Monday, November 24, 2014

Loving Hut II

November 8, 2014


Leigh Drew has been in Melbourne recently promoting her new cookbook Greenilicious. She found time between celebrity appearances and repeat visits to Yong Green Food to share a meal with some veg bloggers including Veganopoulous, Green Gourmet Giraffe, The Good Hearted, Veganise This! and Kittens Gone Lentil.

Veganopoulous kindly reserved us a table at Loving Hut Northcote, which we've been long overdue to revisit. The menu has expanded to almost fifty savoury dishes with a variety of mock meat and non-mock dishes, stir-fried, deep-fried and completely un-fried foods. Everything is vegan, and the menu is coded for gluten-free, raw, chilli-heavy and onion/garlic foods.


I've had an eye on other bloggers' meals at Loving Hut throughout the year, and it was darn difficult to settle on just one for dinner. Ultimately I went for the sizzling katsu duck ($14) doused in a sweet and sour plum sauce, topped with a few steamed vegetables. The mock meat was excellent with a tender, slightly fatty texture and crisp crumbing.


The fried chicken that so impressed me on our first visit now has a spicier sibling called the volcano ($17). It's an even heftier serve of mock meat doused in a three chilli-rated sauce that marks it as Michael's meal - I don't have the heat-tolerance to steal more than a bite!


The dessert cabinet's expanded with the menu, and we couldn't help but test it out too. Lower shelves hold homely goods like brownies and jam tarts, and the top shelf is reserved for some of the fancier cakes. (After we picked a couple of these, our waiter proudly mentioned that they're made by his partner.) This chocolate and hazelnut slice (~$6.50) was silky smooth and topped with a toffeed pecan and sherbetty powdered raspberry.

The Loving Hut staff were efficient and personable, even stopping by to check that our meals were OK - unheard of at a Supreme Master venue. On our chattering, seat-swapping table of eight I was oblivious to the half-empty food court atmosphere I've previously reported. The only shortcoming was ours and not the restaurant's: we were too enthusiastic about the deep-fried dishes and should have made more space for their fresher, vegetable-focused foods. Perhaps we can make amends next time.

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This shared meal has been mentioned in passing on Green Gourmet Giraffe and Veganopoulous.

You can read about our first visit to Loving Hut Northcote here.

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Loving Hut
377-379 High St, Northcote
9077 1335
menu: one, two
http://www.lovinghutnorthcote.com.au/ 

Accessibility: Lookin' good! A very wide automatic door, flat floors and moderately spaced tables. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets, but I spotted a disability-labelled unisex toilet down a wide corridor at the back of the building.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lucy Lockett

November 4, 2014


This is a story of major oversight on our part - it appears that cafe Lucy Lockett has been serving up original and abundantly veg-friendly breakfasts and lunches just a couple blocks from our home since February. And we had no idea. 

We blame the awnings that obscure their signage. When a cafe opened in this spot almost two years ago, we looked over the menu and didn't see anything we wanted to order. Since then it's evolved from Red Scooter to Red Vespa to the current Lucy Lockett without making any further impression on us at all. Thankfully our friend Troy is a little more observant recommended their menu to us.

As I hinted above, there's a lot to recommend - smashed avocado comes with spring onions and coriander (and Vegemite if you like!), mushrooms are braised with spinach, there's a breakfast burrito stuffed with scrambled egg and beans. The sweet side is as extensive and thoughtfully composed - the bircher muesli is vegan with a pina colada theme, house roasted granola comes with popcorn, and the French toast is crumbed with banana chips and oats. I can almost forgive them for adding bacon to their sticky date and almond pancakes. And that's not even delving into the toasties and lunch options! With crystal clear dietary markings throughout, these guys are true friends of vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.


Michael relished a sunny plate of vegan, gluten-free corn and zucchini fritters interspersed with quinelles of avocado, sour coconut cream and sweet chilli jam ($18). My serve of Dr Marty's crumpets ($8.50, pictured top) came in a fancy stack, dripping with rich house made peanut butter, mixed berry jam and fresh strawberries. I also sampled my second iced chai of the weekend ($6.50, also pictured top), though based on the confused murmurs behind the counter it's rarely ordered. It was a mild milk tea chilled with both ice cubes and ice cream.



Staff were friendly and relaxed on a quiet Melbourne Cup morning. Prices hover around $15 for breakfast, rise towards $20 for lunch plates and soar beyond for folks ordering the biggest meat-based meals. Those price points are becoming more common in Melbourne's cafes, and I don't mind paying them here, where the veg options are so numerous and varied.

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Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138
menu
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. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Heartattack and Vine

November 3, 2014


We took advantage of cheap Monday nights at Nova to catch up with Cindy's aunt for a movie and a meal. I'd been itching to try Heartattack and Vine, the newest kid on the Carlton block, with an impressive pedigree (it's been opened by Wide Open Road and A Minor Place alumni and follows their tradition of a musical reference moniker).


They've transformed the old Brown's Bakery space into a tremendously stylish bar - beautiful wooden tables, exposed bricks and gorgeous light fittings create a lovely atmosphere. It's cosy inside - maybe 30 seats - and there are a couple of big outdoor tables on Lygon if you want to sit outside.


We had no idea what to expect food-wise, but we had high hopes. It turns out though that H & V is more bar than restaurant, modelled on the bars of Italy, where food is all about shared plates of small bites. They've got the drinks nailed down - a great range of bottled beer plus Coburg Lager on tap, cocktails, an impressive wine list and an array of Six Barrel Soda Co soft drinks. Cindy and Carol split the raspberry/lemon and the cola and were impressed by both.


There's no menu to speak of - the kitchen puts together an array of dishes each day and you talk them through with the staff and make your choices - $3.50 a dish or 3 for $10. We wound up with 9 dishes ($30) - this included all the vego options (they'd just run out of a salad) plus some anchovy-stuffed olives for Carol. The day we visited vegans would have been limited to the crisps, the spiced nuts and the green olives (all of which were good). We added some cheese and pickles on delicious bread and some gooey, cheesy arancini, plus they threw in some crisps as a bonus. The dishes were all excellent, although teetering on the brink of decent value - $30 got the three of us enough food to get through the movie, but really not much more than that.  


We had a good time at Heartattack and Vine - the staff are super friendly and the vibe was busy without being overly crowded, but I struggled to scale back my expectations to bar food from the full meals I'd been imagining. This isn't really H & V's fault - they do what they do very well - I'm sure we'll be having drinks there again before too long, but it's probably not a dinner destination if you're feeling hungry. They're open all day - coffee and pastry at breakfast, a few different sandwiches and rolls at lunchtime and booze all day. It's a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and will provide fierce competition to the bar upstairs at Nova

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The lunch options at Heartattack & Vine have been reviewed at de-brief me already.

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Heartattack and Vine
329 Lygon St, Carlton
9005 8624
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door as you come in off the street. The interior is pretty crowded and the seating mostly low stools. You order and pay at a high bar. The toilets are unisex, but not particularly accessibility-focused otherwise.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blue Buddha Cafe

November 3, 2014


Following our lunch at Tadka Boom!, Michael and I ran a few errands in the city and then walked north to Raw Trader with dessert on our minds. It was closed for the Melbourne Cup long weekend and Short Stop next door had only just that minute sold out of donuts. Dang. We whipped out our smart phones, confirmed that Blue Buddha Cafe was open and continued walking north.

Tucked just beyond the Queen Victoria Markets, this cafe has transformed a flat corporate building with a benevolent blue Buddha mural. Inside there's second hand furniture, cotton cushions, board games and a small lending library. Michael picked a pew and I wandered over to the counter to survey our options. The brunch foods that others have posted about weren't really apparent, but it was easy to discern our cake-and-drink options.


I picked out two non-bananified raw cakes from the display case ($6 each) - a wedge of lemon and avocado cheesecake, and a cupcake-sized chocolate and avocado cheesecake. They were homely and well-balanced: not overladen with sweetener or coconut oil, and perfectly portioned.


Drinks are fair trade and soycharge free - Michael went for his usual flat white ($4), while I took on their soy iced chai ($5). The latter was remarkable! Made with real tea and real spice with only a subtle hint of sweetness, this could be my perfect iced chai. I'll guess I'll have to go back soon just to be sure. Next time I'll turn up in time to try their mushroom bacon too.



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Blue Buddha Cafe has already received positive reviews on Veganopoulous, The Good Hearted and A Melbournite.
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Blue Buddha Cafe
30/1 O'Connell St, North Melbourne
8395 0699
facebook page

Accessibility: There's one small step on entry and a moderately spacious interior. I ordered and paid at a low counter. The furniture is a mix of cushioned wooden pews, milk crates, and more standard table and chairs. We didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tadka Boom!

November 3, 2014


We were pretty excited when Tadka Boom! opened in the CBD, bringing with it the promise of India-inspired breakfast dishes and more straightforward lunches. Idli-based breakfast dishes and scrambled eggs with lentil and rice pikelets sounded fascinating and fun. Sadly, we took a few months to get ourselves sorted for a visit, by which time they'd ditched the brekkies entirely. The new focus is healthy Indian lunches, which suited our mood for a lazy long-weekend trip into the city.

The restaurant is tucked into Goldsborough Lane, a little courtyard filled with office-worker lunch spaces and not a lot of atmosphere. The layout inside is bright and cheerful - block colours, cute circular fluoro lights and upbeat staff. The menu is a slightly odd mix of wraps and rice bowls, snack-sized dishes and Indian-inspired sliders and tacos. It's veg-friendly and well-labelled, with heaps of options for vegans. 

The Indian felafel tacos (2 for $10) sounded intriguing, but I decided to go with something more conventional - the Varansi Veg rice bowl (spicy vegetable mix with brown basmati rice and lentil dahl, $10.90) with a side of Bombay bites (lentil and herb nuggets with coriander aioli, $3.50 extra). The bites were okay - a little on the dry side, but a nice herby flavour and a decent amount of aioli for dunking.


The bowl was more successful - the spicy veggie mix was fresh, almost salady, with plenty of fresh chilli chunks dotted through the cabbage, greens, carrot and likely cooked cauliflower and the dahl was hearty. I was impressed that they keep the spice levels up reasonably high - this could have been pretty dull if they'd been a bit less adventurous.


Cindy tried one of the salads - lured in by the promise of samosas as a key ingredient. The Boom!osa combined broken spinach and potato samosas with fresh greens, blackened chickpeas and a spicy dressing ($10.90). 


Cindy was impressed by this (although it also had high spice levels, which were a bit of a challenge) and inspired by the idea of including samosa chunks in a salad - expect a homemade interpretation at some stage soon!

Tadka Boom! is the kind of place you'd love if you worked nearby - an affordable, varied menu with plenty of veggie options. I'm guessing it'd be pretty busy on a regular work day - even on the Monday before the Melbourne Cup public holiday things were getting pretty full by 12:30. Their lack of any weekend opening hours mean it might be a while before we get back. It's definitely worth checking out if you do work in the neighbourhood, though - I'd love to hear what the tacos are like!

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The Lentil Institution has already covered the vegan options at Tadka Boom! and was quite impressed, while Gastrology and Grazing Panda both enjoyed the omni options. Brunch Addict's post makes me a bit sad to have missed the brief breakfast period, and there are a series of posts on special freebie events at My Fair Melbourne, Bread & Butter, I'm So Hungree and ForkSake.

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Tadka Boom!
Shop 22, Goldsborough Lane, Melbourne
9600 1633
menu
http://www.tadkaboom.com.au/

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and a reasonably spacious interior. Seats are a mix of high stools and regular tables. You order and pay at a lowish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.