Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eating good things in a good place, or: The Moroccan Soup Bar.

To use a whole lot of non-vegan phrases, what really gets my goat; what really irritates the monkey on my back; and what puts a bee in my bonnet, is restaurant reviews who say something like: “Even though it was vegetarian, it was really good”; or: “Even meat lovers will agree this vegetable dish was tasty”; or “For a vegetarian restaurant, the food is great”; or “I’m a total idiot with no imagination and deadened tastebuds” .. oh, that was me translating what those kind of writers really mean.

It was with great annoyance that I read a couple of such reviews of the Moroccan Soup Bar, a vegetarian, alcohol-free venue on St Georges Road. Not only did the Moroccan Soup Bar’s hefty reputation precede it on my first ever visit, making me envious of the food which inspired the rave reviews I had read, but I like a restaurant with a bit of grunt. And by grunt I mean ethics.

The Moroccan Soup Bar is run with some down-to-earth principles about eating local food; employing women who can benefit from the experience and training; and not charging the bloody earth (or using plastic containers for the stream of take-away orders that file in and out. People bring their own, which can lead to the amusing sight of two large empty vodka bottles being carried in; for what, I’m not sure).

I was not entirely ready for the onslaught of patrons and queue-jumpers who alighted from the 112 tram and teleported themselves to outside the restaurant at 5:55pm. I had heard you had to be speedy to snare a table, and was able to stake my claim while I waited for the others to arrive. with some judicious application of the hip'n'shoulder.

The verbal menu at the Moroccan Soup Kitchen, delivered by staff while you sip sweet, gently minty tea, is designed to allow for discussion between waiter and eater. Buzz and my dining companions were old hands and wisely counselled us to forgo hearing the a la carte menu and just go for the $20 banquet.

I also like a restaurant where when I say that I am vegan, the response is “That’s fine”, and nothing else. We know what you want, we can make it, it will be delivered to you. Done!

The entrée plate (mine was separate and generous) contained a hummus base with smaller dips and similar pastes surrounding it, with pickled carrot and pita bread. It was a lovely cold plate for a hot day, with a soft and runny hummus and some excellent antipasto pieces.

My entree plate - bright and beautiful

The mains arrived in a flurry of bowls, five in total of which four were vegan. Score!

A potatoey curry with saffronny rice.

Vegetable chunks.

The rices were cooked with individual flavourings and the slightly baked, tomatoey one (with eggplants perched on top) was a little bit crunchy and a whole lotta good. My favourite rice was cooked with tumeric and saffron, and came with some simply cooked brown lentils.

Brown lentils and yellow rice.

Incredibly soft, sliding eggplant with fresh salad.

Desserts were a little oasis of hot nights in the desert. The vegan option was a beautifully soft and squidgy piece of Turkish Delight, which reminded me all over again of how much I like it.

Puffy powdery Turkish Delight.

... and with bite marks.

The sweets were accompanied by thick, goopy, sweetened black gold coffee poured from a brass coffee pot, which was more strong caffeine that I’m used to but which I shotted to get into the spirit of things.

Full and content, only $20 per person poorer, and with plans to return with our own plastic containers for takeaway soon, we enjoyed not only the simple, unpretentious and satisfying food, but we also felt like we had had ‘an experience’, and that we’d done something good.

The end.


Theresa said...

Ooh, that rice looks very yummy, and the turkish delight looks fantastic. I've never tried it, but I was always a fan of gummy and gooey candies like that.

steph said...

ooh, i can't wait to try the moroccan soup bar! i've heard such good things about it, and your post just makes me want to go there sooner!

Johanna said...

great photos - I need to visit again - have only been once in about the first week of blogging - imagine how poor the photos were!!! But the food was fantastic and you make it seem like a good place for a hot day which is always hard with eating out in summer

Fitzroyalty said...

Excellent photos and review. I do so love that pilaf with the eggplant on top!