I am a total sucker for owls. Most birds in general send me into paroxysms of delight (quick bird-nerd squee: there were spotted pardalotes in my garden this spring! They are normally so hard to see! Yet there they were, hopping around our maples like tiny wee brown and orange lights, peeping away. So cute! End bird squee). But owls are my favourite. So seeing a cheery brown owl emblazoned on Northern Soul’s front window as Muffin and I strolled through the door immediately raised my hopes that this little place would deliver something special.
It is a small yet very neatly designed place, with gorgeous wallpaper and cheery staff. The menu is nice and varied, with so many veggie options that my head was quite comprehensibly spun.
You don’t win friends with salad, so the adage goes, but I would counter that you would totally win friends with Northern Soul’s udon salad. Udon noodles and an array of fresh crunchy greens and seeds (pine, pumpkin and a few others I failed to identify) are complimented with wasabi mayo. The ratio of solid ingredients to mayo was a tops one, nothing was too overly drenched, although if you’re expecting a hefty wasabi kick you will be dissatisfied, this is quite mild, which was okay with me. Deliciously pleasing!
Muffin had the vegan baked beans on pumpkin bread, with a side of cute tiny sauteed button mushrooms. She felt that the bread wasn’t as pumpkiny as she’d expected, but found nothing to fault in the beans, which were both hearty and tasty. The little mushrooms were bite-sized morsels of goodness, as one would expect from vegetables happily united together in butter.
The tea is provided by Leaf Herbal Tea; apparently Northern Soul is the only cafe in Melbourne that stocks this particular tea brand. I was certainly pretty impressed by my earl grey, which featured American bergamot (which, plant-nerd time, isn’t actually botanically related to regular bergamot, but is so strongly reminiscent of the flavour and scent of bergamot that settlers gave it the same name). I also had a lovely pot of chai tea which was popping with spices. I really want to explore this tea menu, it’s so heartening when places do tea properly!
We kept peering at the desserts cabinet that was just across from us, and could not help but be tempted by all the attractive little cakes. Muffin had a ‘daisy cake’, a little vanilla cupcake with slight coffee-ish flavoured icing with marshmallows on top. I had been eying off the impressive-looking passionfruit meringue cupcakes since I arrived. Topped with a swirl of meringue, the cupcake itself was a bright rich yellow, strongly passionfruit flavoured and hid a golden treasure inside with a centre of passionfruit curd. It’s always a treat when food tastes as good as it looks!
Northern Soul is pleasingly fabulous, and we weren’t the only ones discovering it; the little place filled up very quickly while we were eating (apparently it’s quite the drawcard for lunch before Women of Letters!). I’m certainly very keen to go back. Everything is nice and cheap, most dishes are under $10, so you can have yourself a good filling lunch without fuss. Although make sure you bring lots of cash as there aren’t any card facilities.
843 High Street, Thornbury
Ph: 9480 2333