Taking Chances in Regional Victoria: You Win Some, You Lose Some

Mr. AA & I recently made day trips to nearby towns – to get out of the house and look at old junk. We love old junk and the only thing that trumps early morning garage sales is second hand stores & markets. We rarely buy anything; we just love to look and in a sense, feel like we pushed the “random” button on a time machine.

Himalaya 1

Himalaya Bakery & Café
73 Vincent St
Daylesford, VIC 3460
P: (03) 5348 1267
Himalaya Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

The bad news first: We went to Himalaya Bakery & Café in Daylesford and it proved to be terribly overrated.

We hadn’t planned to go there. We’d been there once before, and, after being loudly humiliated in front of other customers by the venomous shrew behind the counter (for simply requesting a side salad, mind you), I was disgruntled enough to vow never to return.

Himalaya 2
I thought the fair trade, organic, carbon neutral sugar was a nice touch.

Since then, I’ve heard other vegans rave about how much they love the place, so I finally decided to give it a second chance. I’m not sure whether it has changed hands since I was last there, but the old so-and-so wasn’t around, which immediately gave me hope.

Then this happened:

Himalaya 4
Scrambled tofu with tomato, capsicum & onion.

My initial reaction: “did someone just eat my meal and regurgitate it back onto the plate?”

Now, I know that ugly food can be delicious. Curries are a prime example of out-of-this-world tasty but generally not at all sexy. But this… Was pretty horrifying. And sloppy. And bland. The thing is, it didn’t need much to lift it – salt, pepper & some fresh coriander would have been perfect to fix the flavour (I added S+P which at least made it sort of edible), but believe me when I say I hesitated to even try it. The tomatoes were too watery and the tofu was too soft/the wrong type, so the whole thing just ended up being a very disappointing slush.

Himalaya 3

The coffee was alright, but nothing to write home about.

Himalaya 6

The sweets looked beautiful – so I tried not to let my brunch discourage me. I ordered a vegan cupcake to go (vegan items were clearly labeled), only to realise half an hour later when I was about to eat it that I was actually given the wrong cake — one which wasn’t vegan. Cue intense pouting.

Daylesford Mill Market Vegan Cake 2

Daylesford Mill Market / Peppermill Café

We ended up at the Peppermill Café later, which is part of the Daylesford Mill Market building. While the vegan food options were scarce, they DID have a lonely little vegan cake in the bottom corner of their display cabinet so I grabbed a slice. It was sweet, rich and very more-ish! I was also pretty pleased that they had a big brew of iced fruit tea up on the counter (it was a Tea Tonic one) – I can’t remember what variety it was, but it was sugar free, a deep pink-red in colour and absolutely divine. The tea & cake saved the day!

In other winning news, we went to Geelong a couple of days later – again with only a very loose plan of what we were going to do. We stopped at the closest café to where we parked because, quite frankly, I was being lazy.

Cravings Geelong 1

Cravings Without the Guilt Café
24 Malop St
Geelong, VIC 3220
P: (03) 5222 8877
Cravings Without the Guilt Cafe on Urbanspoon

It was a gorgeous day and outdoor seating was available, so we decided to roll with it.

Cravings Geelong 4

I loved the colour coded menu that showed gluten free, diabetic friendly, vegetarian and other options. Unfortunately vegan wasn’t listed, but of the two vegetarian items I spotted, one of them was definitely vegan and the other could have been made vegan.

Cravings Geelong 2

I went with the Mediterranean salad which was lush with bright spinach and roasted veg. It was served cold with toasted walnuts and you guys, THE WALNUTS TOTALLY MADE IT. I didn’t think I was really *that* into walnuts, but this converted me. I’ve had some in the fridge ever since! (In the fridge because it’s been morbidly hot here. We just experienced 5 days straight of 41-44C weather.)

The only down side was that this was the “large” serving and it wasn’t quite enough to sustain me for a big day of walking/looking at old crap. If I’d had it for lunch on a day at the office, it totally would have been enough. But on this occassion, I ended up grabbing a fruit & nut bar a couple of hours later.

Cravings Geelong 3

The café was very clean and quaint and the staff were extremely familiar with the customers, which led me to believe that people get sucked into being regulars here – and I could see why. If I were a local I’d want to kick back there on a nice day, too, despite the busy road.

Leaf Tea Geelong

Leaf Tea
124 Ryrie St
Geelong, VIC 3220
P: (03) 5223 1750

We came across a happy accident between lunch and one of the stores we were heading to – Geelong’s own tea company, Leaf Tea. After doing a miniature happy dance in this tiny store, I sampled a couple of teas, then spent what felt like forever feeling completely overwhelmed and sniffing jar after jar of infusions. The woman in the store was super helpful and explained the cleverly colour coded labels, which made the experience seem a lot less daunting. We ended up walking away with Samurai Lime, Earl Grey Blue & Glo-Skin Tonic. To be honest, they all smelled amazing – I would have happily gone home with any/all of them!

The Cottage

The Cottage 1

The Cottage
359 Pakington St
Newtown (Geelong)
VIC, 3220
P: (03) 5229 1599

The Cottage is a kitschy little café in an ex-house with seating out front, a clean interior with white chairs and wooden floors and a relaxing, beautiful courtyard out back. We sat in the courtyard with friends and their kids – not only was there plenty of shade from the greenery and umbrellas, but there was an abundance of space. The tables were spread out so that you didn’t have to worry about disturbing anyone when you pulled your chair out and you didn’t have to compete with the noise from other tables to carry out a conversation. Continue reading