Monday, 23 June 2014

The Grain Store - 22 April 2014

In the midst of my rural GP placement in Mildura, the Easter holidays arose, giving me an excellent opportunity to come back to Melbourne, meet up with one of my favourite people and do one of my favourite things - brunch.

My lovely companion suggested The Grain Store - I had already drooled over the menu online, with great delight that it had options for awkward dietary-requirement types.

I was more impressed still when I arrived to find one of the most aesthetically pleasing cafes in all of Melbourne - very much on a par with those in well-heeled parts of London.

The staff were also very patient with me and my awkward enquiries about what could and couldn’t be adapted from the menu, including suggesting a build-your-own from the toast + sides menu.

In the end I opted for the default vegan/GF item, currently listed as “Vegan cauliflower, quinoa & amaranth pops - roasted pumpkin hummus, goji berries, parsnip crisps, nigella seeds”. I think this has changed since April, however, as I had beetroot and endive rather than parsnip.

This was a spectacular and pretty dish. A marvellous combination of textures and tastes, from the velvety-smooth and sweet pumpkin hummus to the crunchy, savoury quinoa and amaranth, to the chewy and tart goji berries. I wouldn’t have thought of using goji berries in a largely savoury context, but it’s an idea worth using in other iterations.

The Grain Store has had its fair share of attention and positive reviews. Indeed, when I tried to go for coffee a few Sundays ago it was packed and we faced a 30 minute wait. All I can say is that it is worth a visit - there is surely something for everyone to enjoy, in civilised surroundings - just perhaps try to go on a weekday.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Smith & Daughters - 14 June 2014

Much anticipated, Smith & Daughters opened while I was on my rural GP rotation - an experience that could not have been more different to that of my normal life living in the cyclist-vegan-Green paradise that is the Inner North.

What this meant was that while I was being compared to livestock (“Jeeze girl, you look like you need to spend a year in the lucerne paddock!”), my hysterically flighty internet connection brought forth a flurry of Facebook and blog posts from those who were enjoying the latest addition to the Fitzroy epicentre of vegan cuisine.

“Damn you, Melbourne. I’ll be back soon and I’ll get my fill of plant-based Mexican deliciousness,” I vowed.

Following my return, a completely ridiculous amount of time then passed, in which I luxuriated in the convenience of the new Aunt Maggie’s in Brunswick (kale!!), resumed making my protein powder concoctions, and had the relief of seeing my weekly food bill drop dramatically in price.

The insanity of a voluntary exam - for only medical students would be so crazy to opt for additional testing, which has no effect on actual university marks and is therefore just a weird masochistic exercise in realising, Socrates-like, that one knows nothing - presented a valid excuse for a lunch treat.

After three hours of sitting semi-motionless filling out an MCQ sheet, my dining companion and I were both slightly frozen. She was at a greater disadvantage having got thoroughly drenched during her bike ride in (a rare advantage of my leaving-it-to-the-last-minute habit: I missed the downpour). A quick bike ride brought us to the warmth of Smith & Daughters, which was also, mercifully, not crammed with people.

After some slight confusion about what could and couldn't be done gluten-free, my brunching companion and I ended up choosing the same item - the Mexican omelette with corn tortillas. Accompanied by, in my case, a long black. My companion had a cappuccino with coconut milk. 

I was pretty ravenous by the time this came out, but managed to pause long enough to drown the above in Cholula sauce (I am finishing off a bottle at home, and know that for me it is pretty mild). 

The omelette thankfully did not replicate an eggy dish in flavour; texturally it was more like a savoury pudding. The sauces and avocado brightened up the dish, visually and in terms of flavour, and the corn tortillas were by far the best I've had. Best of all, the cast iron pan - though scorching hot initially - was another welcome source of warmth. 

So my Smith & Daughters desire has been partially sated - I need to sample the evening menu next, obviously.