Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Efendy, Balmain

I had been planning on treating S to a nice dinner at Harvest for ages, and Christmas Eve seemed like the best time to do it. To my horror, Harvest decided to close that night for their summer break. So I had to quickly find somewhere else local that was a little bit fancy (but not too over the top), with a good amount of vegan food on the menu.

After a lot of research I decided on Efendy in Balmain. As a Turkish restaurant focusing on the mezze style of eating, I was confident I would be well served.

The restaurant is in an old mansion on the top of a hill in Balmain and has a really lovely courtyard out the front. The evening was fairly mild, so we chose to sit outside.

Because it was Christmas we decided to start with a cocktail. This was the first thing I liked about Efendy - their cocktail menu is just a little bit different, with all kinds of exotic & delicious sounding concoctions offered. I chose this Fig Martini - complete with candied fig in the bottom. It was mind-blowingly good.
While enjoying our cocktails I started to feel nervous about the food situation, because the menu only seemed to offer a couple of salads & one main that were vegan-friendly. After talking to the waiter however, we realised that there was a whole range of mezze on offer that weren't listed on the menu. We decided to choose a few things to share.

Including this red lentil mash.
A mung bean salad.
This absolutely divine capsicum-flavoured hommus.
And this plate off the dinner menu, which included a rice & tomato stuffed pepper, a rice-stuffed vine leaf, and a tomato & onion stuffed eggplant.
To help scoop up all the deliciousness we ordered some Pide. This was super tasty & fresh out of the oven - just beautiful. Word of warning though - the Pide dough isn't normally vegan - it's made with yoghurt. Luckily, they had some spare & were able to make a fresh batch for me, but it would probably pay to advise them you are vegan when booking to avoid any disappointment.
The waiter sadly informed me that nothing on the dessert menu was vegan, but I doubt I could have fit anything in anyway. So we decided to enjoy some proper after dinner drinks instead. I chose a Croation Cherry Liquer - yum!

I really enjoyed our dinner at Efendy - the service was spot on, vegan isn't a dirty word and the atmosphere is lovely. Most importantly, the food was delicious - so many amazing flavours, super fresh & obviously prepared with care & attention.

My only criticism (and it's a small one) is the lack of music. It would be really nice to have something traditional playing in the background to really boost the atmosphere.

79 Elliott St (corner of Darling), Balmain
Tue-Fri, Lunch & Dinner; Sat-Sun, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

3 Weeds Bistro, Rozelle

3 Weeds is one of the closest & nicest looking pubs to us in Rozelle, so it's a bit surprising it took us so many weeks to check it out.

But we got there, & I'm glad we did. The pub has been made over into the standard inner-city trendy affair, but maintains a really nice vibe. Out the back is the Bistro - the high ceilings & glass make it feel like more of an enclosed beer garden. As with most trendy bar menus these days, there isn't a lot of vegan choice on the menu, but happily they do have one fully vegan choice - the Spiced Chickpea & Pumpkin Salad with Spinach, Green Beans, Rocket & Lemon Tahini Dressing.
I really enjoyed this salad, but it definitely didn't live up to its description in the menu. No green beans for a start. The chickpeas weren't spiced (not that I could taste anyway), and most disappointing of all? No lemon tahini dressing! I suppose they had run out of the nice stuff, because the salad had just been dressed with olive oil & salt/pepper. Oh well, it won't stop me going back for a drink & it doesn't stop me recommending 3 Weeds to you as a nice quiet bar to while away a few hours with friends.

3 Weeds
197 Evans St, Rozelle
Tue-Sat 6-10pm; Sun 12-3pm

About Life, Rozelle - Take 2

After a couple of weeks in Rozelle, I quickly realised that apart from Iku, About Life is the best place to get a yummy vegan lunch. And, having tried pretty much everything on Iku's menu over the years, I'm happy to keep revisiting About Life for now.

This time, I tried the Quinoa pie. It was tasty, packed with lots of vegetables & nicely seasoned. Unfortunately it was reheated in the microwave instead of the oven, so what should have been delicious vegan wholemeal pastry was basically just soggy pastry. The pie came with what seems to be the standard side serving of tomato relish, which is really tasty, so no complaints from me there.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn't really a lot of ambience here, given it's location inside a grocery store, but if you're after a quick, healthy & tasty lunch, you should give them a try.

About Life
605 Darling St, Rozelle (they also have another store in Bondi Junction)
Mon-Thur 6am-8pm; Fri 6am-7pm; Sat & Sun 8am-5pm

The Little Marionette, Balmain

One of the greatest pleasures of moving into a new area is exploring all the new cafes, bars and restaurants on offer. Luckily for me, Rozelle & Balmain seem to have an endless supply. One of the early places I checked out was The Little Marionette in Balmain. I took a girlfriend there for lunch after reading many many reviews about the best coffee & lunch spots in the area. A few mentioned a unique service - coffee delivery to the park over the road. And I reckon that's pretty cool.

When I got there, I could see why they might extend their business to the park - it's tiny tiny tiny. Only 3 tables. But oh so cute. The menu is also pretty tiny & there's nothing on the menu that is vegan by default. But when has that ever stopped us?

I ordered the Avocado & Mushrooms on Toast - I think this had feta or something like that, so I skipped that & asked for tomato instead. It was really enjoyable - the mushrooms were nicely marinated & rich in flavour & my coffee was strong enough to match them.
I wouldn't recommend you make the trip out of the city for the amazing vegan food on offer here, but if you're in the area, you should definitely stop by for a coffee.

The Little Marionette
1 Booth St, Balmain
Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm; Sat 7am-4pm; Sun 8am-4pm

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked vegies with a difference & a truly awesome salad

Here are a couple of simple, yet really yummy, meals I have eaten in the last week.

This is a meal my special man made me to welcome me home from NZ. It's based on Carla's Stuffed Butternut Pumpkin. This is a pumpkin stuffed with rice, chickpeas, capsicum & onion. The only thing we would have done differently is bake the pumpkin for longer, because it was a little bit firm. But, overall, delicious & a fantastic idea - thanks Caral!
Rather than waste the pumpkin flesh that had been scooped out, S mixed it with the leftover chickpeas, & fried it up with some onions, then stuffed the remaining capsicum & baked it for about 30min. Yum.

This is one of my all-time favourite salads. It's stupidly simple - literally just mix a bunch of baby spinach with a tin of drained chickpeas & a couple of finely chopped tomatoes. Add a splash of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar & some salt & pepper. This was our main meal, so to fill it out a little I picked up a ciabatta & baked some croutons to throw in.
I love croutons. Seriously, how awesome are they?

About Life, Rozelle

So I've found myself living in Rozelle. It's a lovely part of Sydney & the walk down Darling St through Balmain offers hours of potential eating & shopping. Of course, the first thing I did was check out the vegan eating options. The obvious one is Harvest Vegetarian, which is top of my 'must try' list. Unfortunately I'm also currently unemployed & expensive meals are temporarily off the agenda.

But, day 1 at my new home & I was still full of optimism about my employment prospects, so splashed out on lunch at About Life, Rozelle's organic supermarket. Like many organic stores it has a cafe attached, with a fair amount of vegan offerings on the menu.

I chose one of the breakfast options - the Scrambled Tofu.
This was different from the usual cafe fare. Soy sauce was absent from the sauce, which made me happy, and the tofu was instead flavoured with turmeric, cumin (I think) & something else I couldn't put my finger on. I actually enjoyed the toast most of all - thick & crusty & wholesomely satisfying.

Being part of a supermarket, there's not a whole load of atmosphere, though out on the verandah it is quite pleasant. I'd recommend it as a good spot for a quick lunch or snack, rather than a destination.

About Life
605 Darling St, Rozelle (they also have another store in Bondi Junction)
Mon-Thur 6am-8pm; Fri 6am-7pm; Sat & Sun 8am-5pm

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vegan eating NZ - and the rest

To finish up my vegan eating in NZ posts, here's the rest of the vegan treasures I found along the way.

This Felafel Pita at Felafel Gourmet in Nelson was divine. I'm a big fan of sauce, and as you can see, this baby was absolutely loaded up with tahini sauce & chilli.
Felafel Gourmet
195 Hardy St, Nelson
Mon-Thu 9.30am – 5.30pm; Fri 9.30am-8pm; Sat 9.30am-4.30pm

From memory this Pizza & Salad lunch special at Winnies in Queenstown was only $10 - very good value. This is the Caprico without cheese. Not the tastiest (the sauce could have done with more flavour), but it did have a nice crispy base & wasn't short on toppings.
7 The Mall, Queenstown
7 days, 12pm-late

The Roasted Zucchini & Lentil Salad (without the feta) at Dux de Luxe in Queenstown was really good. It was a warm salad & had a nice balance of leafy greens, lentils & other assorted salad ingredients. The dressing was good too. Dux is a cool place - I recommend it for a quiet beer at the end of the day (before the DJ starts).
Dux de Luxe
14 Church St, Queenstown
7 days, 12pm-late

The ol' favourite - Avocado & Tomato on toast. I don't remember the name of the cafe, but it was a really funky little place in the main street of Wanaka.

Probably the biggest surprise of my whole trip. Stumbled into this place after arriving late into Fox Glacier. In such a small town, I really didn't expect much in the way of choice, but Cooks Saddle Cafe & Saloon had this Lentil Stuffed Capsicum listed as vegan right there on the menu - no changes required! It reminded me very much of nutmeat in texture & flavour & was very similar to the meals I make at home. A very pleasant meal to end a long day of driving.
Cooks Saddle Cafe & Saloon
19 State Highway 6, Fox Glacier
7 days, 11am-late (hours are seasonal, so call to check 03 751 0700)

Finally, this is a pretty standard Roast Vegetable Panini at Shoreline Cafe in Kaiteri. There was a false start with this one. I had asked for it without the ricotta & pesto (from memory), but it came out covered in melted mozarella (which wasn't listed on the menu). I took it back, apologising for not having specified no dairy (I'm always forgetting to do that & I really should have learnt my lesson by now). The waitress was pretty friendly about it & I was soon delivered a fresh meal. I really hate sending meals back (we've all heard the stories about chefs spitting in the food), but in this case there was nothing I could do to avoid the cheese & I was really hungry.
Shoreline Cafe
Corner Inlet & Sandy Bay Rds, Kaiteriteri
Summer - 7 days 7.30am-10.30pm; Winter - 7 days 10am-5pm (call to check - 03 527 8507)