Don't like food with faces? Melbourne chefs are paying attention
Vegetarian? Want to throttle the next person who tries to fob you off with a mushroom risotto or a pumpkin foccacia? In the past, vegetarian restaurants have been synonymous with student hangouts – often doling up a cheap buffet of lentils and curries, while the bigger players – likely the places you would want to go to celebrate, have traditionally made minimal concessions for those who don’t like food with faces. But times they are a-changing, and smart chefs are coming to the table with entire fine-dining veg-degs, making dining out as a vegetarian a handicap no more.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a chef who digs their fruit and veg as much as Ben Shewry. Attica’s chef is a forager, an artist, and the owner of two deeply tainted green thumbs. Shewry tackles Attica’s all-veg, eight-course degustation ($180) with relish (pun intended), with his trademark dish of potato, baked in its own earth, putting in repeat appearances. Ripponlea.
With such a bounteous garden at hand, meat-free options are the way to go here. Indonesian eggs, organic and fried, come served on rice with a chilli sambal, soy, peanuts and coriander, and vegan or not, try the slow-cooked baked beans. The dish is like a spicy vegetarian cassoulet, and shows that life can be just dandy sans sausage. Brunswick East.
This Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Southbank has made such faux meat their specialty; everything from roast duck to shark fin soup is on the menu, completely meat free. The mock meat is made from soy protein and seitan so if you are missing a certain something in your stir fry why not grab some honey barbecue not-quite-pork. Southbank.
Weekend brunch doesn't have to mean bacon all round. Your dining companion can by all means order the bacon steak and smoked jalapeno cheese croquette and fried eggs, but half the brunch menu is totally meat free so that means that veggos and carnivores can all dine together in peace and harmony, and no one need feel hard done by. Melbourne.
Join travellers, starving students and crusty locals around the open kitchen, where the menu has no prices and the good vibes no bounds. Pay what you can for the daily array of vegetarian curries, cakes, salads and bakes. The okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) is a local favourite, lacy around the edges, studded with shredded vegies, vegan mayo and sweet chilli sauce. St Kilda.
Knowing that sometimes vegetarians get drunk and want to pound grease too, LOTF does poutine (vegetarian gravy, chips and vego cheese), soy chicken nuggets, veggie burgers and no-animals-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-this dawgs. They also have 14 different sauces for their fries and onion rings, one of the greatest vegan fast food snacks the world has ever known. Melbourne.
MBD has a tonne of them and they’re all good. Even if you’re not a card-carrying member of the green bean army, they do some of the best coffee on the south side. Meat fiend or not, tell us you don’t want to eat a mushroom medley of king, shitake and swiss browns roasted and mounted on a slab of pumpkin polenta bread with goat cheese, thyme, and chilli oil. Balaclava.
Dip into Hana Assafiri’s spiced, buttery chickpea casserole while sipping on your fresh mint tea and you’ll quickly find yourself in vego heaven. This little haunt on St Georges Road has been churning out an endless parade of vegetables and legumes, worked into an unlikely number of textures and flavours for years, and shows no sign of stopping. Fitzroy North.
It may be a more expensive option, but their kitchen crew does more than put a bit of cumin in some lentils and call it a day. Here you get individually pinched dumplings filled with sweetcorn, chia seeds, water chestnuts and almond meal that are then poached in a mild coconut lemongrass and lesser galangal (krachai) broth with a few drops of a mild chilli oil. Carlton.
Shu Liu sticks to his Sichuan roots, which means there’s a lot of hot and numbing action happening here. They do a $40 and $60 Sichuan experience tasting menu here that you can request as gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, or just pop in a humpday for the vegan Wednesdays 12 course banquet. Collingwood.
The menu may be vegetarian, but it doesn’t want for lack of meat. Try the four grain salad. The rich mix of lentils, quinoa, rice and farrow fleshed out with carrot, almond and corriander comes in a recycled jar like a zesty, edible terrarium. Or for something with a serious slow burn factor try the pine mushroom and brown rice risotto with garlic. Melbourne.
Good vibes in taco form have been rolling out the door at Trippy since it was a questionable looking hole in the wall on Smith Street. It’s still casual, but the move to bigger digs on Gertrude Street means your spicy tofu asada burrito (a torpedo of marinated tofu, black beans, salad, avocado and optional cheese) now comes with slick décor and the occasional live gig on the side. Fitzroy.
The massive barn of a space, with a craft beer list, blasting soundtrack and a team of hot waiters is certainly a drawcard, but so is the internationally ambiguous menu touting chilli-laden stir fries, pizze, burritos and mammoth salads of chickpeas, corn, cauliflower, green matter and samosas, all for less than a twenty. Namaste. Fitzroy.
If you’re simply fighting the good fight for your furry friends on principle, and craving a hit of beefcake, a little manipulated been curd can help keep you clean. Y’know, like methadone. Once swamped by a little black bean sauce and chilli, it’s bizarrely close to the real deal and if you can figure out how they manage to recreate the crisp skinned roast duck, you’re a genius. Melbourne.
Yong Green is a mostly vegan and vegetarian restaurant specialising in painstakingly recreating dishes like nachos and lasagne with raw, animal-free ingredients. Their ‘rawsagne’ is a rainbow bright stack, with cellophane thin slices of zucchini playing pasta, and mushrooms, tomato salsa and a smooth, nutty cashew sauce filling out the body. Fitzroy.
More vegetarian friendly places
|Loving Hut||Friends of the Earth||Brunswick Mess Hall|
|The Tofu Shop||The Mercy Seat||Grumpy's Green|
|Moon Under Water||Anada||Munster Haus|
|Merry Cupcakes||Sprout Health Store||Crumbs|
|Mama Ganoush||Soul Food Café||Cornish Arms|
|Om Vegetarian||Mr Natural||Crossways|