One of my closest friends lives in Singapore, and with a public holiday and a long weekend that they have just had, she decided to make a quick visit down to Melbourne! A catch up was on the cards, and when I asked her what food she felt like, she said she missed western vegetarian food. I went through my wishlist of restaurants to visit and I decided that Transformer sounded like the perfect fit for our catch up.

Transformer is a quintessentially Melbourne venue. Located in a dim Fitzroy side street, Transformer is the latest venture from the team behind Veggie Bar. It is the slightly more hipster and definitely more fine dining cousin, and based on the fact that bookings need to be made in advance, it is a very welcome addition to the family.

Our booking was for 6:15pm on a Friday night, and in a sign that a great night of food was ahead of us, the restaurant was full. The restaurant has a mixture of low tables, window seats and high bar tables. I had been forewarned of this on Zomato, so I made sure I had requested a low table. There is a semi open kitchen, which is always heartening for me as a diner. I feel like if I can see my food being prepared, the kitchen will feel more accountable!

The menu is designed with a clear focus on sharing. The dishes are split into three categories – small plates, garden plates, and mid plates. Natually there is also a section for dessert, but everyone knows that we have a separate stomach for desserts. The recommendation from the waitress was that we should order two or three plates per person, but everything looked so delicious that we ended up ordering seven plates between the two of us! I’d like to think it was all in the purpose of research for the blog! The dishes arrive at the table as they are prepared, so there is a steady stream of food being brought to you.

Our first dish, and possibly the best dish of the night, was the sweet corn fritters served with lime aioli. The fritters were moulded into rectangular prisms, which was a presentation style I hadn’t seen before, but it certainly made it easy to eat! The highlight was the aioli though. It was creamy and tangy and just plain delicious! We ended up keeping the remnants of the aioli bowl on the table when we sent the plate back, just so we could pair it with our other dishes!

The corn fritters were demolished promptly and our next dish arrived. This dish was one that I had chosen. It was a spelt and seed steamed bun with crispy tofu, pickled cucumber and an Asian chilli mayo. These normally come as one piece per serve, so we ordered two serves! I am a big fan of steamed buns, and these were no exception. The spelt and seed combination did add a slightly different flavour and texture to the bun than what I’m normally used to, but the filling was perfect. There was crunch from the tofu, freshness from the cucumber and the mayo provided a wonderful flavour that tied everything together. It was a shame there was only one bun for each of us, I could have easily downed four or five of these!

Dish number three was one that V had chosen, and I must say, she had chosen well. It was a fried brussels sprout dish with green apple, and a creamy sauce. I don’t know why people have such an aversion to brussels sprouts. I feel as though they have been given a bad reputation without much reason. Personally I am a big fan, so I was excited about this dish. The sprouts were fried beautifully, V thought they were a little charred, but I prefer to think of them as caramelised. They had a sweet, smoky flavour, and the freshness of the apple cut through it well.

Dish number four appeared at our table almost at the same time as the brussels sprouts (or perhaps our eating pace had slowed down because we were slowly getting full!). We had chosen a sweet potato dish which was roasted with a Japanese spice, togarashi. I had never had togarashi before, and I must say its flavour was fairly subtle. This was paired with a coconut yogurt and lime. Sweet potato is another vegetable that I love, so I was always going to like this dish. It was however the dish that was the most simple and easy to replicate at home, so I’m not sure if I would order it again. The focus was on the produce thought which was nice.

The next dish was a recommendation I had received so I was determined to order it. It was a ricotta and rye gnocchi served with sprouted lentils, pumpkin mousse and blueberry compote. Unfortunately this was probably my least favourite dish, although I still enjoyed it, just not as much as the others. The gnocchi was a little bit stodgy, but perhaps I had just gotten a bad batch. As quirky as it sounds, the pumpkin mousse and blueberry compote actually made a great sauce when mixed together. It is amazing how such a random combination, which I would never think of pairing, worked so well.

By this stage we were really full, but we had one more dish to go! If only we had not eaten with our eyes when order and thought about what our stomachs were capable of! Still, never one to accept defeat at the hands of food, I persevered to be rewarded with another great dish. Our final dish was an artichoke dish which was served with parsnips three ways. There were parsnip chips which sliced thinly and fried to a crisp, roast parsnip and parsnip puree. The artichokes were tender and flavoursome and together they married perfectly.

With the sixth dish, I was well and truly full and ready to declare the meal ended but V had other ideas with her mind firmly fixed on dessert. And who was I to say no? After all, it would be unfair to my dessert stomach to not give it anything to eat. I let her chose the dessert and she decided on a very interesting dish. It was a lemongrass crème served with mandarin fresh and dehydrated forms and topped with a layer of tempered white chocolate. The dessert was served in a beaker (yes the ones you find in a science lab!) and the seal of the white chocolate had to be cracked with a spoon! It was quite a theatrical dessert!

We both absolutely loved this dish. The freshness and lightness of the lemongrass and mandarin was exactly what we needed after the heavy meal and we demolished this dessert.

All through the night V couldn’t help but comment about how ‘Melbourne’ Transformer was and this was what she missed about being home. And it was true. The exposed brick walls, the converted warehouse feel, the quirky menu pairings, the mismatched crockery, this is exactly what dining in Melbourne is all about, and Transformer did it so well.

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  1. The menu's changed a lot since I was there but still looks really, really good. I must go back!

    1. I think the menu might be seasonal, hence the changes. It's definitely still awesome though!

  2. yes it's quite Melbourne! I really need to make the sweet potato dish at home. I hope that dessert is vegan, looks like I have to go back :)

    1. I'm not sure that it would be vegan, but there are other vegan desserts on the menu that look equally good!