Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Portland: Portobello & Departure Lounge

This is the third and final instalment in my Portland series (for now, maybe I'll get to go back one day), read parts one and two here and here.

One place I knew I had to visit during my stay was Portobello, I'd heard so much about it and whilst a greasy burger from a food cart out the back of a dive bar is probably more my style I wanted to fine dine it up with the best of 'em at this upscale vegan joint.

Stephanie, Mandee, Randi and I managed to snag a table just before the Vida Vegan Con hoards descended upon the city. We decided to go all out with starters, mains and desserts and Mandee and I started with the cheese plate which came with three kinds of cheese, baguette and quince paste. 

Honestly I was a tad disappointed with this plate, I know vegan cheeses are expensive but for $16 I was, um, a little surprised at quite how tiny this plate of food was. Maybe I'm just a philistine? I will say that everything on the plate was delicious and I believe that the cheeses were from Heidi Ho, Chao and Punk Rawk Labs; my favourite being the peppered cashew cheese.

Stephanie ordered the Beet Tartare which actually ended up being the highlight of the fine dining experience in my mind. This perfectly creamy cashew cheese and roasted beetroot dish was beautifully presented, came with plenty of delicious French bread, and, if this had indeed been served at a dive bar I'd have licked the plate.

Next up we have Asparagus Fries, we almost didn't order these which would have been stupid. Served in a cone to stop the light tempura batter from becoming soggy these crisp delicious fries were my second favourite part of the meal.

I think I ordered badly again with my main course because I really didn't love this Summer Pea Ravioli with Morels.

I love ravioli and I love both english peas and mushrooms but something about this dish missed the mark for me. I did however love Stephanie's Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables which was weird because normally I am not a gnocchi fan. The moral of this story is go to dinner with Stephanie, order what she orders, enjoy.

I couldn't pass on dessert because there was a Chocolate Hazelnut Bomb on the menu!

This chocolate explosion was topped with crunchy caramelised hazelnuts and it was an amazingly rich end to the meal which left everyone feeling stuffed to the point of bursting.

I would definitely go back to Portobello, the dishes I enjoyed still stick in my mind today (uuuhhhh that beet tartare) and I love that their menu changes with the seasons. If you go let me know what your favourites are!

Our next dining destination was Departure Lounge somewhere that I hadn't even heard of before Vida Vegan Con started, but after recommendations from both Isa and Grant Butler (VVC's restaurant review panelist) it seemed ridiculous not to pay them a visit.

Our group of four ordered many, many things to share and drove our not-so-food-photo-obsessed friend a little crazy with all of our picture taking. If you're reading this, sorry again. I still feel a little bad about being such an annoying dinner companion.

Departure Lounge is not a vegan restaurant but they do have a separate vegan menu and a commitment to creating out of this world vegan dishes. Good enough for me.

This dish of Wok Fried Brussels Sprouts with chilli, lime and mint was outstanding. I have no idea how anyone can make sprouts taste this good and on the strength of this dish alone I'd like to invite the chef to come and live with Nick and I. I'm sure Nick wouldn't mind once he tasted the food.

The next dish of Gingered Mushrooms came with sweet & sour rhubarb, watercress and ramp. As a lover of all things rhubarb I was delighted to see it represented in a savoury dish, breaking out of it's role as a filler of pies and crumbles. This was exceptional.

We ordered all of the sushi on the menu which included this Grilled Shiitake Roll with avocado, cucumber, scallion and carrot sauce which I adored.

Next up was the Ume Shisho Roll with pickled plums, cucumber and jalapeƱo. Whilst I loved the bold plum flavours in this dish I did (somewhat unsuccessfully) have to eat around the jalapeƱos!

The table also ordered these beautiful BBQ Tempeh Buns.

These steamed buns were stuffed with Korean BBQ sauce and spicy coleslaw. I didn't try one, I can tell when something's spicy enough that it'll kill my tastebuds and my dining companions agreed that it'd definitely push me over the edge!

This Greens and Seeds roll was the thing that got us all excited about Departure Lounge's menu. How could a place serving nooch sushi ever steer you wrong?! This roll was also stuffed with avocado, cucumber, herbs, pumpkin seeds & sesame and I'm pretty sure there was some wasabi or something in there too because this roll packed a strong horseradishy punch.

Last but by no means least the final part of our sushi selection hit the table, the Sweet Potato Tempura roll was a spicy miso spiked delight and I loved the addition of even more nori - delicious.

If I'm lucky enough to end up back in Portland this is somewhere I'll most certainly re-visit and now that I've blogged about it I'll be able to leave the iPhone in my bag and just enjoy the overall dining experience. The food here was stunning both in taste and presentation and I'd highly recommend it to any vegans with their sights set on Portland.


  1. Oh yes, that Beet Tartare was awesome! I loved the Cauliflower Steak dish I had, and am so sad we didn't order dessert at Portobello! ...though we did go to White Owl for vegan s'mores afterwards ;)

    Wish I'd had the chance to say hi to you at VVC!

  2. My favourite thing at Portobello is the gnocchi. It is just amazing!

    I also went to Departures when I was there in June. I had never heard of it before reading all the VVC blogs. It was so amazing! They had this tempeh dish that was just the most amazing thing ever.

  3. I love Departure :) So yummy! I love Chef GG!

  4. Wow your pics from Departure are outstanding! That must have been after the workshop LOL. I love that beet tartare at Portobello too and that smoked potato pizza was probably the best dish of the night....that's what I got when I went back the next day.


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