The view from Soul Mama is gorgeous. Situated directly on the beachfront above the St Kilda Baths, its huge picture windows look out over the sea all the way to the horizon. It’s the perfect spot for a high-end restaurant, and the rent must be astronomical. The fact that it’s a cheap-and-cheerful vegetarian joint occupying this neutral-toned, tastefully decorated space is both pleasing and a little odd.
Diners have the option of ordering from the short à la carte menu or plumping for the buffet: in the latter case they receive a docket and line up at the sneeze guard. When the restaurant gets busy, it begins to look like an unusually lavish cafeteria. The buffet offers a large selection of salads, curries and stir fries; approximately 80 per cent of the dishes at Soul Mama are vegan, including the desserts. A la carte offerings include a quesadilla with black turtle beans and pumpkin, and ‘soyvlaki’ (ach, we die).
The drinks list dwarfs the solids section of the menu though: on top of a typical restaurant’s complement of beers and wines there are cocktails, aperitifs and liqueurs, sparkling, fortified and plum wines, lassis, and a range of teas.
In the light of all that, the large balcony with lovely sea views begins to look like a pretty tempting place to linger for a while. On the whole, though, the efficient setup doesn’t much encourage lingering.
Soul Mama offers tasty food served cheap, and that’s always a good thing – but it’s more a place to catch a quick bite before moving on than the scene for a romantic dinner.