So after reading Johanna’s review of the newest vegetarian café in our area, I had to drag Andrew out for brunch on Saturday and give it a try.
Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay, we have a new brunch place! Not that we go to brunch often, you understand, but that is largely because our prior brunch place of choice is the marvellous but insanely busy Green Refectory in Brunswick, and I don’t like having to choose between reading the menu properly and then having to guess whether we’ll get a table or not, or getting a table first and ordering my usual – which is lovely, don’t get me wrong, but variety is nice too.
Anyway. Little Deer Tracks is actually on O’Hea St (44, right near the railway line), and is open every day for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. The café also doubles as a mini art gallery where local artists can display their work, and the interior is very warm and cosy. It’s a long, rectangular space that feels like it may have started life as a terrace house, but there were plenty of free tables when we were there (which worries me – I know it’s new, but I want it to succeed!), and the service was very good. It’s vegetarian in an unassuming sort of way – the flavours are Italian, and there is no tofu to be seen, but there is a fabulously decadent all-day breakfast menu, and a range of salads, pastas, risottos, and other nibbly delights for lunch. And cakes. And cinnamon donuts with red wine and rosewater jam which I am yet to try but are definitely on the agenda for next time, because how can they possibly be bad?
This is definitely my kind of food. You could order me any dish on that menu and I’d enjoy it. Which makes decision-making rather difficult, actually. Being in a brunchy frame of mind yesterday, I decided to go with eggs florentine, something I’ve never actually had before, and sides of grilled tomatoes and hash browns. It was marvellous. The eggs were perfectly poached (I love poached eggs and sometime I really should learn how to make them), the Hollandaise sauce had a lovely hint of saffron in it, the tomatoes were real tomatoes, and grilled with oregano and maybe dried basil, too, and the hash brown was almost a crunchy potato cake on the outside, with lovely soft hashed potatoes inside. Actually, I never thought I’d say this about a potato dish, but the meal did not actually need the hash brown. It was amazing just with the eggs, spinach, hollandaise, muffins and tomatoes.
Andrew went for a lunch option – saffron risotto with broccoli and feta cheese, which looked and smelled fabulous. Johanna also recommends the black bean pie, which looked delicious too; I have my eye on the spaghetti with eggplant balls for next time, or maybe the deep-fried fennel with aioli, or the mushroom arancini, or the zucchini, mint and feta fritters. I am seriously going to be working my way through that menu. The breakfast options are a lot of variations on eggs, beans or tomatoes on toast, with a range of side dishes, but there is also muesli and french toast. All the cheese used in recipes is rennet-free and the goats’ milk is from free-range goats.
The cakes look good, and rumour has it that they make vegan lamingtons; though having said that, I honestly couldn’t tell you how good the café would be in general for vegans – so many of the lunch dishes might be vegan or might contain hidden eggs in the pasta or elsewhere. It’s hard to tell without going there again. (Oh dear. Now I’ll have to go there again…) My suspicion is that there isn’t too much for the gluten-free among you, either, though there were several risottos on offer – but one thing that I have heard is that they are very good about adapting recipes to fit people’s dietary needs, and certainly the service was very friendly and helpful, which is a good starting point. Oh, and the prices are pretty good – most meals are between $10 and $15.
In conclusion, yay, I have a new place to eat out on the weekends that I can afford and that has heaps of food I really like and probably wouldn’t cook at home. I’ll definitely be going back.