In a nation with an eye on healthy living and a thriving restaurant scene, plant-based dining is deliciously prolific throughout Australia.
By Jac Taylor
Many Australians enjoy a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. As a result, you won't have any difficulty finding great vegetarian or vegan meal choices. Countless multicultural influences and Australia's proximity to Asia have contributed to a growing enthusiasm for meat-free dining even among meat eaters, and ethically produced, cruelty-free and raw cuisine are all increasingly popular trends being adopted by the Australian population. Several of our trendiest city eateries offer separate vegetarian or vegan menus. Here are some great places where fabulous gastronomy, fresh produce and ethical eating intersect.
A wonderland of eateries from every conceivable nationality and philosophy, the laneways and precincts of Melbourne are home to some of the most innovative vegetarian cuisine in the country. In foodie district Brunswick you can tuck into vegetarian Lebanese soul food at Téta Mona or clean-eating treats such as raw curries or tacos at the stalwart Vegie Bar. The beachside enclave of St Kilda is home to Matcha Mylkbar and its famous vegan eggs (try the blue-algae latte, you'll be surprised). Melbourne is also the original home of fast-food juggernaut Lord of the Fries, which serves up vegetarian burgers, french fries with a range of vegetarian toppings, and even vegetarian hot dogs. You'll also find the longest continuously running Chinatown outside of Asia in Melbourne, where cheap vegetarian dumplings are available on every corner.
Adelaide punches well above its weight in both international flavours and specialised dining. The beautiful beachside suburb of Glenelg offers a great range of healthy options. Visit The Organik Store & Café, The Annex or RAW Conscious Eatery for vegan and vegetarian wraps, smoothies, juices, salads, burgers, sandwiches and more. In the nearby city centre there's also plenty to choose from, including Nutrition Republic, a raw, vegan, paleo cafe (try the peanut butter and caramel cake). At the other end of the spectrum is a true fine dining experience at Hill of Grace restaurant, where a vegan degustation menu can be organised with some advance notice. And if you feel like something sweet after all that, don't miss the Eggless Dessert Café in the city for… well, you can probably guess.
The subtropical capital city of Queensland, Brisbane has recently enjoyed an explosion of refined dining and creative cuisine options, with particular emphasis on cruelty-free dining. Many renowned restaurants here offer vegetarian degustation experiences, including Bacchus, The Foraging Quail and Urbane. There are also plenty of fantastic options at the lower end of the price range. Keep an eye out for Vege Rama, a vegetarian burger chain with two city outlets. Indulge in Brisbane's love of the brunch tradition by sampling the organic breakfast options at the longstanding institution, Fundies Wholefood Café or at health-conscious Sourced Grocer in the funky riverside neighbourhood of Newstead. The pretty inner city suburb of Red Hill boasts equally pretty salads at Botanica, too.
The nation's capital has four distinct seasons, so summery salads and hearty winter feasts are as important as each other. Happily, as the city's dining culture continues to evolve, so does the range of choice available to vegetarians and vegans. Sweet Bones Bakery Café not only serves up towering special-occasion cakes, but filling chilli "cheeze" dogs and flavourful soups, while The Cupping Room in Civic, though not entirely vegetarian, keeps coffee-loving plant eaters happy with plenty of choice for breakfast and lunch.
Darwin's year-round tropical warmth and close proximity to Asia (it's closer to Asia than it is to the nearest Australian capital city, Brisbane), has resulted in a well established culture of outdoor food markets. Add a multi-ethnic population, including a particularly sizeable Greek community, and you've got a recipe for fabulous food. This includes countless plant-based food options, especially at Saturday morning Parap markets, Sunday morning Nightcliff markets and Sunday evening Mindil markets. Look out for coconut-steamed rice bowls, spicy vegetable laksas, and many options at Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai and Japanese food stalls, as you wander with a refreshing tropical fruit smoothie in hand (a Darwin speciality). There are also plenty of excellent, affordable Greek restaurants in Darwin, including Yots and Manolis Greek Taverna, which serve authentic Greek cuisine with lots of fresh vegetarian fare.
Tasmania's famously fresh air is matched by a fresh attitude to food. Locals are passionately dedicated to locally and ethically grown food, a trend visible in Hobart's new crop of popular restaurants. Sip beautifully fresh juice-based concoctions alongside vegan nachos at Pulp Friction, or sip shop-roasted coffee with your vegetarian, gluten-free chocolate-dipped giant pretzels at Straight Up Coffee and Food. In a suitably historic building in picture-perfect Battery Point, the Pollen Tea Room has you covered for vegetarian and vegan offerings alongside high-end teas, kombucha and a fragrant ginger, mint and lemongrass brew.
Dining by the Indian Ocean or the Swan River, enjoying the balmy breeze… that's Perth. A city addicted to good living, Perth throws equal enthusiasm into both raw eating and fresh vegetarian cuisine. The gluten-free, dairy-free, low-GI, plant-based food at the popular Little Shop of Plenty, just out of the city, provides colourful, vibrant nutrition. Over at Flora & Fauna, a Summer Love juice cocktail and hearty dishes crowned with fresh flowers, served alfresco, are hard to beat for sheer charm. Down in oceanside Fremantle, The Raw Kitchen brings raw, vegan purity to its hip warehouse weekend dinners.
Sophisticated Sydney is spoilt for choice when it comes to meat-free eating. Those in the know head to Nourishing Quarter in edgy inner city Redfern for vegan Vietnamese, where the twice-nightly sittings (6pm and 8pm) are regularly booked out. Or they go to ultra-chic vegetarian restaurant Yellow, in the cosmopolitan suburb of Potts Point. Yum cha (dim sum) is an adopted Sydney pastime thanks to the city's large Asian population, and Bodhi serves a vegan version under the branches of giant fig trees in the city (just behind towering St Mary's Cathedral). For something different, hop on a train out to suburban Harris Park, where Wigram Street is lined with enough Indian restaurants to make you think you’ve hopped on a plane instead. Sydney has a well established Indian population, and most restaurants here offer extensive or entirely vegetarian or vegan menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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