The Good, the Bad and the Hungry
Or: Vegan Dining on Phillip Island
We walk in and the waiter recognises me immediately. I assume it’s because of yesterday’s visit but there’s more. Some poor unsuspecting fellow wandered in this morning and the waiter was convinced he was me.
Second day on the island and already I have a doppelgänger.
Whatever, it’s a good sign. He remembers me, remembers the specific request I made yesterday when booking a table for two. We noticed then that the menu had a couple of vegetarian options, the sort of things that maybe (or maybe don’t) carry dairy. Cheese is a popular ingredient in restaurants’ veg options, for some reason, and cream is usually there to make it all seem fancier. So we enquire, knowing that some establishments do frankly odd things like pre-cooking their rice in stock and freezing it for later consumption. Asking is always good. It lets you know if it’s worth returning. A waiter later and we’re told the chef can easily do a couple of menu adaptations but that a day’s notice would allow him to come up with more.
We give him the day and are pleasantly rewarded. An eggplant vegetable stack and a Thai pumpkin soup are the entrée options, while a Swiss brown mushroom risotto and Mediterannean stir fry are suggested to follow. We ask for one of each to tide us over. Portions look small but are surprisingly filling. The soup is excellent, the stack delicious. I have the stir fry – the kind of odd fusion I’d be inclined to make for myself on a good day – and am left jealous that I didn’t take the risotto. It was supposed to have candied walnuts throughout but it’s excellent even without them. The stir fry sauce is some sort of combination of teriyaki and sweet soy, and it’s so good it demands a spoon.
The venue’s coffee, which we sampled when booking yesterday, was good enough to have again.
The Bad and the Hungry
Rhyll suggests itself as worth investigating this morning. It’s a quiet corner of the island, somewhere we can relax for a spell before lunch. Trouble is, our coffee addiction has reached epic proprtions and my esteemed better half is feeling peckish after a less than satisfying breakfast. Only three eateries appear on the esplanade, and of these it’s the corner café that’s decided to open this side of noon. We haven’t called in advance, but how hard can it be to get a couple of coffees and a spot of fruit toast?
We should have known better. Temuku is to be avoided at all costs. The staff, despite realising the morning monopoly they hold, can’t cope with the influx of custom. No less than two groups decide during our relatively brief stay to clear their own tables, returning dirty dishes directly into the kitchen without question. Counter staff – especially the woman who appears to own or at least manage the establishment – appear flustered at every turn. My wife’s coffee emerges in the requisite giant mug, worth the $5 it costs. However, my chamomile tea, similarly ensconsed in a mega mug, is little more than a cup of boiling water with a tea cage floating in it. An explanation arrives with the tea, noting that the leaves had only just been added, but an explanation is not an apology and infusion takes many minutes given the volume of water provided. (Worse, the cage is not sealed properly, so leaves spill alongside the red and yellow herbal streaks.)
As for the toast… The asking price for raisin toast is an extortionate $7, so we opt for toast with jam instead. (Still $5.) I ask for jam and no butter. The flustered lady serving me suggests that as the butter tends to come out in a separate container I could set it aside. Mildly confused and picturing a pre-sealed soft plastic serve, I let it go. When it comes out spread into a serving bowl, we are quick to return it to our waitress in the hope that it might go to the next toast-yearning customer. I shake my head, wondering what it would have cost the woman at the counter to write “No butter” on the order slip. Goodness knows there was plenty of room.
The order takes an age to arrive, inevitably, and expedience finally emerges in the form of the teenage dishwasher, who after the full length of our stay brings out a fresh brace of glasses to go with the complementary chilled water. Except there isn’t any water and hasn’t been the entire time we’ve been in the building. Which, when you’re waiting upwards of fifteen minutes for a drink, is thirsty work to cope with.