Monday, October 22, 2012

Queensland sights and eats: Govinda's Vegetarian Cafe

For most of last week, I actually wasn't at home in Western Australia. I couldn't bring myself to blog about it at the time, but I flew to Queensland last Tuesday for a work conference on the Gold Coast and only returned back on Saturday morning.

There were two reasons I didn't blog about this during the week. The first was that leaving Mr Bite just 10 days after we returned from our honeymoon was more painful than I care to admit. I never thought I would be someone who missed their husband immensely in just five days, but miss him I most certainly did! My independent streak seems to be taking a back seat these days, and I am slightly perplexed to discover that I don't even mind.

All of my memories of Queensland, from all of my trips ever, include trees

The second reason is that it is quite bizarre - and truly not representative of my normal life - that I have been to three conferences in the last two months, as well as got married and been on holiday. My work is not of the jet setting type and the only conference of the last three to have been planned at the start of this year was the Portugal one, and planned with the degree of anticipation appropriate for such a trip.

When I realised that I would be flying to South Australia for a conference the week before our wedding; flying to Europe one week after the wedding, for a month of honeymooning that would incorporate a conference; and then flying to Queensland for another conference 10 days after we got home, my brain initially struggled to grasp the facts. Now that I am at the end of that stretch, it is still a little difficult to believe that it has all happened within the space of two months.

Being at the end of the travel, and being safely at home again, I am easing into day-to-day life with a real appreciation for it. The joy of doing so also allows me to look back at my time in Queensland now, and blog about it in a way that I couldn't manage when I was there.

Quintessentially Queensland...

This is fortunate, because on my first evening in Queensland I drove from where I was staying on the Gold Coast, about an hour south of Brisbane and 30 minutes north of the busy Surfer's Paradise stretch, into Surfer's Paradise itself. I had vague ideas of finding dinner, and just of making use of the spare time before my work-focused days began.

On this outing, I was lucky enough to stumble across Govinda's Veg-o-rama, tucked away within the Centro Paradise shopping centre in the heart of Surfer's Paradise. This small store served an amazing array of vegetarian and vegan food, including a hot buffet, a number of side dishes (including pakora, kofta, spring rolls and samosas), various salads, and quite wonderful looking desserts (from vegan cakes and cheesecakes to sago cups.

Govinda's vegan baked blueberry cheesecake
(apologies for the phone camera quality)

Govinda is one of the names for Krishna, so it is perhaps not surprising that there are many Govinda vegetarian restaurants worldwide. I am not certain if the one I visited is related to the larger restaurants in Brisbane and Sydney, but there is at least one other Gold Coast store (in Burleigh Heads) that has an identical menu to the one I ended up at.

After a day of travelling and disrupted eating, I was really thrilled to have so many dinner options to choose from. I ended up ordering their marinated tofu salad and, after some deliberation, a slice of the vegan blueberry baked cheesecake. The deliberation was not over whether to get dessert (from the moment I arrived at the store, I was definitely going to be getting dessert), but over which dessert. You see, they also had a chocolate mousse cake, and chocolate mousse cake is more my sort of thing than cheesecake. At the same time, I have had vegan chocolate mousse cake before but have never had the opportunity to try vegan baked cheesecake.

The top sort of fell off on the drive back...imagine the 
blueberry layer on the left being on top of the slice!

After my raw vegan cheesecake experiments earlier in the year, I had started to think that I might like vegan cheesecake in a way that I have never liked the regular sort. Govinda's commercial baked cheesecake was a good test of that theory, but it allowed me to conclude that cheesecake is still not the dessert for me! It is probably not a coincidence that of the cheesecake desserts I've made myself, the ones I like are avocado-based and chilled to the point of living in the freezer. My 'honey', vanilla and pistachio cheesecake, which used nuts instead of avocado, was too creamy for my liking, and this baked cheesecake was the same.

This is no reflection on Govinda's, other than that they make a very authentic and creamy baked cheesecake,  and I did enjoy the base and the blueberry top. If those components had been wrapped around a thinner middle layer I might have liked the filling too. All in all, it was a worthwhile dessert experiment even if it wasn't fully aligned with my taste buds.

The marinated tofu salad, I am pleased to say, was aligned with my taste buds. Indeed, I wished I had bought a larger serve. The vegetable mix included brocolli, carrot, pepper and spring onion, and the tofu pieces were salty-sweet in a way that suggested soy sauce and maple syrup. It was a very good salad and Govinda's was a very fortunate find.


As I bought the above dishes to take away, I also ended up with plastic containers that proved surprisingly useful for self-catering purposes. I don't think the Hyatt expects its guests to try and self-cater, and they certainly don't facilitate it with crockery or cutlery supplies. Being somewhat low-key in my approach to eating when away, and also being at this conference largely alone (in the sense that I didn't know many others), those containers came in very helpful. I used them for cereal, I used them for fruit, and on my final night, I used them for a chickpea salad mix.

Terrible lighting, but a surprisingly good meal

The above dinner was thanks to Woolworth's rainbow salad (finely sliced carrot, beetroot and brocolli stems, pre-washed), paired with tinned chickpeas and wrap bread. It was a pleasing combination, even if the mix needed to be eaten with nothing more than a teaspoon, fingers, and/or wrap bread scoops.


With hindsight I am, of course, grateful to have gone on the trip, and the conference was good and the venue  beautiful. At the same time, I am just a little pleased to have an entirely normal, boring, uneventful work week ahead of me!

Do you travel much for work? Or, do you try to self-cater in fancy hotels that don't really want you to? I'm getting to be an expert on the latter, although do need to remember to carry forks...


This post is part of my Vegan Month of Food contributions for October 2012. 

22 comments:

  1. I'm not super friendly with cheesecake of any kind either Kari. I'm not sure what it is. I'll eat it if there is nothing else going but I would really, really just rather something else.
    As for your conferences? That's a lot! :-)

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    1. I'm glad it's not just me (with the cheesecake) :-) So many people seem to view it as the pinnacle of creamy dessert treats, but I rather think it's quite the opposite!

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  2. I love cheesecake in theory but some days finding the right one is hard - I have had vegan cheesecake that just tasted too much of tofu.

    I had a period where I travelled a lot with work and I miss it sometimes but I also know that I would find it a lot harder these days so I am just glad I got to see a bit more of Australia with work. Having said that, Queensland is one of the states I had seen least and must see more of. Love your hotel meal - innovative!

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    1. Seeing more of northern Queensland is something I'd love to do one day - although probably not for work! - but I am lucky to have had the chance to travel a bit over the years. It was a novelty in the beginning, which I try to remind myself of during weeks like last week!

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  3. You certainly have been getting out and about lately. I love the Gold Coast for a break away from home but agree, it's the sort of place to go with your husband. Maybe next time! xx

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  4. Thankfully I don't have to travel for work. I don't think I could stand to be gone from home that much. My husband has zero domestic skills and I would be frightened to see what our house would look like when I returned. Not to mention our poor pups! :-)

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    1. Mr Bite gets a list :) A very detailed, carefully thought out list that says things like "there are potatoes in the pantry" and "go to your Mum's for dinner on night x"!

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  5. As you know, I used to travel a lot for work, but I pretty much never got to stay overnight. Nope, I was expected to pull 17 hour days with no real time for lunch or food...

    I just tried a vegan cream-cheese-esque cheesecake here in Toronto for the first time, and also didn't enjoy it. What I like about cheesecake is the density and the tang; this one was all mousse and sweet. Give me my nut based raw treats any day!

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    1. I guess one advantage of being SO FAR AWAY from EVERYTHING else in Australia is that staying overnight is generally essential :) I actually wasted a whole day travelling to the Gold Coast - 5 hours flying, plus airport time, plus an hour driving from Brisbane... Adelaide is better, when things are there!

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  6. I love everything in the images YUMMY!

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  7. Looks gorgeous - and yummy! Now I'm definitely going to have to take all my vegetarian friends with me to Australia so we can indulge in all the delicious options!

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  8. I love your innovative hotel meal! I've only ever tried one vegan cheesecake (black forest) recently at a potluck and it was very rich for a non sweets person like me although I really enjoyed the flavours.

    Hope you enjoy a more normal week with Mr Bite now that your travels have settled down.

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    1. Thank you Mel - a normal week has never looked so good :)

      From what I know of your tastes, cheesecake would definitely be a bit of a sugar overload. Pot luck would be the place I try it I suppose, where you can just try and then move on!

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  9. I understand about not wanting to leave your new hubby for yet another work commitment! I never travel for work but sometimes NutriDude has to and I absolutely hate it. I've come so accustomed to being with him that if he's gone for just one night, I can't even sleep :(

    As we travel more and more, I found that we tend to do more self catering in hotels as well but try to book apartment style hotels whenever possible and if we can't find one of those, at least a hotel room that has a refrigerator.

    Hope you enjoy a peaceful week back at home!

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    1. We do self-catering a lot for our own travel too...and yes, a refrigerator is a real plus if you can't get to an apartment! I was lucky to have that at least last week.

      I'm glad others grasp the not wanting to separate from husbands challenge :) Hopefully NutriDude's travel isn't too often.

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  10. I used to travel a lot for work and am very impressed at your self catering efforts. Invariably my work involved client dinners so I always found that I spent the whole trip eating too much of the wrong kind of food. Work travel is just work where you don't get to go home at the end of the day. Interesting but exhausting.

    I've also recently been surprised at how much I miss S if one of us is away for even a night. Must be something about finding "the one" that does that to us. I know I'm completely capable of being away by myself, I just don't like it anymore.

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    1. Your description of work travel is spot on...interesting but exhausting and thus best in small doses :)

      It's a relief to hear I'm not alone in losing the capacity to travel solo and enjoy it. Must be "the one" because I can't imagine any other explanation making sense!

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  11. Oh I juuuuuust missed you while you where in my neck of the woods. I LOVE GOVINDAS.... that tofu salad is my fav :) Oh boo, I could have recommended SO MANY amazing places for you to try... but it seems like you did pretty darn well with delicious eats during your stay :)

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    1. I wish I had thought to get in touch! I knew you were in Queensland but until your last post hadn't realised it was the Gold Coast stretch...for some reason I thought you were further north. Foolishness! I'm glad I found Govindas otherwise I'd have been quite annoyed at myself :P

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