Mrs. Parmas has been open for almost a decade, but it still surprises me as to how many people haven't heard of it. That's probably a good thing given that it is still so busy and it can be tough to get a booking, forget about just wandering in and assuming there is a table free.

With a month's notice, catching up with a friend from interstate, we decide to book a table for a Wednesday night for dinner. I was excited all day for my parma, and even skimped on lunch to make sure I had enough stomach space. The parmas at Mrs. Parmas are not only delicious, they are extremely generous. The parma takes up the full plate and the sides are actually served separately in communal bowls for the table.

Vegetarians need not fear here because the parmas come in three variants - eggplant, chicken and veal. Infact there is a sign above the bar that talks about the first parmigiana being made from eggplant! Us vegetarians are the ones eating the real parma! There are also about fifteen different toppings plus a special, which means there are forty eight different parmas to be tasted! Almost one for every week of the year!

I usually go for the tandoori eggplant parma, but on this occasion I decided to branch out and have the mushroom parma. Like all my choices at Mrs. Parmas, I wasn't disappointed. There was big slices of field mushrooms, lots of sauce and cheese and that soft creamy eggplant as the vehicle.

The chips were also delicious, well cooked and seasoned with oodles of chicken salt. And before you jump on my case, yes a vegetarian can eat chicken salt, its full of apparent chicken chemical goodness. The salad, however, is not great. It is dressed with what tastes like average supermarket dressing and there is way too much of it. If you were keen on salad, it might be worth asking if you could have it without the dressing.

The other bonus of Mrs. Parmas is the beer list. It is extensive to say the least. The taps rotate regularly and they always have local Victorian microbrewery beer, most of the time with stuff you haven’t tasted before. They also sell by the bottle, but when the taps are so good, there really is no need to look at the bottle list. There is wine and cider too, for those that way inclined.

You don’t go to Mrs. Parmas for the ambience, infact the venue is a cross between an RSL and a pub. And you also don’t go there for a long, drawn out meal, because for most bookings they will ask you to vacate your table after 1.5 hours (that’s how busy they are)! But you do go there for an amazing parma and some great beer. If you do want to keep going into the night then move on to another venue, it is Melbourne after all and there are no shortage of spots!

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Breakfast is usually a meal where cafes quite easily cater for vegetarians, but Red Robyn in Camberwell takes it one step further and caters for gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, FODMAP diets, fructose friendly diets, nut allergies and every other kind of dietary requirements can you can think of. However don’t let this fool you into thinking that taste is compromised. I am a firm believer that gluten makes everything taste better but the team at Red Robyn have managed to break my pattern of thinking.

I picked Red Robyn on a public holiday morning whilst browsing Zomato to find a breakfast haunt. On a side note, how cool is Zomato?! It took me a while to adjust from Urbanspoon, but I am loving it now! Anyway, Red Robyn ticked all the boxes for me, it had an interesting menu, it was reasonably close by, and it seemed to receive mostly positive reviews. It definitely looked like a good place to try.

We arrived for a late breakfast at about 10:30am, and the cafe was bustling. Clearly we aren’t the only ones who feel that public holidays are for breakfasting out. There were no individual tables free so we were seated on a communal table and handed some menus. What struck me as most thoughtful was how clearly the menu was labelled. Every dish was clearly marked with which dietary requirements it was suitable for, or could be adapted for. The entire menu was gluten free, meaning that coeliacs could eat there without any concerns, and even things like sesame allergies were marked. Whilst I don’t have any medical dietary requirements, I certainly appreciated the effort that had been made to make sure everyone was catered for.

Our coffees arrived fairly promptly. As usual I ordered a latte. The coffee was pleasant, but nothing special. I think I am spoilt for coffee these days, being the proud new owner of a coffee grinder and a machinetta, so not many cafes will be able to impress me anymore. Nevertheless, it was certainly not offensive, and I drank it happily whilst waiting for the meal and trying to complete the substandard cryptic crossword in the Herald Sun.

Our meals arrived fairly soon after, although I think the cafe staff thought we had to wait too long because they offered us multiple apologies. To be honest, we were in no rush, so really weren’t phased but it was nice that the staff cared.

I had ordered my traditional choice, the corn fritters, but to my surprise, these fritters looked like nothing I had ordered before. There were three large ball shaped fritters that were slightly larger than golf balls, and they looks crisp and crunchy from the outset. They were set on a bed of avocado puree, tomato salsa, a quinoa and capsicum salad and dressed with chilli jam and lots of snow pea tendrils. Yes, this dish was already a winner and I hadn’t even tasted it.

I cut into one of the fritters and the first thing that hit me visually was how many whole corn kernels there were! The fritters were full of real corn! I tasted a piece and was blown away! The fritters were made with smoked corn, so there was a wonderfully smoky flavour which dominated over the sweetness of the corn and together they made a deep and rich flavour explosion in my mouth! The avocado was beautifully smooth and creamy, and the tomato salsa was well seasoned and packed a punch. What surprised me was the quinoa and capsicum salad. I wasn’t sure how quinoa would work with deep fried fritters, or whether I should mix it with the tomato salsa so that it didn’t become too heavy, but surprisingly it worked perfectly. The chilli jam also had a good tang (but I still think the jam at Spilt Milk is better!).

The other half had the sweet potato rosti with pork belly. He said the crackling of the pork belly was a bit burnt, and the centre was deliciously fatty. I don’t think he was as excited by his dish as I was by mine, but he said he still enjoyed it. I was kind enough to let him taste some of my fritters and he was sure that I had definitely won dish of the day.



The menu at Red Robyn changes with the seasons, focusing on seasonal produce, so I would love to come back and see what else they offer. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is warm, and they make everybody feel welcome, even if you are a gluten and lactose intolerant vegetarian.

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A vegetarian visiting a steak house is rarely going to lead to glowing reviews, but I went to Steak Ministry determined to give it a fair go. As per usual, I had spent time perusing the menu, and thoroughly familiarised myself with the one vegetarian option on the menu. I may be sound a little sarcastic, but honestly, I’m not trying to be. I definitely didn’t expect multiple vegetarian options on a steak house menu, besides, the one option that they did have sounded pretty delicious, so off I went on a Monday night to pop my steak house cherry.

Our booking was for 7:30pm, and being the eagerlings (or rather hungrylings) that we are, we arrived at about 7:20pm. The restaurant was surprisingly busy for a Monday night, almost three quarters full, and both the floor and kitchen were bustling with staff. We were seated almost immediately, handed our menus, and told that someone would be around shortly to take our order.

Fast forward about 15 minutes, and we were still waiting. Finally someone came around, but all they did was take our drinks order and walk away. It took another 20 minutes for our drinks to arrive and then the waiter was finally happy to take our meal order. I ordered the vegetarian option that I had thoroughly studied from the menu, and the other half ordered a steak, obviously. It was now 7:55pm.

Credit where credit is due, almost immediately after our order was taken, two pieces of bread and some oil were placed on our table. I was starving, so I probably could have wolfed down a whole loaf, but two pieces for two people was going to have to do. I’m always a sucker for good bread, and this was a decent sort. I just wish there was more. Almost as soon as we were chewing the last of the bread, our board was whisked away, almost as a reminder that prompt service was available when they wanted to offer it. And then we were back to waiting.

Our meals didn’t arrive until 8:45pm. Yes, you read that correctly, we waited for one hour and twenty five minutes for our meals. By this time I was pretty hangry, and ready to inhale my plate. My chosen dish was deep fried stuffed zucchini flowers with quinoa and ricotta, roasted pumpkin puree and chilli chocolate sauce. It sounded like an interesting dish and I was excited to eat it. I cut into the first zucchini flower, and there was a definitely crunch, indicating a crisp batter. Unfortunately that’s where they excitement ended. The stuffing was rather bland. When someone says there is a quinoa and ricotta stuffing, I assume that there also will be herbs, spices, seasoning and other flavour inducing elements. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so presumptuous. The two or three little dollops pumpkin puree were equally bland, and I really could taste any sign that they had been roasted. There were some thin slices of heirloom beetroot and microherbs to garnish the dish that did little to enhance the flavour. And the chocolate chilli sauce which I had been apprehensive about (I am not a chilli chocolate fan) was just a bizarre way to attempt to tie the dish together. Overall, the dish looked beautiful but really didn’t work for me.


The other half ordered a medium rare steak with mushroom sauce. When you go to a steak house, it really is fair to expect a perfect steak, after all, that’s what they advertise themselves for. So imagine his disappointment when he discovered that his medium rare steak was more medium than medium rare. The mushroom sauce was also very watery and could have done with a lot more reduction. When the steak was served, the waitress asked if he would like some mustard with his meal, because apparently the mustard goes very well with the meat. He said yes, but in another nod to the super efficient service, the steak was consumed, the plates were cleared, and yet the mustard never arrived.

The highlight of the meal was the onion rings. We decided to order something other than the usual side of chips, and so we chose onion rings. These were delicious! Crispy, full of flavour and so morish. They were served with an amazing smoked garlic mayonnaise. Unfortunately there was only about twelve onion rings and 2 blobs of mayonnaise. At $9, I would have wanted at least thirty onion rings and a sauce bowl full of the mayonnaise.


Overall our experience at Steak Ministry was pretty underwhelming. Waiting almost an hour and a half for some pretty average meals is really not my thing, and it is unlikely that we will be back. I’m sure there are other steak houses, with a vegetarian option on the menu, that we can visit when the other half needs his steak fix.

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