Monday, September 30, 2013

Iced chai

September 15-19, 2013


I went through a brief phase of ordering iced chais earlier this year. They were typically sweet, frothy vanilla milks dusted with cinnamon and I wished for more spice and less cream. Here's my first attempt at home, using a concentrate recipe from Healthy Slow Cooking. It's nothing like the syrups commonly found in cafes, it has the consistency of water and actually uses black tea and the spices that go into chai. I've been mixing one part concentrate to two parts almond milk in a glass with ice.

It's definitely much, much closer to what I'm after - lighter, brighter, spicier. Nevertheless I'll probably tinker with any future batches to get my preferred spice balance. I think I'd like more ginger, and possibly less cinnamon.



Chai concentrate
(slightly adapted from Healthy Slow Cooking)

6 cups water
5cm piece ginger, sliced coarsely
6 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
8 whole allspice berries
3 green cardamom pods
5 black tea bags
1/2 cup maple syrup

Pour the water into a slow cooker and add the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and allspice. Slice open the cardamom pods and scoop the seeds into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Remove the lid, add the tea bags and set the cooker to high for 5 minutes. Turn off the slow cooker and allow everything to cool down a little. Strain the concentrate into a jar and whisk in the maple syrup. Store the concentrate in the fridge.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spiced coconut spinach & dahl

September 15, 2013


I got off a long flight back from Scotland early on Sunday morning. I'd enjoyed a week of eating out across Glasgow's excellent vegan pub scene, a return to Brunswick's brilliant breakfasts and I was ready to have something healthy and home-cooked. Cindy had a good stash of Indian recipes tucked away and we decided to make use of our afternoon to double down with two dishes.

They were both fairly simple on their own, but it wound up taking me something like two hours to put all the pieces together. I ad-libbed a bit, particularly on the dahl - using unsoaked channa dahl (red lentils) and being a bit haphazard with the spices. It didn't turn out looking anything at all like the soupy version pictured on The Cook and The Chef's recipe but it was basically perfect - thick and warming with a great spicy complexity and a bit of sweetness from the tomatoes. It got even better as leftovers through the week.


The spinach was an excellent accompaniment - not a showstopper of a dish, but a nice extension of a simple spinach side, with the toasted coconut, cumin, chilli flakes and lemon juice livening things up. In truth, the key to the excellence of this meal was the addition of vegan store-bought onion paratha - we grabbed ours from Mix Oriental Supermarket at Barkly Square, but I imagine any Indian grocer would have something similar. Dee-lish.



Dahl
(adapted from this recipe via The Cook and The Chef)

300g red lentils
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, cut into chunks
5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 red chilli, sliced finely
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped finely
4 tomatoes roughly chopped & 3 tomatoes finely chopped
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 garlic cloves minced, combined with a tablespoon minced ginger
Juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/2 cup roughly chopped coriander
3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
Salt to taste

Simmer the lentils in the water with the garlic cloves and ginger chunks until the dahl is soft and cooked through - about 20 minutes. Drain, keeping the cooking water in reserve and picking out the garlic and ginger chunks.

Heat the oil in a big saucepan and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds just start to pop throw the onion in and cook until it starts to brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste along with the chilli and stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the chilli powder, ground coriander and turmeric as well as the roughly chopped tomato, cooking the mix for a few minutes until the oil starts to separate.

Pop the boiled dahl back in the pot and tip in as much or as little of the reserved water to get things close to the texture you're after. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the tamarind paste, lemon juice, coriander and the finely chopped tomatoes. Cook for a final minute or two, add salt to taste and serve.


Spiced coconut spinach
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1 large bunch of spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons coconut flakes, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds. After a minute or two, add the chilli flakes and stir-fry for another minute. Throw in the garlic, onion and spinach and cook for two or three minutes - until the spinach is wilted but not soggy. 

Kill the heat and stir through the coconut and lemon juice.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monsieur Truffe chocolate

September 15, 2013


We have long been fans of Monsieur Truffe chocolate, and even as L'Atelier has transitioned to East Elevation and Thibault Fregoni has moved on, the Lygon St factory is more active than ever. Head chocolatier Jade Bentley has been working hard on her bean-to-bar project, which you can read about in more detail in this Broadsheet article.


We picked up a sample of her conching collection after our recent EE brunch. These three 25g bars are all 70%-cocoa solids Madacascar-origin dark chocolate but the chocolate has been conched in-house variously for 24, 48 and 72 hours.


Conching is a process by which the chocolate mixture is churned at a constant temperature, refining the mixture to a smoother texture and reducing acidic flavours. The 72-hour bar had an almost waxy bite, which Michael preferred, but I tended towards the more complex flavours of the 24- and 48-hour bars.


Jade happens to be a friend-of-a-friend, and she kindly offered us a taste of her upcoming series of bars using Brazilian beans. This chocolate was stunningly dark and smoky, and we'll definitely be seeking out more when it's available for sale.

Monsieur Truffe's dark chocolate and many of their other products are vegan (you just have to keep an eye on the milk chocolates and some of the add-ins, but ingredients are always clearly marked). They're pricier than an impulse-bought supermarket block, but their quality and nuance can barely even be measured on the same scale. It's a treat to to witness such a wonderful product being churned up (I mean, conched!) just down the street.

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While we know Jade personally, we've been Monsieur Truffe fans before she was even employed by the company! We don't think the personal connection has unduly influenced our opinion, but take our opinion with whatever quantity of salt you like. We have paid for at least 90% of the Monsieur Truffe chocolate we've consumed, including the conching collection above.
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Monsieur Truffe
351 Lygon St, Brunswick East
(also in Collingwood and stocked elsewhere)
9380 4915
http://monsieurtruffechocolate.com/

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Maddox

September 15, 2013


Even while in Glasgow, Michael was keeping at least half an eye on the Melbourne dining scene and emailed me this Broadsheet review of Maddox. They promised that "almost everything is, or can be vegan or vegetarian" so we stopped in for breakfast just hours after Michael touched down at Tullamarine.

The interior is unrecognisable from the premises' previous life as cheery-grungy Empire Cafe Gallery, with twee-er neutral tones and a wood-panelled kitchen. The clearly marked dietary options throughout the menu revealed lots for vegetarians, one vegan breakfast and mostly meaty gluten-free plates.


The notable exception is the sauteed Asian mushrooms with fried bean curd, spinach and crispy potatoes ($15), which ticks all three boxes! After adding extra salt, Michael was a happy gobbler of this dish - he thought it was better suited to lunch than breakfast but liked starting the day with tofu regardless.


With the straight-up vegan options exhausted, I asked our waiter if I could tinker with their smoked salmon offering (usually $16) and they were happy to oblige. Hence I was treated to wholegrain toast, half an avocado with a coriander dressing, crispy potatoes, rocket and tomato relish (~$10). The chef provided some butter on the side, which I duly discarded because VeganMoFo. This was a really great breakfast, thanks primarily to a flawless buttery avocado with a light'n'tangy Spring dressing.


There's more to explore on non-vegan days - including a couple ways with eggs, some brioche French toast and a killer cake cabinet - but we didn't feel at all as if we were missing out or inconveniencing the staff in eating animal-free.
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Maddox
295 Sydney Road, Brunswick
9041 5650
veg breakfasts $9-15
facebook page

Accessibility: Tables are closely packed but efforts have been made, including ramps replacing steps and a large unisex toilet with handrails. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The 13th Note

 September 12, 2013


For my final night in Glasgow I went to the last of the veggie pubs in town. The 13th Note is a long-running music venue, playing host to local luminaries like Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand. It was started by the guy behind Mono, Stereo and The 78 although it has since been taken over by someone else. It still has a very, very similar vibe to the other venues - there's live music, a relaxed bar area and a pub-style veggie menu.


Unlike the other venues, the 13th Note isn't entirely vegan - there are a handful of well labelled cheesy options - but the vast majority is animal product free. There's a wide range of snacks and starters, covering cuisines from all around the world - including dhal (£3.95/$6.95), salt and pepper tofu (£3.95/$6.95), sweet potato fritters (£4.25/$7.25) and Greek salad (£3.70/$6.30). The mains are similarly diverse, with a mix of burgers, curries, noodles and the quintessential Scottish haggis, neeps and tatties (£6.95/$11.85). I was still a bit full of soup and sandwiches, so I wound up choosing a couple of things from the starters menu.

The herby meetballs in napoli sauce with garlic bread (£4.25/$7.25) were hard little spheres of TVP drowning in a pot of tomatoey sauce. The garlic toast was nice and crunchy, but otherwise this wasn't the most exciting dish.


More satisfying was the vegan spanakopita served with a smoked paprika dip and a basic salad (£4.25/$7.25). The vegan cheese was a pretty reasonable imitation of feta - salty and a bit rubbery - and was combined with spinach and pine nuts in a crispy pastry cigar. It would have been great to get a bit more spanakopita for the price, but that's the risk of ordering from the snacks menu I guess.

After two starters I found myself still a bit on the hungry side, so I explored the dessert options, choosing the vegan cheesecake with chocolate sauce (£5.65/$9.60).


This hit the spot nicely - tangy cheesecake with a hint of lime and a distinct lack of the occasionally problematic tofu-aftertaste. 

The 13th Note would be a standout venue in most cities, but in Glasgow it's competing with a bunch of other places working in a very similar style. I quite enjoyed my visit - the staff were lovely, the music great and the general vibe welcoming and relaxed. Sadly, the food fell a bit short of the standards set elsewhere around town - it's worth stopping in while you're in town, but I'd prioritise Mono, Stereo and Saramago ahead of it.
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The 13th Note
50-60 King Street, Glasgow
0141 553 1638
snacks and starters £2.70-4.75~AU$4.60-8.10, mains £6.90-7.50~AU$11.75-12.80
http://www.13thnote.co.uk

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway into a spacious interior. You order and pay at a high bar. I didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saramago

September 11-12, 2013


From the bits and pieces of internet research I've done I couldn't quite figure out if Saramago was run by the same people who had been very effectively serving my vegetarian dining needs in Glasgow. Based in the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Saramago has a pleasant courtyard and a cosy bar area and would work either as a place for drinks and snacks or somewhere for a proper sit-down meal. There's a music venue through a side door and the walls are dotted with posters for upcoming gigs. Whether or not it's run by the same people as the other three venues, it's clearly going for a very similar schtick.

The menu also follows a similar format to places like Stereo - there's a diverse array of tapas, some sandwiches and salads plus a selection of mains. There are a variety of specials - at lunch time you can get two courses for £9.50 (~AU$16.15), a three-course early dinner will set you back £12.95 (~AU$22.10) or you can grab four tapas for £10 (~AU$17) after 7pm. 


The menu is very, very compelling. Some examples: asparagus with sesame oil, ginger, orange and cashew nuts (£3.95~AU$6.75), harissa potatoes with red onion and black olives (£3.95~AU$6.75), curly kale with soy, ginger and garlic (£2.95~AU$5.00), felafel, beetroot tatziki, spring onion and mixed leaf sandwich (£5.00~AU$8.50) and paella with roast red peppers, porcini mushrooms, and artichoke hearts (£8.50~AU$14.50)... look - just go and read the menu yourself, to save me typing all these out.

My first visit was for dinner - after some discussion with the staff I decided I'd probably struggle to work my way through four tapas on my own and decided to just order one of the mains. The pizzas tempted me, but in the end I went for something a bit different - Moroccan squash, chickpea and puy lentil tagine with pomegranate tabouleh, flatbread and shaved fennel salad (£8.50~AU$14.50).


This was an excellent dish - the tangy fennel salad and the pomegranate tabouleh were great sides, and the tagine was a textural delight. The flavours were pretty mild, but it was a very satisfying meal - lots of protein, warm herbiness and the combo of soft pumpkin and crispy toasted almond flakes. 

I was so impressed with my dinner that I returned to Saramago the next day for lunch. The weather had warmed up enough for me to enjoy the courtyard, but I was really there for the sandwiches. In particular, the tofu sausage sandwich with tomato and chilli jam and mixed leaves on toasted bread. For £6 (~AU$10.25) you can combine a sandwich with a soup, so I added in a bowl of the hearty-sounding mushroom and ale soup.


The soup was okay - rich and filling, but maybe a smidgen under-seasoned. The sandwich was bang-on though - the sweet and spicy chilli/tomato jam adding flavour to the slightly salty chunky tofu sausages. It's possible the sausages were straight out of a packet, but they were unlike anything I'd had in Australia - very much tofu-based, with a decent skin that the Saramago peeps had managed to fry up into a lightly browned crisp. Yummo.

I feel like I'm being ridiculously positive with my Glasgow reviews, but the approach taken by Glasgow's vegan restaurants (great music, hipster vibes, good booze range, awesome food) is just utterly up my alley. Saramago was another gem - the staff were helpful, the menu incredible and the dishes I sampled were top notch.
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I could only find only two blog reviews of Saramago - both girl-e glasgow and East Meets West Veg were fans.
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Saramago

350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (the cafe entry is up the side on Scott Street)
0141 352 4920
starters and sides £2.50-3.9~AU$4.25-6.75, sandwiches, salads and mains £5.00-8.50 ~AU$8.50-14.50
http://www.cca-glasgow.com/saramago-caf/saramago-caf-bar

Accessibility: The side entry is up a small flight of stairs, but there's elevator access if you enter via the main CCA entryway on Sauchiehall Street. Things are quite spacious inside and ordering and payment takes place at the bar. I didn't check out the toilets. Full accessibility information is available here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cherry-nut bars

September 11, 2013


A slightly-sick and very travel-weary girl still needs to snack, and over the last week this recipe from Cupcake Kitteh has served me well. The slice has a sweet and nutty base of almonds, macadamias and dates - I wasn't sure whether Mandee used dried or fresh dates but I had success with dried dates and a splash of water. From there it's brightened up with still-whole dried cherries and lemon; I added a little salt too. I really liked the lemon and salt effects, so I'd recommend bold doses!


Cherry-nut bars
(slightly adapted from a recipe at Cupcake Kitteh)

1 cup almonds
1 cup macadamias
2 cups dried dates
zest of 1 lemon
lemon juice, to taste
a dash of vanilla
a generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried cherries

Line a baking tray with paper.

In a food processor, coarsely grind together the almonds and macadamias. Add the dates and a couple of tablespoons of water, blend a bit, then add the lemon zest and juice, vanilla and salt. Blend the mixture until it forms a crumbly but moist dough. Add lemon juice and salt to taste, and water for binding, if needed.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir through the dried cherries. Press the mixture evenly into the baking tray and refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours before slicing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thick'n'orange stir-fry sauce

September 11, 2013


I've got in a bit of a sick-work-travel rut for a few weeks and not had a lot of enthusiasm for cooking. (I did make some killer granola though, even if it did take 3 hours with a broken oven.) I needed vegetables, lots of them, and while baking them would have been comforting, I didn't want to return to that oven.

So I tried this stir-fry sauce recipe, which I bookmarked from In The Mood For Noodles two MoFos ago. It's prepared in its own separate saucepan, which seems like a hassle, but actually it's really easy to put together and I've jarred the leftovers for stirring through more vegetables.

The sauce is an arrowroot-thickened mix of orange juice and tamari with onion crescents and mandarin chunks. In the original recipe most ingredients just get chucked in at once, but I gave the onions some extra frying time to brown up and soften. Two tablespoons seemed like a lot of ginger, but I'd be inclined to ramp it up even further in future.


Thick'n'orange stir-fry sauce
(found at In The Mood For Noodles,
where it's credited to Vegan Table)

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 red onion, cut into crescents
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups orange juice
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons arrowroot dissolved into 2 tablespoons water
1 mandarin, peeled and pith removed, each segment quartered

In a medium-large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion. Let the onion brown but not burn, stirring it occasionally and allowing it to cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, orange juice, tamari and chilli flakes and allow it all to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and pour in the arrowroot mixture and cook for a couple more minutes until thickened. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the mandarin pieces. Pour the sauce over stir-fried vegetables.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The 78

September 10, 2013


The folks behind Mono and Stereo have developed a mini empire of vegan eateries in Glasgow and I figured I might as well complete the set by visiting their 3rd venue: The 78. It's working in a very similar vein to Mono and Stereo - part pub part restaurant with a strong focus on music. It's probably the most casual of the three, with the crowd drawing heavily from the West End's student population.

The menu is pretty straightforward - spring rolls, samosas and the like to start off with and a burger-heavy main menu. Having hit up a few burgers already I briefly considered branching out and trying the tagine with coconut quinoa salad (£8~AU$13.75), but I couldn't resist the lure of chips and went with the special burger (a bulgar wheat and carrot patty, served with beetroot slaw, hummus and chilli jam, £6.95~AU$11.90).


The burger tasted pretty great, but it was the most falling-apart patty I've had in a while - I had to resort to using cutlery! The chilli jam had a sweet spiciness and the chips were top notch (plus they came with vinegar!). 

All the booze at The 78 is vegan as well (except for one cask ale that's clearly labelled) and the staff are friendly and helpful. Things were humming early on a Tuesday night, so I imagine it gets pretty busy later in the week. The 78 was probably a bit less exciting than Mono and Stereo, but it's pretty much the perfect local pub - solid vegan food, a good range of booze, great music and a lively atmosphere. Worth a visit.
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The 78
10 Kelvinaugh Street, Glasgow (West End)
0141 576 5018
snacks and starters £2.50-4.65~AU$4.30-8.00), mains £6.50-8.00~AU$11.20-13.70
http://www.the78cafebar.com/

Accessibility: There's a small step as you come in, but the interior is flat and reasonably spacious.  Ordering and payment occurs at a high counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mono

September 8 & 10, 2013


When doing my (food-related) research for this trip to Glasgow, I was struck by the incredible number of vegan pubs on offer. Once I got here I started to join the dots - they're mostly run by the same group, which seems to have made it its mission to bring vegan food to Scottish hipsters. Mono is a sister venue to Stereo and goes in for a similar vibe - it's not quite as stylish, but it really brings the hip, incorporating a zine store, record shop and live music space alongside the bar and cafe. It's a bit tricky to find, tucked into a weird little strip mall off King Street. I did a few laps of the block before I finally figured it out.


At lunchtime on a Sunday things are pretty quiet - there's a steady trickle of people wandering in for lunch, but the stage is packed up and the vibe is very relaxed. The bar has a reasonably good range of booze, but also offers up four different home-brewed softdrinks - given the state of my jetlag I decided not to risk lunchtime alcohol and sampled one of the ginger beers instead. It was excellent, spicy and refreshing without the syrupy sweetness that you often get in the commercial versions.


The food menu is brief but varied - there are a handful of sandwiches (e.g. smoked tofu, pesto mayo, tomato and spinach, £5.25~AU$9), some salads (e.g. chickpea, fried potato and sundried tomato salad, £6.50~AU$11.20) and then the mains - two burgers, a risotto, a nasi goreng and whatever's on the specials board. On my first visit I hit up one of the specials - to-fish and chips with minted mushy peas and tartar sauce (£7.95~AU$13.65).


This was just incredible, probably the best meal I ate in Glasgow. I spent the whole time kind of bummed out that Cindy wasn't with me though - given her deep and abiding love of tofu-based fish and chips and tartare sauce it just felt cruel to be enjoying such a great dish without her. Still, I soldiered on. The tofu was the highlight, with a crisp batter dotted with mustard seeds coating a surprisingly fishy centre (partly the nori, but the texture of the tofu was intriguing as well). But the trimmings were excellent as well - great mushy (but not too mushy) peas, decent chips and a tangy, thick tartar sauce stuffed with pickley bits.

Inspired by the fish and chips I headed back for lunch on Wednesday, finding a similarly low-key vibe. This time I ordered off the menu, going with the seitan burger, served with barbecue sauce, mustard, dill pickle, red onion and tomato and a side of fries (£8.00~AU$13.75). I added some jalepenos just because I could (60p~AU$1). 


I love a good seitan burger - there's something about the texture of well made seitan that works perfectly as a burger patty. And this was a pretty good version - the seitan had a slightly crunchy exterior and was a bit soft and stretchy inside. The 'shoestring fries' weren't really what I was expecting, but they still hit the spot nicely. 

Mono is just as impressive as Stereo, with great food, friendly staff and a lovely atmosphere. The people behind this mini-vegan empire really know what they're doing (up next: the third place they run, The 78).
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Mono is well-loved, with rave reviews on The Fun Side of Veganism, Squeaky Clean Vegan Bean, Displaced Beachbums, Shiny Bubbles, Adventures in Veg, and Cherie City, while Food and Drink Glasgow are a bit less enthusiastic.
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Mono
12 Kings Court, Glasgow
0141 552 9458
starters and sides £2.00-3.60 ~AU$3.40-6.10, sandwiches, salads and mains £5.25-8.00 ~AU$8.90-13.60
http://www.monocafebar.com/

Accessibility: Pretty good - the entryway is flat and the interior is quite spacious. There's a section of seating up a few stairs, but plenty of tables on the entry level. Ordering is at the table and payment at the bar - I didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Stereo

September 7-8, 2013


I had the ridiculous good fortune of being invited to Glasgow for some work-related shenanigans and managed to squeeze in a few free days to explore the city, its museums and the incredible range of veggie dining options on offer (Glasgow has just been adjudged Britain's most vegan friendly city, and I can see why). Let's start with Stereo - part music venue, part bar and part vegan restaurant. It's all stylish, housed in the old Daily Record building, designed by Glasgow's famous designer/architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Downstairs is the music venue, where local luminaries like Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand and Camera Obscura have all strutted their stuff (assuming the old posters on the walls are accurate), while upstairs is the restaurant and bar. Half of the tables are set aside for diners, but you can eat anywhere you can get a seat. I had no trouble on either visit, but then I was looking for a table of 1 at a time that would allow me to indulge my crippling jetlag by getting to bed at 8pm, so your experience may vary.


The menu is completely vegan and broadly broken up into small plates and main meals. Cuisine-wise they cover all bases: there's burgers and pizzas, nachos and quesadillas, felafel, tempura, even vegan haggis. The bar side of things means there's a great range of booze - I think it's all vegan friendly as well.

On my first trip I stuck with the tapas menu (full disclosure, I'd already had some nachos at the incredibly charming but pretty low-key Flying Duck). I couldn't resist the lure of the local specialty, ordering the haggis fritters alongside the decidedly un-Scottish veggie tempura (£3.75 ~ AU$6.44 each).


The haggis fritters were crispy logs of mystery - the filling included lentils, onion and carrot at the very least but, according to the waitress, they're made up of about 100 ingredients, "everything except meat." They were lovely anyway - like more complex flavoured tater-tots, with the harissa tomato sauce spicing things up a bit. The veggie tempura was pretty nicely done as well - eggplant, zucchini, onion and sweet potato coated in a delicate batter with a sesame, soy an ponzu dipping sauce.

On my second visit I managed to avoid having a pre-dinner plate of nachos, so I could sample one of the mains. I wavered over the haggis pizza and the quesadillas, but in the end fell back on my standard pub option: the burger. Stereo's version is a baked mushroom and chickpea patty, served with lettuce, tomato and mayo in a pita pocket. The side salad comes by default, but it costs you extra to add chips (£7.00 ~ AU$12 without, £8.25 ~ AU$14.16 with). I added chips of course. I also added vegan cheese (£1  ~ AU$1.72) out of the range of add-on options provided (jalapenos, onion rings, hommous, chilli jam etc).


I wasn't that psyched about the pita approach to the burger, but it worked better than I expected. The patty was pretty dense - slighty reminiscent of The Fox veggie burger but a bit less mushy. Throw in some pretty great chips, a slice of vegan cheese that was vaguely melty (I forgot to ask what brand they use) and some salady bits to add some freshness and you've got a pretty satisfying meal.

I really fell in love with Stereo - I wanted to squeeze in a third trip, but there were just too many other temping places to sample around the city. The staff are lovely, the music's great and the whole atmosphere is buzzy without being too noisy or messy (again, this is pretty early in the evening - it might be a bit more intense at 10:00pm). A definite winner.

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Glasgow doesn't seem to have a thriving food-blog scene - in Melbourne there'd be twenty reviews of a place like this. I could only dig up a handful, at Nac Mac Vegan, Squeaky Clean Vegan Bean, i ate all the burgers, Shiny Bubbles, Fat Gay Vegan, and Food and Drink Glasgow.
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Stereo
22-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow
0141 222 2254
tapas £2.60-3.75 (AU$4.40-6.40), mains £5.25-8.50 (AU$8.90-14.40)
http://www.stereocafebar.com/

Accessibility: The restaurant/bar area is up a flight of stairs, but there's lift access. Once you're up there things are quite well spaced out. Ordering is at the table, while payment is at a high bar. The toilets are a unisex area with reasonably sized cubicles divided into male and female.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gasometer X

11/11/2013: We're sad to report the closure of our beloved Gasometer.

September 7, 2013


We reigned in our Gasometer posting frequency but now, a year on, it's time we made our tenth post and notified you of their new menu. (Yes, we were sneaking in for the old menu plenty in the meantime.) It's still a basketful of deep-fried vegan-friendly Americana - wings, poutine, mac'n'cheese, ribs, burgers and dogs. 

For all that, I checked out the vegan chicken salad ($16). It's a platter of iceberg lettuce dotted with tomatoes, carrot, celery and sprouts (they kindly skipped the onion on my request). The sprouts were bitter, and kinda put me out, but I shovelled up those vegetables like my health depended on them (and that week, it really did). The 'chicken' pieces were pretty dense, with a delightful crunchy lemon and herb crumb.


The other VERY IMPORTANT news regards the chips. Burgers are now served with shoestring fries and not the beer-battered beauties that we've known and loved so long. It seems you can still order a basket of the best (for $8 to the shoestrings' $6) so they're not entirely lost to us. (Should that day come, I shall probably compose a funereal video montage in their honour.) But be forewarned and forearmed with cash and appetite for all the chips.
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We have already blogged Gasometer a ridiculous and effusive one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine times. In the last year it's won the approval of fellow veg*n bloggers The Good Hearted and Appetite Affliction.
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The Gasometer
484 Smith Street, Collingwood
9417 5539
veg eats $8 - $20
http://www.gasometerhotel.com/

Accessibility: The Gasometer has a small step on entry. The tables are crowded in some areas but the booths and tables closest to the entry are relatively spacious. Ordering and payment occurs at a high counter. Male and female toilets are on the same level as everything else but are not particularly spacious.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shandong Mama

September 6, 2013


Every so often Melbourne goes crazy for a new dumpling place, with rave reviews turning up wherever you look. We usually tune the hype out - so much of it is about new ways to do pork dumplings or similarly meaty inventions. So when the internet went crazy with love for Shandong Mama and their mackerel dumplings, we filed it away as a place investigate one day, but without any real priority. And then Hayley sorted us out with this giddy review of the veggie dishes on offer and it went straight to the top of our list.

We've been there twice for late weekend lunches, having no problems getting a table on either occasion. I understand things get a bit more hectic during workday lunches and at dinner time, so you might need to a while if you're after a more conventional meal time.


The menu has a reasonable range of well-labelled vegetarian dishes, but we followed Hayley's advice and looked past the noodles and the garlic broccoli and just went with two dishes: the dumplings and the scallion pancakes.


There's only one vegan dumpling option - boiled dumplings with zucchini, tofu, black fungus, coriander, rice noodles, ginger and garlic ($10.80 for 12 dumplings). These are beautifully made little pockets of freshness, with the zucchini light and a bit sweet - probably the best veggie dumplings we've tried. Of course everything is more delicious when it's dunked in your own combination sauce of chilli, vinegar and soy. On both visits we've shared a plate of these and Cindy has seen the desperation in my eyes and given me an extra dumpling. I think next time I'll need a whole plate to myself.

As good as the dumplings were, they were outshone by the scallion pancakes ($6.8 for 2).


Look at them! They're swirls of doughy deliciousness with just the right combination of crispy fried bits and softer sauce-soaking-up bits. Incredible.


Shandong Mama is a fantastic addition to our CBD dining options - this light lunch set us back less than $20 for two brilliant dishes. The service is friendly and efficient (although we did wait a while for our scallion pancakes both times - they must take a bit of prep) and the vibe is low-key and relaxed (at least at 3 in the afternoon). We'll be back.
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There were a few dissenting voices, with Sweet and Sour Fork, Peach Water and Footscray Food Blog not really loving it.

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Shandong Mama
200 Bourke Street (down the arcade)
9650 3818
veg dishes $3.80 - $14.80
Facebook page 

Accessibility: Shandong Mama has a flat entryway and, although we thought it looked crowded, we witnessed a customer in a wheelchair enjoying a happy solo lunch here. You order at the table and pay at a low counter.  We didn't visit the toilets.