If you don’t like food with faces (or food derived from animal products, like dairy or egg), it’s becoming easier and easier to eat out, and eat well. Some are embracing veganism as a lifestyle choice; others are passionate about animal rights. Whatever your reason, it’s always good to have some vegan dining options up your sleeve. These are the best (but no means all) vegan-friendly restaurants in Melbourne. For more healthy food options, check out Melbourne's best vegetarian restaurants and smoothie joints.
Melbourne's best vegan restaurants
An extension of Smith and Daughters, Smith and Deli is loosely based on a traditional New York-style deli in Fitzroy where sweet doughnuts, croissants, tasty bagels and the perfect egg salad sandwich (perfectly named The Eggs-orcist) all come completely animal product-free. With communal seating and lively artworks and many munching away on faux turkey and other deli meat delights, it’s a friendly place to stop in on your way to work for a salad or a bagel, or on your way home in the evening.
Here’s the thing about vegan cheese: it’s usually terrible. How glorious, then, to pick up a slice of fresh-out-the-woodfired-oven Margherita and bite into a dollar-sized dollop of creamy white fior di latte sitting atop a tangy, slightly-sweet San Marzano tomato base. The crust: thin, lightly charred, with just the right amount of chew. The pizza: entirely vegan. This fantasy is now a reality at Red Sparrow Pizza.
There's more to this health-conscious café than bright green matcha lattes and multicoloured luxury smoothies. The all-vegan menu is incredibly inventive: there's a fascinating vegan poached 'egg', a soy chicken burger and a hearty pumpkin gnocci. And don't get us started on the vegan slices.
This vegetarian and vegan dining institution has existed for more than two decades, and it just seems to keep getting more popular. It's always busy here, and it's the quality of the plant-based food that keeps crowds coming back for more. The specials boards are updated frequently and always worth the time to read – perennial favourites on the regular menu include the 'mostly greens' stir-fry, a bean burrito served with the works, and some mighty fine vegetarian pizzas for under a tenner.
This take-away spot makes plant-based desserts: we're talking soft serve, gelato and cakes, plus maca fudge bars, matcha almond tarts and bounty bites. On the drinks menu, you'll find spiced mylks, cold pressed juices, smoothies and thick shakes (all vegan, of course). The best part? Girls and Boys is right next door to Vegie Bar, which means you can grab the perfect after-dinner sweet treat after feasting on hearty vego meals.
This Fitzroy institution specialises in organic (and often raw) ingredients, which are used to create dishes that span the world’s cuisines and cater to all manner of diets and intolerances. Popular raw items include raw nachos, a raw nutty burger, and their innovative ‘Rawsagne’. Remember to save room for desserts which includes pecan pie, carrot cake, and cheesecake.
This petite Mexican eatery is all about big flavours without the animal involvement: we’re talking mouth-watering tacos, burritos and quesadillas with vegan soy cheese. Our pick is the tofu asada burrito: the tofu marinated in a sauce that is satisfyingly smoky and ever-so-sweet. Just up for a snack? Go for the fries with paprika seasoning, washed down with a light Pacifico beer.
With a strong focus on Indian and Sri Lankan-based cuisine, Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on the generosity of patrons, partners and volunteers and helps to provide employment for those less fortunate. Our pick is on the Abbotsford Convent branch, which offers a buffet filled with curries, salads and rice and beautiful views of the Convent grounds.
You don’t always expect to find great eateries in shopping malls; but that’s where Emporium differs. Head up to the third level and get set for a delicious, affordable vegan banquet. Here, diners select all the components – proteins, vegetables and sauces – which go into a big, hearty bowl. Snacks-wise, there are house-roasted kale chips with paprika, fruit salads and fresh juices.
Opened in 1972, Carlton stalwart Shakahari has earned its name as one of the most innovative vegan restaurants in Melbourne. Their hearty dishes are centred around Japanese and Indian cuisine, from bite-sized fried wedges of avocado to laksa and curries. The krub phom dumplings, filled with sweet corn, mushroom, pumpkin and walnuts, melt in your mouth.
More meat-free dining
When it comes to vegetarian dining, Melbourne is home to some long-serving heroes – meat-free institutions like Shakahari and Moroccan Soup Bar have been winning hearts for decades. Thankfully, the last few years have seen a resurgence of the humble veg, as chefs step up to work their magic on plant-based foods.