Raw, plant-based and vegan foods are taking over Australian menus. Here are a few of the most photogenic – and tastiest.
By Georgia Rickard
Australia’s vegan dining scene has undergone a revolution in recent years. From high-end degustation to fast-food takeaway, plant-based, ethical and animal-free options are increasingly available – and very Instagram-worthy. Obviously we can’t mention all of Australia’s vegan treats, but here are some of the newest and most photo-friendly taste experiences on offer.
Australia’s vegan burger craze was arguably started by Matcha Mylkbar (a plant-based cafe in Melbourne) with green burger buns that were a social media hit twice over – firstly for their unusual colouring and secondly when a staff member blended an entire burger with a matcha latte and fries and drank the results. But it’s the cafe's latest addition, the “black on black” burger, that’s their newest phenomenon. In a charcoal bun, you’ll find a thick black bean and quinoa patty topped with black garlic, caramelised onion, oak lettuce, tomato and dripping layers of mushroom cream and almond brie cheese. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, however, you’ll need to head to vegan-based Soul Burger in Sydney where their Burger of the Month gets people talking. One creation featured a burger with every single ingredient listed on the menu, stacked between two buns carefully balanced on top of a coconut thickshake, with two syringes (ketchup and mustard aioli) plunged in for much-needed structural support!
Vegan cakes are nothing new in Australia but the rise in ethical and plant-based diets has seen a new version of the trend: vegan raw cakes. In Canberra, locals are crazy for the cakes at The Local Press, a wholefoods cafe that not only serves its own raw creations, but regularly hosts dinners with Anthea Cheng, owner of vegan Instagram account @rainbownourishments. In Sydney, locals frequent Earth to Table, an organic, plant-based eatery in Bondi with an ever-changing menu of raw, prettily decorated cheesecakes, tortes and decadent trifles. In Melbourne, people are queuing everywhere for raw vegan cakes – at Shokiku, Raw Trader Cafe, Yardmill, Vegie Bar and Combi, for starters. But it’s the treats at Mister Nice Guy’s Bakeshop that really take the cake. Admittedly, their vegan “unicorn milkshake cake” isn’t actually raw, but when you’re eating something this cute, it really doesn’t matter.
Vegan high teas
There are several established vegan high tea experiences available in Australia, but one stands out above the rest. Perth’s Flora & Fauna Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall eatery serving gorgeous vegan treats (we like the baked apple crumble breakfast) in surrounds to match, featuring multicoloured bunting and mismatched chairs. Once you’ve cooed over the cute decor, settle in for a pile of sweet and savoury house-made treats such as rose water cupcakes, apple crumble and spiced pumpkin cheesecake. Make sure you get in quick, as their high teas operate seasonally and you’ll need to book in advance to reserve your place.
Sydney institution Yellow Dining – sister to acclaimed restaurants Monopole and Bentley – relaunched its entire menu as vegetarian just last year, a sure signal of Australian chefs’ changing sensibilities. Virtually everything on the menu is artistically presented – including the seven-course degustation, which is an Insta-feast from start to finish. While the menu changes too frequently to highlight any specific dishes, you can expect inventive creations like their recent “avocado + pistachio + tomatillo” course, which featured a finely diced salad of pistachio, tomatoes, avocado and fermented yuzu dressing in a hollowed-out avocado shell, served on a bed of ice.
If it’s degustation you’re after, you’ll also want to head to Melbourne’s Transformer, an entirely vegetarian restaurant where the degustation menu features work-of-art dishes such as native spiced beetroots, macadamia cream, finger limes, salt bush and samphire. In fact, plenty of high-end restaurants offer dedicated vegan degustation menus in Australia – Attica, Otto and Aria among them.
Vegan breakfast bowls
The breakfast bowl is arguably the most popular vegan trend to have infiltrated modern Australian cafe menus. These beautifully presented concoctions generally consist of fresh, brightly coloured, frozen fruit whipped with coconut water, milk or cream into a smooth consistency and topped with pretty much anything you can imagine. At Folk in Byron Bay and its twin cafe, Woods in nearby Bangalow, bowls are sprinkled with edible flowers and served with house-made cashew and almond milk, while Adelaide’s RAW serves its bowls with toasted nuts and dragonfruit balls. Of course, it’s hard to go past the Insta-favourite Blue Bowl at Sydney’s Concrete Jungle Cafe – especially when you know that despite that almost unreal colouring, the meal is made with health-promoting ingredients such as coconut water, blackberries and blue-green algae (which is surprisingly delicious). Bon appetit!
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