Fresh On Charles

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Fresh On Charles
178 Charles Street
Launceston, TAS 7250
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 6331 4299

I like to think of myself as a very fair and honest person. Before writing this review, I deliberated a lot, wondering if maybe I hold vegetarian/vegan restaurants and cafés to higher and harsher standards than other places… but came to the conclusion that this isn’t the case. After all, if I went to a restaurant/café dedicated to any one theme and was presented with something that didn’t show a comprehensive understanding of it, I’d be pretty disappointed.

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We ordered coffee to start. My soy latté arrived quickly despite the café being busy – and it was strong. Definitely no complaints about that! The girls serving us were super friendly.

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After a quick perusal of the menu, I had my heart set on the pho (Vietnamese soup) from the lunch menu and Mr. AA ordered the sweet potato hash brown dish from the breakfast menu.

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We were waiting a VERY LONG TIME for our meals; I’ll explain more about this later. Fresh On Charles no longer stocks Phoenix cola, but they stock their ginger beer – so we ordered a couple of those and were impressed to see them served with a decent chunk of ginger in a glass of ice. I don’t know why I’d never thought to do that myself!

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This is the pho. When the menu said “greens”, I was expecting something Asian. Baby choy sum? Asian broccoli? Even some boc choy or bean shoots, maybe? No. What was in there was a handful of baby spinach and a few WHOLE leaves of wombok cabbage, which were pretty awkward to try and eat. In addition, the noodles were over cooked, the tofu was dumped on top of the soup as a slab and there was a giant lime cheek floating in my bowl. There were no fresh herbs in sight; can you understand why I was more than just a little bit disappointed?

The broth was nice, but it wasn’t very complex – I suspect it was a standard veggie stock with some soy sauce and lime juice added to it. I can’t believe I paid $20 for this. It was a pretty poor attempt at pho.

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This was Mr. AA’s meal – at $17, this was significantly smaller than mine, which only proved that there’s no correlation between portion sizes and price here. He had no complaints and said that the sweet potato hash browns were excellent – however I could clearly see his eggs were over cooked. The yolks, for the most part, were solid.

Now onto my severely disappointing story about the long wait for our meals…

The venue is deceivingly large. From the front, it looks fairly small, but it stretches pretty far back and has some pretty adorable retro furniture. We ventured right through to the outdoor area before finding a spare table – so based on this alone, I was understandably expecting that there might be a fair wait for a meal. I was prepared to be patient. What I was NOT prepared for, was this: witnessing a waitress skip someone else’s meal to the front of the queue because she knew them.

The waitress wasn’t at all discreet about it, either. She was chatting with the women at the table next to us loudly and actually offered to push their meals forward. Those women had sat down and ordered well after us – and yet our meals didn’t arrive until they’d already finished eating.

Now, I’m generally a pretty relaxed person. I was holidaying at the time and in no rush, but honestly… that kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. What’s worse is that after we’d paid, I quietly spoke to the manager about it and she didn’t actually offer me an apology – her words to me were “we try to discourage people from doing that”. Hang on — back up, lady. This happens all the time? Way to make your patrons feel equally appreciated.

I definitely won’t be returning.

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Indian Empire

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Indian Empire
64 George St
Launceston, TAS 7250
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 6331 2500

I love Indian food. There’s no way that anyone who knows ANYTHING about me couldn’t know this. What I love most about visiting different Indian restaurants is that they often have very similar menus, but they all make everything differently/in their own way. Indian Empire is no exception to this.

Prior to my visit, I didn’t think to see if their menu was online. It in fact is. So… When I arrived and looked over the vegetarian section, I was feeling a bit nervous and uncomfortable. Just about everything there was known to me as containing cream, or was listed as containing paneer… Then I panicked and thought “what if they use ghee in everything???”.

Thankfully, the woman managing the restaurant was really helpful and accommodating – and best of all, she didn’t pull a face at me for being vegan. She pointed out a number of items in the vegetarian section that could be made without the cream, or could be made with vegetables instead of paneer, and she assured me that there wouldn’t be any ghee in my meals. ROCK AND ROLL, KIDS. Would it be inappropriate for me to propose to her? Probably… I’m sure she didn’t “swing that way” and neither do I (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – plus, Mr. AA was sitting right across from me.

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These onion bhaji were very different to the ones I get at my favourite local restaurant, Curry Garden (which will forever be known in Bendigo as the “downstairs Indian restaurant” because there’s an inferior Indian restaurant next door and upstairs) – BUT they were almost as good. For a start, these were in clusters rather than rings and the seasoning was only very light. These would have been excellent if they weren’t burned.

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The first main I chose (YES I CHOSE MORE THAN ONE!) was the dal makhani. I haven’t had one of these since going vegan because they’re always made with cream and every other restaurant I’ve been to has been unwilling to compromise on this.

This used to be my favourite curry… And I think it still is. Though really, it’s hard to pick just one. Normally dal makhani is mild, sweet and runny but this one had a bit of kick to it and it was really thick, rich and earthy. When I say that, what I mean is – you know you’re eating lentils. That’s definitely not a bad thing if you’re crazy about lentils like I am. I’d eat this curry over and over again in a heart beat.

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My second choice was the vindaloo, made with vegetables instead of paneer. Holy hell. This had a tomato base and was heavy with a very aromatic mix of spices… Topped with the kind of heat that made my mouth tingle and my nose run. The best part was that even though it was hot, I could still taste all the flavours. I could actually decipher individual vegetables on my palette. That’s how spicy food should be, people!

I also ordered rice and roti, but didn’t photograph them. Rice is rice, not much to say there. The roti was perfectly thick and chewy – I hate when restaurants make their roti too thin and crispy – what kind of sauce do they expect you to mop up with that?