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.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Just Falafs

April 23, 2018

Melbourne's never been short of good falafel in the years I've lived here. Just Falafs is of the same crop as Tahina and Very Good Falafel, a casual little spot with counter service and lots of takeaway orders, serving an array of beautiful vegetable dishes and a couple of nice pickles to back up their specialty falafel. It's all vegetarian here, and mostly actually vegan (including their entire salad range), but it's not a big part of how they market themselves.

Across two plates, we sampled widely from the menu. The haloumi plate (pictured top, $15) has just two batons of golden cheese, but plenty else besides: four enormous falafel balls, a mountain of room temperature fried cauliflower, pickled cucumber and cabbage, a swish of hummus and a drizzle of tahini sauce. It's a rich feast.

The mixed salad plate ($13 + $4 for four falafels) made an excellent companion dish. The veges in rotation on our visit were charred broccoli with chilli and garlic, beetroot and carrots in fig balsamic, roast pumpkin with caramelised onion, tahini and pomegranate, roast cauliflower with capers and almonds, and Jerusalem grains. It's all varied and filling and very, very tasty. So much so that we haven't been tempted yet to order Just Falafs' rosemary and garlic chips!

It's evident that many Fitzroy locals have made Just Falafs their go-to for a no-fuss, nourishing dinner. The same rotation of dishes is available eat-in and takeaway, on a plate or wrapped into pita, with family packs designed for dinner at home or a picnic down at Edinburgh Gardens. We were able to grab a takeaway box and hold away some of our own leftovers for lunch the next day too. I reckon it'll be a winner, any way you order it.

Just Falafs has also received praise on Fitzroyalty and Laura Moseley.

Just Falafs
207 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
9041 9000

Accessibility: Just Falafs has a shallow ramp on entry. Furniture is crowded together; there's a bench down one wall and the rest of the seating is backless stools. There's a reasonably clear walkway through the middle. We ordered and paid at a low counter. There aren't toilets on site, and on a previous visit I was directed to use the facilities at the bar next door.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Orecchiette cooked in chickpea & tomato sauce

April 22, 2018

Regular readers will be well aware of our long-standing love for Ottolenghi's vego recipes. The usual downside of a Yotam dinner is his over-complicated approach, so we pounced on this week's Guardian column, which promised "smart tricks to simplify your cooking."

This orecchiette recipe really lived up to the promise - it's a super simple one-pot recipe that you can throw together in about half an hour. And it delivers that famous Ottolenghi flavour! The olives and capers do a lot of the heavy lifting, so it's a strong and salty flavour, but the sweetness of the cooked down tomatoes smooths things out a bit. I was completely smitten by this, and I'm already thinking about making it again.

Orecchiette cooked in chickpea & tomato sauce
(a slightly modified version of a recipe from Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
50ml olive oil
salt and pepper
40g parsley
zest of a lemon
4 tablespoons capers
80g green olives (we bought the pre-pitted ones from the deli)
250g punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
250g dried orecchiette (or similar pasta)
500ml veggie stock

Combine the garlic, chickpeas, paprika, cumin, tomato paste and olive oil in a large saucepan and sautee for 5-8 minutes. You're trying to get a bit of a crisp onto the chickpeas if you can.

Combine the parsley, lemon zest, capers and olives in a bowl. Add about two-thirds of this mix to your saucepan along with the cherry tomatoes, caster sugar and caraway seeds. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the pasta, stock and another 200ml of water and bring the mix to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12-14 minutes, until the pasta is ready to eat.

Stir in the the leftover parsley mix, drizzle with a couple more teaspoons of olive oil and serve.