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?

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