Sunday, October 30, 2011

O Organic Produce, Surry Hills

On my quest for a vegan breakfast in Surry Hills, I happily stumbled across O Organic Produce - a recommendation from Mandee at Cupcake Kitteh. I have since discovered they have 2 other stores - at Bondi Westfield & Wynyard station.

O has that healthy, friendly vibe you get in most organic places. Lots of timber, lots of smiling staff and nice chilled music. We were there for breakfast, but I was sorely tempted by the array of takeaway lunch treats in the cabinet - the salads looked amazing.
I've actually been a couple of times now - it's the kind of place I know I will go back to again and again until I have tried every vegan thing on the menu.

On the first visit S got his favourite juice - apple, carrot & ginger. It was delivered quickly & was as fresh as you would expect.
I didn't have to think much about what to order for breakfast - the vegan french toast was a no-brainer. I was very curious to see how it would stack up to the Monk Bodhi Dharma version (see 1 & 2).
It stacked up well. The bread was super fresh, perfectly fried & topped with lovely sweet fresh fruit, toasted coconut & agave syrup. I still have a soft-spot for that vegan cream cheese at Monk Bodhi, but this version has to be at least equal for flavour.

There was only one hiccup - they forgot my coffee and when I finally got it after I had finished my breakfast the milk was burnt, which wasn't the nicest end to the meal.

Visit 2 went off without a hitch. This time I opted for savoury - organic baked beans on sourdough, with a soy banana smoothie.
The beans were really really good. The sauce had tons of flavour - based around their zucchini & tomato chutney and there were lots of nice fresh greens to balance the heavier, spicy flavour of the sauce.

O Organic Produce
487 Crown St, Surry Hills
Mon-Sat 7.30am-4.30pm; Sun 8.30am-3.30pm

Crave Sushi, Terrigal

Just a quick note to tell you about a new cafe in Terrigal. Crave Sushi has taken the place of a cafe (which I can't recall the name of) that was stupidly trendy & overpriced.

Unfortunately it seems to have maintained the status quo. While the staff were very friendly the day we visited (in complete opposition to what other reviewers have described), the prices are high, even for Terrigal standards. This is no fine-dining Japanese restaurant and offers nothing different from a standard Japanese takeaway that you would get on every corner in Sydney & Melbourne.

But, it still offers vegans another choice on the Coast, so I thought I should share. Here are the vegetarian inside-out rolls - crammed with lots of yummy tofu & fresh vegies.
I would still recommend vegans go to Body Fuel for a decent meal, but, if you find it closed (as we did), Crave at least offers a healthy alternative.

16 Church St, Terrigal
7 days, breakfast & lunch; dinner on the weekends in summer (call for exact times - 4384 6751)

Bodhi, Sydney

I'm taking advantage of my time in Sydney to check out every vegan-friendly offering that I can, just in case I don't make it back.

So far I have squeezed in 2 trips to Bodhi. Many others have been before me - check here for a start.

On our first visit I forgot my camera and it was way too dark to take any photos. You'll just have to take my word for it - the Sweet Vinegar & Soy Glazed Crispy Shitake Mushrooms were divine. Unfortunately there was a bit of a hiccup because I had actually ordered the Asian Stuffed Shitake Mushroom, but really wasn't concerned as the meal I ended up with was so yummy. S ordered the Peking 'duck' pancakes. This was also great, though I'm not a huge fan of mock meat, I could definitely appreciate the flavours.

The second visit to Bodhi was last weekend. We had initially tried to visit the Night Noodle Markets - part of the Sydney food festival - but after a quick walk around couldn't see anything particularly vegan-friendly at any of the stalls. Plus, the crowds were huge, which you can kind of see in this terrible photo I took with my phone.
Since we were already in the park, we decided to head back to Bodhi. Unfortunately I forgot my camera again, but we had a little more light, so I was able to take some very blurry shots.

This time I ordered the Mushroom, asparagus, red capsicum, soft tofu and cashew nuts tossed in a creamy coconut lemongrass sauce in an asian pastry. The flavours were unbelievable!
S got the Malaysian curry with lychee, asparagus, pineapple, snow pea, tofu, bamboo shoots and pine nuts. This was the first curry I have tried with so many sweet flavours - I really enjoyed it.
We have had great service on both of our visits to Bodhi - the staff are very attentive (it could border on annoying for some, but for me didn't reach that tipping point). The setting is beautiful, under the old moreton bay figs and I really can't imagine a nicer place to be on a warm summer's evening.

Lower Mezzanine Level of Cook and Philip Park (Between St Mary’s Cathedral and the swimming pool)
2-4 College St Sydney
Lunch 7 days 11am-4pm; Dinner Tue-Sun 5-10pm

Truman Cafe, Albert Park

My Melbourne office has just moved from South Melbourne to Albert Park and I quickly made it my business to discover the local food & coffee delights. I reckon I hit the jackpot on day 1. Truman Cafe seems to have only opened a few months ago, but in true Melbourne fashion, already has a loyal local following.

The first reason for that must be the coffee - perfect every time, smooth, strong and delivered in cute retro style.
The second reason is the atmosphere - a little bit retro, a little bit warehouse, a little bit bayside and with funky, chilled music all day long.
The third reason doesn't have a photo - it's the staff. Every single person I met over 3 days was super-friendly, helpful, efficient but laid-back at the same time and just all-round charming.

The menu doesn't have any outstanding choices for vegans, but it's not too bad for this part of the bay. On the first morning I ordered the sauteed mushrooms on toast. I think they came with feta, so I asked the waitress if that could be left out. She immediately asked if I was vegan, which I loved - it gives me confidence when 'vegan' isn't a foreign word. It turned out that the mushrooms were pre-cooked in butter, but as it wasn't busy the chef was happy to make up some fresh without the butter for me - what outstanding service!
The second meal I at was the now standard cafe fare of avocado & tomato on sourdough. A simple dish, but the freshest ingredients plus loads of avocado made it something special.
And then, once I spotted the pepper grinder I kept finding reasons to add more... and more. Just look how cute it is!
My final meal didn't get a photo - it was just a quick serve of toast on my way to the airport. I can't wait to get back to Melbourne now - Truman is the kind of place that becomes your home away from home. Vegans, don't go there expecting a feast, but I still recommend it based on the coffee, service & overall vibe.

Truman Cafe
381 Montague St, Albert Park
Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blue Corn, St Kilda

I recently got to revisit Melbourne for a working weekend and took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with friends while I was there. For dinner one night I met a friend at Blue Corn in St Kilda. Despite having lived in St Kilda & Elwood for many years, I had never eaten at Blue Corn, mainly because of the prices. It's not overly expensive by any means, but it was always out of reach for my student-poverty lifestyle at the time.

I can't believe I waited so long. Blue Corn is AWESOME! My friend convinced me to have a margherita to start - isn't it beautiful?
I ordered the dips, which came with cornbread, corn chips & olives. It was huge, just as Carla had described! I loved the variety in flavours too - from memory the dips were guacamole, tomato/capsicum, hummus, olive & I really can't remember the fifth one. The cornbread was super-fresh & delicious too.
We had dessert at home, which was a mouth-watering bowl of fruit salad with lemon sorbet. In my opinion, the absolutely most perfect way to finish off a gorgeous meal.
I definitely recommend Blue Corn for south-side vegans - in my opinion it easily stacks up to Trippy Taco. The atmosphere is fun and the staff are friendly and laid-back, all in all a great place to hang out for the night.

Blue Corn
205 Barkly St, St Kilda
Mon-Fri 6-11pm; Sat-Sun 9am-11pm (these opening hours are unconfirmed - best to call them to check - 9534 5996)

Funky Pies, Bondi

Since I've been hanging around Sydney more I figured I may as well get out there explore this city's vegan offerings. While not quite as vegan-friendly as Melbourne, and with quite a reliance on Asian-inspired food (which I like, but don't love), I have been pleasantly surprised at what I have found so far.

On the day S & I completed the Coogee-Bondi walk, I made sure we timed it so we could visit Funky Pies for lunch. I have eaten their pies many times in Melbourne, but I was itching to visit the cafe after reading these reviews by Melbourne bloggers last year.

I was also happy to finally try the one pie I have never been able to get my hands on in Melbourne - the Eezy Chic 'n' Cheezy. I opted for the less-healthy option of mushy peas, mash & gravy (in place of salad).
As you can see, the pastry is super flaky & the pie was nicely browned on top. The filling delivered what it promised - chunks of 'chicken', broccoli & mushrooms in a creamy sauce. While I enjoyed it, it's not my favourite Funky Pie (that honour is still held by the classic Funky Chunky for now). I think the flavours probably weren't strong enough for me. The cafe itself is small, but has a great vibe with friendly staff. They also sell a range of vegan-friendly products alongside their own pies.

For dessert, I couldn't go past the brownie. Unfortunately, I left it in my bag all day and it melted a little bit. I realise that this photo doesn't look very appetising - but check out all that coconut oil! Cholesterol-free deliciousness!
I still haven't managed to get to Funky for their weekend breakfast, but I'm determined to try those pancakes, so stay tuned!

Funky Pies
144 Glenayr Ave, Bondi Beach
Mon-Fri, 7am-8.30pm; Sat-Sun 11am-8.30pm

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blue Mountains noms

I have just spent a lovely weekend in the Blue Mountains. The mountains are a haven for all kinds of alternative lifestyle types, but unfortunately there's not a lot of vegan noms on offer. There have been a couple of vegetarian cafes up there in the past, but I think the last one closed down a few years ago.

Lunch on day one was a picnic in the middle of one of our walks. After walking for a couple of hours this sourdough pumpkin seed roll with falafel, hummus & olives was unexpectedly delicious.
That night we headed into Katoomba for dinner & after walking the main street and checking all the menus for potential vegan fare, we decided on Cafe Zuppa. It had a promising listing of vegetarian mains. Sadly, none of those were vegan-friendly, but the staff were quite friendly & helpful about it. I chose the vegetarian pasta (no cheese). This was a huge bowl of tasty fettucine smothered with semi-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, eggplant & onion. Not mind-blowing, but tasty & very filling.
After dinner we stopped off at The Carrington for a drink. This gorgeous hotel has only recently reopened after extensive restoration work. I could easily have sat in front of the fire all night, but eventually we had to make our way home.
The next day we picked up some lunch at the Leura Markets. There was a mexican food stall with a clearly advertised vegan wrap. I love supporting businesses that make it easy for vegans so I happily tried one. It was really tasty - the tomato & bean mix was pleasantly spiced & topped up with lentils, zucchini & eggplant. Along with a simple fresh salad & nicely toasted flat bread it was the perfect antidote to the cold winds that were blowing through the mountains that day.