There are days where all you want to do is throw caution and health to the wind and stuff your face with as much processed fried crap as you can find. When you dare to be vegetarian or vegan, however, sometimes the sweet embrace of crisp fried badness can be hard to come by.
That’s why a place like The Cornish Arms is such an ace blessing, with it’s near-endless vegetarian and vegan options that fully commit to hearty, fried, oh-so-bad-for-you-it’s-good pub grub. I somehow hadn’t been before (alors!) so Carla took me in hand to ensure that I could finally experience one of Melbourne’s best cruisey vegan places.
The Cornish Arms is an old school boozer in a lot of ways – you’ll find a lot of grizzled blokes putting back schooners alongside tattooed too-cool-for-school hipsters – but everyone seems to be happily welcomed. On the Thursday evening we visited trivia was in full swing, so we ended up sitting out in the beer garden, which was pleasant despite a tricksy wind wanting to blow menus away.
While I was definitely intrigued by the idea of the ‘meat loathers’ pizza (I mean, how couldn’t you be?), I ended up with a fever for mock chicken and ordered the vegan chicken burger. As well as a big fat herb and breadcrumb-encrusted slab of fried mock chicken, the burger also contained facon, vegan ‘cheez’, cos lettuce, tomato slices, ranch sauce and chipotle aioli. The burger is also served with some fat chips, which were nice enough, although it would have been nicer if they’d been accompanied by some kind of condiment.
I don’t know what sort of magic the chefs here sprinkle over their mock meats to make them so succulent and delicious, but it is some level 50 mage shit. I actually ended up feeling that all the other components of the burger apart from the facon were distracting from the fried mock goodness. I might keep the cos lettuce and tomato, but there was definitely too much bread involved. And I don’t think I will ever reconcile myself to vegan cheese, it never seems to achieve any sense of true cheesiness for me and always has this unpleasant, chemically aftertaste. Carla insists that Cheezly is the only way to go when it comes to vegan cheese, I trust in her judgement.
Carla wasn’t about to let bread get in the way of her mock chicken consumption so she went with the vegan double down – two pieces of crumbed mock chicken sandwiching facon, cheez, tomato and sauces, served alongside some super crispy wedges and the tokenistic inclusion of a small mound of coleslaw. While some might balk at such an extreme level of soy protein, I ended up with a serious case of food envy at the sheer amount of fried wonder that adorned Carla’s plate. Ironically, she ended up feeling that some bread actually would have improved things for her tastes, so really we probably should have gone halfsies.
I couldn’t get the image of the double down out of my mind, so a few weeks later I went on a solo jaunt by myself to experience the glory. While my mound of coleslaw was definitely bigger than Carla’s (and actually contributed nicely to leavening all the soy protein), and the wedges were indeed fluffy crisps of amazement, again I couldn’t arrest my attention away from the vibrantly spiced, crisp moist goodness of the mock chicken. It is delicious wizardry. Although again, could have done without the vegan cheese. I am sorry, vegan cheese, you are just not a thing, not yet anyway. But otherwise this is the most pure form of soy mock enjoyment I have yet discovered.
I’ve since realised that even in mentioning The Cornish Arms to folks, veg*ns and omnis alike react with worshipful glee and reverent creative swearing. This is clearly a venue of joy that I’ve been far too slow in getting around to, you didn’t need to read this at all, you’ve clearly already been there hundreds of times, TAKE ME WITH YOU.
The Cornish Arms
163A Sydney Road, Brunswick
Ph: 9380 8383