Something strange happened to me on the Sunday we were in Melbourne. After a ginormous meal from Vue De Monde, we went back to the hotel and napped. I woke up STARVING. What the heck? Did the food evaporate from my stomach? I WISH it were that easy. Who knows. Maybe my appetite just grew 10 fold. In any case, it was 8pm and I was growling for food.
Mochi arrived at our hotel with a short list of possible options. There had been talk of going to Chin Chin but the no reservation policy made things inconvenient. We called anyway and were told there was roughly an hour long wait for a table. Uh, no thanks. I'm not sure I'd wait an hour for a table on a normal day and especially not when I have a dire hunger situation happening.
I recall Mochi mentioning the Vegie Bar, a vegetarian restaurant, a long time ago (either when she just moved to Melbourne or maybe even before that). I had pictured in my mind this little hippie cafe with a few hot food dishes that change daily and that you get dished out from a cafeteria-style counter.
We cabbed it to Brunswick Street and walking along, I picked up the vibe of Brisbane's West End cross Paddington - but much cooler and much more extensive. Once we arrived outside the Vegie Bar, I knew I had been envisioning the wrong thing entirely.
Vegie Bar is in actual fact quite a large, hip and happenin' restaurant. It was chockas - packed full. We were lead to share a long table with several other parties of diners. I loved the inside-a-barn feel leant by the brick interior and high, vaulted ceilings.
The menu presents more options than I can handle, PLUS daily specials. I poured over this for a long time, tossing between one dish and another. I was unsure until the moment I ordered when something just popped out of my mouth and I went with it.
Juices and mango lassi
There were also lots of vegetarian/vegan drinks available. Mochi ordered the Cleanser, Nina chose Clean and Lean, and I went away from the healthy-sounding to get a mango lassi. The mango lassi was fairly nice but way too sweet for me. There's apple juice in it too, which is not a usual addition to lassi and it just takes the sweetness beyond bareable IMO.
It took a while for our food to arrive. Because we were seated right next to the kitchen, we were enviously eyeing off all the huge plates of food that were carries past us. I say huge because most serving sizes were massive. A vegetarian restaurant it may be, but Vegie Bar wasn't going to let anyone starve on rabbit food.
Calzone special of the day
I had ordered the calzone, which was a special of the day. It had a tomatoey, tangy filling with pinenuts, chickpea and spinach.
Inside of calzone
The filling was nice but there were bits of the crust that were too hard to bite on. The parts that were edible were good, especially combined with the tomato salsa.
House salad with samosa
Mochi was feeling very cluggy from the past few days of indulgent eating, so she ordered the house salad. This came with a side of choice and she went with the samosas. The salad wasn't like a usual cafe or restaurant salad. Instead, it was like a kitchen sink salad, very similar to the kind of dinners Mochi and I made ourselves when we lived together in Toowoomba: a thrown-together bowl of various vegetables and 'healthy' foods. This bowl came with broccoli, cauliflower, a mountain of chickpeas and shredded carrot and beetroot. I'd say she certainly got her vegetable fix from that.
Duo of curries with roti, rice and yogurt
Nina's pick was the 'duo' which was a duo of vegetarian curries with roti. I tried a bit of the orange one and it has a really nice, creamy butter chicken flavor. Although it exceeded my expectations for taste, I couldn't help but think 'this would be so much nicer with some chicken!' I'm a BAD person. I shouldn't have been allowed in! But all jokes aside, I do like vegetarian food and don't usually think as narrow-minded as a carnivorous male.
By the end of this, we were pining for desserts. I've mentioned this before but no matter how full we are, we like to end things on a sweet note. It was especially important because Mochi vouched that Vegie Bar does good dessert. Tantalising.
I had seen the carrot cakes in the window and knew that's what I wanted. Mochi ordered a flourless chocolate cake with ice-cream.
I tried the carrot cake first. Woah. Weird. It wasn't so much a carrot cake as a moist carrot pudding with very prominent strands of shredded carrot. The icing was more like yogurt than say, cream cheese icing (which is the norm for my idea of carrot cake). One time, I made a carrot cake-inspired bircher muesli for breakfast and this cake reminded me of that. I liked my muesli because it wasn't pretending to be cake but this... well if you're expecting carrot cake, I think you'd be disappointed.
Flourless chocolate cake
The flourless chocolate cake was somewhere very far on the opposite spectrum of enjoyment. It was divine. Sinful, yet divine. Am I making waffling contradictions here? Honestly this was one of the most delicious cakes I've put in my mouth. It was warmed up and the cake was soft yet dense and moist all at once, with a deep chocolate flavor.
I'm really glad we ordered the ice-cream on the side because it definitely needed something to tone it down. This cake most ressembled the chocolate nemesis I made a long time ago but I think this was a bit cakier and less rich (not to say that it wasn't rich, because it was).
I'm really glad Mochi took us to Vegie Bar. It's not somewhere that would immediately strike us non-Melbournians as sounding like a worthy food venture but it was very different to what I expected. Vegie Bar proves that vegetarian and vegan food doesn't have to be boring, bland or daggy. There were so many things to chose from - it's one of those places that I'd like to think of as a potential regular joint for me if I was a local.