Tandoori Den

Given how lackadaisical am I about this here food blog lately (you’d think one post a month wouldn’t be a hard bar to clear, yet here I am every last day of the month madly trying to bash out a post by midnight), I am ENORMOUSLY appreciative of my friends who take initiative and take me to try new-to-me food places. It feels more exciting these days to write about meals and restaurants that I’ve really enjoyed regardless of whether they’re new or top of the trendies must-visit lists; it feels even more spesh when it’s a friend recommendation.

Tandoori Den is somewhat of a Camberwell institution, I’ve discovered, having been around since 1981 and I’ve since heard stories from many of my friends who grew up in the inner-east eagerly enthusing about their fond memories of family dinners there, with their great service, and seriously good renderings of Indian classics. I’m certainly not going to contradict them – Tandoori Den served up one of the best Indian meals I’ve had in a loooooooooong time.

I try to keep it simple when I order Indian – a saucy dish with some kind of bread product to mop it up with keeps me very happy. Palak paneer tends to be my standard when trying out a new place and dang it was a good idea here at Tandoori Den because it was an exemplary version of the dish. The consistency was creamy without being too rich, and the spinach flavour was allowed to stand alongside the spices without being smothered beneath them. The paneer chunks were also clearly freshly made, softly creamy yet they held their shape in the curry goodness.

We ordered a variety of helpful sauce-absorbing breads, including plain and garlic naans, and roti. I sampled the plain, which was hot, slightly charred, and with little pools of butter brushed across the dimples along the bread’s surface and holy CRAP it was good.

There are plenty of vegetarian options to be had across Tandoori Den’s menu (the vegie rogan josh ordered by one of my companions looked particularly good and she said it carried a nice hefty level of heat), although vegans may want to inquire about butter and cream when it involves anything saucy. The wait staff were enormously professional, and the white tableclothes and napkins and slightly rarified decor may strike some as being dated, but for me just highlighted that what we were experiencing was a cut above the average. If you’re out Camberwell way, I can’t recommend a cheeky curry here more.

Tandoori Den

261 Camberwell Road, Camberwell

Ph: 9813 2598


Shu II: Christmas in August

I was lucky enough to get invited to a special pay-what-you-feel degustation dinner at Shu back at the start of August. Shu’s chef, also handily named Shu, apparently throws a Christmas in July-themed dinner every year for his friends, and this year decided to make it entirely vegan and invite some vegan-friendly food writers and bloggers too. WHAT A TREAT, especially as since my first visit I had very much been hanging out for the chance to visit Shu again, because there really is nothing else like it in town.

After starting off with a palate waker-upper in the form of a zesty cocktail involving vodka, lychee syrup, lime, Vietnamese mint, and cheeky whack of chilli, we got stuck into the menu which had been split into four sections.

For the chilled and raw portion, we had Shu’s signature dish of a daikon roll filled with enoki mushrooms, Asian herbs and lettuce with a Sichuan spicy soy sauce. These remain beautiful to look at, unwieldy to eat, but crunchy and flavour-packed and dang you can see why this stays on the menu. The silken tofu with beans and sprouts with pickled chilli relish was a gelatinous square of white topped with really just straight-up minced chilli, which made for a fiery mouthful. I particularly liked the cucumber and seaweed with soybean skin, spicy tahini and roasted pumpkin seeds which was this saucy, crunchy mouthful with a lot of complimentary flavours flying around.

On to the hot dian xin section: I was raving over the crispy beetroot and wood ear roll with green chilli dip, which was really a well-fancy spring roll, all violently magenta inside and crunchy and earthy and OH MY. The pan fried shiitake and cabbage wonton with pickled chilli jam and Chinese vinegar was a perfectly cromulent dumpling, with a nice amount of pan-fried charredness. I was also very much into the steamed tofu pocket stuffed with preserved mustard greens and peanuts, which was basically like a triangle of sandwich with the tofu acting as bread, and I do like some well-judged bitter greens.

Onto a selection of bigger shared plates! If you remember my first review of Shu, you would not be at all surprised that I was all over the home town noodles. These are still an absolute menu star and if you have the chance to have them I FIERCELY insist upon it. The pan roasted eggplant rolls, pickled vegetables and roasted cashews were good, although I didn’t find them as rave-worthy as a lot of other dishes, although they’re worth trying if you love your eggplant. The crunchy coleslaw tossed with seeds, nuts, and Sichuan pepper infused soy sauce was more my level, lots of greens and textural components to keep things exciting. I was also a fan of the assorted Asian mushroom ginger and fennel stir fry in sweet soy sauce because stir fry! Mushrooms! Ginger! All good rich stuff combined well together. The wok fried seasonal vegetables with dried chilli and Sichuan pepper required me to eat around the whole dried chillis, but was otherwise very pleasant, although by this point I was getting full! I had enough room to have a few tastes of the crispy tofu and grilled beanshoots in preserved Pixian bean paste, which had some interesting flavours but didn’t really connect lastingly with me. Fair given all the food I’d already absorbed!

I can go fifty-fifty on raw desserts, so I had a little trepidation about the raw avocado cheese cake with blackberry syrup and toasted coconut chips that finished the menu. But really, I should have have had a lot more confidence in proceedings by this point, because it was a DAMN FINE dessert, raw or not. The filling had that wonderful avocado creaminess while not having the taste dominating (avocado in desserts is another thing that often doesn’t work for me, but this hit just the right notes), with the bulk of the flavour being carried by the berry-packed blackberry syrup and surprisingly – and I say surprisingly because this is ordinarily my least favourite part of any cheesecake – the base, which was filled with so many flavours that I struggled to identify them all. Luckily Catherine is a desserts whisperer and identified them all by taste alone before we confirmed with Shu.

Shu remains unique, experimental and a proper experience. Vegan degustations happen every Wednesday night, with all-you-can-eat dumplings on Thursdays. WELL. What are you waiting for?

For more perspectives on this dinner, you can read Catherine’s take at Cate’s Cates, and also over at Veganopoulous which comes with a lot of fabulous photos.


147 Johnston Street, Collingwood

Ph: 9090 7878


Miss Katie’s Crab Shack

I know what you’re thinking. “Hayley this does NOT sound like a place where I am going to be able to get a meal suitable for my vegematarian needs.” I get it, I do, in fact I had my own suspicions that I was in for an evening of slim pickings as I made my way through the newly renovated and gussied up Rochester Hotel, where the bright red neon sign in the shape of a crab out on the street hints at the American-style seafood party within.

But you can rest easy, fellow vegetable munchers, we are actually quite well catered to at Miss Katie’s emporium of sea scuttlers, with the menu I saw offering several veg options. The overall menu vibe is one that takes inspiration from the cuisine of predominantly America’s south, with a few New England notes particularly in terms of the seafood on offer.

But we want VEGETABLES. And the first came in the form of a basket of fries because I am an unrepentant potato monster. These were distinguished by being served with a lot of Old Bay seasoning (always a big plus in my book) was well as a pot of blue cheese dipping sauce, which between here and The Beaufort is fast becoming my favourite saucy potato accompaniment. There is also a variety of hot sauces provided on the tables if you require spicy fries. In between four pairs of grabby hands the basket emptied very quickly!

For my main, I was excited to try Katie’s version of succotash. The waitress was at pains to explain that this was not technically a traditional rendering of succotash, in that it used farro as its base instead of shelled beans. It may have been a twist dish but I was more than happy to receive a bowl filled with grains, lengths of green beans, corn kernels, tiny florets of green cauliflower, tiny cubes of zucchini and eggplant all cooked down so they were soft and melty with barely any textural bite, topped with a dusting of grated cheese and the tiniest rounds of chopped chives. A lot of elements, yet they were all taste and texture-complimentary. Very clever, and an interesting and exciting vegetarian option.

If meat is your jam, alongside many crabby delectables you can also eat TEN TON OF FRIED CHICKEN. One of my dining companions ordered the chicken and waffles and nearly cried with overwhelmed fear when a giant plate came out with five huge pieces of spiced battered bird, a fat waffle nearly the same circumference of the plate, parfait butter and maple syrup (it’s okay, if you’re intimidated by the size of the meals they’ll let you take home whatever you can’t stuff in your face).

We also shared the dessert special of the evening, which were chocolate-filled doughnuts, sugar dusted balls of sweetness. Probably a touch too sweet, to be honest; this was the only dish we weren’t raving about on the way home. Not bad, per say, but definitely not of the same calibre as the amazing savoury dishes.

As a vegie I was very happily surprised by Miss Katie’s Crab Shack; evidently one shouldn’t judge a crustacean by it’s shell.

Miss Katie’s Crab Shack

The Rochester Hotel, 202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Ph: 9419 0166


New Day Rising

There are some institutions that for what ever reason you take far too long to get to. I’ve been hearing about the small delights of New Day Rising from fellow veg*ns for years, but as I’m easily distracted by new shiny baubles I’d let it percolate away on the backburner.

Luckily for my sake Steph was rightly appalled that I’d never been and took matters into her own hands and organised an early Saturday morning brunch. I’d recommend hitting New Day Rising early if you’d like to sit about as it is A TEENY TINY SPACE. Basically a room with a few tables and bench spaces on one side and the open kitchen on the other, it’s all very informal and relaxed with the benefit of it being easy to strike up conversations with the staff as you watch them put together your coffee and breakfast.

I am always one for a bagel and there were quite a few to choose from here. I eventually settled on the ‘yolko’ (“I knew you’d go with that one as soon as I saw it,” said Steph triumphantly). Cheddar cheese, rocket, tomato relish, New Day Rising’s famous savoury smoked coconut flakes, and a runny fried egg all warmly toasted, this was a pretty supreme bagel. The smoked coconut was as fabulous as everyone had raved – don’t expect a true bacon analogue, but the interesting texture and strong caramelised smoky taste is a truly unique experience and turns a breakfast bagel into something quietly elevated.

Steph veganised the house beans, with the staff offering the replace the feta with a side of avocado (I always do like places that, when you ask for an item left out in order to veggie or veganise a dish, they offer to replace that element with something suitable, so you don’t end up with a dish that’s clearly lacking something). The hot black beans came out with toast and a fan of avocado slices and looked pretty darn inviting.

The coffee is smooth and without a bitter note, and there’s also plenty of cakes and doughnuts (some of which are vegan!) to satisfy any sweet cravings. New Day Rising is a highly satisfying laid back gem that I feel a right chump for taking so long to get wise to.

New Day Rising

221B Blyth Street, Brunswick East

New Day Rising on Facebook


HOLD UP EVERYONE, did you know that Howler do $12 burger deals on a Wednesday night? It is TRUE and it is GLORIOUS, and I needed to share it with you as soon as was humanly.

Okay so here is the deal. Howler have seven different burgers on their menu, and if you go and order on a Wednesday for your $12 you not only get a burger, but you get a side of fat chips with it, and a pot of Monteiths beer or cider. IS THAT THE BEST BURGER DEAL IN TOWN? I RECKON.

I’d been to Howler a couple of times to either see bands or films and I’m a little bit in awe of the space they have set up there. In the front beer garden you can hole away in booths to drink and eat or surround the ping pong tables and have a game in between pints. Out the back is the band room/cinema/whatever they are doing in what is a versatile space.

ON TO BURGERS. Now there are two vegie burgers, one of which is vegan, to choose from if you need vegetables. The vegan has a quinoa, wild rice, almonds and beetroot patty with beanshoots, pickled ginger, Asian herbs and vegan wasabi mayo, while for vegie you can have the saganaki burger with cucumber, tomato, basil, house relish and chipotle aioli, If you all know me well enough you all know that I definitely went with the SALTY DELICIOUS CHEESE BURGER.

It’s a damn generous slab of cheese too, thick and fat and poking out very generously from under the eaves of the floury bun. Really all the ancillary vegies and sauces are just there to provide empty vitamins that will be instantly snuffed out by unadulterated saganaki. And how can there be anything better than that? Well, the chips do come close, crispy and crunchy, with winsome fluff within. Teamed with a cider, and I was terribly content. What a deal, what a deal.


7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick

Ph: 9077 5572


Mr Burger

It actually surprised me to realise that I’ve never profiled a food truck on this here blog, especially considering you can’t really miss them around Melbourne these days. I’m often partaking of their wares as an easy lunch or dinner – having to walk to a truck’s location from my house is a good way of convincing myself that I am working for my burger (of course no one need work for a burger, may we all have forty thousand burgers a day, burgers love you don’t forget).

Out of the two burger peddling trucks that normally haunt my suburb, I lean towards Mr Burger over Beatbox Kitchen these days – not because Beatbox Kitchen’s burgers aren’t good, oh no, you should definitely get one of their mushroom burgers into your face as soon as you can – but because while burgers are fab the real race for food supremacy is with chips, and Mr Burger’s chips are so good I have legit DREAMT about them.

I suppose I should give some concession to the burgers and at least describe them to you. While I love a good mushroom burger (as evidenced above), I’ve noticed a lot of burger joints overly lean on them, especially when they just have the one vegie option available, so unless they’re truly a top-notch construction they can get a little samey. Mr Burger goes somewhere a little different, with a felafel patty for their vegie option, complete with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, tomato sauce, mayo and mustard to make their Mr Veg burger. Now it might sound weird to have a felafel patty in a bun with all those more traditional burger accompaniments, but trust me, IT WORKS and is delicious to boot. Keep in mind, however, that these are also rather hefty burgers – I am an unrepentant glutton and put away obscene amounts of food, but I often find these particular burgers are a little too much for for me and I have to leave a bit for Mrs Manners. But that also may be because I can’t help but eat a stupid amount of chips alongside them, because THESE CHIPS, OH MAN.

Honestly I don’t think they do terribly much special to these chips beyond sprinkling some spiced salt mix on them, but they are always fat and golden, and have a very good ratio between fluffy insides and crunchy outsides, and are just ultimately SATISFYING in a very simple yet gleeful way.

The best thing about Mr Burger is apart from their trucks they also have two permanent locations, so if you can’t be bothered to chase down a truck you can head to either Fitzroy or South Yarra and have your burger longings sated. Which you should do, right now, go.

Mr Burger

300 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

364 Chapel Street, South Yarra

For daily truck locations, check Twitter


Blintz on Tour: Gnome, Sydney

The second most noteworthy Sydney foodie place I got to visit with Chris and Nicole on my weekend trip was teeny Surry Hills cafe Gnome. We were on a serious mission for food, as night-before shenanigans meant that it was 3pm on a Sunday, and we hadn’t eaten. IT WAS A FOOD EMERGENCY.

It was very lucky indeed then that we chanced upon Gnome and slipped into a corner table in the tiny space. It is a tight room, but comfortable – the large windows open out so a breeze comes through to cut through the humidity, the staff are cheery and the room’s white walls are brightened up with art like colourful ceramic animal heads.

I very much needed fortifying with vitamins, so before anything solid hit the table I had a Gnome breakfast juice, which consisted of whizzed up kale, watermelon, apple and ginger. Thankfully Gnome followed the green juices rule of if you’re going to put leafy greens in a juice you need to make sure they comprise 40% or less of the total otherwise it will taste like a glass of iron-rich sludge. This juice properly woke me up with its sizable ginger kick, yet with a really pleasant undercurrent of sweetness from the watermelon and apple.

On to BUSINESS. The day clearly required hollandaise, so all three of us decided to tuck into the mini egg benny roll – poached egg, hollandaise sauce and ham (kindly omitted for me) on a brioche roll. Chris added mushrooms to his because he knows what’s what. This was just what the doctor ordered, a hot handful of recovery in a bun. I want one now, someone send a plane.

Because this was our first meal of the day at a time when we should have had two already, we had absolutely no compunction in ordering seconds, because why would you even if you’d already had five meals? While Nicole and Chris went a second round on the benny rolls, I switched to sweet with the toasted banana bread served with cinnamon butter, and honey and lime mascarpone. This was A VERY GOOD CHOICE. The banana bread was this sweet, spicy scented warm slab, which once slathered with the cinnamon butter (which melted immediately OH SO DECADENTLY) and the citric tang of the mascarpone, just erupted one’s mouth with sweet comfort.

Gnome is a little place doing a little array of things but doing them ever so right, in a way that isn’t going to empty your pockets either. If you can squeeze in, it’s well worth the time.


536 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Ph: (02) 9332 3191