Where: Green Man’s Arms, 418 Lygon Street Carlton
What: Intolerance-friendly vegetarian pub food, or so I thought
Bloat score: 3 – I could have balanced a glass of wine on my bloated stomach
The dedicated omnivore that I am, I had been eyeing Green Man’s Arms – a newish Israeli-influenced vegetarian pub in Carlton – with interest over the past year, but refrained from visiting for two reasons: a) the initial reports hadn’t been complimentary and b) vegetarian food is tricky when numerous popular vegetables are out of limits to me. To refresh everyone’s memory, high-histamine vegetables include eggplant, mushrooms, tomato (the biggest loss by far) and spinach (surprisingly pervasive).
Green Man’s Arms has a seasonally changing menu and the last time I checked, most of it was replete with high-histamine vegetables. This time, however, I noticed there were enough dishes that I could eat.
I visited with Max-Two-Legs-Animal-Eater, who last appeared in my review of Little Andorra (great wine bar – go immediately), who only eats two-legged or legless animals, which meant a vegetarian pub would be perfect.
We visited Green Man’s Arms on a Tuesday night – their trivia night, shock horror – but thankfully they had a casual dining room down the back where I could make a booking online and where they thankfully didn’t call me after to confirm my booking (this completely defeats the purpose of phone-phobic people being able to make a booking online – stop doing this, restaurants).
A quick perusal of the menu quickly revealed that the following dishes were out of bounds for me, tasty as they sounded: the mezze plate (can’t do dips of bread), the housemade falafels (can do chickpeas but can’t do falafels for some reason), the smokey bean salad (it had a fermented tomato vinaigrette, enough said, plus smokey foods are generally out of bounds) and the new season tomatoes. We briefly flirted with the idea of ordering the caramelised shallot and leek pie, until Max-Two-Legs-Animal-Eater ascertained from my long pause that I couldn’t eat either caramelised shallots or pie. But there was enough for me, and thankfully Max-Two-Legs-Animal-Eater was an incredibly patient dining buddy who acquiesced to my meddlesome intolerances, which luck has it, only affects 1% of the population.
Green Man’s Arm’s menu is divided into ‘smaller dishes’, ‘bigger dishes’ and ‘on the side’, with the ascending price order indicative of gradually bigger portions. Our waiter was exceptional and recommended we cut one of our four dishes – I’m so glad we followed her advice as we still ended up uncomfortably full (bloated in my case) from the three dishes we ordered.
Local craft brews are all the rage here, which Max-Two-Legs-Animal-Eater picked from. Curtailed by my intolerance to any fermented alcohol, I went for my archetypical gin and tonic.
First up was the grain salad – a pearl barley, freekeh and brown rice salad that came with nuts, seeds and sherry vinegar. I had deluded myself at the time into thinking I could order this, because I technically can’t eat wheat, which of course is what pearl barley and freekeh are made of. Oblivious at the time, I smugly ate the grain salad with the air of someone who knows she isn’t going to be bloated later but is promptly proven wrong by her malabsorbing gut. This salad was the perfect antidote to stinky summer nights (can you tell which season is my favourite?) – fresh, nutty and herby with a yoghurt dressing that bound all the ingredients together. This was under ‘bigger dishes’ and cost us $19.
Second up was my absolute favourite because I am a tragic fan of furikake, a dry Japanese seasoning consisting of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar and salt. Because Green Man’s Arms is vegetarian, they swapped out the dried fish for kale, not that it detracted from the umami-ness of a typical furikake – it’s the seaweed that’s the must-have ingredient. Green Man’s Arms had tossed their vegetarian furikake with long tendrils of broccolini and smoked soy (I can’t have smoked condiments, so am beginning to see why I ended up bloated…). If I could cook vegetables this way, I’d be on a strictly vegetarian diet. And probably bloated all the time. This was under ‘smaller dishes’ and set us back by $14. (Note that we’d already eaten two stalks before remembering to take this picture – this bowl was initially full.)
Third up was the chickpea pancake topped with watercress, spring onion salsa and a heavenly almond cream. Initially we weren’t planning to order this but after seeing it arrive on someone else’s table, we swapped another dish out. The chickpea pancake was fluffy and cakey but rather dense and slightly monotonous in flavour, and we struggled to finish it after stuffing ourselves with the generous grain salad. By this stage, my bloats were making themselves felt and so it was a laborious crawl to the finish line. This was under ‘bigger dishes’ and cost us $21.
Max-Two-Legs-Animal-Eater was done by this point but I continued to labour under the misapprehension that I could fit in dessert. The halva ice cream was hugely tempting, but in the end, I decided to be sensible and skip dessert in favour of cradling my engorged tummy all the way home.
In hindsight, the dishes I had chosen weren’t as low-histamine as I’d thought and if I were to do it again, I’d still order the sautéed greens with furikake and tempt fate with the smoked soy but steer clear of the grain salad in favour of something like the caramelised pumpkin, the slow-baked carrots or the pommes frites which sound divine in this review by Where’s The Beef? Either way, I really enjoyed my meal until my stomach swelled to the point of discomfort, and I’ll be back to sample Green Man’s Arms new seasonal menu. As long as those sautéed greens remain.
Green Man’s Arms is open from 4pm until late Monday to Thursday and from midday until late Friday to Sunday.