Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published May 3rd 2018
Where East-Inspired Vegan Meals Meet Melbourne's North
Re-visiting the tastes from your travels in your own country doesn't happen too often, especially in vegan versions but memories of travelling through the Middle East came back for me after visiting the new Café 435 in Pascoe Vale.
Vegan food is surging in popularity and presence around Melbourne, a city that's renowned for its multicultural variety. Café 435 only opened just over seven months ago, and is already attracting a steady stream of patrons – vegan and non-vegan alike – with its Mediterranean styled food. All such food is created and prepared from a vegan perspective.
The space is bright, contemporary and vibrant, wearing its aqua and yellow-painted accents beautifully. The inside space rolls down a corridor and through to the outdoor area that sprawls to more room and turfed seating. Light bulbs are strung up in the space and there's plenty of room for kids to play. This café has been converted from its older, neighbourhood milk-bar beginnings nicely. Even original signage has been left in situ; fading newspaper titles sold by businesses past. The bold vibe of Café 435 extends to the staff who welcome all patrons with brighter smiles and casual chit-chat.
The menu is just as warming. To start, dolmades are served lightly warm with a side of minty coconut yoghurt, a classic dish served on a mosaic-patterned plate. Each dolmade is filled with rice and herbs and a vegan twist to this Mediterranean staple.
Next, a main course, the aptly named Mediterranean, arrives with all the flair and condiments of a hearty brunch choice. Scrambled tofu is folded through a metal bowl of sautéed tomatoes and onions, sided by toast and slices of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. The dish is accompanied by a second plate of said condiments which accentuates Café 435's generous hospitality. Small dishes hold salty almond fetta (yes, nut-based), tasty and fresh green olives, and sweet plum jam. The whole dish is a fusion of sweet and savoury flavours, all in the one order.
It's recommended to devour the savoury parts of Mediterranean and save the toast for last so that the plum jam can be smeared across it. Or, you can munch on this toast in between nibbling fetta and sucking on the olives. The menu offers gluten-free options for those in need, including the Mediterranean and dolmades. The staff confirms there are plans to expand the gluten-free options. Café 435's menu also features a decent selection of vegan burger choices, including the popular Vopper filled with a plant-based patty layered with lettuce, tomato, vegan mayonnaise and house-made tangy sauce.
Even after a big lunch such as this, there is still a need to leave space for coffee and dessert. There are jars full of homemade Turkish delight and sweets, while the cake cabinet offers a generous selection of cakes supplied by The Compassionate Kitchen.
Look out for flavours such as chocolate mud cake, or decadent sticky date cake with a layer of gooey caramel icing. And yes, you can request a scoop of soy ice-cream on the side, along with one of many hot and cold drinks. A soy latte is best to finish the meal, fashioned in true Mediterranean-Melbourne style.