There seems to exist this strange notion that things that are good for you can't be delicious. An extreme extension of this notion is the idea that vegan food is equally as unsatisfying and unfulfilling. Alexandra Pyke, however, disagrees with the perception that food being vegan and delicious are mutually exclusive, showing the greatest skills in culinary diplomacy since Mia asked why we can't have both soft and hard shell tacos in one packet.
Pyke, fresh home in Melbourne after a lengthy stint in the US, has partnered in legendary eateries like The Fat Radish, Leadbelly and vego joint The Butcher's Daughter, and is chomping at the bit to bring her expertise to her hometown. The Alley, which is now open on St Kilda Road, provides clean, wholesome food made from sustainable and local ingredients that also punches you in the face with bold flavours. The idea is to cross the divide between vegans who won't even look at a picture of a cow and the everyday consumer who can't look at a picture of a cow without finding themselves drawn to a steak restaurant.
The menu features playful dishes like the maple bacon burger with smoky paprika, and the gluten-free mac 'n' cheese with coconut bacon and crispy kale, plus sides such as air-baked sweet potato fries, of course. It goes without saying that a vegan cafe has salads but, much like meatloaf, it's what you do with them – The Alley, for example, boasts a 'fiery' kelp noodle salad, which sounds both extremely dangerous and extremely tempting, like sky diving or downloading all the original Doctor Who serials. Cold craft beers and biodynamic raw wines are also on offer in abundance.
Or, opt for a caffeinated brew courtesy of iced coffee with a choice of almond, soy or coconut milk, or an almond latte. Dessert-wise, The Alley has whipped up some plant-based soft-serve to satisfy those with a sweet tooth, as well as vegan chocolate brownies.
Open 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday, The Alley caters for 35 bums on seats at any time, but also maintains a healthy focus on takeaway, given the demand for food on the go in the area.
By James Whitton and Sarah Ward.