It's not so far flung as Dublin, to be sure, but I had my own little adventure in Ballarat last weekend in Michael's absence. I met up with friends for indoor neon mini-golf, an autumn stroll by Lake Wendouree, and lunch at Chat for Tea. This vegetarian cafe has been in business over a decade, but this is my first visit. Shame on me, 'cause Chat's a cutie.
Their name hints that tea is a specialty here. I noted 20 hot tea varieties, 7 iced teas and 4 intriguing 'CFT Coolers'. I took a punt on the latter, ordering a passion fruit snow ($5.80 + 50c for Bonsoy). It was a light and refreshing milk-based drink with plenty of sweet'n'sour passionfruit flavour and a cluster of real fruit seeds in the bottom. But, to be clear: it's not tea.
We shared starters. Mock pork mini-buns ($5.50 for two) were the usual brand, which is to say: they were terrific. The vegetarian drumsticks ($5.50 for two) were even better: the soy bean curd was bizarrely meaty-squishy in the centre, then wrapped in layers around a small wooden skewer and fried to form a crispy-golden shell.
For my main meal, I took on the mock duck rice ($16). This was another meat-mocking victory: the 'duck' was layered and a little fatty with a crisp 'skin'. It sat atop fancy red rice, was dripping with so-so sweet chilli sauce (just like the drumsticks), and was served with a pickley salad.
My companions ordered the Teppanyaki noodle ($19.50, pictured top) and the mock pork ($19.50, pictured bottom). They were both sizzle-plate successes, with a bit more vegetable variety than I hit on. I reckon the black pepper sauce on the mock pork was the pick of the condiments, and the mock beef-soy slice medley with the noodles was also a smart combination.
This tea house tended toward a sedate atmosphere, but it wasn't too austere. We could comfortably have a laugh and take our time, delighting over the food and picking at each other's plates. You can bet that whenever I'm anywhere near Ballarat, I'll be back in for more.
Chat For Tea has previously inspired positive blog posts on Vegan About Town, In The Mood For Noodles and Biting Travels.
Chat for Tea
25 Armstrong St N, Ballarat