Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Rays Cafe: Brunswick

About ten years ago I was having a hard time and my sister took me for a coffee at a hipster cafe in Brunswick called Rays.  Fran doesn't remember it but I liked the grungy cafe with its distressed wells and lively bustle.  Fast forward to February this year and I almost went there again for a group dinner.  Hard times intervened.  Finally a few weeks ago, Sylvia and I went there for lunch and it was very good.

The place still has a hipster vibe.  At first I feared it was almost too hipster for me.  But the staff were friendly and the loud music morphed into David Bowie and we felt at home.  Sylvia was fascinated by the artwork on the banana at the counter and had to go and check that it was not real.

What I really liked was that we were given the vegan menu along with the regular menu without having to ask.  Being used to limited vegetarian options, this menu is a tyranny of choice.  Many menu items are complex and it is hard to pick up just one dish!  It is hard to pass over dishes with names like Kim Wilde's Chi, Florence and the Tangine, and Buns and Roses.  Not to mention miso cheese, smoked tofu and pulled jackfruit.

Sylvia wanted chips.  We compromised.  She agreed to have the Seedeater (vegan French toast) and I ordered the Black Sub-Bath Sandwich (burger and chips) that she could share.  Yes, someone is having a lot of fun naming these meals.

The Seedeater (as it was on my menu but is referred to in Rays online menu as the Blackalicious) was very fancy and very pretty.  It consisted of sourdough french toast, rhubarb, beetroot vinegar, coconut yoghurt, black maple, flaxseed and ginger halva, and fairy floss.  Sylvia ate the fairy floss off the top, one piece of rhubarb and half the chunky French toast which is tossed in sugar and cinnamon.  She wasn't that impressed and still just wanted chips.  By then I had finished my burger and we swapped.

I loved the french toast.  It was like a big chunk of cinnamon doughnut served with lots of fun textures and flavours.  My main complaint is that I would have liked more rhubarb.  I loved the coconut yoghurt with crumbly halva and intense black maple syrup.  In fact, once only pools of black maple and beetroot vinegar remained, Sylvia and I kept dipping our fingers in them just to taste the unusual flavours once again.  There was a lot of black maple!

Meanwhile I enjoyed my burger which had a mushroom and black lentil kofta, baby cos, tomato, pickled beetroot, apple relish and pickle aioli in a sourdough bun with beer battered chips and more aioli on the side.  It was quite messy to eat and the kofta was quite soft but a very satisfying burger.  And lovely chips.

Life changes quickly and Rays has seen its fair share of my hard times, given that the next weekend we went along after our cat died.  I think we wanted to avoid our empty house.  Rays was a good place for some comfort and cheer.

Sylvia was pleased to discover a stack of games.  We played Guess Who until our meals arrived.  Meanwhile we all had drinks.  E enjoyed his latte and I had a nice bottle of kombucha that was not very sweet.

Sylvia had a chocolate milkshake.  She and E claimed it was lovely and not too sweet.  I find it incredibly sweet but I suspect that was because I tasted it after drinking my kombucha.

I had the wonderfully titled God Speed You Black Lentil.  It consisted of the mushroom and black lentil kofta, mushroom tangine, smoked tomato, charred broccolini, cauliflower hummus, McHash brown, and pea tendrils on sourdough.

It was an interesting twist on a fry up.  My frustration with the presentation was having two slices of bread underneath the meal that was hard to manoeuvre out.  I think my highlight was the cauliflower hummus which was so silky and tasty.  The mushroom tangine was nice but I think I expected more of a tangine than just nicely flavoured mushrooms (not being the hugest mushroom fan).  The smoked tomato was really interesting as I haven't had that before.  The hash brown was more crispy than its pale coating looked.  And I really enjoyed the kofta.

Sylvia and her teddy were very happy to have just chips!  They ignored the aioli of course.  If they had desired, they could have had vegan gravy, miso cheese and pickles on the chips but that isn't Sylvia's thing.  E had eggs on toast and enjoyed these.

The third time I visited Rays was for lunch with my mum.  I ordered from the display cabinet.  Who can resist a vegan sausage roll!  Not me.  It was a soft lentil filling and very tasty.  On the side was a brilliant salad of leaves, lentils, nuts and/or seeds, pomegranate arils, carrot and probably lots of other stuff I forgot.  My mum had a spinach and filo pastry and kept sneaking her fork to my pile of salad.  It was really delicious.

I haven't tried any of the sweet food but have gazed longingly at the caramel filled brownies on a few occasions.  The muffins also look very good.  And when we stepped out the door, we enjoyed check out all the fun stencils on the wall.

We have also wandered up Victoria Street towards Sydney road to check out the street art in the back streets.  On the first visit we did that and ended up at Bunnings where they had some kids activities.  I had been struggling with Sylvia's hairstyle and was very grateful to one of the staff who made a gorgeous braid for her while she had a butterfly painted on her arm.  Brunswick is like that and Rays fits in nicely!

You can read more about the "new" Ray's vegan menu on Veganopoulous where I first read about it.

Rays Cafe
332 Victoria Street, Brunswick
03 9380 8593

Ray's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. I really want to check out Ray's some time. Everything I've seen looks really appealing. I love Sylvia's braids - they look beautiful. I've never been good at doing hair styles. I have crazy thick wavy hair so it is either "up" or "down". I was always jealous of beautiful silky smooth hair that could be put in lovely twists. Love her pink jumper too!

    1. Thanks Caeli - Rays is definitely worth a visit (and a little tip - if you visit during the week there is 1 1/2 hour parking across the street and when I went with my mum during the week there was lots of parking). BTW crazy thick hair sounds lovely - mine will never stay in a plait or ponytale - I fear syvlia might have inherited this!

  2. If the sausage roll met your approval it must have been good :) I am very taken by the sound of these dishes and they get my approval for automatically providing the vegan menu. I can never understand why places have separate menus and then don't give them out!

    1. Thanks Kari - I don't think the sausage roll was as good as the recipe from where's the beef (my yardstick) but it was very good - but I agree on the vegan menu - interestingly we were handed it automatically 2 out of 3 visits so I guess it is not every single time but I agree it is not that hard to have enough to give out or just have it part of the menu

  3. This looks like the place for me. I love those "dirty hippy" vibe places. The food is always good. And this looks like no exception. They have a good variety too, I find those places are usually just sandwich places. Sounds good!
    You'll have to go another time when you are having a good time so you don't associate bad times with it.
    Sylvia's hair looks gorgeous! Makes me want to get my hair done ;)

    1. Thanks Kimmy - this place is more hipster than hippy but it does have a grungy vibe that I am sure you would enjoy

  4. I love these sorts of cafes. There is one that I frequented often when I was a uni student and I now appreciate that we could sit there for hours on just a few drinks and chat and make use of the shared games. That sausage roll looks divine... I wish I knew somewhere locally that made a vegan version! (and PS I would definitely have had all those toppings on my chips!)

    1. Thanks Lisa - I don't usually have toppings on my chips though this looked interesting but when Sylvia's come with some fancy pickled onions on top she moved them off swiftly. And it is only recently that I am finding some decent veg sausage rolls around Melbourne so hopefully they are coming your way too

  5. It sounds like a great little place, I'd love to stop by if I was in the neighbourhood - a whole vegan menu sounds like heaven to me. That French toast sounds particularly creative!

    1. Thanks Joey - if you were in the neighbourhood I would love to go along with you :-)


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