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Review: Soul Mama, St. Kilda

19. April 2008

Soul Mama is one of those shiny places that has it all in its CV. The gorgeous views over the water. An incredible building of supreme prettiness. And vegetarian food.

We were going with a large-ish group of friends, so variety of opinion and taste were assured. most of us had never been to Soul Mama, and at least half weren’t even vegetarians themselves.

The location certainly didn’t disappoint. Coming into the recently renovated St Kilda Baths is a pretty experience full of Mediterranean arches and tiles, soft lighting and the sounds of the sea.
The stairs up to Soul Mama feature Animal Rights posters to get you in the mood for an evening of cruelty-free food (well, mostly, since they *do* serve dishes with eggs and dairy…).

The decoration is simple yet shiny with large solid wooden tables, pretty bowls and a massive dragon statue .
Our bubbly waitress took our drinks order (they have a simply staggering two-page placemat drinks menu with everything from local wines to a chai cocktail) and explained the slightly complicated food ordering system.
Basically, you get a meal ticket, choosing beforehand whether you’d care for dessert or appetisers, as well as how many main dishes you would like with your choice of rice (brown, Jasmine or white).
You then take your ticket to the caf-style serving station where a kind server explains things to you again. Even though mine was lacking in friendliness (I think he objected to me opting for the tray rather than a bowl), I was still excited by the choices.
Okay, maybe I was only excited until I actually read the choices. The one dish I really wanted to try was out and I didn’t feel like asking when it would be available again (some people at our table got it, so it was okay).
Overall, the selection was nicely varied, from tofu puff pastries to two kinds of lentils, but it still left me feeling somewhat, I don’t know. Dissatisfied? It could have been the server, actually. i felt kind of pressured to make my choice and move along. I don’t do well with making others wait while I indulge in looking at food…

I ended up going with the tofu pastry, French-style lentils, mixed vegetables and fried tofu in a spicy Asian sauce and, due to a lack of tempeh stew, some noodles, all over brown rice.

I adored the tofu pastry, but I’m a sucker for filo with savoury fillings, so that was to be expected. I also very much enjoyed the vegetables, probably my favourite of the night. The lentils were very good, but I’d just made lentils of awesomeness (Veganomicon recipe) this week, so I was a little spoiled. The noodles were boring, but I was kind of expecting that. They weren’t really my top choice, but I was running out of Vegan options. My companions were faring better with bakes and pizzas to round out their ensembles.

Overall, this was comfort food. Tasty, fulfilling and homely.

Of course I opted for dessert, but my Vegan apple-raspberry crumble was a bit disappointing, as I could taste neither apple nor berry in it. It was a nice cinnamony crumble though. it went greast with their tasty, very mild chai latte.

Best parts of the night? The labeling made ordering easy and convenient. Coeliacs, wheat-allergic and garlic/onion-avoiders were well catered for and you could see at a glance which food options were suitable to your specific requirements.
The busy atmosphere and the views also deserve special mention.

Least favourite part? The food wasn’t exciting. Given the location, I was hoping for something with more of a wow-effect. Don’t get me wrong, the food was very tasty, especially to my veganised tastebuds, but I’m not sure you could get omnis to go “Oh wow, this is the best food ever.”

I spoke to one other non-meat eater (she’s Vegetarian, I think I might have been the only Vegan in the group), and she shared my sentiment.

Would I go there again? Absolutely. Do I think it’s great vegetarian food? A reserved yes. Do I think it’s stretching the boundaries of what plant-based food could be? Sadly, no.
But it’s cheap, no-frills, tasty and fun.
Go with a large group and you’re bound to have a good time. Just have a look at the desserts before you order.

10-18 Jacka Bvd
St Kilda 3182 VIC

Phone: (03) 9525 3338

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