In the middle of Charles Street in Norwood, you will find yourself at The Lost Deli. A mere five minute drive from the CBD, and a veer away from the busy Parade, lies the quintessential local cafe. However, The Lost Deli has an edge, standing it positively apart from most – it is 100 percent vegan!
Oh, what’s that – vegan food tastes like cardboard, you say? Absolutely not. There is something for everyone at The Lost Deli. The family owned business utilises organic seasonal produce from their garden, when they can, as well as incorporating plant-based meats into some meals. Never fear, gluten-free friends, there are plenty of options for you too.
The corner store also boasts a wide variety of fresh juices to give your gut a deserving nourishment, and a funky list of coffees and teas including the vibrant turmeric chai, and the chilli chocolate which you can have with your choice of almond, soy coconut or oat milk…delicious!
It’s safe to say that The Lost Deli is far form lost when it comes to great vegan food. Trust us, we tested it out for ourselves. Here’s a variety of dishes we sampled from their menu and our thoughts to follow.
The Lost Deli co-owner, Josie Miliano-Parisi, gave credit to this gnocchi as “nonna’s recipe”, and by gosh it shows. The soft handmade pillows of potatoey goodness were coated in a rich, peppery tomato and sage sauce, topped with fresh basil straight from the cafe’s garden and a shaving of vegan parmesan cheese. As each individual piece of gnocchi was potato-dense, one bowl of gnocchi should be able to satisfy an empty belly, especially with a kind slice of complementary rye, sourdough, white or gluten-free bread to soak up excess sauce.
Next up we tried the Beyond Meat hot dog. On a purely visual level, I was questioning where the sausage actually was, as an abundance of garden salad filling was coving the entire foot-long – but oh how the tables turned. A fellow sampler exclaimed that “this is one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had”, and I couldn’t agree more. Tasting the Beyond Meat sausage was an experience in itself. You’ve probably seen the Beyond Meat brand in the shops or on the news in the recent months, and may have been quietly curious as to how meaty this plant-based take on a snag could possibly be. I’m here to tell you that the likeness is uncanny to a classic Italian pig sausage from a butcher. The similarity may freak some people out, however the hot dog is well-balanced with other components including the hefty garden salad, caramelised onions, crunchy capsicum, cheese and punchy pesto. Put this one on your must-try list!
Now, if plant-based meats aren’t your style, don’t worry, the seasonal salads have got your back. We tried the Ancient Grain Salad which will make you feel zen like ‘that Seth Rogan meme’ in no time. Compiled of quinoa, wild rice, lentils, Persian feta, chickpeas, fresh mint leaves, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, topped with crispy fried shallots – it was a rollercoaster of crunchy textures. Grains are an excellent source of protein, not to mention a plethora of other nutrients, so please don’t feel skimmed by the fact that it’s a salad. It’s wholesome, it’s hearty, and it’s overall a pleasant meal with no big flavours, such as spices jumping about. We paired the salad with a Beetroot Arancini Ball, which I would describe as a particularly healthy arancini ball. There was no oozing cheese spilling out which I quite enjoyed, instead the ball was rather focused on the star ingredients, the rice and the beetroot. It was simple and delicious…simply delicious.
Speaking of beans, the Homemade Baked Beans were hoot and a half. This ain’t no mushy concoction chucked on a plate – it’s well thought out and caters to those who like to proportion their bean-to-toast ratio themselves, without the heartbreaking issue of soggy bread underneath a pile of legumes. The beans were again, some of the best baked beans I’ve had. They were cooked al dante, as much as a bean could be cooked – mostly soft, with a bit of bite towards the centre, presenting a perfectly fresh flavour. Sliced onion could be found mingling between the beans, dispensing a sweet taste. Combined with the tomato sauce, these baked beans release a delightful, punchy tang.
This brings me to the Big Breakfast. The same homemade baked beans are pleasantly a part of this breakkie, along with a portion of delicately fried mushrooms which seemed to be almost oil-free, sautéed spinach, gently seared tomatoes, two golden hash browns, four slices of bread to whack it all on, along with a spot of hummus. I suppose it’s the typical vegan big breakfast – greens, beans, carbs and a fried element. No complaints here, however if you’re looking for some plant-based bacon or sausage on your toast, this one might not be for you.
While on the subject of mushrooms – the Panfried Mushrooms were wonderful. A sizeable stack of mushrooms mounted two thick slices of toast which were spread with artichoke dip, all topped off with a fresh handful of rocket, presumably straight from the garden. These mushrooms on toast really stood out from the ordinary mushrooms on toast rat race. The ‘shrooms united with caramelised onions making for a certain sweetness which really brought a barbecuey flavour forward. Another positive note for these mushrooms is the fact that they weren’t drowned out by oil. For me, a smothering of oil can ruin a dish, and I can tell you now that the opposite was going on. The overall earthy flavour was absolutely mouth-watering.
On the topic of ‘things on toast’, the Smashed Avocado on Toast was wicked. Again, avo on toast can be a hit or miss considering the myriad of avo on toast out there. However, this has got to be some of the best I’ve had in my time, and let me tell you, I’ve had a lot in my time, being a vegan and all. With the addition of sweet roasted pumpkin, a layer of artichoke spread, fresh tomato, and a handful of garden salad topped off with crunchy pepitas – it’s a winner!
On the other hand, the Chickpea Burger wasn’t quite doing it for me unfortunately. The flavours were all there, however the chickpea patty itself was quite thin. Nonetheless, you may enjoy the burg. Containing shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber, roasted capsicum, spicy homemade mayonnaise and of course, the homemade patty on a sesame seed bun. But hey, who am I to judge, get on down and try it out for yourself.
If you’re after something similar to a burger, the Burrito is absolutely next level! I kid you not, this is the best, burrito, I, have, ever, eaten. Forget mushy refried beans, this burrito encloses whole beans making for a more wholesome, fresh texture, along with diced cucumber, tomato, red onion and capsicum, which touches on a bit of a Greek salad vibe. What sets this burrito apart, is the plant-based chicken chunks rubbed in mild, tangy Mexican flavours. As a vegan, I was questioning whether they was actually parts of a chicken…I was blown away by the similarity. The usual burrito ingredients including mashed avocado, shredded cheese and lettuce also maintain their rightful place in this scrumptious burrito. Put it on your to-eat-list right now.
Last but not least – the Summer Pancakes. Although the fruit topping may not be exactly reflected as per the menu, presumably dependant on the seasonal produce, they are nevertheless divine. The two large, wholemeal pancakes are perfectly fluffy, with a slight chew, in the best way possible. With the substantial amount of fruit, plus your choice of homemade ice cream or coconut yoghurt, you probably won’t need anything else to eat for a while! A simply delightful combination of elements that ooze with culinary passion of years in the making.
From this experience, I can safely say that I will be returning to The Lost Deli. Owners and husband and wife team, Josie and Gen, really do express their passion for food and service at their family business. You’ll be able to see that every meal encompasses their dedication and devotion to the success of The Lost Deli.
Words by Dale Anninos-Carter
WHERE: 38 Charles St, Norwood