The Daily Veg - cafe reviews around Melbourne

Since 2007, we've evolved from vegetarian to vegan. We love our food & wine just like anybody else!! This blog aims to review tasty vegan options, creativity & quality that can be found at cafes in & around the Melbourne city & suburban region. We initially became vegetarian due to our adorable indoor bunnies. Veganism was just the next step!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kallista Tea Rooms

Place: Kallista Tea Rooms

Where: Monbulk Road, Kallista (about 40 km East of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

In a nutshell: relaxing environment, vegan friendly (mostly vegetarian), produce, books, local artworks, views of feeding parrots and cockatoos

Open: 6 days a week (closed Wednesday) for Breakfast and Lunch - 8am - 5 p.m.

Prices: Soup $8.50, Main Meals mostly $14-17, Biscuits and Cakes $3-7

Although we have been regular visitors to the Dandenongs for some years, we only recently discovered the benefits of this establishment, which we had previously driven past many times without a second thought. I think it may have been the name - "Tea Rooms" - that put us off, conjuring up images of old ladies drinking tea at tables with frilly doilies, knitted tea cozies and stodgy old English food - which is indeed what some places in the Dandenongs are actually like! We are pleased to report that this is not the case with the Kallista Tea Rooms! While old ladies are presumably welcome, the cuisine on offer is fresh, modern and decidedly friendly to vegetarians and vegans.

Our introduction to the Kallista Tea Rooms occurred at a banquet organised by a coalition of local vegans. We were treated to a wide selection of vegan dishes, including appetisers, main courses and desserts. Particularly memorable was the French Onion Soup, topped with a seeded-mustard crouton and so full of flavour that we were in heaven! Also of note was a vegetable tagine, subtly spiced, accompanied by delicate, fluffy couscous with pistachios and other delicious things - a fantastic dish.

We have returned to the Kallista Tea Rooms several times and have enjoyed Lentil and Tomato Soup, Tomato and Basil Soup, Chickpea Curry, Tomato and Caramelised Onion Tart, and Zucchini and Pea Fritters. It came as a pleasant surprise to find that there are also excellent vegan options among the sweet treats, which have included a rich Chocolate Cake and Pine Nut, Lemon Verbena and Thyme Biscuits! The menu changes from time to time and we were disappointed when the aforementioned Tagine was omitted from the latest version, although the new dishes were also very good.

Unusually for a non-vegetarian restaurant, the menu and specials board indicate which dishes are vegetarian and which are vegan, or are available in these options. This eliminates the stress of having to interrogate staff about the ingredients used, which often makes eating out an ordeal for vegans. It is a relief to be able to just order whatever we want without worrying about whether it might be cooked in butter or chicken stock.

As far as we are aware, there are no vegetarian restaurants or cafes in the popular tourist areas of the Dandenong Ranges (Sasafrass, Olinda, Kalorama, Mt Dandenong, Kallista and Monbulk), which is a pity. However, if vegetarians and vegans wish to eat out in this area and are prepared to do so at a non-vegetarian establishment, we can heartily endorse the Kallista Tea Rooms.