Thursday, 20 November 2014

Vegan eating out in Melbourne

The growth of vegan food available in Melbourne over the past decade or so has been huge.  Lots of places are now providing vegan options that are exciting, creative and innovative.  As a vegetarian who does not like eggs or a lot of dairy, I enjoy lots finding cafes with plant based offerings.

This year I planned to write about vegan eating out in Melbourne during Vegan MoFo but ran out of time.  The draft has sat there ever since begging to see the light of day.  I also developed the post because I never have time to blog about all the meals I photograph.

So here is my tour of some of Melbourne's vegan-friendly cafes.  It is not a comprehensive list because it reflects how I eat out - I don't like mock meat, I live in the inner North and I mostly eat out at brunch or lunch rather than dinner!  I hope it will make us all feel good about all the wonderful vegan food available.  I'd love to hear of your favourite place to eat vegan food.

My top 5 vegan meals in Melbourne

Sourdough toast with smashed peas, wild rice and candied walnuts
@ Wide Open Road, Brunswick
Sadly this dish is no longer available.  It was so amazing that couple of years later it still stands out as one of my favourite meals I have had in a cafe.  I have also had an excellent tofu scramble there.  It is worth checking their current menu for vegan options.

Vegan nachos 
@ the Vegie Bar, Fitzroy
I was at the Vegie Bar for lunch a while back and really enjoyed the generosity of these nachos.  Heaps of corn chips, salsa, black beans, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream and jalapenos.  It could easily serve 2 (ie I could not finish it).  Nachos can be a bit dry but these were full of vegies and sauce and were really satisfying.  I also loved the green kale smoothie I had with it. 

Brunswick ploughman’s lunch 
@ Code Black, Brunswick
A Middle Eastern twist on the traditional ploughman's lunch.  I was very impressed that when I asked for a vegan version, eggs and meat weren't just subtracted but I was given substitutions.  My platter consisted of chickpea fritters, pickled cabbage, roasted mushrooms, olives, beetroot dip, grated carrot with cumin, fresh radish, avocado with dukkah, gherkins and home made flatbreads with dukkah.  It was so so good.

Raw Hawaiian Live Pizza 
@ Yong Green Food, Fitzroy
I haven't had much raw food in cafes but there is more of this around Melbourne.  One place that I have visited was Yong Green Food which has a lot of raw food including pizza.  This raw pizza had a macadamia-nut bread base, topped with tomato sauce, avocado, pineapple, olives, sprouts, cherry tomatoes and cashew cheese sauce.  Not comparable to regular pizza but wonderful and light.

CLT bagel 
@ New Day Rising, East Brunswick
There is a good reason this CLT has been raved about by many.  The generous serve of coconut bacon (with rocket, tomato and avocado) makes this bagel chockablock with flavour and goodness.

5 recent dishes at omnivore cafes
  1. Natural Tucker Bakery (North Carlton) - tofu and pesto tart with pumpkin, and wholemeal apricot and coconut cake.  Healthy and delicious.
  2. San Churro (CBD and various) - churros with dark chocolate sauce (thanks to Linda for pointing out these are accidentally vegan.).  Absolutely decadent.
  3. Minang Nasi Padang (Carlton) - Eggplant curry, tofu coconut curry and spicy peanuts.  Cheap and cheerful Indonesian street food.
  4. Dos Diablos taco truck - (on the move) black bean tacos with corn salsa (enjoyed in Yarraville Gardens!).  Nice but I should have availed myself of the sauces.
  5. A Minor Place (East Brunswick) - almond crusted chickpea burger, vegan mayo, caramelised onions, tomatoes, spinach and sourdough toast.  Fantastic and quite spicy!

5 recent dishes at vegetarian or vegan cafes
  1. Supercharger (CBD) - smashed green peas and avocado, eggplant curry, carrot salad, braised tempeh and brown rice.  Healthy but my options didn't quite work together and just felt virtuous.
  2. Loving Hut (Northcote and other locations) - wanton noodle soup.  Delicious and satisfying.  I want to try more.
  3. Melbourne University Food Cooperative (Parkville) - pumpkin and tofu pie.  Great healthy cheap student food.  (Sadly it is closed until Semester 1 starts next year in March.)
  4. Sister of Soul (St Kilda) - black sticky rice with caramelised coconut and blood orange sorbet.  An amazing dessert.  (I wish the photo did it more justice.)
  5. Lord of the Fries (CBD and other locations) - original burger with chips.  A mock meat burger I enjoy.  Yummy burger (that I was reluctant to try because it is quite 'meaty') with lots of sauce.  (Ask for vegan cheese and mayo.)
5 Vegan and vegetarian cafes I have reviewed
  1. Smith and Daughters (Fitzroy) - Stylish vegan restaurant with a Mexican influence.  Enjoyed brunch and would love to try the dinner menu.  
  2. Lord of the Fries (CBD and other locations) - Great chips but also burgers and hot dogs.
  3. Vegie Bar (Fitzroy) - A busy and lively vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu, lots of raw food and heaps of vegan options.
  4. Trippy Taco (Fitzroy) - Cheap and cheerful vegetarian Mexican-style street food with lots of vegan options.  Great tamales. 
  5. Mr Nice Guy Cupcakes (Ascot Vale) - All vegan.  He makes lovely filled bagels but it is the fancy cupcakes that really make me ooh and aah!

5 Vegan-friendly cafes I have reviewed
  1. True North (Coburg) - Offers vegan meat and cheese substitutes in their impressive rolls and sandwiches, such as BLT, Breakfast Roll and Reuben Sandwich.  Plus lots of hot sauces.
  2. Wide Open Road (Brunswick) - Innovative modern menu that changes seasonally. 
  3. Code Black (Brunswick) - Modern cafe with interesting dishes that is prepared to actually substitute for meat and cheese rather than just remove it from your dish!
  4. ShanDong Mama (CBD) - Flourescent lit Asian cafe with amazing dumplings and scallion pancakes.
  5. East Elevation (East Brunswick) - Light-filled warehouse cafe and chocolatier that offers fried tempeh instead of eggs in their veggie breakfast.

5 cafes I want to try vegan food

5 shops to buy vegan products

5 vegan friendly places that are gone but not forgotten
  • Cafe Sarabella (Coburg) - A little Indian cafe in Victoria St mall that is much missed.
  • The Gasometer Hotel (Collingwood) - This pub had a great innovative vegan section on the menu.  It closed and has since reopened with a more traditional pub menu.
  • Lentil as Anything (Brunswick) - I enjoyed this vegetarian community-oriented cafe on the corner of Union St and Sydney Rd.  At least there are other branches of Lentil as Anything that are still open. 
  • Radical Grocery (Brunswick) - a fantastic vegan grocery store that I loved visiting.
  • Tart ‘n’ Round Café (Thornbury) - This was a great vegan and gluten free cafe.

5 Melbourne bloggers who write about vegan cafes

I am sending this post to Rika of Vegan Miam who is heading to Melbourne next month and is very interested in where to find vegan food!  I look forward to reading about her experiences! (Update April 2015: you can now read her post on Vegan Eats in Melbourne.)

Now it your turn.  What is your favourite vegan-friendly cafes, vegan meal and/or recommendations for vegan eating in Melbourne?  If you don't live in Melbourne, tell me what cafe/dish you would like to try.


  1. That's it, I coming to Melbourne!!! Everyhting sounds so yummy Johanna I can't stand it AND I don't even follow a vegan diet!!! I'm really beginning to miss having the choices I use to have living in New York. Don't get me wrong, where I live in the state, Pennsylvania, has its choices to but oh so many of them are not healthy or diet conscience and I don't see it changing any time soon.

    You have amassed quite a collection of choices Johanna, I am more than intrigued by the avocado with dukkah. I LOVE Dukkah but on avocado. I'll be trying that at home for sure!

    Thanks for sharing, Johanna...

    1. Thanks Louise - I would love to live in New York and be able to visit lots of cafes there - everything I read about there sound amazing - hope you try the avocado with dukkah - if only to make you feel like you are in a nice cafe with lots of healthy choices :-)

  2. Thank you dear Johanna for your kind e-mail! ♡

    You have absolutely no idea how thrilled I am to see your amazing list of vegan eats in Melbourne! All of your food photos are making me a hungry person, including the burgers & churros! Yong Green Food, Lord of the Fries, Smith & Daughters, Vegie Bar, Raw Trader, Mr. Nice Guy Cupcakes, and Las Vegan were on my list of places to try! Filled bagels and fancy cupcakes from Mr Nice Guy Cupcakes sound lovely plus the food at Yong Green Food and Code Black look so yummy! I would love to try the Brunswick ploughman’s lunch at Code Black - dukkah sounds amazing...

    Again I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to set this post up, you’re the sweetest - we’re going to have a wonderful time in Melbourne and eat tons of amazing food because of your beautifully written post :) I am eternally grateful, Johanna!

    1. Thanks Rika - so sweet of you to be so kind about the post - sounds like you have a great selection of cafes to visit - hope you enjoy our Melbourne offerings. I think the Brunswick ploughman's lunch is still on the menu at Code Black and they have a few other interesting vegan options.

  3. And this just drives home the sentiments I expressed in my last comment :D What a great round up - a brilliant resource for those wanting veg food in Melbourne.

    1. Thanks Kari - it has been interesting reflecting on the vegan food I have eaten in Melbourne as I don't like to ask too many questions about food when out and prefer a cafe where it is clear if it is vegetarian or vegan - so I was quite impressed at how much I could be confident was vegan. I think this is a fine reflection of Melbourne's vegan scene

  4. Oh, I so want to move to Melbourne right now!

    There is one question, though, I feel the urge to ask ... as a vegetarian who cannot eat onions, garlic or vinegar (don't ask :-)) ... would I still get fat or at least survive in Melbourne? :-)

    1. I'm sure you can request meals without onions and garlic as long as you notify them in advance - it's a very common request in Asia!

    2. Thank you very much.
      I sometimes try to get meals without these things in Germany and either it is not possible or they promise it is and in the end, I still get the garlic :-)
      It's the same as gluten or lactose: as soon as you can't eat them it turns out they are everywhere.
      We even have a nice vegetarian restaurant nearby, but it is self-service and full of garlic, onions, leeks, any other garlic and onion relatives plus vinegar (no exagerration, this is Germany), so I have given up restaurant visits...

    3. Wow Alcessa - that is really sad to hear how hard it is for you. I feel for you because my little girl is so good at eating plain vegies but finding plain vegies when eating out is so rare.

      The sort of vegan food I can see you eating in Melbourne is perhaps a smoothie and some chips - and there is Gopals - the Hari Krishna cafe that I didn't mention (there were too many places to mention) where I think they cook without onion and garlic so you might get a meal there at least. Maybe some stuff on the brunswick ploughman's platter might be ok for you and maybe the CLT or other bagel sort of rolls.

      There are a lot of sandwich bars where you can choose very plain salad ingredients to go into your sandwich and I think you would probably do ok there but it is not fine dining. However I think there are more and more cafes that make an effort to cater for different dietary requirements so you might manage

    4. Thank you Johanna.
      The good side of it all is I get to cook at home a lot (I am work-at-home freelancer so this is no problem at all) and my husband cooks too, so I get to eat lovely things (I am only vegetarian, not vegan, but I often find vegan food much more interesting and yours here (the pics) just looks fabulous).

      What never fails to amaze me is the general use of garlic (and onions) in all kinds of cuisines ... Greek? Check. Italian? German? French? Spanish? Check. They all claim garlic as one of their special national spices or what. We have a great Indian restaurant where I live but even they forget my plea to leave out the garlic sometimes - I have an Ayurveda cookbook and it contains no garlic at all, but the same meals :-)
      And whenever I have a look at one of those lovely vegan books ... the same story: "Chop some garlic and onions and then try to find out which other ingredients you'd like to add" :-) (sorry, but if something tastes so bad and is everywhere, one gets a bit sarcastic, especially since most things would taste great without it, too.) Luckily, I can ignore it in recipes and as I said, I have time to cook at home, so no problem there. During our last visit in Georgia (Caucasus) we mostly bought food in supermarkets and risked a few restaurant visits asking about the ingredients and it was no problem, either. But generally, visiting a country and simply taking it for granted they don't use garlic & Co. if it is not written on the menu ... that's a bad idea. Well. :-)

  5. I so so wish there were more choices where I live, other the cafe that I worked nowhere does good vegan or vegetarian food, the closest city Cardiff is beginning to have some vegan and vegetarian offerings, even pop ups - but I have to say the standard is average (canteen style) and the food not particularly innovative. I am just drooling and am in total envy at what you have enjoyed and introduced us too, should I ever be in Melbourne I wont be short of places to choose from, and should i ever find myself there, I will be in touch x

    1. Thanks Shaheen - I would love you to be in touch if you are in Melbourne (and I would love you to try some of the cafes in Melbourne). It is hopeful that you say things are changing in Cardiff. When I started blogging 7 years ago there was nothing like this - it really seems to have changed hugely over this time so there is hope for Cardiff.

  6. What a amazing resource, Johanna! I know where to look next time I'm in Melbourne. I'm also going to share with my cousin who lives there. It all looks so good!

    1. Thanks Kate - if you have a cousin living here sound like you have good reason to visit - good company and good food :-)

  7. I've also started noticing a lot more vegan places popping up and regular restaurants serving more vegan options. I do love the look of that very generous serve of nachos! xx

    1. Thanks Charlie - the nachos were delicious - and yes there are more vegan options but it can be confusing to follow the notation showing veg food - I got so confused at a cafe recently that had V and VO next to some dishes but not next to others that were vegetarian.

  8. So many veg-friendly places!! I love it.

  9. Fun! I love how vegan-friendly it is. If I ever make it out there, I know I have some places to check out. I especially love the sound of the Raw Hawaiian Live Pizza and the cupcakes.

  10. Yay - thank you for posting this. I've only been to Melbourne once, but I loved it, and I hope to get back there before too long and eating my way around town!

  11. Great post Green Gourmet Giraffe! And thanks for the plug :-)


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