It has been said that peace begins on our plate and expands with our compassion. While Melbourne is renowned for its vast spread of multi-cultural culinary options, so too is its steady rise in vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
Loving Hut claims to be the biggest chain of vegan restaurants in the world. This restaurant chain was founded by Vietnamese spiritual leader and entrepreneur Ching Hai, and there are now over 200 locations around the world. One of these locations lies in the heart of one of Melbourne’s best locations for Vietnamese food – Victoria Street in Richmond.
Flanked by numerous Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores, it’s easy to assume that Loving Hut is just another welcoming restaurant on this famed foodie strip. The décor is homely, and basic. The service is friendly and full of smiles. Though the food is sans animal products, which is quite a rarity in this part of town. Loving Hut’s menu consists of many dishes drawing on Thai, Western, Malaysian, Chinese and raw-food styled cooking. The service is quick, very quick, and if you’re not careful you can end up with almost all of your courses coming out at once!
Lucky Rainbow Pockets tempt us early; beancurd pockets filled with colourful and crunchy julienne vegetables coated in a sweet dressing. And then there’s the ever-so moreish Crispy Delight, a filling of taro and mushrooms encased in a battered seaweed and beancurd skin. They go well with our choice of beverages – fresh juice of apple, lemon and mint, plus a bottle of non-alcoholic strawberry Dester beer shipped in from Iran. I’m yet to grab a rainbow pocket before our mains arrive. Bowls of steaming brown rice are placed on the table to cradle our servings of stir-fried veggies. Not far behind is Loving Hut’s tasty Lemongrass Tofu. This dish is the crown of our table – spongy tofu slices that have been pan-fried and sautéed with fresh lemongrass atop a bed of wilted lettuce. It’s not long before I’m gobbling the tofu down at an enthusiastic rate, reminiscent of a time in my life when I would order Chilli and Lemongrass Chicken. Though, the tofu wins hands down!
Just when we thought we couldn’t fit another spoonful in, our plates are cleared to make way for our pre-ordered dessert. I couldn’t go past a slice of raw chocolate cheesecake – silky mouthfuls of cashew based cheesecake that’s flavoured with rich cacao, coconut and agave on a nutty biscuit-like base, smothered in a chocolatey sauce and slices of strawberries.
While there are true anecdotes of traditional Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian cooking here, there are delectable desserts that encompass all that is good about Western-style cuisine too. Moreover, Loving Hut is all that is compassionate and good about vegan food.Be sure to try Loving Hut for yourself. Shop 10/242 Victoria Street Richmond Victoria 3121. Open seven days a week from 11.30am to 3pm and 5 to 9pm. (03) 9427 8916.