Attending Women of Letters is fast becoming a very good excuse for exploring the culinary options around Thornbury. And the merest attempts at research uncovers the fact that there are many interesting-looking places to choose from up around there! So with Muffin, my mother and Muffin’s sister Bec in tow, we made our way up to the farthermost reaches of High Street to have a gander at Lowlands.
It was an utterly stinking hot mess of a day, and as a result when we arrived all of the indoor seating was taken up with people inching as close as they could to the one industrial-sized electric fan. But we were blessed with fortune, as Lowlands has an outdoor seating area out the back in their picturesque kitchen garden that is under cover.
On such a hot day, it seemed only sensible to order a glass of rose lemonade. It was beautifully presented, a cheery light green fizz of bubbles with a sprinkling of red rose petals on top. Ridiculously refreshing, and it reached an agreeable balance between the tart lemon and the sweet rose syrup. Mum ended up having two glasses!
Once I’d been distracted from all the kitchen garden plants which seemed to be in full summer bloom (so many rambling nasturtiums!), I turned my attention to the food options. If I see a cooking term that I’m unfamiliar with on a menu, odds are I have to order that item in order to sate my curiosity and ignorance. So I had to make sure that I experienced the shirred eggs once I saw them. What could shirring mean?
My mother (who is a far better culinary expert than I am) explained that shirring involves cracking eggs into little, generally ceramic, containers, then putting those containers in a pan filled with water and then baking them in the oven, using basically the same method you would use with a steamed pudding. Exciting cooking revelations!
The vegetarian shirred eggs were served with two slices of bread sitting on a pool of cherry tomato relish (agreeably sweet, I’m not normally one for relish but this one I scooped up as much as I could), with three big, fat, juicy pieces of haloumi skewered with rosemary sprigs. The shirred eggs themselves had a consistency just a touch stiffer than poached eggs, but the yolks were still runny enough that I could spread them all over the bread. But of course the real winner was the haloumi skewers, because haloumi is ALWAYS the winner, these are the facts.
Muffin had other variety of shirred eggs on offer, with pea and broad bean mash, fat pieces of chorizo, and an array of greens that we hazarded could possibly have been kale. It was a good and hearty plate that was by all accounts a riot of exciting flavours; Muffin made particular comment on the pea and broad bean mash being quite delicious.
Bec had the eggplant couscous salad, which had the advantage of looking both delicious and full of health. I was particularly jealous of the big round of roti it was served with.
Mum, after much hmm-ing and haw-ing (well, we all did a bit of haw-ing, everything on the menu sounded all types of good), ended up going with the avocado toast that the menu promised it came “with 100% toast coverage.” And the menu was not lying! It did indeed come with masses of bright green avocado speckled with cracked pepper and salt crystals. I always think it’s a good sign when a cafe or restaurant does a simple dish really well, and if you can make something as simple as avocado on toast something to rave about, well, colour me impressed, Lowlands, colour me so.
The garden was still pleasant, but by this point the heat had become overwhelmingly oppressive, so we moved inside to some now-free tables to have a post-food beverage. Mum wanted to try a single-origin coffee, but sadly they’d sold out, so instead went for the ‘Candyman’ blend. Served as a short black, it had a good, thick crema on top. “Well, that’ll keep me going all afternoon,” she said once she’d knocked it back, eyes instantly dilating.
I went with a Chai latte for this second round. I was not as heavily spiced as some other chais I’ve had, but it was nice and smooth, with admirably abundant froth. Would make a very nice before bed beverage, as Bec observed.
Muffin and Bec went with an iced tea each, with a base of green tea, served with mint and stonefruit. Muffin was particularly pleased with it as it wasn’t as sickeningly sweet as some iced teas have a tendency towards, and instead the over-riding flavour was that of the green tea. Another good beverage for a hot day.
Lowlands was an all-round highly pleasant experience, and considering we visited on a extreme-weather day that had the potential to make us all terribly crotchety, the fact that we all left relaxed, cheerful and raving to each other about the food and friendly ambiance should only embolden our recommendation. The staff were lovely and approachable, the surrounds simple yet cute, and I really want to go back and have a rose lemonade in that ace garden, perhaps on a not-so hot day so I can enjoy the flowers properly. Head up to the end of High Street and go enjoy yourselves, you deserve it.
923 High Street, Thornbury
Ph: 9480 1635