Travel along Maroondah Highway in the outer east of Melbourne and the trail leads road-trippers to the leafy township of Warburton in the Warburton Valley. It’s well under an hour from where I live in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and about an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s city centre.
Strip shops line the main street – their vintage façades exude the colonial history of this area and are dressed by their more contemporary function today (think café’s, gift shops, second-hand treasurers and local artwork). The information centre is the centrepiece of Warburton, complete with a waterwheel that powered the town from 1908. Follow the ‘Great Steps of Warburton’; a community art project, to lead you the way. If you read the steps closely, this Warburton’s artistic spirit whispers out to the pedestrians wandering the town centre.
Hugging the perimeter the township is the Warburton bike trail, following the Yarra River where road-trippers can sit under lush trees or on a bench and watch native ducks playing and feeding among the shallows. It’s quaint and peaceful here; watching the gentle current float by.
As the clocks inches closer to noon, it’s hard to ignore a rumbling tummy crying out for some lunch. Walking back to the main street, one wonders where some vegan and gluten free options could be found, even in a small destination such as this. One place that attracts attention is Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant.
This vast, roaming house converted into a restaurant, makes way for serving up traditional Vietnamese food with a twist – their menu features a vegetarian section complete with some vegan mock meat meal options. After asking the staff some qualifying questions about their dishes and preparation, we take a seat. I order their mock meat satay skewers with a house-made peanut satay sauce, scattered in crushed peanuts. What I receive is a light lunch option – delicately crispy skewers under the thick peanut-y sauce served on a bed of mixed leaves. Warming and tasty!
Lunch at Pho Saigon also proved one of those moments as a vegan gluten-free traveller when you take the plunge and put trust in those who are there to help you. I later discovered from friends online and their previous experience at their restaurant is that the satay sauce may not be vegan as fish sauce is used. Still, I relied on the answers I received from the helpful staff and the way my questions were answered. I felt comfortable, sensing that I received truthful answers and I was satisfied with the service we received. It’s the fine line many vegans experience when dining out and I guess these are times when travellers need to trust that gut instinct.
Back to the main street and my tummy started to rumble for a sweet treat and post-exploration latte before heading for home. After wandering in and out of cafes, we find Warburton Pantry. It’s where vegan and gluten free are clearly labelled in bight coloured marker printed on their glass cake cabinet. This quaint and intimate shop sells local and international goods (clearly non-vegan), but the treasure is found in the cake cabinet – peanut butter cookies!
At $2 a pop, these rounds of golden, crumbly treats complemented a steaming soy latte perfectly. Not too soft, not too firm, and just the right amount of crumble. Sitting in this cosy shop on an inclement day such as this held all the elements of a lazy day filled with the things I can be grateful for – eating peanuts on a Sunday in Warburton without the need to be anywhere in a hurry. Simple road-tripping at its best.
Road-trip out to the Warburton Valley and experience Warburton yourself.
Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant 3415A Warburton Highway, Warburton 3799 Victoria Australia. Phone: (03) 5966 9329
Warburton Pantry 3383B Warburton Highway, Warburton 3799 Victoria Australia.
Phone: (03) 5966 9688
All food items mentioned in this blog post were paid in full by me and were available at the time of the experience.
For a full rundown of the town you can check out the Visit Warburton website.