Thursday, May 31, 2018

Smith & Daughters IX

May 22, 2018

Note: we booked this meal intending to pay our bill in full. Mo comped us a couple of extra dishes, meaning that we paid for the $132 of food we ordered and received two extra dishes worth $34 free of charge.

Smith & Daughters has had an amazing menu makeover for winter! They're going for all-out carby comfort food with an Italian theme, dubbing it Smith & Bellas. In surprisingly good news for coeliacs, more than half of these new dishes include a gluten-free option. We booked in with a couple of friends to share as much as we possibly could.

First up: meatballs! (Usually $12 for 3, we paid $16 for 4, above left.) They've got the right minced-meat texture, are smothered in a lovely sweet napoli, and boast some impressive parmesan. The garlic bread ($8, above right) was my must-order starter, and it was resplendent in its foil-wrapped pizza-delivery glory.

The creamed silverbeet ($10, above left) was silky soft, perked up with a little preserved lemon and chilli. Though we hadn't ordered it, Mo knew we needed the show-stopping carpaccio (complimentary on the night, usually $18, above right). They've somehow made their own flat, smoky mock-meat, which we were encouraged to roll up with a fig slice, horseradish cream, fried capers and rocket, then wrap around a crisp fennel bread stick. Wow.

These shared dishes had me excited and genuinely appetised for the mains! And here things got heavy. The gnocchi ($22, above left) were the softest little dumplings with as much broccoli rabe pesto and cream as we could possibly swirl them through. The cacio e pepe ($25, above right) looked deceptively simple but these bucatini were dressed in copious quantities of black fermented garlic, a little parmesan and two kinds of pepper. My pick, though, was the ragu and polenta ($24, main photo) - the polenta was so creamy and cheesy, and the ragu? Some of the most convincing mock meat I've ever eaten, mimicking the tenderness of a slow-cooked tough cut in a sweet gravy. Just astounding.

I was determined that we couldn't leave without dessert, and we agreed on two to share among the four of us. Mo put another beautiful spanner in the works, comping us a tiramisu (usually $16) - more vegan wizardry in neat, coffee-scented layers. Our companions were most taken with the limoncello rice pudding ($12), with a crunchy brûléed crust and dainty scoop of rosemary vanilla icecream.

I was unexpectedly besotted with the baked Vesuvius ($15). Blow-torched right at the table, I had to wait patiently to spoon through the scorched-Italian meringue crust, excavating still-firm black pepper vanilla icecream, skirting by poached quinces before hitting on a ganache-spread chocolate sable crust. I don't normally care for meringues or marshmallows much at all, but this was like a Wagon Wheel had all grown up.

Smith & Daughters have bloody well done it again! This Italian phase is so comforting it's almost familiar, yet it's also delightfully inventive and packed with surprises. You know we'll be back for more.


You can also read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of our previous visits. Since that final post a fairly negative review has appeared on Lifestyle By Lily.

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
savoury foods, desserts (including cocktails), non-alcoholic drinks

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Fan's Notes V

Edit 02/01/2021: A Fan's Notes is now closed, but its owner runs Ballard's.

May 20, 2018

I'm not sure how many more posts about A Fan's Notes this blog needs. I've photographed the underlit, overcluttered front bar ad nauseum, and we've covered the brunches, the burgers and the unexpectedly fancy vegan degustations. But we've found one more reason to stop in - the irregular and unmistakably unfranchised trivia nights. 

It was a good excuse for another burger. This is a menu with six (six!) vegan burgers and three (LOL, three!) beef-based burgers. Four of those vegan ones share a common beetroot & quinoa patty, there's a nifty fishy alternative, and a crumbed shiitake-kim chi affair that I'm going to work up to one day. Michael ordered his beetroot & quinoa patty southern fried ($13), which comes with coriander-pineapple salsa, avocado and, for a price (+$4), fries. It was an utter mess to eat and an utter delight to taste.

I thought I'd check out the vegan parma ($20). It's got an eggplant base, but it's mashed with brown rice rather than being sliced and crumbed on its own. As you can see, the vegan cheese is more of a sauce, and the overall effect is of sweet tomato sugo comfort, with the rice providing just enough to chew on. Fries and green salad are generously portioned.

Our trivia team slumped from equal first after round one to mid-ranking by the end of the night, but we're unperturbed. The quiz is fun, the food is more vegan-friendly than any of us could rightly expect, and the venue is like no other.


You can read about one, two, three, four of our past visits to A Fan's Notes.

A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
seasonal specials, daily specials, burgers, others
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at the high bar. There's a single, unisex toilet cubicle, which is up a step off an uneven path.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Baked peanut tempeh

May 19, 2018

This is one of those simple, brilliant, why didn't I think of that? recipes that we'll end up making so often that we'll be able to cook it from memory. It's wedges of tempeh, slathered in a sauce of peanut butter, tamari and lime juice and baked for half an hour. That's very nearly it.

Ironically, the Minimalist Baker's original recipe has a couple extra steps that we're happy to skip. First, they steam their tempeh wedges to remove bitterness. We like our tempeh just fine as it is! Second, they marinated their tempeh in the peanut sauce for 24 hours. We tried 24 hours, we tried 15 minutes and we like it just the same both ways. If anything the 24-hour batch was a bit of a nuisance because the peanut butter split from the tamari in our marinade. I might, might try blending the peanut marinade in our spice grinder to better emulsify it, but our original slightly lumpy fork-and-bowl approach was still a success.

We served our baked tempeh with roasted carrots and broccolini, rice and sesame-soy pickled radishes. Like Minimalist Baker, I can imagine rolling them into rice paper wraps, tucking them into sandwiches and layering them over salads. The wedges are saucy and comforting direct from the oven, and a squidgy savoury treat at room temperature. They might not convert the tempeh-avoiders (I know you're out there!); for these folks I'd start with tempeh bacon, lasagne or fried with palm sugar. But for those of us already on board the tempeh train, this is a delicious, easy way to eat more of it.

Baked peanut tempeh
(adapted from a recipe on Minimalist Baker)

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
a pinch of chilli flakes
225g block tempeh

Preheat an oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

In a medium-large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the sesame oil, peanut butter, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup and chilli flakes. (I might blend them together in our spice grinder next time to properly emulsify the peanut butter.)

Slice the tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Drop them into the peanut marinade and stir them together, until the tempeh pieces are evenly coated.

Spoon the tempeh pieces onto the baking tray, lying them flat and avoiding any overlap. Bake the tempeh for 15 minutes. Turn the tempeh pieces and drizzle over any remaining marinade, then bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the tempeh is turning dark brown around the edges. Serve warm.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Billy and Lucy

Edit 07/03/2020: Billy & Lucy is now closed.

May 12, 2018

We followed up our morning visit to Particle with an evening trip to another of the many new vegan places popping up around Melbourne, Billy and Lucy. It's a block across from Fitzroy's heaving veg*n Brunswick street strip in a building that's seen a few restaurants come and go over the years. The fit out is simple but pleasant - lots of exposed brick, an open fire and a few fancy chandeliers. The whole place is vegan and is aiming for something a bit fancy, like a low-key Transformer. There's a bunch of wood-fired pizzas as well as a mix of entrees and mains with a European vibe.

We were with a couple of friends who were keen to share, so we got to sample widely. We kicked off with three starters: southern fried cauliflower florets ($8), palm heart ceviche with capers, black seed crackers and smoked tomato emulsion ($14) and roasted mushrooms in an olive oil tahini crust tart with currant pate, bbq pickled onions, salad and aioli ($15).

This was such an impressive start - the mushroom tart in particular blew us all away, combining a subtly sweet currant pate with the mix of roasted mushrooms really worked. The other two dishes were great too and had us all excited for the mains to come.

We shared a couple of mains and a pizza - the mushroom and fig charcoal ravioli with vincotto and carrot puree ($25), the potato dauphinoise with parsnip, crispy artichoke hearts, onion jam and garlic cannelini ragout ($25) and the special pizza (house made artichoke puree base, cheese, artichoke, red onion and fresh chilli, $23).

This was another set of complete winners. The dauphinoise was probably the best standalone meal, in that it combined a few more elements than the ravioli, but in a sharing situation I think the pasta outshone it. The pizza was great too, reminding me a little bit of the Gigi pizza that uses a cauliflower puree base. I'm not sure which vegan cheese they're using, but it was nice and melty and we didn't  feel like we were missing out on much.

We deliberately paced ourselves to leave room for dessert, splitting the snickers bar ($9) and the pavlova nest with berries and ice cream ($13). 

I preferred the snickers of the two, although that mostly just reflects my ambivalence about pavlova. The desserts probably lacked a bit of the finesse of the savouries, but they both hit the spot.

The food at Billy and Lucy is really great and it's got a nice vibe too. The only downside on our visit was some pretty distracted service - hopefully just some early issues that they'll iron out as they keep going. We'll definitely be back to find out.


messy veggies are the only other blog to have reviewed Billy and Lucy so far - they loved it.

Billy and Lucy
350-352 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy
9191 8350
entrees, salads & mains; pizza & desserts; drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry and a fairly spacious interior. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Particle Cafe

May 12, 2018

There's been plenty of praise for Particle circulating veg*n social media for the past year or two, but it's not readily accessible by public transport from our place, so it's lapsed a long time on our 'to-visit' list. It's thanks to some mates with a car that we were able to stop in for brunch last weekend. The cafe seems to be plenty popular with locals and car-havers, as we had a 20 minute wait out front before a table for four was free.

Ahead of time, we knew Particle to be vegan- and instagram-friendly. The menu told us more: it's 100% vegan, 100% gluten free, 100% refined sugar free, and it's fryer-free too. There's a smattering of eager text and talk about veganism and animal cruelty, which will delight some and put off others. Foodwise, there's a surprising number of burgers and sangas for a gluten-free spot, then a bunch of savoury and smoothie bowls, novelty lattes with 8 kinds of non-dairy milk, juices and mylkshakes.

We were all mightily intrigued by their vegan haloumi ($5 on the side of Michael's meal, above). It didn't quite have a squeaky density of the real deal, but we were still very impressed by it! Michael's Jack Black burger ($20) was a mixed bag, with some of the best BBQ jackfruit he's ever eaten, a pleasant handful of salad, some unnerving-looking activated charcoal aioli, and a deeply disappointing bun. The accompanying potato discs were delicious, but not crispy as promised.

The toast used on my BLAT ($16) was better but still, ya know, gluten free bread. The drippy chipotle mayo was great, again the salady bits were in good shape, the avo was blended with green peas and lemon (pretty good!), and the mock bacon was based on rice paper. I was really interested to see how the rice paper played out, and it reminded me a bit of a prawn cracker - crispy and soy-salty, with lots of potential as a snack, but not exactly bacon-y. I enjoyed the overall effect, but this is a distant cousin to a bona fide BLT.

Some of the smoothies at Particle look really over-the-top, but I liked their pared-back mini mylkshake options ($7). My Not-ella version was chocolatey and nutty, with a sprinkle of cocoa nibs, a sweet treat I could handle alongside my sandwich.

With light streaming through the windows and enthusiastic staff on hand, we had a lovely late morning at Particle. The food had some bright, tasty and inventive moments, but other components fall flat as fads. This cafe will be best appreciated by people with restricted diets looking for something new, and not the more traditional bacon-and-eggs crowd.


Particle Cafe
1/47 Military Rd, Avondale Heights
0430 475 043
menu: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry and a crowded interior. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. The toilet is a single, narrow non-gendered cubicle around the side and down a slightly uneven path; a key from staff is required to access it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Neko Neko

May 9, 2018

We've been meaning to check out Neko Neko for ages and a cold Wednesday night with a few friends was the perfect opportunity. We turned up at about 7 and had to wait for about 20 minutes to get a table for four. They only have seats for about 20 people and they're pretty popular, so I'd guess a wait is pretty standard.

Once they squeezed us in we sussed out our options. Neko Neko serves a bit of fish, but they're super vegan friendly - there are meal sets, ramen, curry and a bunch of other superfood-y things like raw okonomiyaki (whatever that is).

I only had eyes for ramen - there are three options: one with a soy sauce based broth, a creamy tan tan ramen and my choice: spicy tofu ramen. It comes with shitake mushrooms, chilli broth, tofu, cashew nuts, leek and vegan soy mince plus the standard sides of pickles, mashed tofu, cabbage and beetroot ($20).

It's far from an authentic Japanese ramen - I'm pretty sure the spiciness comes from Sechuan peppers - but it was utterly fabulous. This is perfect winter food - great noodles, loads of other goodies and a hot, spicy broth. 

Cindy went for one of the meal sets - the agedashi tofu and miso eggplant set, with eight side dishes plus rice ($19).

It's super impressive visually - the big plate of sides looked amazing. There are various pickles, soft cashew mush, tofu salad, a little potato and a big serving of red rice in the middle. The agedashi tofu and miso eggplant came alongside, in a rich mushroomy broth and was an excellent accompaniment. 

Neko Neko is a great winter option along Gertrude Street. Having to wait in the cold for a table makes it a slightly harder sell, but once you're in you get delightfully warming food and a buzzy, bustling vibe. The service isn't super slick, but it was efficient enough and the food is totally worth it. We'll be back.


Neko Neko has received positive reviews on vego blogs messy veggies, Future King and Queen and little vegan bear as well as omni blogs Whatever Floats Your BloatDonutSam Eats and Travels, Fitzroyalty and Wandering Mint.

Neko Neko
83A Smith Street, Fitzroy
9415 6026
food, more food, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry and the interior is super crowded. We ordered and paid at a low counter and didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Rogue District

April 28, 2018

Rogue District occupies a charming old bluestone building that's housed a couple of other cafes already. They've all mostly passed me by - we don't make it to Albion St often, and when we do we always think of A Minor Place - but I did notice and file away posts showing fancy sweet breakfasts on Peach Water and Melbourne Vita.

This menu dwells disproportionately on such things! Usually I'm scrolling past all the eggs to get to that one sugary alternative; here I needed to stop and pause over panna cotta, banana bread, French toast, sticky date hotcakes, Tim Tam hotcakes, a raspberry and white chocolate waffle and finally (ha!) bircher muesli.

Rogue District completely called my sweet-toothed bluff. I wasn't actually sure I could handle icecream or Tim Tam crumbles so early in the morning, and I defaulted to the French toast ($18). It was a beauty: two slices of lightly battered toast, with passionfruit curd and syrupy baked rhubarb, scattered with white chocolate crumbles and fresh fruit, topped with a generous dollop of maple mascarpone. This was balanced to my liking - sweet and filling, yes, but also fresh and juicy and nutty.

Michael's chilli scrambled eggs ($17) were far less photogenic, but he was satisfied with his meal (and a couple bonus bites of mine).

Vegan and gluten free options are clearly marked, and they've definitely aimed to put the 'veg' in 'vegan', offering avo on toast with tahini and trimmings, broccoli hummus (?!), a 'super salad' and, mercifully, a mushroom burger. They're probably great, but I'm unlikely to ever find out with so many other waffles and hotcakes beckoning.


Rogue District has received positive reviews on blogs Peach WaterHangry DreamerSuzie ScribblesMelbourne Vita and TOT: HOT OR NOT; only Dang It We Love Food has reported disappointment.

Rogue District
179 Albion St, Brunswick
9386 7750
food, drinks & kids' menu
facebook page

Accessibility: The outdoor area is paved with bricks, and indoors there are slate tiles; both are technically flat but a bit uneven. There's a step on entry, and furniture is well spaced. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. Toilets are individual non-gendered cubicles with friendly rainbows painted on the doors. One cubicle is large enough to house an open shower, meaning there is room to move but no handrails. There's also a free-standing baby change table adjacent to the toilets.