manage to squeeze plenty of tables in there. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Birdman Eating IV

Edit 11/03/2016: Fitzroyalty has declared Birdman Eating to be closed.

October 12, 2012

It's time that we withdraw our support of Birdman Eating. We've had some nice breakfasts there over the years but our dinner visit twelve months ago was underwhelming and a workday stop by last week really disappointed.

At that time of the morning, their few other customers weren't seeking more than coffee so we easily nabbed a table and a waiter's attention. The menu looked good, with plenty of sweet things for me to choose amongst and several varieties of their famous baked eggs for Michael. What was baffling and really inconvenient was the wait. Though the kitchen staff didn't seem otherwise occupied the food took 40 minutes to arrive, leaving Michael no more than 10 to slam down his eggs and scoot out the door for an appointment.

The dishes weren't quite up to scratch either. The waiter assured me that I could get the house-made crumpets ($9) with jam instead of honey, but it seems the chef forgot and I received my dense, crusty crumpets with both. The effect was far too sweet and confirmation of why I didn't want the honey in the first place.

Michael chose the baked eggs with Szechuan vegetables ($14), though he subsequently decreed there to be nothing Szechuan about them and didn't even finish the plate. That's a rare, rare occurrence, folks.

The menu still looks appealing and we found the wait staff pleasant, but I'm no longer convinced that the Birdman Eating kitchen can follow through. The rest of the blogsphere seems pretty ambivalent too.

You can read about one, two, three of our previous visits to Birdman Eating.


Birdman Eating
238 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9416 4747
veg breakfasts $5-20

Accessibility: Tables outside are on a sloping footpath. There's a small step on entry and tables inside are a little crowded. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shanghai Street Dumpling

October 11, 2012

I usually let the regular stream of Melbourne blog posts raving about new Chinese places just wash over me - a great dumpling place doesn't mean a great vegetarian dumpling place, and it's often easier to just fall back on old mock-meat favourites. But when Carla singled out Shanghai Street as having Melbourne's best vego dumplings, it went straight onto our list of places to try.

We were fully aware of the steady queues that pop up at Shanghai Street, so turned up before 6:30 hoping to sneak straight in. We were fourth in line, which meant a 10 minute wait - not the worst outcome when we saw how things were on our way out around 7.

There's nothing stylish about Shanghai Street - it's a rudimentary dumpling place, with laminex tables, brusque and efficient service and a lack of charm. In exchange they offer low, low prices - think 15 vegetable dumplings for less than a tenner. It's a pretty fair trade-off. There are a reasonable number of vego dishes on the menu, with meat-free versions of the XLBs, fried and boiled dumplings, veggie buns and veggie fried noodles. Despite my enthusiasm (I was bafflingly keen for us to order 30 dumplings plus an entree!), Cindy convinced me to keep things under control - just a serve of the vegetable boiled dumplings (15 for $8.80) and the vegetarian spring onion pancake ($6.80). A sensible decision - we were both stuffed afterwards (for just a tick over $15!).

The dumplings were tremendous - tender little puff balls, filled with a mix of greens and garlic and best eaten with a generous mix of vinegar and hot chilli sauce, both of which were on hand. I think I had 10 of the 15 on the plate and, despite being full to the back teeth, wanted to keep eating more.

The pancake also benefited from the chilli sauce, but that was where the similarities ended - it was a disc of crispy goodness, stuffed with spring onions and gone in minutes.

Shanghai Street Dumplings is not somewhere you'd go for a leisurely evening meal - it's strictly about getting in, getting out and eating some excellent value food. Go early or grab takeaway - I'm not sure it's really worth a half hour wait. But if you've got a craving for vego dumplings, you could do a lot worse.


Shanghai Street Dumpling
342 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
9600 2250
veg dishes $6.80 - $9.80

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way, but the interior is pretty crammed with tables. Orders are taken at the table, but payment requires you to negotiate your way to the register at the front. We didn't check out the bathrooms.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Touché Hombre

October 9, 2012

The hype around Touché Hombre has been building for months - Melbourne's love affair with Mexican food is so intense that any vaguely trendy place with tacos on the menu is instantly the hottest ticket in town. After reading of massive queues and hour-long waits for a table, we'd been giving Touché Hombre a wide berth. But, with an early Monday night dinner on the cards, we decided it was worth at least giving it a shot. And it worked - turns out if you rock up at 6pm on a Monday night then Touché Hombre will have a table for you. Score.

The fit-out is pure hipster-bait: neon Ghostbusters signs, Streetfighter 2 arcade games, a bit of graffiti on the walls, moody interior lighting and a massive, well-stocked bar. Throw in stylish staff and a DJ booth in the corner, and it's no surprise that people are piling in enthusiastically. The drinks menu is suitably diverse - I stuck with one of the many beers on offer, while Cindy tried a pomegranate and Tahitian lime snow cone ($6.50, or $15.50 if you opt to slosh tequila on top). It was fun but pretty hard going as a drink, too thick and icy.

We got a bit lucky menu-wise: it turns out Monday is "Livin' on the Vedge" night, with a couple of bonus meat-free tacos on the menu. They're all gluten-free and the chefs are "happy to vegan-ise dishes" - yep, they actually said veganise. We decided to try one of everything, a grand total of six different veg tacos. (We actually ordered the five on the special menu and ended up scoring a free one due to some sort of kitchen confusion.)

The tacos on offer (at $6.50 each) were:
  • De Tofu (grilled tofu, achiote, orange, red pepper and almond)
  • De Tres Frijole (black, white and red beans, Egmont cheese, corn salsa and cilantro)
  • Vegie Breakfast (omelette, potato, peppers, Egmont cheese, habanero cream, caramelised onions)
  • De Garbarizos (spiced tagine of chickpeas, pumpkin, mint and sour cream)
  • Popeye's Magic Mushroom (huitlacoche, field mushroom, sweet corn, white onion and pico de gallo).
  • De Calabaza (charred pumpkin, eggplant, quinoa and salsa verde)

Only the breakfast taco, the mushroom and the tofu tacos had particularly distinctive flavours, with the others more or less dominated by the cabbage, corn and tomato salad they were served with. The ingredients all seemed fresh and interesting but the overall result just lacked a bit of punch - I was soon loading them up with the handy hot sauce. At $6.50 each they were a smidgen small as well.

Luckily we were leaving a potential highlight (and the main reason I could convince Cindy to visit) to last: the ice-cream sandwiches! There are four on offer, or a seleccion de los tres. We went with the random selection of 3 ($18.50), which came out much bigger and more impressive-looking than I was expecting.

Our three included a cookies 'n' cream (far right, with pop-rocks!), a chocolate peanut cookie (middle) and a dulce de leche-topped strawberry-pistachio parfait (left). The cookies 'n' cream and dulce de leche were both pretty tasty and easily halved for sharing, but the standout by far was the choc-peanut cookie - it hit the kind of highs that I was hoping for from the entire Touche Hombre experience. Everything was perfect - rich peanut butter ice-cream with extra crunchy nuts and fantastic, messy dark chocolate biscuits. The best thing on the menu by a distance.

So our experience of Touche Hombre was pretty mixed - the food was fine without being amazing, the atmosphere was straddling the fine line between enjoyably and painfully trendy, and the staff were friendly if a little hapless (we had a series of drinks brought to our table that sadly belonged elsewhere... our own took longer to arrive than the food). I'm not sure we'll be joining the queues for a revisit but if you're after an early weeknight dinner (and not in the mood for junk-food or dumplings), it might be worth swinging by.


People are pretty positive about the Touche Hombre experience, with positive reviews at Petit Miamx, You're Dripping Egg, grazing panda, The Juliet Report, goodmateseating, The Glutton and the Lush, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, SLIM, The Hungry Grub, ReneeLeah, Good Food, Good Mood, jaque eats world and dude food, it's for dudettes too. Only Foolish for Food and dining nirvana have been a bit unimpressed. There are a bunch of reviews from bloggers who were invited to a special opening event, although how their experience relates to that of a random punter isn't especially clear - see: Eat. Play. Shop., Off the spork, I Eat Therefore I Am, The Chronicles of Ms I-hua, The World Loves Melbourne and Popcorn & Toast.


Touché Hombre
corner of Tattersalls Lane & Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
9663 0811
veg tacos $6.50, desserts $7-$9 each or $18.50 for three

Accessibility: There's a single small step at the entryway and the interior is dark and pretty crowded. There's full table service. We didn't check out the toilets.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Savoury strawberry salad

October 6, 2012

Cindy and I have decided to bring on springtime through sheer force of will - defying Melbourne's return to 13 degree rainy days by pumping out this summery salad as part of our dinner (to accompany this more weather appropriate pie). The salad is one of Heidi Swanson's simpler recipes and can be thrown together in about 10 minutes. Balsamic vinegar and strawberries are a winning combination, and it's those flavours that make the salad work. The parmesan adds a savoury bite, and the flaked almonds a bit of crunch - it's straightforward, but very satisfying. This recipe makes more than two people can eat in one sitting, and the greens turn a bit soggy overnight, so rescale as required.

Savoury strawberry salad
(the mixed green salad in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)

150g mixed greens
1 punnet strawberries, chopped
50g flaked almonds, toasted
25g shaved parmesan cheese

A few garlic chives, chopped finely (the original recipe wants 1 shallot, but I wasn't buying a whole bunch just for one)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk together the chives, pepper, salt and balsamic vinegar and leave to sit for five minutes or so. Add in the oil, whisking thoroughly to combine it with the rest of the dressing.

Combine the greens and the dressing in a big bowl and toss thoroughly to coat the leaves.

Add the almonds, strawberries and parmesan and toss again. 


Friday, October 05, 2012

Mama Roots

Update 31/12/2014: Mama Roots has closed down. A branch of PJ's Mexican Kitchen is now trading at this location.

October 4, 2012

As we rode the 86 tram northwards on the weekend, my wandering eye was caught by a big sign on High Street promising a vegetarian and vegan cafe. On the way back we jumped off to investigate, finding that it was called Mama Roots and that it would open on Tuesday (the fact that it wasn't open yet gave us our chance to finally visit The Moor's Head). We gave them a couple of days to get themselves together and then headed up to investigate.

It's a simple and homely fit-out with exposed brick, some nice bright colours and simple wooden tables. There's probably room for about thirty people in the front room, although I think they may be able to squeeze a few more in the back. The menu plays things pretty safe: for mains there are lasagne, a stir fry, a beany tagine, risotto, a burger, polenta wedges and gnocchi. About half of these are vegan and some of the others can be prepared vegan if you give them a heads up. They've branched out a bit further with the entrees, including rice pancakes, tofu balls, a Swiss rosti bruschetta and more. All the entrées are vegan. They don't label things as gluten-free but the menu looks pretty promising for coeliacs - at least four of the entrees and four of the mains look potentially GF.

We settled in to debate our ordering plan, and were promptly served a small glass of tea - we've forgotten exactly what kind it was but it was sweet and delicious and a nice, simple way to start the meal off.

The drinks menu is limited so far - a range of soft drinks, a couple of juices and just this mulled wine for the boozehounds (never fear, you can BYO). At $6.50 this is pretty good value, a mix of orange flavours, wine and spices providing a heady hot drink.

We finally agreed to split an entrée and have a main each, hoping to leave enough room to sample one of the cakes. We both wanted to try the white lentil, sun-dried tomato, spinach and cumin doughnuts with coconut chutney crumbed in a physcillum husk ($6.90).

These were pretty great - dense doughnuts with a good balance of flavours and a lovely coconut chutney on top. The texture was maybe a smidgen dry - it would have been good to have something a bit more saucy to accompany them, but the taste couldn't be faulted.

I went for the intriguing tofu and tempeh burger served with sweet potato chips and green tomato chutney ($14.50) for my main. There's a typo on the menu listing this as vegan (which they were quick to tell anyone and everyone about) but the default bun is a non-vegan brioche (which can be replaced with a vegan version if required).

The burger turned out to be a patty made of a combined tofu and tempeh mush (for some reason I was imagining two separate patties). The texture reminded me a bit of our soy bombs but the flavour was a bit different (no peanut butter for starters). It was excellent though - nicely seasoned and complemented by the tomato chutney (which didn't look very green to me). 

Cindy ordered the pumpkin and fresh curry-leaf gnocchi, served with napoli sauce and parmesan cheese ($14.50).

This wasn't quite as successful - it tasted pretty good but the gnocchis themselves were dense and heavy, with varying degrees of chewiness. Not bad, but not amazing either. The combo of curry leaves and pumpkin was an interesting idea - I think there's a good dish hidden in here somewhere but the execution was below par.

By the time we'd made our way through all of this we were too far gone for dessert (they had three cakes on the board, at least one of which was vegan). Mama Roots is a great addition to High Street - it's got a lovely atmosphere, excellent and friendly service and a good selection of vegetarian and vegan food at pretty decent prices (we walked out having spent less than $50 including drinks). It's not going to change how you think about vegetarian food, but it is going to fill a niche in an area surprisingly lacking in vegetarian restaurants - there were plenty of excited locals coming in to check it out tonight, I'm sure most of them will return.


Mama Roots
599 High Street, Northcote
9481 5558
starters/salads $6.50 - 9.50, mains $13.50 - 14.50, banquet $24.50

Accessibility: There's a small step up as you enter Mama Roots. The interior isn't too crowded, and there's full table service. We didn't suss out the bathrooms.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Moor's Head

September 30, 2012

We've been meaning to hit up The Moor's Head since Claire reviewed it about a year ago. Even with our semi-regular visits to Thornbury for Women of Letters, we've never quite got it together for a visit. This week we finally rectified things, dropping by for an early dinner on the way home from a weekend away. Run by one of the same people as Rumi, The Moor's Head is aiming at being a fancy version of Mankoushe. Their tag-line is 'inauthentic pizzas', and manoushe and pide make up the bulk of the menu. We turned up right as they were opening and settled right into our pick of the tables.

The menu is super veg-friendly - almost half of the pizzas are vegetarian, as are most of the starters and all of the salads. Vegans will struggle, although there were a couple of pizzas that looked modifiably vegan. They do gluten-free bases for the coeliacs (at an extra $3). We deliberately over-ordered, safe in the knowledge that we could pack up any leftovers to take home (side-note for those in the area/with a car: everything at The Moor's Head is available to takeaway).

We started with the a serve of the baby peppers, stuffed with feta and served with walnuts and olive oil ($8). There was something vinegary about the peppers, which worked nicely with their sweetness and the salty feta stuffing. The walnuts were a reasonably good accompaniment, although I wouldn't have minded them halved and stuffed inside the peppers with the cheese.

We also ordered a salad to accompany our pizzas - chickpeas, parsley, tahini, yoghurt and almonds ($8.50).

This didn't wow either of us - it was fine, but anything so reminiscent of the famous Moroccan Soup Bar fatteh is going to be a bit of a let-down in comparison. The almonds were good, and the dressing was fine, but a bit of extra salt and maybe having it at room temperature rather than cold would have tipped things more in its favour.

To the main event! After a quick twitter consultation with Claire, we settled on two of the pides - first up the Istanbuli (pumpkin, tahini, dukkah and parsley, $17).

This was great - a good combination of flavours served in tasty and tender dough.

The pièce de résistance was the much vaunted Omar Sharif, a combination of three cheeses with oregano, mint, nigella and soused onion ($17.50).

You can almost feel your arteries solidifying as you gobble it down - salty and gooey, with just enough herby flavours to cut through the hefty cheese filling. I think a whole one of these would be too much, but splitting it in half (and saving half of that half for lunch the day after) meant that it was a real highlight.

I was very impressed by The Moor's Head - the service was friendly and speedy (helped no doubt by our early arrival) and the food fresh and delicious. I was feeling pretty happy with the prices (~$60 bought us more than we could eat plus two drinks) until Cindy drew the direct comparison with Mankoushe. The pizzas here are definitely a step up in terms of ingredients and variety, but when you think about the haloumi or spiced fetta manoushes available for around a fiver at Mankoushe, it's hard to justify the expense. Still, The Moor's Head shouldn't be punished for Mankoushe's insanely good value - it's still a very satisfactory and affordable meal (especially if compared with the fancy pizza places it's more realistically going up against).


The Moor's Head has received some excellent reviews from melbourne gastronome, Let's Get Fat Together, The New Good Life, jessinabubble, Excess Baggage and Food Sailor, while Double Dutch Oven prefers the value on offer at Mankoushe.


The Moor's Head
774 High Street, Thornbury (it's actually a bit of the way down Collins Street)
9484 0173
starters/salads $4.50 - 8.50, veg pizzas $16.50 - 17.50

Accessibility: The Moor's Head has done a good job in terms of accessibility - there's a ramp on entry, a reasonably spacious interior and a unisex, disability accessible bathroom. Ordering is at the table, payment at a low counter.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Kitchen Sanitarium

September 26, 2012

Once my work obligations started up I was surrounded by omnivores, but two of them indulged me in a visit to vegetarian lunch spot Kitchen Sanitarium when I discovered it was just around the corner from us. I was only three years behind Michael!

Back then, Michael noted that they weren't making much of an effort for vegans. Now the menu marks vegan items more clearly, along with anything that's gluten free, nut free, superfood (*eye-roll*), low GI or gluten-free optional. The overall theme of wholesome, mock meat-free dishes seems to remain - each standard menu item is captioned with its nutritional properties. The soup of the day, sandwiches and small salads come in around the $10 mark, while the curries, risotto, chilli and fancier salads approach $20.

I was feeling extravagant and ordered the chickpea and chilli fritters, which were served on a salad then drizzled with a honey-mustard dressing ($18.50). Everything was perfect on texture but trailing on taste. The fritters were under-seasoned, like completely unadulterated chickpeas. No chilli. The salad was a charming mix of light and crunchy puffed rice, sour pomegranate seeds, fresh vegetables and herbs, nuts and seeds. I enjoyed picking out each individual flavour, but they didn't mix meaningfully. Meanwhile my companions reported only good things about their soup and haloumi roll.

The Kitchen Sanitarium setting is perfect for a workday lunch, casual with lots of well-shaded outdoor tables. They appear very popular for lunch, though they pack up quite promptly at 2pm. The Kitchen clearly prides itself on a nutritious menu that will sustain people through the day, and at the cheaper end of their menu they look like reasonable value too. However my pricier plate didn't quite live up to the high standards that Ottolenghi has set in my own kitchen.

You can read about Michael's visit to Sanitarium Kitchen here. Since then there've been positive write-ups on blogs DolceBunnie, miss morag's morsels, Hungry Kittens, Edesian Feast and Eat, Peggy!.

Kitchen Sanitarium
Riverside Centre, 145 Eagle St, Brisbane
(07) 3221 7988
veg dishes $9-18.50

Accessibility: There appears to be ramp access to Sanitarium Kitchen from street level. Tables had medium spacing and were movable. We ordered and paid at a low-ish counter, then food was delivered to the table. We didn't visit the toilets.