Time Out Melbourne

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.

Enlightened Cuisine

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.

The Grain Store

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.

Lentil as Anything: St Kilda

Join travellers, 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.

Lord of the Fries

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. Melbourne.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

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.

Moroccan Soup Bar

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 Restaurant

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.

Veggie Villa

These guys are 100percent meat free and drawing us in with an impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. They've got pretty much every cuisine covered with a menu spanning from samosas and sushi to Greek salad and Mexican red chilli bean. If eating raw is more your style, they've got you sorted with raw pizza, raw lasagna and raw Pad Thai. Flemington.

Radhey Kitchen and Chai Bar

These guys are all about the karma-free eating, cooking up vegetarian and vegan dishes with local and organic produce. Their menu includes Mediterranean, Indonesian, Thai and Indian dishes and they've got plenty of gluten-free options too. As the name suggests, these guys also specialise in chai; they serve a full tea menu from their unique chai bar. Fitzroy.

Smith & Daughters

Owners Mo Wyse and chef Shannon Martinez are pushing Spanish/Latin American vegan eats and horchata highballs at this new punk of a Fitzroy diner – which makes Smith and Daughters one hot meatless tamale. The brunch menu includes a killer breakfast burrito and the drinks list has some jam-packed juices, smoothies and cocktails. Fitzroy.

Trippy Taco

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. Fitzroy.

White Lotus

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. 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 Foods

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.

Teta Mona

This is everything a neighbourhood restaurant should be. It's loud, and it’s BYO, with service that's personal if a little bit shambolic during peak times. Vegans get a solid look-in here. Green beans are liberally sluiced in a jammy reduction of olive oil, chilli and garlic and falafel are soft, fragrant pucks made with a green and yellow split pea base for a sweeter spin on the chickpea classic. We’re also keen on a squishy, cumin-y plate of cauliflower florets and eggplant fried with dukka. Brunswick East.


Part juice bar, part café, Combi is a great spot for a midday snack, minus the guilt. The café specializes in vegetarian and vegan options, with house-made almond, soy or coconut milk substitutes in your coffee. For something a bit more substantial than coffee or smoothies, try the Middle Eastern slow cooked lentil and vegetable soup. Elwood.

Five Plus Smoothie Bar

Each smoothie at Five Plus contains your daily portions of five fruit and veggies, and they're all vegan too. They open early so it's a seriously healthy solution for those of us who are too busy (or too lazy) to eat a substantial meal before work. All the smoothies have been designed to have different health benefits too, like the 'New Leaf' which includes spinach, cucumber, coriander, apple, ginger, lemon and coconut oil to help boost your immune system, reduce the effects of allergies, and provide detoxifying benefits for the liver. Melbourne.

Rice Queen

This Oriental diner and bar features pan-Asian cuisine with a different DJ set every night of the week. Their menu is about 50percent vegetarian but 100percent packed with flavour. Try the crispy eggplant with black vinegar foam, multigrain crunch and Shichimi, or the Idonesian gado-gado with tofu, steamed vegetables, bean shoots, fried shallots and a soft egg with satay sauce. If you can't decide what to eat, just choose between the 'me so hungry' (5 dishes) or the 'sumo deluxe' (7 dishes) and sit back while they serve up a banquet. Fitzroy.

Sookie La La Diner

These guys don’t just do burgers, fries and a supersized sundaes, they've thought about the vegetarians and vegans too. They’ve got meat-free American dishes like bagels and massive tofu sandwiches. Most importantly though, for dessert you get a vegan sundae made with 'coconut silk' sorbet. Northcote.

Om Vegetarian

These guys dish out vegetarian and vegan Indian and have the cheapest vegetarian buffet in town at $6.50 for all you can eat. They're serving up curries from shops in Elizabeth Street and Collins Street, and also at their cafe on Swanston. Melbourne.

More vegetarian friendly places

Loving Hut   Friends of the Earth Food Co-op   Brunswick Mess Hall
Loving Hut   Friends of the Earth   Brunswick Mess Hall
The Tofu Shop   The Mercy Seat   Grumpy’s Green
The Tofu Shop   The Mercy Seat   Grumpy's Green
Moon Under Water   Anada   Munster Haus
Moon Under Water   Anada   Munster Haus
Merry Cupcakes   Sprout Health Store and Organic Grocer   Crumbs Organic Bakehouse
Merry Cupcakes   Sprout Health Store   Crumbs
Mama Ganoush   Soul Food Café   The Cornish Arms
Mama Ganoush   Soul Food Café   Cornish Arms
Mister Nice Guy   Mr Natural   Crossways

Which Melbourne bar is the best?

Updated on 25 Mar 2015.

By Gemima Cody   |  
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