Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Savanna African Restaurant

February 27, 2018

We've had Savanna on our to-eat list since its Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine was recommended on Fitzroyalty more than four years ago, but we only just stopped in recently on the way to a weeknight gig at the Tote. It's been too long since we last sat down to a huge platter of injera!

There's a cursory salad, but the major attraction here is the ten veg*n wots and other vegetable dishes. One person can choose four of them with injera for $17.90, but bring companions you're willing to share with and the entire set is yours for just under $20 per person (e.g. $39.90 for our Ideal Feast for Two). In unfortunate news for some, the injera here include wheat flour, but there's rice on offer as an alternative.

We thoroughly enjoyed every stew - one or two pushed my spice limits and a lentil dish, rather than the more predictable potatoes, emerged as my favourite. The injera were tender and spongy, not as sour as we've eaten elsewhere; we were offered fresh ones whenever it looked like we might run out.

A bubbling little pot of shiro - made from ground chickpeas, spices and a slick of oil - was as dangerous as it was delicious. The staff gave us fair warning that it was high-temperature, and I still managed to burn my mouth terribly with it! Next time I'll remember that this deceptive dish needs time sitting on the injera before I greedily gobble it down.

Service was slow but friendly and informative at this family restaurant; we felt welcome to settle in a while and enjoy the experience.

In past years, Savanna has received positive reviews on Fitzroyalty and Gracious Expedition.

Savanna African Restaurant
7 Johnston St, Collingwood
9416 1462

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps on entry, and a couple more splitting two levels of seating inside. There's a reasonable corridor through the middle but the tables are quite crowded. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Shop 225

February 5, 2018

We were catching up with a couple of old friends for dinner and decided it was finally time that we tried out the vegan options at Shop 225. Tucked away on Melville Rd, 225 is a traditional Italian pizzeria that has for some reason decided to provide a full vegan menu alongside its regular offerings. We sat out in the courtyard at the back and sampled widely from the menu.

We were somehow talked into ordering the vegan calzone ($20), stuffed with tomato sauce, mock ham, fake cheese and real basil. I was sceptical, but this was an absolute delight - dense and delicious. I'm coming around to Ben Wyatt's point of view.

We also ordered a cappricciosa ($19), topped with tomato sauce, fake cheese, mushroom, olives and mock ham. I loved this one - they use a variety of mock meats, so when you get 'ham' you get something different to the salami or pancetta. It's a nice touch.

Our other two pizzas were a zio pino (mushroom, parsley, multiple mock cheeses and truffle oil ($20, left) and the il dottore (mock sausage, mushrooms, tomato sauce and mock fior di latte, $25, right).

These were both pretty successful as well - the toppings are generous without being overwhelming and there's a good mix of mock products and veggies to go around. Obviously the cheeses don't have quite the depth of flavours as the non-vegan alternatives, but they're surprisingly good and the rest of the toppings are diverse enough to keep things interesting.  

We had a really great meal at Shop 225 - there's so many vegan dishes to try out and they promise good gluten free pizza bases and pasta as well. The staff were super friendly (even talking us into buying some of their magnificent vegan nutella) and the courtyard was gorgeous on a sunny evening. Is it the best vegan pizza on offer in Melbourne? Red Sparrow is good, but our consensus was that 225 is better. Without travelling to Sydney you're not going to find a better vegan pizza option - check it out.

Veganopolous and THATVEGANLIFEDOE loved the early incarnation of this place, while Fitzroyalty loved the food but was annoyed by the dominance of Uber Eats orders.. There are a bunch of freebie reviews since the new owners took over that are unsurprisingly positive (see Penguineats, Lips Temptations and Fire & Tea).

Shop 225
225 Melville Rd, Pascoe Vale South
9077 4094
pizza, everything else

Accessibility: There's a flat entry into a pretty crowded interior. We sat in the back courtyard which is accessible only via a crowded and narrow pathway. The toilets are unisex, but up a few steps.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Small Axe Kitchen II

February 4, 2018

This summer we managed to schedule a Small Axe Kitchen brunch in sunnier weather, and nabbed a spot outdoors at their shared table. These guys always have a couple of good sweet options on the menu and on past visits, I've always picked the fruitier, more sensible looking ones. 

Not this time! I went all out with the miniature loaf of Sicilian orange cake ($19.50), served on a swirl of burnt honey mascarpone with a scoop of dark chocolate custard, cubes of blood orange jelly and a sprinkling of milk crumbs. I can't really convince you at all that this is breakfast, but it is a lot of fun to eat - the cake and custard make a splendid jaffa pairing, the mascarpone is firmer than it looks and lightly bitter, the milk crumbs add a salty pebbly texture and the jelly some bright sourness.

Michael's vegan zucchini fritters ($19.50) were less showy but (he reckons!) just as enjoyable - salty with a crisp crust, served with tahini mayo, artichoke heart, broad beans, peas, mint and lemon.

We noticed posters announcing that Small Axe is now open for dinner, too. Since then we've heard good reports from vegetarian friends who've tried it out. When we make it in ourselves, you'll be the first to know.


You can read about our first couple of visits to Small Axe Kitchen here. Since then it's received unanimous support from blogs A Chronicle of GastronomyHungry CookieMelbourne VitaSweet and Sour Fork, and Ferris Wheel Flights.

Small Axe Kitchen
281 Victoria St, Brunswick
9939 6061
food, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry (and perhaps a flatter entry through the garden side). Tables are densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle. Tables outside have small backless stools, high benches in the front room have tall backless stools, and tables in the back room have ordinary backed chairs. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ratio Cocoa Roasters

February 1, 2018

We roam Sydney Rd regularly, and keenly observe which of its businesses are launching, re-configuring and closing up for good. The Friends of Couture premises stood dormant a while, but when they came renovations were too fast for us to speculate about what was to come - up popped a bright, inviting chocolate shop called Ratio!

Ratio is spacious, even allowing for the extensive glass-protected area where all the bean-to-bar business happens. Up front you can browse the chocolate blocks ready for taking away and gifting, a few steps further in there's a cabinet of little treats to enjoy on the spot, and there's also a printed menu for those who take a seat.

Michael thought he'd get the best span of the menu by ordering the brownie tasting plate ($9.50, pictured top). Each has a different cocoa source and ratio, and though he enjoyed all of them, he had his Goldilocks moment with the 70% Peru-sourced cocoa slice.

He also tried out the Ratio hot chocolate ($5) - his report is positive, though he admits that he had too much chocolate going on all round to really savour and seriously assess it.

I had my dessert in a single glass, choosing the peanut butter and chocolate milkshake ($8). I requested a vegan version made with milkadamia (+ $1), which might even be an improvement on the standard dairy-based version! Here the chocolate flavouring is real but light, leaving plenty of room for the macadamia and peanut flavours to shine through.

Of course we took home a couple of bars to try later. Both the milk and (vegan) dark varieties were very smooth and quite sweet, with the flavourings pressed decoratively into one side of the bar. The salted caramel forms crushed glassy shards (not a soft centre, like the truffles in store), and the macadamia makes small nutty bubbles with only a subtle lemon myrtle seasoning.

Ratio's arrival feels like serendipity to us, though it's the culmination of years of hard work from founder Debb Makin. I'm looking forward to further familiarising myself with its wares this year.


Ratio Cocoa Roasters
186 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9388 8920
eats, drinks

Accessibility: There is a small step on entry to a spacious interior. Furniture is a mixture of low tables and chairs with backs, plus higher tables with backless stools (see above). We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, February 09, 2018


January 31, 2018

I’ve been vaguely meaning to visit Nostralis since reading about it in the Melbourne Veg Food Guide way back in 2008. It’s a long-running vegetarian pizza place in Caulfield that’s been in operation since 1981, surely a competitor for Melbourne’s second-longest running vego place after Shakahari. The décor betrays its age – lots of wood panels and old fashioned signage, but the vibe is welcoming and relaxed.

The menu has some odd options – a vindaloo pizza that includes banana and sultanas sounded very disturbing to me – but it also recreates some classics. There’s a margherita, mushroom and Mexicana pizzas and a whole range of other veg-heavy toppings. They’ve also added in a few mock meat pizzas for vegos who miss their pepperoni. Gluten free bases and vegan cheese (Cheezly) are available with small surcharges.

Cindy’s a sucker for ham and pineapple, so she went for a small Hawaiian pizza with dairy cheese ($11.50). I didn’t taste it, because pineapple on pizza is an abomination, but she was impressed. There was heaps of mozzarella and generous mock ham, but she would have added even more pineapple given the choice (because she's a monster). A step up from Eat Pizza's version.

I had a medium sized pepperoni with vegan cheese ($15 + $2.50), intending to take some leftovers home for lunch the next day. Instead, I smashed my way through the whole thing. These aren’t the authentic Italian pizzas served up at Gigi or Kaprica, but Nostralis really have the nostalgic '80s Pizza Hut vibe down. If we lived nearby I’d be going back a lot.

Nostralis is a steady success story in Melbourne’s veg dining scene, surviving with seemingly few changes for nearly 40 years. On a sunny Wednesday night we watched a steady stream of people grabbing takeaway or plonking down to share some pizzas – everyone seems to share an enthusiasm for this old school eatery.

There are a couple of Nostralis posts on vegan blogs Veganise This! and In the Mood for Noodles (twice), but nothing for ages that I could find.

55 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield North
9528 4961

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