Let me start off by saying that I love Transformer. I came here for my birthday in September a few weeks after I’d touched down in Melbourne, and have been dreaming about coming back ever since. Run by the same people that own Vegie Bar and Girls & Boys Fitzroy, it’s a fancy tapas place that does delicious vegan and vegetarian food and cocktails.
There is a lot to choose from on the menu, so to make it a bit easier, Transformer offers a ‘Feed Me’ menu, where they pick a range of dishes from the menu for you. This is what I had the first time I came, and it’s great if you get overwhelmed with a lot of choice, and gets you to try things you wouldn’t normally. This time however we decided to pick our own food. As it’s tapas, you share, and it all comes out a different times. I quite like that it does this, as you’re not sure what’s going to come out next and it makes it all a bit more interesting. It does mean though that sometimes, things will come out quickly, and you’ll find you’re not actually in the restaurant very long.
They have a great cocktail menu, as well as a really nice cocktail bar at the back that you can go to first, or to wait if you don’t have a booking. We went in here last time and it was packed, so keep that in mind if you want to head there for a pre-dinner drink. This time round, we didn’t do that, and just ordered at our table. I got the ‘Dry Tram Martini’, which was 666 vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth and basil. It’s different, but in a good way. Sam got the ‘Quinceaples’, which is the one in the background, and that was Markers Mark bourbon, red okar, pineapple, rosemary infused maple, lemon, pernod and angostura bitters. Again, different, but in a good way.
First up was the olives. These were ‘Mount Zero’ mixed olives, with guindillas, sweet pickled garlic and chilli. You’d think olives are just olives, but these are so delicious that I could eat them all day. The pickled garlic as well was also seriously good. It’s the perfect dish to get the night started.
After this our flat breads and dip arrived. The dip is roast carrot, white bean and saffron, with barberries and toasted cumin. I can’t express how good this dip is. It’s so full of wonderful flavours and such a beautiful colour. It’s a great starter dish that you’ll demolish in seconds.
Next up we had fried sweet potato, with zaatar, feta (vegan), oregano and walnut and orange aioli. I apologise for the bad photo, it really doesn’t look that attractive. Although it is difficult to make great big pieces of sweet potato look good! However, as with all the other dishes, it’s delicious. The potatoes were cooked to perfection, and the aioli was the perfect accompaniment. To top it off, the feta was so smooth and creamy, which brought the whole dish together perfectly.
After this, we had grilled king oyster mushrooms, with confit garlic and pine nut puree, smoked shallot and porcini salt. I’m not entirely sure why the mushrooms are cut into fish shapes. King oyster mushrooms are typically used to replicate scallops, so this might be why. I’ll be honest, this was probably my least favourite dish. I just didn’t think it had as much flavour as the others. Although the puree was really good. On the other hand, it was one of Sam’s favourites, so it all comes down to personal preference.
Finally, we have the cumin braised eggplant (aubergine), with chermoula, smoked labneh, quinoa crisps and mint. This is easily the best main dish. I could have happily eaten the whole thing. The eggplant was perfectly soft, the quinoa crisps were amazingly crispy, and all accompanied with that fantastic smoked labneh. You have to get this one if you’re going.
Of course, no good meal is complete without dessert. The first time we went I ended up feeling a bit sick (too much food!) and couldn’t get dessert, so this time I made sure that wasn’t to happen again. The issue with the dessert was if we should share it or not. We decided to go with the warm chocolate brownie (because, chocolate), which came with salted coconut sorbet, cherry gel and hazelnut ganache. The thing is, at $16, it’s expensive to get one each, but it’s really a bit small to share. We did end up sharing, but ideally I’d have happily had one to myself. It was rich but not overpowering, and the sorbet was creamy like ice cream. If you like chocolate, get this.
All in all, if you’re looking for somewhere a bit fancier for a night out, then you have to head to Transformer. It’s quirky and interesting, with so many fantastic options. Now all is left to do is head there for brunch!