Easter weekend

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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

Cheesy Cayenne Kale Chips (Raw)

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This recipe is magic.

I swear – you make it, and it just disappears before your very eyes. It’s really quite unbelievable.

I was trying to emulate the Loving Earth kale chips here – I love the thick chunky cashew-y bits. Once the base is downpat, it’s easy to play around with the herbs and spices to get different flavour combinations. These are my favourite so far though – a bit of cheese and a bit of a cayenne kick – the perfect combo.

It’s also worth mentioning that these can be done the oven, however I find they turn out much better in the dehydrator. Probably because the only times I’ve done kale chips in the oven I’ve left them too long and burnt the butts off them. Oops.

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Cheesy Cayenne Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, washed, dried and thick stems removed
1 cup cashews
1 carrot, grated
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like to feel the buuurrrrnnn)
Dash of turmeric (for colour)
Salt (to taste)

Place all ingredients apart from the kale in a high speed blender and blend to combine. I find it easiest to use the tamper to keep pushing it down. If required, add a little bit of water at a time until it reaches a smooth – but still thick – consistency. It should be ‘spreadable’.

Cut or tear the kale into pieces and place into a bowl. Give it a bit of a squeeze/massage to break down some of the tougher fibres, then pour the cheesy mix on top.

I like to get my hands dirty here, I’m sure you could stir it through with a spoon if you prefer. Mix the cashew cheese amongst the kale, ensuring each piece gets coated. Apart from being a bit of fun, using your hands means you can fill the curls up with mixture, which I love.

Spread kale out on teflex lined dehydrator trays, and dehydrate for 6-12 hours, until crispy.

And voila! Watch them disappear!

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Vegan Market Day

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The Sunday before last, Billy and I visited the St Kilda Botanical gardens for the vegan market day organised by Animal Liberation Victoria. It was a beautiful day for it, with no better place to be than out in the sunshine in the gardens, with the smell of vegan food wafting through the air.

We had a little wander around the stalls, picking up some goodies as we went. The first we came across was a stall called ‘A Vegan Smiles’, which was doing cheese along with some other sweet treats like protein bites. By the time we had got there, they had sold out of all the cheese apart from one final pack, so we snapped it up to give it a try.

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This wasn’t bad – it was enjoyable spread on crackers. The consistency was more like a spread than a solid cheese, and it had a very nutritional yeast/garlic/oniony flavour. Because I find it quite easy to make a cheese of that description, I probably wouldn’t get this again. Great to have new local vegan products on the market though!

Next we picked up some sweeties – the lady at the stall we got this from informed us that these were the only smores supplies in Australia at the moment. How could we pass up them after hearing that information?!

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It was pretty yummy – I haven’t had marshmallow in sooooo long, and this wasn’t as sickly sweet as I had suspected it might be. I also got a bag of Dandies marshmallows, as I’ve never tried them.

mark3I know right?! What is this crazy chocolate bar I’ve never seen? I’ll tell you what it is – DELICIOUS. Lovely dark chocolate, with mini marshmallows scattered through it to give it a yummy chewy texture. How have I never seen this before?

Next we wandered over to the area where they had live music, food, and talks happening. Our intention was to get a sausage from the sausage sizzle (how often do I get to say that?) but when we got there they had run out of bread, and it was going to be half an hour until they got more. We had every intention of waiting, but then we wandered down to the other stalls and found some dosas on the go, so opted for them instead.

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These were lovely! Not quite as good as the smokey eggplant ones from Overdosa, but definitely did the job. They were filled with a lovely potato mix, and came with three different chutneys – a coconut based, a chilli, and something else that I can no longer remember (pumpkin?).

After our savoury stop-over, we were ready to tackle the bake sale.

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Unfortunately for us, it seemed that the bake sale had already been tackled – the table was almost bare! We did manage to snap up a profiterole to share, which had apparently won the bake-off. I thought the pastry was a bit heavy, but I loved the crunchy toffee bits.

While we were eating, somehow a plate of doughnuts appeared on the table. We managed to sneak one of the last ones before they disappeared (a matter of minutes)!

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It was lovely – I wish I had ten!

Our final stop was to the coconut ice-cream cart. I’d seen this cart somewhere else not too long ago, but for some reason didn’t indulge. Well I was not going to let that happen again.

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Funky packaging, with a little paddle to eat it with tucked inside the lid. The flavours all sounded amazing, and I managed to sway myself from the usual mint-choc chip (it wasn’t easy) to try something else…

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This was be-a-u-tiful! The flavour was amazing, and unlike some other coconut ice-creams i’ve tried that have been quite hard and icy, this was lovely and creamy. I will never walk past this cart without indulging again!

Finally, it was time to make our way home. The food didn’t end there though – we smooshed up on the couch with a bowl of Red Thai Tofu and Green Beans with Thai Basil from Appetite for Reduction – the perfect way to end our delicious day.

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Spud Bar and Nostralis Pizza

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It’s amazing how quickly I’ve gone from being up to date with all my posts to having a backlog. Gah!

I have been pretty busy the last couple of weeks, completing my first fortnight of my new job. The stress and excitement of starting a new job couple with the travel time to and from work have left me feeling pretty tired by the time I get myself home. Hopefully as I start to get into a better rhythm things will start to balance out a little.

The other week Billy and I went to a show at the Corner, and I needed something to fill my tummy before hand. We went for a walk down Swan St and bumped into Spud Bar, which I have never been to before. I’ve heard lots of rave reviews about the place, and so I thought I’d give it a try.

I asked if they were able to do me a vegan potato, which was no problem at all. Spud Bar is sort of like Subway, but with potatoes – in that they have a range of ‘fillings’ and toppings on display, so you can pick and choose what you want. You can also choose between a potato or a sweet potato for your base.

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I just went with a the standard veggie spud topped with hummus and some tomato salsa. This was pretty good at satisfying my need for a simple, fresh meal. I wouldn’t say the flavour was AMAZING, but it was decent. I did slather it with tabasco sauce though to give it a bit of a kick. Mmm spicy.

Later on in the week, we decided to have a pizza and movie night and I was determined to finally try Nostralis Pizza. I have been wanting to try it for everrrr, particularly since Plush Pizza closed (boooo!). Nostralis do wholemeal, exclusively vegetarian pizzas, with stacks of vegan and gluten-free options. They’ve been in the business since 1981 which I thought was pretty darn impressive.

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My apologies for the shocking photos here. After the time it took us to get these pizzas home, there was no time for excellent lighting or production skills.

We ordered the first two pizzas on the list, just because they sounded interesting and different from the typical pizzas that vegans can access. This was the Nostralis Special, with tomato, bean shoots, capsicum, onion, olives, soy beans, pineapple, chili, garlic and herbs. Chaos!

I quite liked this one, though the structural integrity of each slice was seriously compromised by the thick layer of bean sprouts. This was definitely a two hands job. The others were not such big fans, saying it lacked flavour. I suppose with so many bean sprouts they kind of outshone the rest of the ingredients.

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We also got the Vindaloo pizza, which was described as having tomato, cheese, banglore beans, peppers, sultanas, hot spices, bananas, onions and vindaloo curry paste. I didn’t mind this, but I couldn’t find any banana or sultanas which was a little disappointing. Maybe they were blended into the paste? I’m not sure, I couldn’t taste them either. It wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked either.

Both these pizzas were good, but I had hoped for better. HOWEVER, I would love to go back and try some of the more traditional flavours, as I think they might be more suited to my pizza taste buds.  Also, living a fifteen-twenty minute trip from Nostralis meant our pizzas were no longer steaming fresh by the time we got them home, so next time I’d definitely like to dine in, or at least grab them and take them to a nearby park or something. I think they’d be rocking straight out of the oven.
Spud Bar
226 Swan St, Richmond (and various other locations)
Mon – Fri – 11.30am – 9.30pm
Sat – Sun – 11.30am – 9pm

Nostralis Pizza
55 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield North
Mon – CLOSED
Tues-Sun – 5.30pm – 10pm(ish)

Berrissimo (for the last time)

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Bummer to hear that Berrissimo has closed up shop.

And just when I started enjoying it!

Well, I sort of enjoyed it the first time but not as much as I had hoped I would. Yet Billy and I popped in last week to give it another go, this time opting to share a small one between us.

They had some different vegan flavours on offer this time – I think these were peach and strawberry, with those little delicious popping balls and some kind of truffle-y thing. And gosh darnit, they were delicious! Last time we couldn’t eat it all, this time we couldn’t get enough. So fruity, fresh and delicious.

Oh well, hopefully something wonderful will take its place.

Berrissimo CLOSED
2/360 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Mon-Thurs – 1pm-9.30pm
Fri – 1pm-10.30pm
Sat – 12pm-10.30pm
Sun – 12pm-9.30pm

Mediterranean Pearl Cous Cous Salad

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Today marks the first day of ‘meat-free week‘ 2014.

Yes, I know. Every week is meat-free week here at little vegan bear, but nevertheless, I am going to share a recipe with you all to mark the occasion. I whipped up a big bowl of this salad last night to take to work for lunch this week, as I am finding that it is better to plan ahead and be prepared, or else I will be tempted by the delicious food calling my name from Smith and Gertrude streets. Sneaky cafes!

The salad is a little Mediterranean inspired, full of tang. I had thought that the combination of mint and basil might be a little strange, but I think it worked quite well as they are only used in small amounts and actually compliment each other nicely. This salad is a great side dish, or works well with a big side of leafy greens.

ImageMediterranean Pearl Cous Cous Salad

To-feta:
250g tofu, pressed and cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt

Rest of salad:
2 cups dry pearl cous cous
1 tsp veg stock powder
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated (approx 1 cup once rehydrated – or use semi-dried)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 cups baby kale, roughly chopped

Dressing:
1 Tbsp lemon zest
Juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1/4 tsp sea salt
Healthy dose of cracked pepper

Start by marinating the to-feta. Whisk together all ingredients apart from the tofu until combined. Add tofu and stir to coat all pieces in marinade. Set aside for a couple of hours (or overnight)

Next, cook the cous cous according to packet instructions. I think the one I used directed 1 1/4 cups of water to 1 cup of cous cous. Add the stock powder to the pot while cooking for a little extra flavour. Once it’s done, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Give the kale a good scrunching (just moosh or massage it between your fingers) to break up the fibres a little bit. Add it along with the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl once the cous cous has cooled. Throw in the to-feta and stir to combine.

For the dressing, simply whisk all the ingredients together. Pour over salad and mix to distribute evenly. Store salad in the fridge until ready to use.

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1st Blogiversary + Beetroot and Mint Hummus

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So it’s my blogiversary today – one whole year! I had often wondered how people remembered to announce their blogging anniversary – I thought for sure I would forget mine. But now I know the secret – I received a handy little notification telling me so – thanks WordPress!

Hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since I was picking grapes in Bathurst. Where did the time go? Since then I’ve been on almost a full lap around the country and now I’m sort of settled back in Melbourne, and have just started a brand new job. Polar opposites to the life I was living a year ago. Both good in their own way.

Anyway, I digress. As the day snuck up on me, I didn’t bake a cake or anything exciting like that. In fact, I had a little bit of a kitchen failure tonight, but I’ll discuss that later. Instead, for the celebrations, I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do.

That’s right, I’m going to share a beetroot recipe.

I KNOW.

Anybody who knows me knows that I DO NOT like beetroot. However, I am always trying to incorporate it into my diet in new, enjoyable ways. Usually it is quite well disguised (with chocolate). This time, I’ve used a bit to add a little extra to the old hummus. It’s quick, easy, and guess what?! – I don’t hate it.

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Beetroot and Mint Hummus

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil
400g can chickpeas

3 small beetroots, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp tahini
1/4 cup fresh mint, plus extra for garnish
Salt
Water

Place garlic, lemon juice, zest and in a blender or food processor and blend until relatively smooth.

Add beets and pulse until they are broken down.

Add chickpeas, tahini and oil and blend until fairly smooth. You may need some more liquid to get it going here – if so, add water 1Tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency.

Chuck in the mint, and pulse until combined. Salt to taste.

Garnish with fresh mint, and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Afternoon stop-in at Vegie Bar

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After a day of wandering around Fitzroy recently, we popped into Vegie Bar for a quick pick-me-up.

I was immediately attracted to a chocolatey dessert in the cabinet. You know, I’m pretty sure this is the FIRST dessert that I’ve had at Vegie Bar? I might have shared a slice of cake years ago, but more than often I come out of the other side of lunch/dinner to even THINK about sweets.

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(Excuse the speckles, it just started to rain)

I didn’t actually read what this was – I saw the V on the card, saw the chocolate/slice/cake and got it. I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Not for lack of flavour, but more because I thought it was a giant Twix and was expecting a biscuity crunchy layer in there.

That aside, this was really delicious. It was a raw dessert, with a rich chocolate fudgy centre. Definitely a great little treat to put a spring back in your step after an afternoon lull.

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And what better to accompany it than an ice coffee?

I actually cannot not order an ice coffee if I see a vegan one on a menu. I just have to have it.

This was definitely one of the better ones I’ve had. It was made with real coffee, and as a result was not sickening sweet like some that I’ve tried. The only sweetness came from the ice cream, which is the way I believe it should be. Yay ice coffee!

Definitely enjoying visiting this old favourite now that I’m back in Melbourne. Check out the last time I visited here.

Vegie Bar
380 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Mon-Thurs – 11am – 10pm
Fri – 11am – 10.30pm
Sat – 9am – 10.30pm
Sun – 9am – 10pm

Raw Lime Coconut Cookies

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Last night I had a bit of fun with the dehydrator, and as a result have a few new recipes to share with you – the first one being the title of this post – Raw Lime Coconut Cookies.

So far, apart from drying fruits basically as they are or turning them into fruit leather, most of my dehydrating has resulted in savoury goods – variations of crackers and cauliflower popcorn. As a result, I decided it was about time I came up with something sweet. Enter these babies.

These are SO simple to make, with only a handful of ingredients and minimal prep. The result is a delicious, zesty and healthy cookie. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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Raw Lime Coconut Cookies
(makes about 15 cookies)

1 cup cashews (soaked for a couple of hours)
1 cup shredded coconut
2 Tbsp agave nectar (or other sweetener of choice)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
Pinch of salt
Paste from 1/2 vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)

Place cashews in a food processor, and process until they resemble course crumbs.

Add coconut and pulse until combined.

Add remaining ingredients and process until combined to form a soft ‘dough’. If they are too wet, add some more coconut. If you find the mix is too dry, try adding a little water or more lime juice.

Roll teaspoons of the mix into balls and place on a dehydrator tray with a teflex sheet on it. Press each ball down to form a flat disc.

Dehydrate at 46C (115F) for 12-24 hours, depending on the texture you’d like. I did mine for about 15 hours, and they were nice and chewy.

Enjoy!

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Three Bags Full, Abbotsford

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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