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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?

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You thought you knew peanut butter. Standing alone in the kitchen with no-one to judge you. Just you and a spoon and a jar of good quality peanut butter — heaven, right? Wrong. You don’t know how good peanut butter can be until you’ve had homemade peanut butter. And one step better than that is the taste and texture of homemade peanut butter without having to lift a finger — or a peanut. Enter Wide Open Road.

I believe this Brunswick café and roastery may just be home to the best peanut butter in Melbourne. So now that I have made a grandiose claim and featured the words ‘peanut butter’ more in one paragraph than ever before — onto the dish! You can get your fingers sticky with two giant hunks of Rustica sourdough slathered (thick! the chef may have dabbled in brick-laying in a past life) in house-made peanut butter and topped with fresh banana and agave nectar. A lot of thought has gone into building this simple little slice of heaven. The peanut butter is just the right side of salty to pair perfectly with the sweetness of the banana and agave. And none of that super-pasty-stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-forever business either! Wash it down with one of Wide Open Road’s near perfect Bathysphere blend coffees and you have a very filling, delicious Sunday starter for just over twelve bucks!

IMG_0559And the good news doesn’t stop there. There’s a second scrumptious vegan option on the menu. Portobello mushrooms, skordalia, smoked almonds, currants and pickled cauliflower with a slab of Rustica sourdough. Big, fat, juicy mushrooms, crusty bread, creamy potato and garlic puree (the skordalia), smokey almonds, sweet currants, slightly sour and slightly crunchy cauliflower. You guessed it, this dish is a flavour bomb. The textures are great and the flavour combination is adventurous which really reflects the kind of menu Wide Open Road delivers. Add to that great service, a bright and breezy atmosphere and killer coffee and you can see why it’s one of my new favourite haunts.

IMG_0525Vegan options: There’s the two you see here and there are also changing specials which may sometimes be vegan-friendly. They also do a vegan slice.
Coffee: The coffee is outstanding. The Bathysphere blend is roasted onsite (they supply the same blend to A Minor Place). They also do drip and filter.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: $12.50 for the first dish and coffee. Or $20.50 for the fancy mushies on toast and a coffee.
Ear candy: Always a good mix tinkling in the background.

Where’s your favourite vegan brunch?