Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lucy Lockett III

March 20, 2016


With a day of Ottolenghi-related cooking ahead of us (blog posts to come soon!), we needed somewhere local for a quick and delicious brekkie. Having overdoses on the Wide Open Road menu recently, it was time for a return trip to Lucy Lockett. There's a steady buzz at Lucy Lockett these days - the outside tables were full when we arrived, and the inside tables gradually filled up while we ate. The menu has changed a bit since our last visit, but there's still an impressive selection, with heaps of vegan and gluten-free options.


We both wound up ordering vegan dishes - with the breakfast salad of felafel, sauteed greens, cashew butter, beetroot and pickled carrot ($16) for me.


This is a pretty lunchy breakfast - some crispy felafel balls on top of a lovely mix of leafy greens, broccolini and asparagus plus a couple of whole mini carrots and some slivers of beetroot and radish. The cashew butter lumped on top was a bit thick and stodgy - I don't really know why you wouldn't go with a straight-up hummus on this dish - but that was my only minor complaint.

Cindy ordered the acai berry smoothie bowl, with granola, whipped coconut cream and fresh berries, plus some micro-herbs and decorative flowers ($14).


The 'smoothie' part of this dish was reminiscent of a deliciously sweet berry soft-serve, with the granola adding some necessary crunch. The micro-herbs and flowers looked pretty, but wound up annoying Cindy more than they impressed her. Again though, this was only a minor complaint and she was otherwise impressed with this dish.


Lucy Lockett really seems to have hit its stride - the menu still has plenty of dishes that I want to sample (the chilli corn fritters with avocado, harissa and lime yoghurt have my name all over them), the staff are friendly and efficient, the coffee's decent and the sweets counter probably needs to be sampled at some stage. We'll be back.
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Read about our previous visits to Lucy Locket here and here. Since then, there have been positive reviews on Voyage Collective, inlovewithbrunch and Melbourne Breakfast Diary, while frenchtoastandinidiepop weren't quite won over.

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Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138
meals, sides, drinks
http://lucylockett.com.au/

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. The toilet is unisex and has a big cubicle and a change table, but access requires negotiating a small flight of steps.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Maccaroni Osteria Italiana

March 19, 2016


The vegans of facebook have alerted me to yet another unexpectedly veg-friendly eatery! Maccaroni Osteria Italiana is a family-run Italian restaurant located in that funny little wedge of Queen's Parade bordering Fitzroy North and Clifton Hill. With a marble bar, high ceiling and elaborate light fixture at its centre, the restaurant has a sense of occasion.


The regular menu is dominated by pasta and risotti, meat and fish (including calamari and chips!). But there are also vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free labels across the board and an entire separate vegan menu, warmly inviting customers to "ask any question to the staff in order your food for religious reasons, environmental concerns, animal welfare concerns". Our group numbered more than a dozen, and the kitchen were kind enough to devise a $40pp vegan banquet that allowed us to sample numerous dishes across the menu.


The first deliveries to our table were huge platters of misto fritto (mixed fried foods, pictured left) - bolognese arancina (rice balls), ascolane (stuffed) olives, panelle (chickpea flour fritters), and potato croquettes (like crumbed fried gnocchi). These were fun to pick through, with everyone having different favourites. The lightly toasted bruschetta with olive and sun-dried tomato based sauces (pictured right) were almost overlooked.


Next came small bowls of macco di lenticchie (pictured left), a plain-looking red lentil soup with a startlingly rich, savoury flavour that reminded me of chicken stock, topped with herby croutons. The following pita panormous (pictured right) was a deceptively light and fluffy potato casserole studded with onions and black olives.


Little did we know, the hearty dishes would only keep coming! The lasagne (pictured left) had a very fresh tomato sauce and more pasta layers than I could count; papparedelle ai funghi (pictured right) featured thick pasta ribbons, creamy mushroom sauce and heady waft of truffle.


My favourite might have been the gnocchi forest - the lightest little potato dumplings I've ever eaten, in a bolognese sauce dotted with mushrooms. What a nice surprise to have a little vegan cheese to sprinkle over the top too.


Filling up, I was tempted to decline the fagottino di melanzane (bundle of eggplant, pictured left), but was glad I tried it - the pasta filling was elastic and fresh, and the slim eggplant wrapping was smoky and crispy edged, topped with a dab of tomato sauce and a basil leaf.

We were completely unable to do justice to the scaloppine ai funghi (pictured right), tender slivers of mock meat and mushroom in a creamy gravy, alongside parsley-seasoned potatoes. In hungrier circumstances, I'd have demolished the entire plate myself with gusto.


Dessert was mercifully miniature - creamy pannacotta topped with a berry sauce, and coppa di cioccolata fredda (cold chocolate cup) with a softened biscuit base and crunchy candied-almond topping.


Maccaroni Osteria Italiana set a very high bar for vegan Italian dining, with fresh and springy egg-free pastas and rich, creamy dairy-free sauces. Backed up with deep-fried entrees and a couple of desserts, it made for a heavy meal. While a salad or some more side veges might've lightened the experience, there wasn't a single sub-par dish on the table. This restaurant pulled off the far more impressive feat: opening the upscale, family-centred Italian restaurant experience to vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.

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This particular dinner has already appeared on Veganopoulous.

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Maccaroni Osteria Italiana
201 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
9077 0377
http://www.maccaroniosteria.com.au/

Accessibility: There is a small lip on entry, and a few steps down to the front dining area where we sat. Tables are well spaced and we received full table service. Most toilets are located up a well-lit flight of stairs with a handrail; toilet rooms are gendered and dimly lit; toilet cubicles are narrow. On the ground floor there is a well-lit disability-access toilet with a baby changing station. (Thanks to the staff comment below for extra info!)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mukka II

March 17, 2016


We've enjoyed a couple of visits to Mukka even in the face of stiff veg*n restaurant competition on Brunswick St. Most recently we met up with our mates Natalie and Ben, all of us agreed that we should trial the $30pp vegan "Just Feed Me..." menu.


We also needed drinks. I circled back on the rose & cinnamon cooler ($7) of my first visit - it's so pretty and refreshing! The staff treated Natalie to a ginger beer souped up with pomegranate juice and seeds and a wedge of lime. This was a riff on their current jug-sized cocktail, which was just too much for Natalie to take on solo.


The banquet proved particularly generous in its entree selection.  First up there were neat little samosas, dusted with black salt and served with mint and tamarind chutneys. More novel to us was the bhel puri, aptly described on the menu as "cold and crunchy, light and lovely"; a medley of puffed rice, Bombay Mix, nylon sev, pomegranate seeds, tomato, onion, lime, tamarind & mint.


These were followed by pappadums with more mint and tamarind chutneys, and the Tibetan momos that Natalie was most looking forward too. What luck to be served two each!


We had a long wait for our mains, but having eaten so well already I wasn't bothered. Eventually we were served a small steamed basmati rice (with the invitation to request more), a teeny creamy dal, a kachumbar salad, a sweet muttar tofu full of peas and caramelised onions, two bowls of soft and starchy aloo baingan, and thick wholemeal tandoori roti. We did our best but ultimately finished none of these dishes; we were kindly offered containers to take the remainders home.

Mukka's menu doesn't include vegan desserts so we happily, tiredly finished up at this point. But there was masala chai with almond milk on offer to round out the banquet.

Each time I visit Mukka, I'm glad to observe their customer base growing. Their menu has some great variations around the standard Indian takeaway and thoughtful vegan adaptations. The "Just Feed Me..." menu is a fun way for a hungry crew to sample across Mukka's options.

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You can read about my first visit to Mukka here. Since then it's been roundly praised by other bloggers, including fellow vegos Ballroom Blintz and A Melbourne Vegan Eats, and omni bloggers Barley Restaurant Reviews, Wandering Mint (half freebie), Two Bears And A Fork, A Chronicle of Gastronomy (freebie), Gastrology (freebie), Fitzroyalty and Melbourne Explorer.
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Mukka
365 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9917 2224
main menu, dessert & drinks
http://mukka.com.au/


Accessibility: There is just a small lip on the entry. Tables are moderately spaced throughout the interior. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. Toilets were located out the back, accessed by a flat but narrow path, and gendered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tahini

March 9 & 10, 2016


I barely pay attention to Broadsheet these days, drowning under the weight of newly opened bars and cafes that we'll eventually visit some time in 2018. Somehow though, my eye caught on the words 'Lebanese Diner' and 'Code Black Coffee' in a write-up of Tahini, a new place just around the corner for my office. We've had pretty good experiences at both Code Blacks and I've been craving a good lunchtime felafel for a while, so this shot straight to the top of my list for days when our packed-lunch game was weak.


I wound up visiting back-to-back quite soon after they opened, giving me a chance to have a proper shot at their menu. On my first visit I got a bit confused by the system - it turns out you only go up to the counter if you're getting takeaway, not if you want to eat in. I panicked a haloumi wrap ($10) without really taking in my full range of options. 

They really are designed as a speedy takeaway lunch - a better option would have been to upgrade to the tablieh option, which comes with a dip, salad and some chips to accompany the wrap, but kicks the price up to $16.


The haloumi wrap was heavy on the herbs - lots of mint and basil, along with cucumber, tomato, a deliciously oily green dressing and a few judiciously placed chunks of fried haloumi. On first inspection I was a bit disappointed by the low cheese:salad ratio, but the proportions tasted brilliant - lots of freshness with just enough cheesy, salty, oiliness to keep me happy. It's a small lunch though and at $10 it's probably not as good as getting three boreks from the Vic Markets (that's probably an unfair benchmark though I guess).

On my second visit I'd figured out how things worked - I sat down with the full menu and sussed out my options. The labelling of gluten-free, vego and vegan dishes is clear and thorough and there's plenty of options for everyone - for example, vegans can build a lunch from the felafel, five different salads, a massive range of dips and breads, vine leaves and chips. I left the decisions in Tahini's hands, opting for a standard soufra: two items from the grill, served with hummus, vine leaves, tabouleh and bread for $18. Only one of the grill items is vego (the haloumi), but they were happy for me to sub in some felafel as my second option.


This is a massive lunch, with a great variety of dishes to work your way through. Everything was excellent with the haloumi and hummus the highlights. This is a great way to sample a good range of Tahini's menu, but it does mean to committing to a $16 lunch, which is at the upper end of what I'm willing to pay. At least you're getting value for your money.

The staff at Tahini are super friendly and, although there were a couple of small teething issues on my first visit, things were running pretty smoothly on the second day. It's a big space and the menu is impressive - I'll definitely be back to sample some more of it.
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Tahini
199 William Street, Melbourne (via Guests Lane)
food menu, drinks menu
http://tahinilebanesediner.com.au/

Accessibility: There's a flat entry and a fairly spacious interior. There are a mix of high stools and regular chairs. You order at the table and pay at a low counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Barmuda

March 6, 2016


Before we embarked on a day All About Women, we shared breakfast with Another Outspoken Female and her Significant Eater. AOF recommended Barmuda for its veg options. Barmuda is tucked away on Australia St near Newtown's landmark intersection. It looks less slick than its neighbours Black Star Pastry and Oscillate Wildly, but we found a comfortable spot with sturdy wooden furniture and lots of sunlight upstairs.

Though they're not explicitly marked, we did indeed find plenty of veg options to choose from (gluten-free dishes are helpfully labelled). Granola, sour cherry loaf, vanilla rice, French toast and ricotta hotcakes were a promising start, extending to a breakie wrap, eggs, mushrooms, beans, and a big plate called The Local. The all-day lunch menu of toasties, falafel and hefty salads looks more vegan-friendly.


Michael took on the gluten-free potato stack ($16.50). The potato cake was particularly memorable, two squares of finely layered potato rounds, fried to a golden crisp. These were interspersed with tomato relish, rocket, grilled eggplant, scrambled eggs and a roasted tomato. Michael was very, very happy with this departure from his usual poached eggs and toast.


I deviated from my breakfast habits too, bypassing the sweet stuff for some gluten-free corn and chive fritters ($15.50) from the lunch menu. The fritters were as golden-fried as Michael's potato cakes, and bursting with corn kernels. Generous spreads of tomato relish and salsa verde effectively cut through the fried flavour, there was more roasted tomato, and I also added an avocado half for $3.

Barmuda doesn't have much of a web presence, and I gather that it's been around at least 15 years. The atmosphere certainly evokes a late '90s-early 2000s cafe to me, in the nicest nostalgic way. The food's not stuck in any kind of rut, thankfully, with a wide selection of tasty and satisfying veg meals.

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Barmuda's had a mixed reception on blogs over the years. It's won fans on Diary of a Ladybird, two tasty sins, Locomunching, sugarlace and electreats. Less impressed are I Am Obsessed With Food, lateral eating and Jugernauts.com.
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Barmuda
283 Australia St, Newtown NSW
(02) 9516 3341
food, drinks

Accessibility: The entry has a small lip (see top photo). Downstairs tables are densely packed, stairs are steep, and upstairs tables are more spaciously arranged. Ordered at our table and paid in a narrow passage way. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gigi Pizzeria

March 5, 2016


We had one goal for the second night of our Sydney visit: nab a table at Gigi. We wandered past on Friday night and saw a long queue on the street, so we turned up as they opened on Saturday to ensure we wouldn't be disappointed. Gigi is a fascinating restaurant - it's a classic Neapolitan pizzeria that's been massively popular in Newtown since the mid-2000s. Last year, seemingly out of the blue, they announced a menu makeover - everything they serve now is 100% vegan. It's a pretty dramatic transition for a restaurant that's relied so heavily on cheese, but one that's seemingly driven ethical and sustainability issues. Based on the steady stream of customers queuing up to visit the vegan shift has attracted at least as many customers as it has repelled - it's incredibly heartening.

They don't make a big fuss of their newly vegan approach in their signage or on their menu and it's easy to imagine that some of the people who've wandered in off the streets have no idea that they've stumbled into a vegan joint. The menu is pizza-heavy, with a few starters and salads to accompany them.


We snacked on some complimentary peanuts while we perused the options, eventually settling on a combo of one entree, two pizzas and a salad to share between the four of us. We started with crochette di patate - almond coated potato, garlic and parsley croquettes ($10).


These were a solid starting point - crispy almond coating around subtly flavoured potato balls.

The main event though was the pizza - these are cooked the traditional Neapolitan way, in a super hot oven for less than 90 seconds. The bases here are perfect - there's a reason Gigi has been certified by the Neapolitan Pizza Association. We started with the cavolo, with a sauce made out of cauliflower puree, covered in artichokes, capers, currants, parsley and olive oil ($22).


This is possibly the greatest vegan pizza I have ever eaten. The cauliflower puree was the perfect creamy sauce substitute - nutty and a bit sweet, the perfect foil to the salty, oily toppings. Seriously, just go and order one of these - they're incredible.

Our other pizza was almost as good - the funghi e radicchio, with Swiss brown mushrooms, garlic, vegan blue cheese, parsley, radicchio, roasted walnuts and olive oil ($22).


The mock blue cheese was surprisingly impressive - the waiter said it was Vegusto and it really carried off the sharp blue cheese flavour. The rest of the fillings were a good combo of bitter leaves and rich earthy mushrooms. These are really top-notch pizzas.

We also sampled one of the salads - the rucola, mele e cannella (rocket, radicchio, roasted apple, pistacchio, cinnamon, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & lemon zest, $14).


This was another success - why have I not tried roasted apple in a salad before? It added the perfect sweetness to counterbalance the bitter rocket.


We were so impressed by their savoury food that we ditched our early plan to check out Gelato Blue and stuck around to sample dessert, splitting four dishes (clockwise from top-left): tiramisu (off the specials board), torta all’arancia (orange almond & polenta sponge served with orange candy & fresh berries, $11), millefoglie (puff pastry filled with vanilla custard & macerated mixed fruit, $12) and pastiera di gigi (orange blossom whole wheat & candied citrus tart, $11).
 
The tiramisu was brilliant - an astonishingly veganised version of a dish that's usually based heavily on cheese and cream. These guys really know what they're doing. The remaining dishes were solid as well - I'd probably skip the millefoglie next time in favour of more tiramisu, but these desserts really showed off the skills in the Gigi kitchen.

Gigi really is a phenomenal restaurant - a properly excellent pizza place that just happens to be vegan. Generally speaking, Melbourne's got Sydney covered when it comes to vegan food, but this place is miles ahead of any vegan pizza I've tried in Melbourne. Fly there, queue up and check it out.

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Only VegeTARAian has visited Gigi since it turned vegan. There a handful of positive reviews of the previous non-vegan menu- see Buggles and Squeak, The Urban Diner, The Cake and the Knife, Dumpling Girl and Cheesecake Boy and Grab Your Fork. Juganauts and Bunny bloggers were not as impressed.

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Gigi Pizzeria
379 King Street, Newtown NSW
(02) 9557 2224

Accessibility: There's a flat entry, but things are pretty crowded inside. We had full table service. The toilets are gendered and fully accessible (including hand rails and a change tables for infants), but the passageway was cluttered up with spare chairs on our visit.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Golden Lotus Restaurant

March 4, 2016


All About Women drew us to Sydney for a weekend. We made time to hang out with ex-Melbourne food blogger Another Outspoken Female and her Significant Eater, and share some inner west meals. After scoping the queue at Gigi, we fell back on @jesshodder's recommendation of Golden Lotus. This vegan Vietnamese restaurant opened less than a year ago, serving myriad mock-meat and mock-free dishes that will suit the solo diner and banquetting table alike. In fact, we briefly debated ordering one of the two available set meals ($26 or $28pp) before agreeing to patch together our own.


We made the most of their non-alcoholic drinks list with young coconut juices ($4.80 ea) and lemon ice teas ($4.80 ea). It just wasn't the right time of day for a Saigon ice coffee ($4.80 ea), unfortunately.


To start, we shared satay skewers (2 for $6.80) and the intriguing crispy vegetable buns (4 for ~$10). The dipping sauces stood out for their complex flavours and the buns were almost like doughnuts in their sweetness, though they were stuffed with minced mushroom and onion.


The "chef favourite" dishes were indeed highlights, a stir-fry of vegan duck with chilli basil leaves and assorted vegetables ($15.80, top left) and a spicy beef rendang ($15.80, bottom left). My lemongrass fish ($15.80, top right) came with another punchy little sauce, and far too much onion for my taste. AOF's vermicelli noodles salad with tofu and spring rolls ($12.80, bottom right) lacked the crunch she was after.

Golden Lotus was busy and buzzing on a Friday night, though we didn't feel unfairly rushed by the staff. We enjoyed their mock meat share plates, and their multi-dimensional spicy sauces set them apart from many other restaurants. They're a nice counterpoint to their quieter neighbour Vina.

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Golden Lotus has had positive coverage on Eats No Meats and Samantha Lin/the perks of being a food blogger, and a mixed review on Fungry.
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Golden Lotus Restaurant
343 King St, Newtown NSW
(02) 8937 2838
menu 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
http://www.goldenlotus-vegan.com/

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door and densely packed tables inside, with a clear corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Andrew's Hamburgers III

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

February 27, 2016


We're still working our way through our Cheap Eats 2006 project, revisiting places from the first copy of The Cheap Eats Guide that we bought way back when we moved to Melbourne. On the last Saturday of summer, we headed back to Albert Park for an early dinner in the sunshine at Andrew's Hamburgers. They pre-date the American-driven burger craze that's swept through Melbourne in the past five years or so by about 60 years, first opening in 1939 and coming up with the current burger recipe in 1957.

They've put some tables on the footpath outside, but otherwise not much have changed: the menu's the same, the burgers are the same and the steady stream of customers is the same. Prices have crept up alongside inflation - from $7 for a veggie burger in 2007 to $10 in 2016 - pretty reasonable really.

Andrew's aren't in a hurry to change a formula that works for them. We grabbed one of their veggie burgers (with a homemade patty based on potato, sweet potato and pumpkin, with coriander, feta and parsley), a couple of potato cakes ($1.50 each) and a small serve of chips ($3). The potato cakes were uninspired, but the golden, salty chips hit the spot nicely. From what we could tell, the veggie patties are cooked on the same grill as the beef and chicken burgers, which is probably a turn off for some vegos.


The burger is a classically messy takeaway meal with salad spilling out everywhere. The patty is soft and pretty plain - the sauce and gooey cheese are doing most of the work flavour-wise. Veggie burgers at places like Howler and B.East are streets ahead of this offering (although they charge more as well to be fair).


Andrew's does a good line in Australian takeaway nostalgia - it's offering a retro lineup of burgers and souvlaki served up without any of the fancy toppings on offer at higher end places. It's great that they offer a vegetarian burger, but it's probably not something we'll hurry back across town for any time soon.
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We first visited Andrew's in 2007 to sample their burgers, and returned in 2010 for a souvlaki. Since then, only New International Students have reviewed the vego offerings (positively). 

Among the meatier blog scene, there have been many, many positive reviews: Jar Fed, Melbourne Places, Simon Food Favourites, Burger Review Crew, The Juliet Report, Let's Get Fat Together, Eat and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die(t), Ms I-Hua and The Boy, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Burger Friday, Melbourne Culinary Journal, Eat.Play.Shop, Edge of My Plate, Food Rehab, The Burger Adventure, One Fat Cow, Mostly Food Adventures, My Diet Starts Tomorrow, The Escort and the Thief, Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog, It's a Tall Order, Sharking for Chips and Drinks, One Fat Spork, yum yum, The Hungry Melburnian, The Baroness of Melbourne, Table to Tummy, Ichigo Shortcake, Gastronomical Ramblings, Simple Palates, Seriously, mochii eats, Sweet and Sour Fork, ps: I heart you, Melbourne Places, Lucy Likes Food, Of Breakfast and Tea, Em's Burger Quest, The Epicurean of Southbank, Eve Lovelle, The Hangry Bitch, The Food Society, Decisive Cravings, Under the Wire, Vanhell's Corner, Sean's Burgers, Verdict Lobster and Chasing a Plate.

A decent number of bloggers have been less enthused - most comparing Andrew's to bog standard fish and chip shop burgers: Andrew's Food Adventures, Missy Ness' Food Train of Thought, Curious Charlie, Food Etc, Double Dutch Oven, Tuesdays with Thao, For Food's Sake, The Best Bloody Burgers, Because I Can't Cook, Tirache and The Hungry Excavator.
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Andrew's Hamburgers
144 Bridport Street, Albert Park
9690 2126
menu
http://www.andrewshamburgers.com.au/


Accessibility: The entry is flat, but the interior is quite crowded and you order and pay at a high counter. The outside tables are reasonably well spaced, with bench seating. We didn't visit the toilets.