As I mentioned last week, I’ve relocated to ol’ Sydney town. I’ll be here for a few months before heading overseas for a wee bit. Who knows where this wild roller-coaster we boringly call ‘life’ will take me after that? For now I plan to uphold my promise to you, dearest reader, and drag (really, it’s a tough gig) my butt along to some of the finest vegan-friendly food dispensaries this fair city (gosh she’s a beauty, ain’t she?) has to offer. A heads up on Sydney’s most lip-smacking cafes offering cruelty-free grub for Melbourne readers who are visiting or for those of you lovely followers who call this place home.

It only takes a little Instagram thumb scrolling to realise that there’s a real hub of conscious eating happening in the Bondi area. A couple of weekends ago the folks and I headed for the beach for some brunch-hunting and Bondi Farmers Market shopping. We found a cozy little offering of divine smelling coffee and breakfasty delights hugging a North Bondi street corner across the road from the ocean. It’s certainly an intimate atmosphere at Porch and Parlour so you may need to wait for a seat but I promise you it’s worth it.

This little beauty serves up locally sourced, seasonal produce accompanied by delicious cups of rich and smooth Will & Co. coffee. I practically excited-squealed my order at the friendly beard and man-pony adorned waiter. This was my first vegan brunch since coming back to Sydney and I had high expectations. They were met. I enthusiastically devoured my scrambled tofu with semi dried tomato, basil, spinach, red onion, kalamata olives, plump and juicy cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves, hummus and lemon.

t-scram bondi

Yes, it was a big gorgeous mess. I loved that there was enough guts to this t-scram (yes, I coined this a few posts back and I’m sticking with it — don’t snort) that it didn’t need any bread. Perfect for those avoiding the dreaded gluten. This is made even more delicious with a generous glug of Handsome Devils Co. hot sauce (the De Arbol doesn’t have honey in it, the Chipotle does). With a ‘best of’ Creedance Clearwater Revival adding extra warmth to the atmosphere and a ripper cup of coffee on offer, the folks and I decided P&P’s the perfect spot to kickstart the weekend. We’ll be back.

Vegan options: The t-scram and there were a couple of sweet options too.
Coffee: Noice. Locally roasted Will & Co.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: $21.50 for breakfast and a coffee. Not bad.
Ear candy: Creedance Clearwater Revival.

Have you got a favourite vegan-friendly spot in Bondi?

 

Apologies for the lack of posts lately, I’ve taken some time off blogging due to a sudden and unexpected move to Sydney. But I’m back! I missed ya, I did. You look ravishing today. You do!

As promised, here is your guide (finally) to building a bad ass smoothie armoury. Once you have gathered these ingredients you’ll be shooting from the hip come smoothie o’clock. You don’t need to go out and buy them all at once — take your time collecting them. As I said in the previous post, the superfood powders seem expensive at first but you only use a teaspoon or a tablespoon at a time so they will last you a long time.

I cleared a shelf in my pantry for all of my smoothie bits and pieces. Once you get rolling, you’ll be knocking back at least one smoothie a day so it is worth making the space. Smoothies are perfect for breakfast, post-workout, lunch, dessert, and with a few magic ingredients — matcha, maca or cacao — they can even, GASP, replace your morning coffee. So make some space, start collecting your gear, and get slurping!

ESSENTIALS
Frozen bananas: I buy a bunch of bananas every week with my grocery shopping, it’s the easiest way to make sure you always have bananas ready to freeze. When they start to spot, peel them, pop them in sandwich bags and into the freezer. Bananas are high in potassium, vitamins C and B-6, manganese and fibre AND they are my NUMBER ONE smoothie ingredient. They have the perfect sweetness and give your smoothies a lovely creamy consistency.

Fresh, seasonal, organic or farmer’s market produce: I think it’s important to buy organic, for your health, the environment and for flavour. Make the effort to buy fresh, seasonal produce — look up where your closest farmer’s market is — and you will be rewarded with flavour and more nutrient-dense smoothies.

Dates:  Medjool dates are absolutely delicious. They are the perfect caramel-like sweetener for your smoothies. And they happen to be packed with minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. Sweet deal.

Açaí puree pouches: You will need these powerful little purple pouches for  açaí bowl breakies. Heaven in a bowl. This Brazilian tropical fruit is not only delicious, it will also dose you with amino acids, antioxidants and omega fatty acids — a beautifying combination that slows the ageing process and boosts the immune system.

Frozen berries: It’s always handy to keep some frozen berries in the house. They are a brilliant açaí bowl ingredient, are high in vitamin C and bursting with other antioxidants too!

SUPERFOOD POWDERS
There are many new superfoods hitting the market every week, and many new brands. Not all of them are created equal so I have added my favourite brands below to help you suss out the good stuff.
Cacao powder
This Mayan superfood is one of my all-time favourite smoothie boosters. Not only does a spoonful of this stuff make your smoothie exquisitely chocolatey it will also ensure your liquid breakie gets a dose of antioxidants, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Cacao also boosts serotonin levels which is our natural anti-depressant — among other therapeutic  benefits.
My favourite cacao powder is the Ecuadorian Gold by Power Superfoods.

Maca Powder
Maca is a Peruvian root and is jam-packed with nutrients. It is high in vitamins A, C, E and B vitamins. It also provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium. Maca is said to promote sexual function in men and women. PLUS it is said to relieve issues relating to women’s menopause and menstrual cycle. Not to mention it is known to increase energy levels and stamina! It really is top stuff.
My favourite maca powder is by Power Superfoods.

Mesquite powder
This powder is ground from the pods of the mesquite plant and has a sweet, nutty and caramel-like flavour — especially delicious when paired with cacao. It is a high-protein wholefood that is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and the amino acid lysine (great for bone health, cholesterol management, pain relief, anxiety and stress reduction). It also helps to control blood sugar levels so it’s a great superfood for diabetics.
My favourite mesquite powder is by Loving Earth.

Lacuma powder
Lacuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru, Chilli and Ecuador. It is gluten-free and a great source of antioxidants. It is a natural sweetener that won’t raise your blood-sugar levels. It adds a lovely almost maple-like flavour to your smoothies while delivering fibre, vitamins and minerals.
My favourite lacuma powder is by Loving Earth.

Psyllium husk powder
This powder is derived from the gluten-free psyllium seed. It is a rich source of soluble dietary fibre. It helps to cleanse the bowel, lower cholesterol levels and has been used to help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics. It will bulk out your smoothie without adding any flavour.
My favourite psyllium husk powder is by Planet Organic.

Plant-based protein powder
There are many plant-based protein powders on the market. Some, especially the raw varieties, are more nutrient dense than others. The problem I have with many of them is their chalky consistency. If the powder is too chalky, it ruins the smoothie and they are less likely to become a daily habit. So I stick with the least chalky one I’ve found.
My favourite is Vital Protein’s natural pea protein isolate. 

Matcha powder
Matcha is a Japanese green tea leaf powder. It is a nutrient-rich wholefood that gives you an extra zing in the mornings, increases metabolism, fortifies your immune system, improves cholesterol, enhances your mood and even boosts memory and concentration! Plus its high chlorophyll content (giving it that wickedly green hue) makes it a powerful detoxifier for the body.
My favourite matcha powder is Absolute Green’s certified organic green tea powder.

OTHER AWESOME EXTRAS
There are too many to list. This post would become a blogologue of epic proportions. Experiment. Have fun exploring. At the top of my list are: coconut oil (my fave is Nuigini Organics), chia seeds (my fave are Power Superfoods), activated buckwheat kernels (my fave are Loving Earth, especially their heavenly caramalised buckinis) and cinnamon. But I will try to talk a little more about ‘awesome extras’ in later posts.

For now, start stocking your smoothie armoury with these wonderful ingredients and get blitzing! Here is another of my favourite smoothie recipes to get you started. Happy slurping.

This smoothie is oh so pretty in pink. I call it…

The Molly Ringwald
Serves 1
1 heaped cup frozen raspberries
1/2 red dragon fruit
1/2 medium beet
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp chia seeds
Blend it like Beckham. Top with coconut and dragon fruit. Slurp.

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I sincerely hope that headline was enough to put Sade in your head for the rest of the afternoon. You’re welcome.

Now, on to my favourite way to kickstart your day in a healthy way. Whaddaya say? Okay, enough of that. I’m talkin’ smoothies ladies and gents! Vitality-giving greens, supercharged superfoods and oh-so-important hydration all in a simple slurp! What more could you ask for? Especially when you can pour it into a jar, secure the lid and head straight out the door. Whether you’re looking for a healthy fast food breakie for a busy morning, a body-nourishing icy treat to curl up with in your reading nook, or you’re just downright lazy and can’t be arsed doing much more than scoop + blitz + guzzle — smoothies are the way forward. Sing it!

I often get asked about my smoothies. Folks assume that having the right ingredients and coming up with happy combos is difficult. It’s not! All you have to do is start collecting your favourite superfoods from your local health food store. They may seem expensive at first but keep in mind you only use a tsp or a tbsp at a time so they last a lot longer than you think. The next trick is to always keep peeled, frozen bananas in sandwich bags in your freezer. Always keep a couple of litres of coconut water in your fridge. Then all you have to do is keep topping up your fruit bowl with fresh seasonal fruit and keep topping up your crisper with fresh leafy greens, or better still, grow them in your garden! Once you’re all set up, you’re shooting from the hip when it comes to your morning smoothies. Stay tuned for part two of this post, I’ll be helping you with a smoothie shopping list so you can get yourself all set up and ready to rock — coming later in the week. 

My latest love affair with the pureed world comes in the form of açaí bowls. Pronounced ah-sigh-ee, these dark purple Brazilian berries are filled with healthy antioxidants, amino acids, fibre, and essential fatty acids. You can’t buy the berries but you can buy frozen açaí puree pouches at your health food store. Açaí bowls are essentially super thick smoothies in a bowl, topped with extra fruit and granola, nuts or other crunch-giving goodies. They are delicious, and a good way to mix it up.

So here are eight of my favourite recipes for you to try. Any questions? Give me a shout!

Christmas Swirl Smoothie

Serves 1
For the red layer:
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 tbsp fresh red currants
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup ice
For the green layer:
1.5 frozen bananas
1/2 avocado
1 handful silverbeet
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 cup coconut water
Blend green layer and put aside. Blend red layer and add to bottom of your glass. Alternate layers until you finish with red on top. Swirl. Slurp.

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Tropical Kale Storm
Serves 2
1 cup pineapple
1 mango
2 frozen bananas
2 handfuls of kale
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups coconut water
Blend it like Beckham. Slurp.

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Açaí Five-O
Serves 2
2 pouches of açaí puree
1 lrg frozen banana
1 cup mixed frozen berries
1 tbsp lacuma powder
1 tbsp maca powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vegan protein powder (I like Vital Protein vanilla)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 cups coconut water
Blend it like Beckham. You’ll need the ‘bashing stick’ (as I’ve affectionately dubbed the tamper stick).
Pour into two bowls and top with violas, shredded coconut, and Living Intention’s raw superfood cereal in Açaí Blueberry (amazingly delish combo of goodies including açaí, blueberry, bilberry, amla berry, elderberry and camu camu fruit).
One bowl of this and you’ll feel like you can do anything — including donning a bikini and busting some crims.

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Buck Up Princess
Serves 1
1 tbsp activated buckwheat
1 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp maca powder
1 tbsp mesquite powder
1 tbsp LSA (linseed, sunflower seed, almond)
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vegan protein powder
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 frozen bananas
2 cups filtered water
Blend it like Beckham. Slurp.
Top with Loving Earth’s cacao nibs and activated buckinis.
I woke up one morning with a horrid gym hangover and an acute case of crankiness so this smoothie was born. It’s packed full of protein for aching muscles, plus some mood enhancers and energy boosters to ease the morning grumps.

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Matcha Made in Heaven
Serves 1
2 mangoes
1 handful of kale
1.5 tsp pure matcha powder
1 tsp coconut nectar
2 cups coconut water
Ice
Blend it like Beckham. Slurp.
Matcha is a green tea leaf powder. It is a nutrient-rich wholefood and gives you an extra little zing in the mornings. Try it! It adds extra antioxidants to your smoothie and an extra spring in your step.

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Mango Goji Love Bowl
Serves 2
2 pouches of açaí puree
1 mango
1/2 cup goji berries
2 sml frozen bananas
1 tbsp LSA
1 tbsp maca powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 cups coconut water
Blend it like Beckham. You’ll need the ‘bashing stick.’
Pour into two bowls and top with shredded coconut and goji berries. Share with a hungry loved one.

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Choc Mint Cos I Can
Serves 1
2 lrg cos lettuce (romaine) leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 frozen banana
1 medjool date
1 heaped tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 cups almond milk
Blend it like Beckham. Top with cacao nibs and mint. Slurp.

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Hemp sunrise
Serves 1
For the bottom layer:
4 large strawberries
1 tsp coconut nectar
A little ice
For the top layer:
1/2 cup coconut water
2 nectarines
2 frozen mango cheeks
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp hemp oil
Blend the bottom layer and add to your glass. Blend the top layer and add to your strawberry bottom. Top with shredded coconut and hemp seeds. Slurp.

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When a regular cafe touts they are ‘vegan friendly’ — what are you hoping for? I know for a lot of people they are expecting one or more vegan dishes on the menu. I actually don’t mind if there are no vegan dishes on the menu. If there is nothing vegan-ready on the menu, the kitchen is usually happy to take something off a dish and I’m cool with that. But i’ve decided the term ‘vegan friendly’ should mean that if there are no vegan dishes on the menu and you have to take several items off my plate to veganize it, that you will be happy to give me a couple of veg-friendly items in their place without charging me through the nose for it. I’m getting a little tired of ‘vegan friendly’ cafes explaining that almost everything on their menu can be veganized and that if I just take off the organic sheep’s fetta, free-range bacon and fresh pesto and add some mushrooms and tomato, that will be lovely. Then I get charged for the mushrooms and tomatoes on top of the original price of the dish (which was that price in the first place to cover the expensive animal ingredients) and end up with a $20 breakfast which is basically just a couple of veggies on toast. To me, that’s not vegan friendly.

The same old thing happened at Fitzroy’s Industry Beans on the weekend. With that gripe out of the way I have to say I really dug this little bean-obsessed cafe. Coffee beans that is. The team here are caffeine wizards, coffee alchemists, bean fiends! And I had one of the nicest cups of coffee I have ever had in Melbourne (and that is high praise indeed, perhaps the highest). The atmosphere was fab, they have a great little outdoor area that is covered in and canine friendly, and the wait staff were warm and helpful. Plus its proximity to the Rose Street Market makes it part one of the perfect little Christmas shopping combo.

The coffee menu is a delight, guiding you through an awesome array of single origin, single estate and blended coffees. And when I asked which drop would be the most soy milk friendly, the waiter went out of his way to check it out for me. The result was a perfect little brew that needed no sugar, such was its heart-starting perfection (I usually take one sugar in my coffee).

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Everything on the menu includes meat or dairy. There seemed to be a couple of sweet dishes that just required the yoghurt and honey taken off or the milk switched. But I was desperate for something savoury, such is my vegan brunching curse. Sweet breakfasts are easier to come by but I just never find eating oats or fruit salad when I’m out weekend brunching that appealing. Especially if I’ve had a bottle of wine in my hand the night before. A lovely waiter explained I could take the cheese off the avocado smash and replace it with some veggie matter from the menu. I was happy with that. But of course I was charged for the dish that had the expensive goats chevre taken off it and then charged extra for the tomatoes I had in its place. So, despite the dish being nice enough (although avocado on toast never makes one’s knees quiver does it?), I paid $17.50 for avocado on toast with 8 cherry tomatoes that had been chucked in the oven for a bit.

Okay now my whinge is over. Promise.
Everyone else’s dishes, including Captain Someone’s french toast with cold drip coffee beads, looked ah-may-zing. So I am keen to return here for lunch some time and see if that menu has a little more to offer us cruelty-free kids. And to have another coffee. Oh my quickening heart, that coffee.

Vegan options: Nothing vegan-ready on the menu but staff very friendly and ready to suggest modifications
Coffee: There is a hard cover coffee guide. Ya hear me? Enough said.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: I did not think $17.50 for avo on toast was a fair price
Ear candy: When I tuned in I heard Tame Impala and Sharon Jones. Thumbs up.

Am I being a big fat whingey pants? What do you think ‘vegan friendly’ should mean?

Mornin’ merry blogglemen and blogettes! Excuse my little absence, I’ve been all wrapped up (ahem) in the silly season. Twas the month before Christmas, when all through the house …tempeh tantrum was running around like a madwoman trying to get things done. It’s my favourite and busiest time of the year so do excuse me if I don’t manage a weekly post over the next lil’ while.

I haven’t been too busy, however, to fulfil my promise to you, dear readers, to check out the best vegan-friendly fare this fine city has to offer. So a couple of weekends ago I dragged myself out of bed and headed down to the Vegie Bar to do some ‘research’  for you. Do you see how I care?

I have been meaning to get down to Fitzroy early enough to check out Vegie Bar’s breakie menu for a while. For some reason Captain Someone and I struggle to get our act together in time (I had been informed over the phone 11.15 was the cut off for breakie orders) most Sundays. But this time we made it and boy am I glad we did! Because I think I discovered one of Melbourne’s top tofu scrambles! It had me grinnin’ indeed after a disappointing and overpriced t-scram (what?) at Ici a couple of weeks earlier. But I’ll blog about that another time.

I did forget my camera though — um, and I lost my notes afterwards — so do forgive the dodgy iPhone pics and iffy information. It is Christmas after all.

This dish was cheap, hearty, tasty as hell and I enjoyed every juicy (yes, juicy) mouthful. Highlights were the miso and tamari in the sauce, the juicy strips of capsicum and the little squares of roti sprinkled on the top (perfect for someone trying to limit gluten intake).

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Captain Someone ordered the Vegan French Toast. It didn’t blow my hair back but it’s a pretty yummy sweet-tooth option. Not sure how they do the ‘egg wash’ but there’s certainly a delicious coating on the bread.

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Vegan options: Just these two. For a vegie place they could do with adding a couple more.
Coffee: We didn’t enjoy our coffee actually. It was perfectly made. So it was the beans rather than the barista. Just not our cup of t…erm…coffee.
Soy: Pure Harvest, I think (where did those notes go?)
Moola: The Vegie Bar’s breakie prices are just as super fair as the rest of the menu. I think it was about $13-14 for the tofu and $8-10 for the french toast.
Ear candy: Damn notes.

Have you found a favourite t-scram dispensary in Melbourne?

Have you been to Monk Bodhi Dharma? Go there. Immediately.
Come on, put your shoes on!

For some cruelty-free Melbournians, this vegetarian cafe is an old haunt by now. But due to it’s location south of the river and its hidden-away positioning — in a carpark down an alley in Balaclava — it’s still a fairly well kept secret. Monk serves up a delicious brunch menu that is very vegan and gluten-free friendly with little touches of raw magic. They also host fully raw dinners on Friday nights. The decor is industrial grunge, the coffee is outstanding, the atmosphere is buzzing and with my lovely friend and raw food alchemist, Na Sayana, in the kitchen I have no doubt the food will knock your socks off.

Captain Someone and I headed there a few weeks back for some Sunday brunch action. Due to a very lucky error we ended up with three amazing dishes  to ease the morning belly rumbles. The first was The Avo: avocado tossed with mint, chilli and lemon and served on top of deliciously crusty bread (GF bread available, this was decidedly gluten-eeee so I only had a little) smeared with a creamy, almost cheesy (perhaps cashew cheese) spread. Simple and delectable.

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Next up: apple pancakes — hummina, hummina! Buckwheat apple pancakes served with raw cinnamon ice cream, maple syrup, vanilla bean whipped cream, fresh berries and dehydrated apple chips. Partly raw, all vegan, gluten free. I’m serious. No, you shut up! Beautiful to look at and absolutely delicious to eat. This dish is sweet, fresh and fun.

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Finally, we indulged in the Umami Mushroom dish. Slow roasted king oyster, shitake, oyster and swiss brown mushies on a house made pumpkin, spinach and sun dried tomato polenta bread. It was served with a creamy vegan cheese, thyme and red chilli oil — also gluten free! Rich and flavourful, this dish would satisfy even the hungriest brunch hunter. And, yes, that is a deliciously crispy enoki mushroom fan you see in the image.

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All but one or two of their dishes are vegan or vegan adaptable  — just make sure you let them know you are vegan when you order. I’ll be getting back to you soon with a review of the Friday night dinner menu. I have heard talk of a raw, vegan deconstructed snickers and quite frankly I’m not sure how much longer I can go on without getting my mouth around that little number. The food is fresh, exciting and beautifully presented and they are very passionate about the ol’ coffee bean too. Definitely a must for any foodie, not just the vegan kids.

Vegan options:
Most of the menu is vegan adaptable, whoot!
Coffee: The coffee is a little bit special. They call themselves a ’boutique micro roastery’ and the beans are direct trade and mostly single estate.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: I think breakfast and coffee is around the $20-$25 mark
Ear candy: I can only remember happy chatter and some serious oohing and aahing

Do you have a favourite ‘southside’ vegan brunch spot?

I’ve blogged (read: raved) about The Vegan Box before. For those that aren’t yet in the know, it’s a box that arrives on your door step every month full of snacks, health food, natural skincare and eco lifestyle products — all 100% cruelty free!  The contents of each month’s box are a surprise and you get to try vegan products you may not have discovered without TVB’s help. One of my favourites from last month’s box is the Boss Man Gourmet Plantain chips. They are just plantain delicious. See what I did there?

These chips use all natural ingredients and organic herbs and spices. They are gluten-free, preservative-free, low in saturated fat, high in vitamins A and C, potassium and beta carotene. Most importantly they are crunchy and delicious. We got a bag of the Cajun flavour in our box and each mouthful was like a little trip to Louisiana. I grabbed another bag when I stumbled upon them in an IGA — chilli and garlic. They are not skimpy on the garlic which makes them totally scrumptious but I wouldn’t recommend them as a pre-date snack. They also come in sea salt, cinnamon and Jamaican chilli. Try them immediately.

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IMG_3958Where it at?
I found my bag at Northcote IGA. I recommend checking out the Vegan Box for more awesome cruelty-free discoveries Click here for the website or click here to find The Vegan Box on Facebook.
What’s the damage? My bag of Boss Man chippies were $3.60

What’s your fav vegan snack?

Cool, quirky, and colourful, Lime Crime is  the makeup line that all fun lovin’ vegans should check out. Sassy mistress of makeup and Lime Crime founder, Doe Deere (I think she was christened by Julie Andrews) has not only put together an array of awesomeness to brighten up your kisser she’s also made a pledge that all her products are cruelty-free and never tested on animals. Now that’s what I like to hear!

The packaging alone is enough to make you smile but with lippie colours named things like Airborne Unicorn, Babette, and No She Didn’t, it’s easy to spend forever pawing over these products.

And if you don’t think you can rock lip colours in mint or gold, you’re probably wrong. Lime Crime is all about being bold and having fun with your war paint — and their blog is there to give you plenty of ideas on how to wear even the most daring of shades.

I grabbed myself their Velvetine long-lasting liquid lipstick in Suedeberry. And their Carousel Glossy Lipstick in Gold Ticket.

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The Gold Ticket is a bit of fun and definitely brings a touch of rock’n’roll to my smackers but the Velvetine is a revelation! It goes on like gloss, dries matte and then DOESN’T BUDGE! Even after a burger! Let the choirs of angels sing! Truly awesome lip wear.

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Where it at? I got mine from one of my favourite little animal friendly stores Save Yourself in Brunswick. You should go down and see the lovely Adie because she’s a peach but you can check out the other cruelty-free products she stocks here!
What’s the damage? My lippies were $26 each but you can check out the full makeup range at their website — click here!

What’s your favourite cruelty-free makeup line?

I have been meaning to blog a review of Collingwood’s Shu Restaurant for a very long time. I have been twice now and have been completely wooed by Shu’s Sichuan flare. But I have been a total photogaffer. In both cases I forgot my SLR, a cardinal sin in food blogging, especially in a dimly lit, stainless steel furnished restaurant such as Shu. My hopes of returning to fill my tummy with more fiery delights and nab some blog-worthy pics have not been realised unfortunately. So, here we go. Forgive the images friends. Won’t cha? Diamond geezers you lot, I tells ya.

Despite never feeling confident about which way to spell it, Sichuan is one of my favourite Asian cuisines. The flavours are fresh and intense — not all of the dishes are spicy either but I must admit I quite fancy a good sinus clearing with my tofu. Shu delivers delicious Sichuan dishes with a modern twist and very vegan-friendly service in a quirky, industrial setting reminiscent of the kind of joint you’d find New York fashionistas posing in — complete with sculptures and red LED lighting. It’s all a bit glamorous really.

But the best thing about Shu is Shu. It’s his restaurant and his food and you can tell he is passionate about his baby. On both occasions he went out of his way to ensure my vegan version of the Shu experience was one to remember. He’s an affable chap and he is happy to explain the composition of dishes and offer suggestions based on your tastes — and when he asks how you are enjoying your meals he is genuinely interested in the answer. The other highlight is their focus on using seasonal and mostly organic produce, meaning the menu is no longer fixed but you can be sure you’re getting dishes designed with the best local produce in mind.

For my second round of Shu I enjoyed a fresh and tangy Asian herb salad, intensely flavoured enoki mushrooms with loads of chilli and spring onions, cooling lightly pickled vegetables and my favourite, crispy kipfler potatoes with garlic and Sichuan peppercorns. The meal was balanced, it was exotic and it was all washed down with a vegan-friendly wine. A thoroughly enjoyable experience. Totally undeserving of the dodgy iPhone documentation below.

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Vegan options: Shu is happy to suggest a number of vegan options or vegetarian dishes that he can veganise for you
The wet stuff: there was one bottle of vegan-friendly white when I went but apparently he has lengthened the cruelty free tipple list since then
Moola: the food and wine came to around $50 per head
Ear candy: I can’t remember but I feel like anything other than house would feel out of place

Have you checked out Shu yet? Any other great vegan-friendly Sichuan spots?

There’s a new(ish) kid on the block. The North Carlton Canteen is a welcome addition to the culinary no man’s land between Brunswick’s piece of Lygon Street and Carlton’s little Italy. It’s nice that the smell of roasted coffee beans and toasted sourdough now fills the void previously monopolised by rose buds and death. It only struck me while I was slurping on my medium roast why this particular spot is such a hub of floral activity (including a 24-hour drive-through florist). It’s the strip running opposite a cemetery. And behind sweet Valentines and mothers on Mother’s Day the next category of people most commonly in receipt of a heartfelt bouquet has got to be the dead. Hmm. Right. Mystery solved. Now, that’s enough about the dead. I’ll tell you what wasn’t lifeless: the mushrooms NCC served me for breakie! Another seamless segue, Emma.

While there was nothing vegan-ready on NCC’s menu, the very attentive and friendly waitress was happy to ask her vegan colleague for suggestions. The two of them rattled off a few ideas and I went with smashed avocado on seeded sourdough with a side of mushrooms. It was a simple meal but it was delicious. A big dollop of creamy avocado, nutty roasted pumpkin seeds and tangy lemon was the perfect topping for the crunchy Brasserie sourdough. The mushrooms were full of flavour, juicy and tender. I would be happy to go back and try another of the dishes they said could be veganised — a pumpkin and rocket toasted sammie sounded like a winning lunch option.

NCC blog pic

Vegan options: Nothing vegan on the menu but they are happy to put a few options together for you.
Coffee: The coffee is a single origin Italian blend, specially roasted for NCC. It was nice, but I’ve had better coffee in the area.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: I paid over $20 for what was essentially avocado and mushroom on toast (and a coffee) so I definitely grade this vegan breakie as a little pricey.
Ear candy: Not sure actually. There’s a great busy atmosphere inside the cafe and the air is filled with chatter.

Have you got a favourite vegan-friendly spot in Carlton?

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