Pre-vegan, I was a big lover of Italian food and always happy to look for an excuse stuff myself on dishes from different regions of Italy. I still love Italian food, though it seems most of the vegan options for dining out are limited to pastas, pizzas and risottos– things I can make at home easily. Admittedly, I haven’t really researched properly and I’m sure there are some great options out there I just don’t know about! So when I heard that Bar Idda were holding a ‘Roots, Fruit and Wild Herbs Vegan Degustation’ evening as part of The Age Good Food Month, I was pretty hopeful this would fill the gap!
Located on Lygon Street in Brunswick East, Bar Idda serves Sicilian inspired cuisine with a particular focus on fresh seasonal produce. For their vegan evening, Bar Idda offered a seven course degustation with paired wine, centering on Sicilian specialties.
My first impression when I walked in was one of feeling immediately familiar– the mixed chairs, tablecloths and bread on the counter reminded me of my own family gatherings. I felt like the dining area was treated as a special extension of a family home, where guests are both welcomed and well looked after. It took me back to sitting under the grapevine in my grandparent’s back yard on warm days, with a table laid out and everyone welcome.
The restaurant was full by the 7pm start. I’d arrived early to take some photos (many thanks to Bar Idda for letting me take pics) and got to check out the menu which certainly seemed to promise great food!
We started with the antipasti courses. For the Verdura cunzati, we were served Sicilian green olives, warm maccu with olive oil and pane di casa along with pickled artichoke, asparagus, cucumber and melon. The melon here was great, I usually don’t like rockmelon but it was a stunner here and I went back for more. I also learned what maccu is (follow the link!) and decided that yep, we were off to a really good start:
Next up were the fritti dishes. We had zeppole of potato, chicory and salmoriglio– these were superb! So were the chickpea panelle (the picture that looks a little like nachos), served with tomato, chili and cumin salsa with sweet and sour avocado. I’d vote these my favourite of the night easily. I also loved the herb-crusted zucchini flowers:
Next up were the Primi courses, starting with the crudo dishes. These were raw and refreshing– soused cauliflower with currants, pine nuts, witlof and fresh herbs along with zucchini spaghetti with broad beans, mint, pistachio and stemperata. A great way to showcase seasonal produce and the pine nuts were really good in the cauliflower dish:
For the arrosto course, we had capunata of roasted baby vegetables with raspberry vincotto– really good. The roasted eggplant and chickpeas with tomato passata were good, and unfortunately my photos for this course haven’t really turned out well:
For the secondi dishes listed (pasta e contorni), we had a great homemade ravioli (yesss!) of wild local vegetables, cannellini beans with salsa verde and olive oil. Sooo good and I think some of my dining buddies counted this as their favourite, along with the warm lentils with garlic mollica and citrus:
I think this was the point where we chose to pace ourselves a bit! Next up for the dolce courses we had a spiced prune sorbet with Sicilian artisanal dark chocolate for our sorbetto. I must apologise for the really bad photo here, but I kinda gave up the effort to take better photos because I just wanted to dive right in and eat this (note to self: don’t play around with a new lens when there are serious photos to take and sorbetto to eat!). Another winner:
Finally, an almond milk, oat and farro pudding with bombolone, fresh berries and nut candy for our cuccia course. I loved that this wasn’t too sweet and the bombolone smelled and tasted great (I could eat a bag of them easy). I chose the espresso to go with it, the other option was a bay leaf and lemon rind tea:
I was hopeful this dinner would be a winner and it most definitely was! This is the kind of great food where you forget that it’s vegan (not that vegan is a bad thing of course, but some people out there think we only eat boring salads!), because the food is so good that’s all you focus on– that it’s really good food, not specifically really good vegan food. This is also the kind of food that easily shows the doubters that plant based meals can really be amazing and that such a celebration of fresh seasonal produce doesn’t have to be for vegans alone. It reminds me of when I became vegan and some of my Greek relatives asked “but what will you eat?!” and I rattled off the names of some Greek regional dishes and they were all ohhh you’ll be fine then! 🙂
Broadsheet had named Bar Idda’s vegan degustation as one of their key dinners and it was a well deserved mention. The food was great, staff were great and everything was paced out really well. It was both a successful celebration of Sicilian inspired cuisine and vegan cuisine. Everything vegan is becoming more mainstream now and vegan degustations have seen some amazing food that have blown apart the rabbit-food stereotypes. Bar Idda has definitely helped dispel that myth, showing people that this is food for everyone, not just vegans and plant based eaters.
Thanks to Bar Idda for holding their vegan degustation and showcasing such beautiful springtime food that is all plant based!
132 Lygon Street