Admiral Cheng-Ho, Nourished: 385 and Natural Tucker Bakery

I’m going to do a bit of a dump, as charming as that sounds, as despite my best efforts I have not been posting as regularly as I had hoped. In a bid to clear some of my backlog, I’m going to summarise a few recent (or not so recent) eats.

admiralchenghoFirst up, a long overdue follow up visit to Admiral Cheng Ho in Abbotsford for a catch up with some old school friends. There’s been a change in menu since my last time there, with all dishes now completely vegan with the optional extras of cow’s milk, feta, yoghurt etc. It’s nice to be the ‘norm’ and not have to pay extra for the vegan option for a chance. A winning move in my books.

I went with the ‘Crazy Jimbo’ – polenta bread with almond feta, sauteed kale and seasonal veggies with tangy beetroot relish and basil cashew cream. Funnily enough, it was basically the same dish that I had last time, though with polenta bread replacing zucchini fritters and the addition of almond feta. I recognised this before ordering, but just like last time the idea of all the different components – especially tangy relish and smooth cashew cream – won me over. I was not disappointed, enjoying each mouthful to the very end. I could honestly eat this every morning.

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One sunny weekend, I went for a family catch up lunch to Nourished: 385 in Prahran. A relatively new cafe on the scene, it’s shtick is “clean eating” – whatever that means. The thing I like about all this new super clean wonder health eating hoo-ha, is how it is easier to find vegan meals in a wider variety of places. With that in mind, we went along. Nourished:385 is pleasantly located next to the shady Victoria Gardens, and as we sat out in the back courtyard we were able to overlook the greenery, where babies and dogs ran wild.

Unfortunately, the vegan brekkie item I had seen in my quick internet search prior to choosing the place was no longer on offer, and the only items I could have were smashed avocado minus the egg or a quinoa salad. Not wanting to be overcharged again for some avo on toast, I went with the salad.

Unfortunately, I can’t say this was a winner. For $18, I expect more than some mixed salad leaves, a sprinkling of quinoa, corn, beetroot and tasteless ‘marinated’ tofu – expensive and thoughtless. The dish I had above at Admiral Cheng-Ho was $16.50 for comparison’s sake. Others enjoyed their meals more, but I was disappointed.

Going way back now, I was driving back through Carlton North and decided to stop at Natural Tucker Bakery to pick up some lunch.

naturaltucker1 I grabbed a few wholemeal vegan pies for the bear and myself, and heated them up at home with a side of salad and ajvar. The pies were pretty rustic, full of hearty chunks of veggies and lentils.

naturaltucker2Mmm…pie.

naturaltucker3And when I saw there were vegan lamingtons on offer, how could I not? Because vegan lamingtons. I particularly enjoyed the toasted shredded coconut coating the outside.

Phew, and that’ll do me for today! Tune in next time for more eats from this little vegan bear. Roar.

Admiral Cheng-Ho
325 Johnston St, Abbotsford
Mon – Fri – 6am – 4pm
Sat, Sun & PH – 8am – 5pm

Nourished: 385
385 High St, Prahran
Tues – Wed – 7.30am – 4.30pm
Thurs – Sat – 7.30am – 10pm
Sun – 7.30am – 6pm
Natural Tucker Bakery
809 Nicholson St, Carlton North
Mon – Fri – 8am – 5.30pm
Sat – 8am – 3pm

Farm Cafe and Convent Bakery II

There’s no better way to start the weekend with a morning trip to the local farmer’s market. Seriously, it gives me that sun is shining, birds are chirping kind of feeling (even when it is grey and the birds are jerks). The closest markets to me happen once a month at the Abbotsford Convent, and once at the Collingwood Childrens’ Farm – both beautiful settings for some early morning wandering and vegetable hunting. Of course, it’s not just vegetables – it’s also where I stock up on choccies! Mmmm.

cocoarhapsodySalted lime and dark nut cove are my absolute favourites, but all are top notch. Cocoa Rhapsody are not completely vegan friendly, however I would estimate about 60-70% of their range is.

Obviously all this food gathering is enough to make anybody hungry. Luckily, there’s a few good options within arms reach. Firstly, the Farm Cafe inside the Collingwood Children’s Farm.

farmcafe2I love how the tables sprawl out of the enclosed cafe space and into the ‘farm’. If you sit down amongst it, you don’t get table service – however you do get sweet little dudes like this stopping by.

farmcafe3It always makes me laugh seeing the “please do not chase the animals” signs, and then watching all the little toddlers trailing behind the chooks. It shouldn’t, but it does.

The farm cafe is quite vegetarian friendly, and had two notable vegan options – the white baked beans and the super salad. Never one to turn down a super salad (super salad sunday used to be an institution in our house in Tassie), I went for it. The Bear had a dish with creamy polenta, mushrooms, eggs and snow pea tendrils.

farmcafe1It certainly lived up to it’s name. A combination of quinoa, carrot, beetroot, leafies, and herbs topped with a lovely lemony cashew hummus, a good old chunk of avo, pepitas and pomegranate molasses dressing. The beetroot was shredded so thin I couldn’t even taste it (crazy for me), and it was so full of goodies that even the Bear enjoyed it (despite his grudge against quinoa). I loved the sticky, crunchy pepitas and the contrast between the sweet dressing and tangy hummus. A super seriously satisfying start to the day (ha!)

While I think I slightly prefer the Collingwood Farmer’s Market due to the greater number and variety of stalls, it is always lovely to stroll around the grounds of the convent on a sunny morning. Unfortunately on this occasion, it was cold, grey and wet, so we escaped to a dark little corner in the Convent Bakery to grab some brunch. With memories of a delicious vegan arancini, we were disappointed to find it had disappeared from the menu and there were no longer any marked vegan options. Already committed to the idea of brekkie, I went for the standard – smashed avo on toast, while the Bear had fruit salad and yoghurt.

conventbakery1 But it hurts my soul to pay $16 for it (especially after removing the goats cheese). This was tasty, on lovely convent bakery-baked sourdough and dotted with cherry tomatoes and basil. But $16….you can get much more elaborate and thoughtful dishes down the road at Admiral Cheng Ho for that much. It kind of bothers me as a vegan at cafes, you can expect to pay $4 for a side of mushrooms, yet no discount for removing eggs or cheese. Le sigh…

conventbakery2Luckily with a full tummy, a hot coffee and a basket full of veggies (and chocolate) I couldn’t stay mad. I will always love you avo on toast xoxox

Farm Cafe
Collingwood Children’s Farm
18 Saint Heliers St, Abbotsford
Open 7 days, 9am – 4pm
Open from 8am on market days (2nd Sat of the month)

Convent Bakery
Abbotsford Convent
1 Saint Heliers St, Abbotsford
Open 7 days, 7am – 5pm

Easter weekend

The last week or so has been HECTIC. I went from being sick off work for a few days, to coming back (which can be hectic enough just playing catch-ups), having a birthday, spending Good Friday packing up my room, saturday moving house and all the fun that comes with that, then the unpacking, Easter, and blah blah blah. Back at work yesterday and I’m totally spent.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about – I want do tell you about the wonderful things I did, not the draining ones.

Friday night I lured the bear over to my place to help me sort out a few things with the promise of pizza. And pizza we had! I made up the standard VWaV dough which we spread into four thin crust pizzas.

ImageFirst up, a lovely chilli, sun-dried tomato and olive pizza, with vegusto melty cheese and fresh basil and oregano.

ImageNext, supreme mushroom, capsicum, onion, garlic, pineapple and sun-dried tomato with a pesto swirl!

ImageAnd in case that swirl of pesto wasn’t enough, here’s a totally rad cheesy pesto-chilli-mushroom pizza, made with my delicious toasted sunflower seed pesto (recipe to come!)

ImageAnd lastly a classic supreme.

A pretty successful pizza party that managed to sustain us through Saturday’s move – we were up early to pick up a van, which due to all the holidays we could only have for a couple of hours, so it was a race against time carting everything from one place to the other. But we made it!

I didn’t get back to the new place til the evening, which meant we only had an hour or so to quickly build my bed before we rushed off to a comedy show we had bought tickets to a while back. We dashed out to see Steve Hughes, then stopped by Victoria St to grab some dinner before retiring to the newly made bed. My new place is in Abbotsford, just around the corner from Victoria St, so I anticipate there being many delicious adventures in the near future.

Sunday and Easter was upon us! Sadly, I didn’t have time to get very festive this year…I had the best intentions of making some hot cross buns and chocolates but never found the time. I hardly even ate much chocolate! Woe is me! I did find a few minutes to whip up a coconut salted caramel mix which i filled some chockies with, but only managed to do about eight before I ran out of time. Oh well. Who said making chocolates had to be just an easter thing?

While my Dad had prior engagements with his hockey team, my Mum came into Abbotsford and we went over to the Convent for lunch.

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I ordered the arancini balls and we also ordered a side salad to share. Arancini can go either way, and as the Bear pointed out, they often conjure images of crusty, dried out, been-sitting-in-the-window-forever food. This was not the case here though – the Arancini had a nice firm crust (I imagine it had been baked), yet was lovely and moist inside and mixed with lots of mushroom bits. It was topped with a rich napoli sauce and sitting on top of some lovely strips of zucchini and eggplant. All round delicious.

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After lunch we took a stroll around the grounds, enjoying the pleasant weather and the relaxed atmosphere. There were also some craft markets on, so we were able to browse the handmade wares.

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This patch of grass had been coloured in an incredible pattern. The kids around were LOVING it, running around on it screaming their little hearts out. It’s not every day you get to play on purple grass, I reckon it’s grounds for going troppo.

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The easter bunny even made an appearance! (?)

On monday, a lovely friend and I decided to take a little day trip out of the city to enjoy a lunch in Belgrave. We headed out there in the early afternoon, and it was lovely to breathe in the fresh autumn air, free of the big city smoke.

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We stopped in at the Grunge Cafe for a spot of lunch, and after deciding on a delicious item from the brekkie menu (scrambled tofu and mushrooms), I discovered even more vegan options in the display cabinet, including this vegan burger – served here with garlic bread and salad. Would you look at that thing?! – How could I resist?

This was hands down one of the best vegan burgers/patties that I have tried. It was jam packed with whole chickpeas and pumpkin seeds amongst other things, and served with a lovely chutney. My only complaint (and it would be a stretch!) would be that there wasn’t quite enough chutney to service the whole burger, but with a burger that delicious it really didn’t matter.

Extra points to the lovely staff member who must have seen the look on my face when she mentioned garlic bread, and asked me if I too would like some added to my meal…uh YES!!!!

Seriously, check this place out – it was worth the trip just for this lovely meal alone (don’t get me started on the rest of this pretty little town).

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After lunch we wandered around the main strip and then set off to go on a little forest walk. After a small amount of getting lost, we remembered that it would be getting dark soon, and that perhaps we should set off an adventure in the morning in one of the weeks to come, in order to avoid getting lost in the forest.

Happy with this new plan and the small (but delicious!) taste of Belgrave we had, we endeavoured to come back in a fortnight or so.

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And thus ends the Easter weekend!

Convent Bakery
Abbotsford Convent
1 Saint Helliers St, Abbotsford
Open 7 days, 7am – 5pm
Grunge Cafe
1696 Burwood Highway, Belgrave
Mon-Fri – 8am – 4.30pm
Sat-Sun – 9am – 4pm

Three Bags Full, Abbotsford

A couple of weeks back my Aunty and I were out and about in Abbotsford, and decided to stop in at Three Bags Full for a spot of brunch. I left my Aunty to her own devices and went ahead to check the vegan-friendliness of the menu, and grab a coffee while I waited for her to do what she needed to do.

My first impression of the place was how friendly the staff were. The guy who I first spoke to was super helpful, going through the menu and showing me what I could alter to make it appropriate. This all sounded good, so I ordered a coffee and sat outside to wait for the Aunty. A couple of minutes after sitting down, the guy I initially spoke to came out with menus, and did a ‘re-cap’ of what I could order, which was really lovely and attentive. I felt very welcome.

ImageI went with the smashed avocado on toast with cherry tomatoes, shaved radish and black sesames, minus the Persian feta, because sometimes you just have a hankering for some avo on toast. I liked the addition of radish and black sesame, as the old smashed avo with feta and mint is becoming pretty commonplace among cafes at the moment (don’t get me wrong, I love avocado on toast, but y’know, nice to see a little twist). The second piece of toast was also very welcome. My pet hate is not having enough toast for the meal and having to ration it.

It was fresh, tangy and delicious. My only fault would be that the toast, albeit yum, was so crispy crunchy that I really had difficulties cutting it with knife and fork. Many times I just resorted to the old finger forks, as I couldn’t get through it any other way. No big deal though, I eat with my fingers all the time.

ImageWe also ordered a homemade soda each – mine was passionfruit, vanilla bean and mint and the other was something and rosewater. Both were deliciously light and refreshing.

Apparently there were vegan muffins on offer too, but the smashed avo was perfect for me. I really enjoyed my brunch there, particularly out in the sunshine. As I said, I was very impressed with the staff, who were lovely and attentive even when it got busy through the lunch rush. I’d definitely go back, although I did see on the menu that there are “strictly no changes to the menu on weekends”, which may make it a little more difficult for vegans to find something suitable. But for a mid-week stop-in, this was perfect!

Three Bags Full
Cnr Nicholson and Mollison Sts, Abbotsford
Mon-Fri – 7am – 4.30pm
Weekends & Public Holidays – 8am – 4.30pm