Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Shift Eatery & Green Mushroom

December 1 & 3, 2017

I arrived in Sydney just in time to meet up with Cindy for lunch at Shift Eatery, Sydney's answer to Smith and Deli. It's more a sit-down place than S & D, but the menu is working similar territory - lots of sandwiches and toasties, plus some salads and a cabinet full of sweets. It's all vegan and it's pretty popular, we were lucky to sneak a table before the lunchtime rush hit.

Cindy ordered the 'nothing fishy' sandwich ($12), made from chickpea and artichoke 'tuna', with house made aoili, greens and tomato. Cindy described it as a healthy version of Smith and Deli's Free Willy 2, which is a bit of a back-handed compliment (it probably didn't help that she filled up on her chilled iced chocolate with macadamia milk and 50% cocoa chocolate, $5). I ordered the 'Reuben's brother, Steve', a combo of corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, cheddar cheese and gherkins ($16). I was very impressed with this - loads of mock meat piled up with great accompaniments and toasted to perfection.

We took a couple of Treat Dreams sweets away for later and they were brilliant - their chocolate bars are available from Cruelty Free Shops we're keeping an eye out for a Melbourne pop-up soon.

We were enthusiastic enough to head back to grab a wrapped lunch on our way to the airport. We decided that untoasted sandwiches were the most likely to travel well, so I grabbed the smoked tofu (minus the pineapple, but with greens, slaw, lime tahini sauce, tomato, chipotle and mix sprouts, $14) and Cindy picked up the 'join the club' - chicken schnitzel, turkey slices, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado and house made aioli ($16).

These were both spectacular. Shift are really delivering some solid Sydney lunches. It'll be a regular stop on our future Sydney jaunts.


We headed to Glebe for dinner, following some Twitter advice to check out Green Mushroom, an all-vegan Indian restaurant. We were a bit overwhelmed by the menu, which ran to something like 8 pages and spanned all manner of classic Indian dishes along with a couple of random pasta options. We were tempted by the mock lamb options and the palak tofu, but in the end had to restrain ourselves to just a couple of dishes.

We combined the eggplant and potato masala ($18.95) with a veggie and tofu biryani ($16.95) and a serve of the excellent vegan garlic naan ($3.50). The eggplant and potato dish was wonderful, with the eggplant surprisingly out-shining the potato. The biryani had a good spicy kick and a nice mix of veggies and tofu throughout. 

Prices seem a little bit excessive for Indian food, but the portions are generous (we couldn't eat all of this between the two of us) and the service was great. It'd be a fun place to take a big group to - there are so many dishes to try! It's pretty ace to have an Indian restaurant where vegans don't have to worry about ghee sneaking into things too.

It was great to check out a couple of new (to us anyway) all-vegan places in Sydney. They'll likely make it onto our repeat-visit list... that's coming up in our final Sydney post.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Breakfast in Surry Hills

December 1 & 3, 2017

At the start of this month, both Michael and I had work commitments in New South Wales, allowing us a stealthy weekend stopover in Sydney. We booked a little apartment in Surry Hills and soaked up the sun.

The Urban List had a handy recent article on the neighbourhood's best breakfasts, and we tried two of them. I visited Gratia before Michael arrived. It's a social enterprise that hosts community events and donates its profits to charities, some of which customers can vote for. The menu is short but appetising - eggs on toast, fruits, fritters and a pancake, with sandwiches and salads at lunch time and some vegan-friendly goodies on display at the counter.

I took a seat in their small, pretty courtyard and ate the avocado toast ($14); it was lined with tahini, sprinkled with sesame seeds and pea leaves, and very well seasoned.

Shenkin came with an additional recommendation from a shop manager I met on Friday morning. The first Shenkin opened a decade ago in Erskineville and now five outlets dot the inner city. The breakfast menu adds Tel Aviv twists to dishes we're used to seeing: the avocado toast comes with artichoke hearts and za'atar, muesli is served with tahini and rosewater-infused yoghurt, and waffles are sprinkled with halva.

I took on the Tamar Pancakes ($18.50, above left) and found the flavours on point but the proportions out of whack. Just one big cakey disc would have been plenty, and I was pining for more strawberry and banana slices. Vanilla creme and date molasses were terrific garnishes.

Michael wasn't quite sure how to handle the Malawach special ($19, above right), but he relished every bite! It centred around a roti-like pastry and a boiled egg, upon which he tipped numerous condiments: hummus, grated tomato, spicy coriander harissa and tahini.

These were fun ways to start our days, and of course we ate plenty more besides. Michael will cover a couple of the newer vegetarian cafes in his next post.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mock fish sambal goreng with coconut greens

November 19. 2017

This is a slightly involved but deeply rewarding meal that Michael and I teamed up on, on a quiet Sunday. We were clearly feeling a little nostalgic for the holiday we had in Bali a couple of months ago!

The meal centres on a mock fish sambal goreng recipe from Sri Owen's Indonesian Food, a cookbook that long pre-dates our holiday. It's not intended to be vegetarian, but I glibly replaced the fish and shrimp paste with vegan imitations. I also subbed in a little almond meal for a couple of candlenuts in the spice paste, and was pretty generous with my use of tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. The spice paste is designed to be tangy and complex, and the sauce rich and runny. It was largely a success, and we reveled in drenching our salty 'fish' pieces and steamed rice in it. Nevertheless, I'll try reducing the coconut milk quantity next time, because it came close to smothering a really great spice paste.

Our accompaniment comes straight from our holiday cooking class, a flexible blanched-greens-and-coconut salad. It's robust to haphazard treatment, even benefiting from a bit of bruising to release the makrut lime flavour, and a bit of time at rest before being served. Sprinkling the fried shallots on just as it's being served guarantees it'll feel fancy.

Michael cheerfully gloated his way through the leftovers, packed for lunch, while I was committed to catering at a work function. I reckon we'll both have the appetite to make more of this soon.

Mock fish sambal goreng
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food)

spice paste/bumbu
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillies, stem and seeds removed then roughly chopped
1 teaspoon mock shrimp paste
1 generous teaspoon almond meal
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fresh galangal, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons liquid tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons coconut milk

other sauce ingredients
850mL coconut milk
5cm stem lemongrass
2 makrut lime leaves
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon peanut oil
250g mock cod fillet, sliced into bite-sized pieces

Place the spice paste ingredients in a spice grinder or food processor and blend until smooth.

Set a medium-large saucepan over medium heat and add in the spice paste, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass and lime leaves, and bring everything to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, for 50 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Set the sauce aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a frypan over medium heat, and fry the mock fish until lightly browned on at least one side. Pour over the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, season to taste. Serve with steamed rice and coconut kailan.

Coconut greens
(slightly adapted from a recipe shared at Casa Luna Cooking School)

1 cup grated coconut
1 large bunch kailan or other green vegetable
2 tablespoons sambal
3 makrut lime leaves, shredded finely
1 tablespoon fried shallots
salt, to taste

Preheat an oven to 150°C. Place the coconut in a dry tray and gently roast it for up to 30 minutes; check and stir it every five minutes and remove it when it starts becoming golden (gold is great, but don't risk burning it!).

While the coconut is roasting, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Trim the stems from the kailan and chop it into large pieces. When the water is boiling, blanch the kailan for abotu 2 minutes, then drain.

In a medium large bowl, stir together all the ingredients, including the roast coconut and kailan. You can be a bit rough, allowing the ingredients to bruise and the flavours to mingle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Merri Table

November 19, 2017

We've enjoyed some nice brekkies at CERES over the years, so I was a bit shocked to wander through one weekend and realise that the old outdoor cafe had disappeared. Instead, CERES have focussed their energy on The Merri Table, a cafe that was briefly a fancy-ish restaurant (e.g. see this review) and was then a site for functions/courses, etc. Now it's the main breakfast and lunch option at CERES, with a nice mix of indoor and outdoor seating (it also hosts the excellent Tamil Feasts nights these days).

We stopped by on a Sunday morning to try it out. The menu is pretty standard Brunswick breakfast - chia seeds, crumpets, a range of interesting egg dishes and a few vegan options. It's not all vego, but there are no shortage of options. I sampled something from the specials board - braised brussel sprouts with capers, onions, garlic croutons, spiced yoghurt and poached eggs ($17). 

This was a solid option - it's always nice to get a big plate of seasonal veggies, and the croutons added some nice garlicky crunch to the dish. It all got a bit soggy towards the end, but it hit the spot nicely. 

Cindy was hoping for a nice fresh fruit salad, but the closest offering was a chia pudding, so she looked to the cabinet goods for something small. A pear, walnut and banana muffin ($4.50) did the job, especially when paired with a dandelion tea ($5). 

The Merri Table is a lovely place to have a meal - from the balcony area you look across the beautiful CERES gardens and catch the sunshine. The menu isn't that exciting - it doesn't compare to the range of goodies on offer around the corner at New Day Rising for example, but there are a decent range of savoury options, good coffee and friendly service. The best part about it is the location - while we were there we picked up some organic groceries at the market, dropped off some goods for the ASRC and hit up the nursery for some herb seedlings (as an added bonus, there's a whole family of tawny frogmouths living near the creek nearby).


There are some positive reviews of the cafe version of The Merri Table at Fitzroyalty, Hide and Seek and A Place a Day

The Merri Table
CERES, cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East
9389 0100

Accessibility: The entry way is via a rough gravel path, but once you're inside things are spacious and flat. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tempeh taco salad

November 13, 2017

This is a rare, valued thing - a new recipe to bring into our weeknight dinner rotation! It's a tempeh taco salad, published earlier this year on one of my favourite long-running food blogs, 101 Cookbooks

It starts with tempeh and black beans in taco spices, then there's lots of lettuce and fresh coriander to assert that it's a salad, and a handful of corn chips to bring the taco shell crunch. The salad dressing starts with ketchup, not something I thought I'd see on such a wholefoods-focused blog, but it's filled out with lots of tangy apple cider vinegar. Swanson encourages adding your own extras, too - for me that meant avocado chunks, fresh cherry tomatoes and a wedge of lime.

I'd recommend heading over to the source and checking out the different photos there - Swanson's version is richly coloured with roasted tomatoes and her corn chips are sparse and stirred through the salad. I was eating this over several days, so I separated out the chips to keep their crispness, and added in the avocado at the last minute. Avocado management aside, this was as good a packed lunch as it was a worknight dinner. It'll be back in our kitchen several more times before this summer is done.

Tempeh taco salad
(slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

225g packet tempeh
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/3 cup sunflower oil
400g can black beans
2 medium heads of cos lettuce
1 cup coriander
1 avocado
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cups plain corn chips
1 lime

Slice the tempeh into cubes. Pour the olive oil into a frypan and set it over medium-high heat. Saute the tempeh in the oil until browned, then turn off the heat and transfer the tempeh to a bowl. Stir the taco seasoning through the tempeh.

Make the dressing in a lidded glass jar. Pour in the ketchup, vinegar, golden syrup, salt, paprika, onion power and sunflower. Screw on the lid and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Drain and rinse the black beans, and stir them into the cooled spiced tempeh; stir in a tablespoon or so of the dressing too.

Roughly chop the lettuce and coriander; slice the avocado and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss together the salad or layer it up on a platter: lettuce, tomato, tempeh/beans, avocado, corn chips, coriander, then the dressing. Slice the lime into wedges and serve it on the side.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dr Morse Bar and Eatery

November 12, 2017

We spent Sunday afternoon at Templestowe checking out the platypus that hang about in the Yarra out that way (see pic at the bottom of this post). The bus back took us into Abbotsford and we decided to stop off for dinner on the way home at Dr Morse Bar and Eatery. It's a cafe in the day time and a bar in the evening - the courtyard was pounding with incongruous house music and loads of people; inside was less crowded but the air was still dominated by the DJ.

We started off with some drinks - a citrussy mocktail for Cindy and a lemon lime and bitters for me. Nice and refreshing on a warm evening.

On Sunday afternoons they run a 'Fists of Fury Asian Garden BBQ' at Dr Morse, so the menu is a bit more restricted that other times of the week. There's just enough vego food for two people to share some dishes - we picked out four of the five options for a light dinner.

We had, clockwise from top left, the BBQ pumpkin with sweet tamarind glaze ($7), the charred corn with miso butter and togarashi ($8), the Bangkok fried rice ($12), and the grilled tofu with yellow curry and coconut ($8).

This was a pretty decent meal - the corn and the fried rice were probably the best of the bunch, with the omelette in the fried rice providing a good salty hit. The tofu looked the best, but the curry sauce was a bit bland and it was only the fresh chilli that really gave it some punch. The pumpkin had a nice char on it, but the sweet tamarind glaze didn't really shine. 

The prices are pretty reasonable - we spent just under $40 on an enjoyable meal for two. Service is efficient and friendly and there's a nice atmosphere on a Sunday evening (I can imagine it all gets a bit hectic on Friday and Saturday). Dr Morse probably won't drag us over to Abbotsford on its own, but it's a good option if we're ever in the neighbourhood.

As promised - the platypus from Templestowe:


There are some positive reviews of Dr Morse on Wandering MintThe City LaneSimply SundayLisa Eats WorldChewing is ExerciseThe Burger AdventureMel: Hot or Not and Peach Water, while The Chicken Scene and The Brunch Addict were less enthusiastic.

Dr Morse Bar and Eatery
274 Johnston St, Abbotsford
9416 1005
Sunday evening menu

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and ramps between the front room and the outdoor area at the back. Toilets are fully accessible. We ordered at the table and paid at a high bar.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

DIY Golden Gaytime

November 2-14, 2017

The Golden Gaytime is a much-loved Aussie icecream that has withstood a shifting interpretation of its name. Its winking tagline is that it's hard to have a Gaytime on your own, and it's tempting to toast Australia's positive vote for marriage equality with one of these delightful popsicles.

And yet! We plan to make this a Streets Free Summer, in solidarity with the workers making Golden Gaytimes and facing pay cuts of up to 46%. So why not make a Gaytime on your own?

The easiest path is to whip it up, sundae style, with purchased icecream. A scoop of vanilla icecream, a scoop of caramel - have you noticed that there are some magnificent vegan salted caramel ones out there now? Make your own two-ingredient choc-ice magic, scatter over some crushed biscuits and you are SET.

Of course, I had to overthink this project and make my own icecream. I thought I'd mastered vegan salted caramel icecream years ago, though I've grown a little weary of overbearing coconut milk desserts since then. I worked in some macadamia milk, glucose syrup to improve the texture, and a hearty dash of dark rum in the caramel layer. My two-toned icecream tasted so, so great, but its texture completely bombed. Dense and icy, it was a pain to scoop and just barely a pleasure to eat. I kinda liked it in popsicle form, but it's not the Golden Gaytime we know and love. I assume it needs a higher fat content.

The recipe below isn't a recommendation. It's a record for myself, it's a call-out for your icecream-making ideas, it's an affirmation that I should do this again, and better.

DIY Golden Gaytime

400mL vegan milk (I used macadamia)
1 x 400mL can coconut cream
1/4 cup glucose syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
scant teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dark rum
100g caster sugar

chocolate shell
1/4 cup coconut oil
80g vegan 'milk' chocolate (I used Bonvita)
tiny pinch of salt

100g plain vegan biscuits (I used Granita)

Place the vegan milk, coconut cream and glucose syrup in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until well mixed. Pour half of the mixture into a bowl and whip it up with a stick blender, adding 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and a pinch of the salt. Refrigerate this mixture until very cold, at least 3 hours. (You should still have the remaining unseasoned half of the milk mixture out.)

Place the caster sugar in a clean dry saucepan over moderate, even heat. Avoid stirring it, but go ahead and shift the liquid bits out of the way to encourage the solid bits to melt quicker. Continue cooking the sugar until it is all liquid and brown, until it just starts smoking. Whisk in the remaining coconut milk mixture, and allow any stiffened caramel to melt back down. When it's all smooth, turn off the heat and whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla, the rum and the remaining salt. Refrigerate this mixture until very cold, at least 3 hours.

Churn the vanilla icecream in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then pour it into your preferred mold, and place it in the freezer. Churn the caramel icecream in the maker, then pour it over the vanilla layer. Place the mold, covered, in the freezer.

To make the chocolate shell, melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the chocolate and salt, and stir continuously until you have a smooth sauce. Turn off the heat and store the chocolate at room temperature.

Smash the biscuits into coarse crumbs (I used a rolling pin, with the biscuits placed between sheets of baking paper).

When it's time to serve, scoop or unmold the icecream, pour over the chocolate sauce and quickly sprinkle over the biscuit crumbs before the chocolate sets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Green Man's Arms

November 1, 2017

We were excited to read that new owners had taken over the old Percy's pub in Carlton and turned it into an all-vego pub with a Middle-Eastern vibe. We quickly rounded up a gang and got along to check it out. 

The fit-out is comfortable and a little retro, with a few high pub-style tables in the front bar and a casual dining room out the back. The staff are hugely enthusiastic and were almost overwhelmingly helpful on our visit. I imagine things will get a bit more slick and efficient once they settle into their rhythm, but we had staff checking in every few minutes.

The menu is a mix of small plates and mains, with most of the vegan options among the former. We shared a bunch of dishes between the four of us for near-comprehensive coverage of the Green Man's Arms' food.

First up was two serves of the Yemeni lahuh bread filled with asparagus, mushroom ragu and fresh creamed corn ($6.50 each), and the house made hummus with pita bread and pickled veggies ($8.50). The breads were fantastic - the lahuh bread had an injera-like texture, but a sweeter flavour. The hummus was solid, without being life-changing and the lightly pickled veggies that came with both dishes added a nice sharpness.

The only vegan main is the house made couscous ($15), which came with a vegetable purree and some roasted beans, corn and onions. It's kind of a weird dish to be honest - you might be a bit disappointed if you ordered it as a main for yourself, and as something to share around the table it wasn't as simple to divide as it looks.

Much more successful were the pomme frites ($8) - a plate of the most deliciously fried smashed potatoes, heavy on the seasonings and served with aioli and house made tomato sauce. The best dish of the night. I liked the falafel ($7) as well, although they weren't chewy enough for everyone at the table. 

We finished off by sharing a sample of all the desserts on offer: halva ice cream ($7, vegan and pictured left), knafeh ($10 and pictured centre) and barboosa ($8, vegan and pictured right). The halva ice cream was an impressively creamy vegan version, with some Persian fairy floss and hazelnuts to keep things interesting. The knafeh was a crisp-edged ricotta-stuffed pastry served with pistachios, pickled grapes, syrup and some weird little jelly cubes. The barboosa was a very sweet semolina cake, served on top of a rosewater infused coconut cream. I think we all had different favourites, which is a good sign.

It's great that the Green Man's Arms is offering up another decent veg option in Carlton, but we were only partially wowed by this early visit. The menu needs a few tweaks I think - some more (and more interesting) vegan mains seem like an obvious addition. It will be interesting to see how this pub develops!


The Green Man's Arms
418 Lygon St, Carlton
9347 7419
menu, desserts

Accessibility: The entry has a small lip from the street and there's a step up between the front bar and the dining room. We had full table service and didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Loving Hut

October 28, 2017

Melbourne has a new, third Loving Hut! And it's located in the shopfront that used to hold White Lotus; it's inexplicably comforting to me that there's a veg*n restaurant nestled in this spot again. The Loving Hut team have redecorated the interior yet it's instantly familiar, both from its past life and via the distinctive yellow branding of the Loving Hut chain.

The menu is all vegan with numerous other dietary considerations (e.g. gluten, onion, garlic, raw) labelled throughout. There are dozens of dishes on offer, and I hear it runs closer to the Richmond offerings than the Northcote ones.

We stopped in after big, separate days running about - neither of us had a huge appetite and were glad to order simply, sit at the empty communal table, and keep to ourselves. Unusually, this Loving Hut is largely run from the counter, and this suited us fine.

Michael was a big fan of the nasi lemak ($16). This version is centred on coconut rice and a spicy mock meat rendang and has all the right trimmings: sambal, fresh cucumber and tomato slices, peanuts, and crispy mushroom mock anchovies.

I played it safe and standard with the salt and pepper tofu ($16). This, too, is a lovely rendition of a common dish, with lively spices in a crispy coating and refreshing capsicum and lettuce surrounding the tofu.

There's still so much more for us to try at this Loving Hut - entrees, noodles, soups, smoothies and perhaps dessert. The proselytising posters are cheesy and the drinks menu's flooded with kombucha, but we can always rely on Loving Hut for a casual, comfortable meal.


Veganopoulous got into this Loving Hut branch early and enjoyed her visit.


Loving Hut
185 Victoria St, West Melbourne
9326 7551
entrees, mains, drinks & dessert
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a shallow ramp on entry and clear corridor through the middle of the restaurant (see top photo). Tables are medium spaced. We ordered and paid at a low counter. We didn't toilets.

Monday, November 06, 2017


October 25, 2017

Etta is a new restaurant close by where we live, but we have Tash to thank for alerting us to its opening and booking us in to try it out together. While a couple of newspaper articles have insisted that it's not fine dining like the co-owners' past businesses, we think Etta looks pretty fancy! There's a sparkly bar up front, a dimly lit dining room out back, seasonal ingredient-focused menu at special-occasion prices, and excellent service throughout. We saw plenty of veg-friendly dishes listed across the menu, but agreed to put ourselves in the chef's hand for $60 per person. 

Another signifier of fine dining is starting a meal with the best bread and butter. Etta delivered soundly on this, with crunchy-crusted pillow-soft sourdough and a memorable burnt butter that could just about be served for dessert. Rather, it was served with some refreshing pickled vegetables and a lovely macadamia-based condiment; the cabbage was sprinkled with a furikake that reminded me happily of Twisties. This appetising spread was a meal highlight for me.

Our second course comprised three dishes: a smoky beetroot carpaccio arranged over miso chimichurri and walnuts (above left), Michael's favourite tamari-roasted buttercup pumpkin sprinkled with sunflowers and dill (above centre), and new season peas with stracciatella and Sichuan (pepper, I assume!).

The third course of savoury dishes was just a little heftier: Tash's favourite mushrooms la greque on a smoked tofu puree (above left), fettucine with globe artichokes, hazelnut and sage (above centre), and a side of green asparagus seasoned with furikake (less Twistie-flavoured here).

For dessert, we were served roasted banana icecream with coconut mousse, jelly and a salty peanut-coconut crumble. Roasting meant the banana flavour was concentrated and a bit much for Michael, but I enjoyed it very much; the salted peanut crunches in the crumble were what made this dish special.

This was a meal of high quality and high consistency, as demonstrated by our differing favourites; it was only our individual ingredient hang-ups (rubbery mushrooms for me, bananas for Michael) that occasionally disrupted our enjoyment. Since a lot of dishes contained dairy we're unsure what a vegan menu might look like, but the flexible 'leave it to us' option and the enthusiastic use of vegetables (and a bit of tofu) leave us optimistic. We reckon coeliacs will do well too.

Service was eager and accessible whenever we needed it. We feel similarly eager to return with the change of the seasons and discover more of what Etta can do.


60 Lygon St, Brunswick
9448 8233

Accessibility: The entry is flat and there is one step up from the bar area to the dining area. Tables are moderately spaced and lighting is quite dim. We received full table service. Toilets are unisex and spacious, but we didn't notice handrails or other mobility aids.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Yuni's Kitchen

October 22, 2017

We had an afternoon gig in Northcote and took the opportunity to check out Yuni's Kitchen, an Indonesian cafe with a reputation for vegan-friendliness. It's a cosy little place tucked in behind a church on High Street with seats for about 20 or 30 people. We had no trouble claiming a table for four at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon and between us we got stuck into most of the veggie dishes on offer.

We started off with two of the entrees - the tahu isi sayur (below left, $9) and the bakwan jagung (below right, $9). The tahu isi sayur are little pockets of semi-soft tofu stuffed with vegetables and deep-fried in batter. The bakwan jagung are little fritters of corn, coriander, carrot and spring onion. Both are vegan, delicious and come served with Yuni's incredible sambal, which you can buy and take home.

We scanned the mains for tempeh and, finding only one vego dish that included it, three of us ordered the same thing: the nasi campur sayur ($21). It's a combo of all kinds of deliciousness: yellow rice, veggie curry, fried tempeh, urap (steamed veggies with spiced grated coconut), pickles, emping (chips!), perkedel (fried potato fritter), peanuts and a chilli egg (subbed with eggplant for the vegan version). This was such a good lunch, with so many delightful flavours and textures to smother in sambal. It's a slightly expensive lunch, but it's well worth it. 

Cindy took one for the team and ordered a tempeh-free meal: the veggie nasi goreng ($15). It's a solid fried rice with vegetables mixed through, topped with a fried egg, a potato fritter, pickles and some emping. Cindy was a bit disappointed not to get any tofu or tempeh in the fried rice, but it was still a decent offering. She topped it off with a Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk ($5), which is about the only way she'll consume caffeine. 

We had a great time at Yuni's - the nasi campur sayur is an absolute winner and I can't imagine ever ordering anything else. Our only disappointment was the lack of tempeh options - they make their own, which means they have to ration it out a bit rather than putting it in all the stir-fries etc (although I don't know why the waste it in two meaty dishes!). The staff were helpful and there was a nice relaxed vibe - it's a great Northcote option when you're not in the mood for Tahina


There's a reasonably positive review of Yuni's vego options on Green Gourmet Giraffe and a good write-up of their meatier offerings on Gastrology.

Yuni's Kitchen
251 High Street, Northcote
0455 337 666
drinks, food
facebook page

Accessibility: The restaurant is behind a church and the ground's a bit uneven on the way in. The entry is flat and the inside is moderately spacious. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Brownie-style chocolate cake
with espresso mascarpone

October 21, 2017

This Ottolenghi club meeting, I made a recipe requested by our host Alice. She'd been browsing recent articles about Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's new book Sweet, and coveting what is alleged to be the world's best chocolate cake. Alice's oven doesn't currently work and I was glad to supply the cake she craved.

Happily, the world's best chocolate cake isn't the world's most laborious chocolate cake! In fact, you don't even have to cream room-temperature butter and sugar in this version. The process reminded me more of some brownies I've baked, where the butter is melted and everything can be whisked and sifted directly into the saucepan. The two optional (but enthusiastically requested) accompaniments come together just as breezily: the chocolate topping is a one-saucepan ganache (although the recipe also includes a bizarre food-processor technique), and the espresso mascarpone can be whipped in a bowl by hand or briefly with an electric beater. I had both mixtures ready to go in less time than it took the cake to bake.

And how about that tentative "world's best" claim? Well, I can't be sure that it's not the world's best chocolate cake, because I can't recall eating a better one myself. The cake stands tall and dark, with a moist, melt-in-the-mouth medium density. It contains more than a cup of espresso, but that only serves to liven the chocolate flavour and doesn't create an explicit coffee taste. That's in the complex, grainy mascarpone, along with vanilla and cinnamon (incidentally, a half-quantity of this is just about enough to go around).

After a couple of hours in the fridge the cake changes, of course - it's firmer, denser, and the subtler flavours were lost to me. I'd recommend gathering some friends and getting as much enjoyment from this cake as you can during its first few hours out of the oven.

(And if you're after a vegan alternative, my best offering is this recipe.)

Brownie-style chocolate cake with espresso mascarpone
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Helen Goh and published in good food)

spray oil
350mL espresso coffee
250g butter
200g dark chocolate
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
240g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

200mL heavy cream
3 teaspoons golden syrup
3 teaspoons butter
200g dark chocolate

espresso mascarpone
375mL heavy cream
190g mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons ground espresso
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat an oven to 170°C. Line a 23cm diameter springform cake tin with paper and spary it with oil.

Heat the espresso in a large saucepan, and add the butter. When the butter is completely melted, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring continuously until it is melted through. Whisk in the sugar until it's dissolved. Check the bottom of the saucepan and allow it to cool a little if it's still hot. When the mixture is just gently warm, whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift over the flour, cocoa and salt, then stir everything together to combine. Pour the cake batter into the springform tin, and bake it for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for around 20 minutes, before removing the edge. It's gonna have deep cracks; don't worry about 'em!

To prepare the ganache, place the cream, golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cream starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until the ingredients are well combined and silky smooth. Allow the ganache to cool a little, then place plastic wrap on its surface.

To prepare the espresso mascarpone, whip together all the ingredients with a whisk or an electric beater, until soft peaks form.

To serve, transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Spread over the ganache and serve the espresso mascarpone on the side.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Crushed puy lentils with tahini & cumin

October 21, 2017

We've been Ottolenghi-clubbing for a good, long while now (our first meeting was Feb 2015!) - it's a great way to sample a range of Yotam's wonderful dishes without driving yourself crazy with preparation. This time around was as wonderful as ever - we had an aubergine, courgette and yoghurt upside-down cake, black miso sticky rice with peanuts and broccoli (both from Ottolenghi's Christmas column) and saffron, date and almond rice from Plenty More plus contributions from me and Cindy. See our facebook page for the full rundown.

I decided to make this crushed lentil dish from Ottolenghi's Guardian column. I'm a big fan of Ottolenghi's dips and spreads, and this one sounded perfect. It combines a relatively simple process (maybe 40 minutes all up) with a superb outcome - the lentil mix is delicious, with a wonderful  thick texture and a nice garlicky, cumin flavour on top of the nutty lentils. This is a perfect introduction to Ottolenghi - fancy and delicious but without a lot of the complicated methods or odd ingredients that characterise a lot of Otto's dishes. We'll definitely make this again.

Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin
(via Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

250g puy lentils
30g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tomatoes, cut into a 1cm dice
25g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
half a red onion, sliced finely
4 hard-boiled eggs
olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil and throw in the lentils. Cook for 20 minutes or so until tender and then drain and set aside.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for a minute or two. 

Throw in most of the coriander (reserve some for garnishing), all of the tomatoes and the lentils. Cook for another few minutes and then stir through the tahini and lemon juice, about half a cup of water and heaps of salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down and cook on low for five minutes or so, stirring. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher until some of them break up and you get a nice thick consistency. 

Serve, with a drizzle of extra olive oil, garnishes of coriander and onion and the eggs. We had ours with bread, but it's hearty enough to eat on its own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar

October 18, 2017

We've been wanting to visit the Last Chance with our mate Jess for a little while, and until this week the best we managed was Michael and I popping in on the chef's night off. On Wednesday the stars aligned at last and the three of us shared a range of their vegan pub dishes before hitting a bluegrass gig.

The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar is unashamedly a dive. The floor is concrete, the walls are lined with hardcore gig posters, and there's a faint smell of bleach in the air. The kitchen opens at 6pm and the menu is a single page of junk food: six kinds of burger, nachos, a souva, a parma, chips and a chilli dog. Happily, most of them have a vegan option (and everything vegetarian is vegan). How to eat gluten-free is less clear, though the buckwheat salad (!), nachos and chips might be suitable.

The loaded croquettes ($13) looked like the most refined item on the menu (save, perhaps, for that buckwheat salad). They're gooey with bechamel inside, dotted with corn kernels and spicy bursts of smoked jalapeno. I'm not sure that the aioli is really necessary (but yeah, we used it).

The chilli dog ($10) starts with a robust mock-sausage, which gets smothered in spicy beans, onions, salsa, chilli sauce and mustard. I'm a retiring ketchup-and-mustard kinda hot dog eater, so this was a bit much for me, but this will appeal to those who want more.

The vegan chicken parma ($16) doesn't appear to have a meat analogue on the menu, and is ENORMOUS. We were all big fans of the fatty mock meat, crispy-crumbed and topped with mock bacon and cheese. The accompanying chips were more modestly portioned, soft rather than crisp and well seasoned - they reminded me more of oven-baked potatoes than fries. Due to the parma's richness and the portioning, I'd be wary of ordering this on my own - chomping down my third of this one was mighty satisfying, though.

The dish I'd be most likely to order again was the Last Chance souva ($9). It's a doughy little wrap stuffed with braised mock lamb, onions and a few of those soft chips, drizzled with chilli sauce and aioli. It's saucy, savoury, and feasible to eat on your own.

The vegan menu at Last Chance is similar to The Cornish Arms, but they're offering a few nice touches of their own, and lower prices to boot. I reckon we'll be heading back for a burger before you know it.


This bar has received a mixed review on Kittens Gone Lentil.


The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar
238 Victoria St, North Melbourne
9329 9888

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry to a flat, open interior. We sat on high, back-less stools, and ordered and paid at a high bar. Toilets are gendered, the men's are down a few stairs; no accommodations have been made with accessibility in mind.