Vegan fare has made leaps and bounds since my last “Vegan in the Parliamentary Triangle” update (April 2014) on vegan food in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle, Parkes ACT, Australia. I’ll do an actual, thorough update towards the end of the year, as I haven’t had time to go to lunch everywhere yet (plus it’s only been 2 months!).
Portrait Café (National Portrait Gallery) still has vegan quinoa salad on their everyday lunch menu. It’s great that this item has continued and I hope this is due to the statistical significance of the vegan dollar. Plus their across-the-road neighbours, National Gallery of Australia is now catering to vegans!
The exciting development since my April lunch-around (mentioned above) is that the NGA Café (National Gallery of Australia), now offers “vegan curry of the day” as an everyday $15 lunch menu item. I haven’t tried it that often to be aware of the different types available, but it’s been good 2 times, so signs point to positive.
If you’re organised and can phone ahead (preferably the day before), vegan dessert can also be arranged (I think it’s usually less than $10, might depend on the day).
Today’s dessert had syruped strawberries, almonds and quinoa cream – sort of a healthy rice pudding.
Previous custom vegan desserts have been similar quinoa cream based desserts with fruit and crunchy bits (delicious but unknown). Rumour has it that there may be a possibility of getting vegan mudcake sometime.
I would rate the curry as meeting the requirements of 3 Canberra Beanies (convenience, health factor, cost). I would rate the dessert as an almost 3 (maybe 2.8?), because it would be more convenient if it didn’t require pre-order.
Now that there is the achievement of vegan savoury items on the regular gallery menus, I hope that vegan desserts are the next frequent feature, not just for vegans but also our dairy-free friends.
An update on finding vegan food in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle, Parkes ACT, Australia. Previously tried and tested in my post of June 2013.
With over nine months since last battling for vegan fare, you would be forgiven for thinking there was ample gestation time for a new veg*n establishment. Nay! So here’s a summary of what you can get from the existing non-veg*n places – not entirely comprehensive, but there are limits to being a vegie legend in a lunch break.
Old Parliament House Terrace Café (prev. The Kitchen Cabinet with Ginger Catering, who are now at the Arboretum) is now under new management (Restaurant Associates), so they no longer sell farm vegetables or vegan chocolate (disappointing). There is a vegetable wrap but I’m not sure about the condiments.
Pork Barrel still offer basic pizzas (but on a special occasion, a great beetroot tart), Coffers (Treasury Building) and Café Milieu (John Gorton building) still offer sandwiches and basic rice and vegetables).
Bookplate (National Library) still have custom salads (pro tip: ask for hummus), but all the ready-made salads have meat (including the grazing plates). The less formal Paperplate downstairs (not open on weekends) has ready-made wombok noodle salad and couscous broccoli salad that are both vegan, but you’d best check the dressing ingredients on the day.
Portrait Café (National Portrait Gallery), like OPH, is now under new management. The previous people (Broadbean Catering formerly known as Portrait Catering, now at National Museum) offered custom salads, lentils and zucchini balls, but they preferred a phone call ahead. The good news with the new management is that they have something on their menu that is already vegan! I can’t overstate my excitement about this development. It is a jewelled quinoa salad with sultanas, toasted seeds, confit garlic, herbs and preserved lemon. Brian the friendly besuited manager even checked that the confit was vegan. The heirloom tomato salad can be made vegan sans feta, but it wasn’t as amazing as the quinoa. Be wary of the chai latte liquid mix, as it contained honey (at last check).
NGA Café (National Gallery) no longer have their vegan cupcake, and continue to occasionally have vegan items (as surprises rather than standard). With some prompting they can make a custom vegan salad. On special catered occasions they’ve made wonderful veg*n things but they just aren’t on the everyday menu. Be wary of the chai latte powder mix as it may contain dried dairy products, but if the lovely Amanda is at the counter, she can make a delectable chai tea (make sure it’s the chai tea bags) with soy milk on the side or in the teapot.
Galileo Café (Questacon) have sesame crackers and fruit cups, and are willing to make custom vegan wraps in quiet periods (i.e. not the school holidays). The manager Lianah was very accommodating and happy to check all ingredients.
At the other end of the triangle, Hideout had no vegan options, I asked if they’d consider stocking Veganarchy cupcakes, which would be delicious and worth making the trek.
Double drummer had lentil and pearl barley salads, as well as lots of ingredients for fresh juices. It was so busy that I didn’t get to ask about the options – make sure you check the salad dressing first.
The café at National Archives has a vegetable wrap, be careful of the hot chocolate as it has milk products in the mix. Across the road, the café at Prime Minister and Cabinet building has sushi, salad and boiled vegetables.
It doesn’t really abide by the rules, but I went to Waters Edge for Xmas dinner and they made some wonderful vegan dishes (modified versions of menu items). Waters Edge and the Hyatt (haven’t been back since the last post) are the most expensive on this list.
Places I haven’t tried for lunch during the week are Queen’s Terrace Café (Parliament House), Lobby Restaurant, and the Deck (Regatta Point) and others. I haven’t included establishments that aren’t in reasonable lunchtime walking distance of the cultural institutions, I would like to go to Maple + Clove for their focus on handmade and nutritious food, but the person on the phone was quite firm about not catering to vegans.
Please remember that it is safest to check that menu items are definitely vegan and allergy friendly, and that they haven’t changed since last check – and let me know of your experiences with vegan food in the Parliamentary Triangle.
It’s encouraging to see the progress at the Portrait Café, and that their staff are happy to verify that menu items are genuinely free of animal products. I’m really thankful that they’ve actively responded to feedback. I’ll provide another update in the future, I’m hopeful that there may be more good news of permanent vegan menu items (not just salad!) to plant-power the Triangle masses.
It’s difficult to get vegan food in many parts of Canberra, but especially so in the parliamentary triangle. I propose that the current amenities review of the parliamentary zone result in a vegan food truck or wandering cupcake seller, it could be called govsnack (copyright Cush, @cu5h).
I’m providing this summary of my experience with cafés and restaurants in the parliamentary triangle in the hope that they’ll recognise the vegan/vegetarian market, without the requirement to phone ahead or make a special request. Look at the success of Sweet Bones in Braddon, only 4 kilometres away from the parliamentary triangle (but with a fair chunk of time trying to find a car park there and one on return).
I went to The Kitchen Cabinet (Old Parliament House), I’d been to their 2012 Chocolate Maker talk (see if you can find me in the photos!) which was very accommodating to vegans (but then it is pre-booked so it’s a different thing altogether). Today I was incorrectly enthused by their roast vegetables with pine nuts listed on their menu, before their staff member kindly pointed out that it was a quiche filling. Clearly subheadings on chalkboards are not my forte. There was lots of blocks and gift packs of Lindsay & Edmunds organic chocolate for sale, but solely milk or white chocolate combinations. If there was dark chocolate I could have bought it, as Peter is very insistent about not putting milk solids in chocolate (he mentioned this at the Chocolate Maker talk).
Lots of other produce including pumpkins, but I had already used up too much of my lunch break walking around so I didn’t have time to buy, chop, cook and eat vegetables from start to finish.
Lovely roses outside Parliament House, maybe I could eat them – rose petal icecream and lavender truffles are my top favourite foods of all time.
Here’s a list of other places to eat in the parliamentary triangle, if you want lunch on a weekday. Some of these places have excellent call-ahead vegan options but I hope that they become permanent menu items:
Promenade Café at Hyatt Hotel (custom risotto if you turn up for lunch without a call-ahead), I have also attended the weekend high tea where I’ve had a separate special meal (everyone else accesses the buffet), there was a chargrilled vegetable sandwich (average) and dessert plate (excellent). Make sure you mention it when you book the high tea tickets.
Pork Barrel (tomato or mushroom pizza with no cheese, depending on your view of veganism relating to yeast, no call-ahead),
Coffers at the Treasury building (basic white rice and vegetables, no call-ahead),
Bookplate at National Library (custom on-demand salads, call-ahead needed. They also do excellent vegan catering with lime-soaked coconut strawberries). Paperplate (LG1 level of the Library) has a noodle salad that could possibly be vegan,
Portrait Café at National Portrait Gallery (custom on-demand salad, zucchini balls, call-ahead definitely needed, which sometimes goes to their voicemail which means they are very busy and probably won’t make it),
Café Milieu at John Gorton building (sandwiches, basic rice with vegetables, no call-ahead), and
NGA Café (National Gallery) inside on lower ground level has an apple blackberry cake (but there were none today, very sad) and occasional dairy free salad. The Turner Tea Room on level one offers cream tea, lunch and high tea – I’m unsure if there are vegan variations on the menu offerings. The outside café might sometimes have vegan soup and bread at the during winter (today was wombok soup, which was apparently vegetarian but not vegan).
Places I haven’t tried for lunch during the week are Galileo Café (Questacon), Queen’s Terrace Café (Parliament House), Waters Edge, Lobby Restaurant, and the Deck (Regatta Point) and probably some others.
Sometimes it takes a lot of phone calls, planning and walking just to get lunch. Perhaps instead of parking spaces in the parliamentary triangle, we should convert all the parking spaces into community gardens so there would always be something to eat.