Monday, March 7, 2011

Soulmama, St Kilda by Big Fil

Soulmama is a fairly funky vegetarian restaurant located in the old St Kilda Baths. Upstairs and a bit hard to find, if you can get a seat near the window as the sun is setting it's blessed with a stunning view over the beach and Port Phillip Bay. Unfortunately that's really where the good things ended about our visit here.

As I think I've mentioned before I'm a committed omnivore and my experience of vegetarian food in Melbourne has generally been forgettable. I can't speak for my companions' meals, which admittedly did look tastier than my experience at the buffet, but I found the food decidedly bland.

It was a Saturday night and we were without a booking but arriving around 6pm meant we were able to get a table near but not next to a window. Arriving early was a good move, because by the time we left just after eight the place was definitely full and buzzing. For a vegetarian restaurant the setup was decidedly upmarket, excluding the walk past the buffet towards the dining area which was a bit canteenish.

I think the restaurant has recently had a change of owners; certainly it seems to be going through a change in menus. In addition to the buffet the menu we were offered listed a range of vegetarian meals and alcoholic drinks (which were not as yet available). While I decided to go with the buffet, the others went for the Soyvlaki with marinated soy strips, smoky onions, garlic aioli and garden salad, and the Quesadilla with roasted pumpkin and turtle beans with guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

The buffet offered a fair range of varieties including tom yum tofu, mixed vegetables in a laksa sauce, marsala tofu, and chickpeas with kumara (sweet potato) and red peppers, all served with brown rice. After deliberately trying to order some of the spicier options I found the flavours very muted. Fast turnover meant the food remained fresh but I found that eating here was like watching TV with the sound turned off, it looks good but the experience is still only half what it should be. The chickpeas and vegetables were nicely cooked but the tofu in both dishes was decidedly chewy, and everything could have used a fair shake of the spice bottle.

While I didn't try them, the Soyvlaki and Quesadilla both looked a better choice than the buffet. The quesadilla looked nicely crisp and cheesy, and the Soyvlaki has a spicy kick which wasn't indicated on the menu. Both my companions enjoyed their meals more than I did and the menu may be the better way to go.

We also tried two of the desserts, the chocolate torte and the apple and rhubarb crumble, which I neglected to take photos off. Suffice to say I also found them bland and under flavoured, and that's coming from a huge crumble fan.

Bland food (at least what I tried) and fairly expensive even taking into account that part of the price is for the view. Service was also slow and while the floor staff were friendly and helpful the staff serving at the buffet brusque and edging towards rude, not only towards the customers but even towards the floor staff. The view (and company) were very enjoyable but it's marginal as to whether I would return.

Food - 6
Ambience - 8
Service - 6.5
Price - 5.5

18 Jacka Boulevard
St Kilda VIC 3182
Tel: (03) 9525 3338

Soulmama on Urbanspoon

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