You're spoiled for choice at some of Melbourne's best vegetarian restaurants. This city is home to some long-serving heroes – meat-free institutions like Shakahari and Moroccan Soup Bar have been winning hearts for decades. But fully vego restaurants aside, eating meat-free at some of the bigger players isn't as hard as it once was. If you know where to go, you should have no problem dining just as well as your carnivore counterparts.
Vego and vego-friendly restaurants
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 life-giving North African cuisine here for over a decade, which is why we awarded Assafiri our Legend Award at 2015's Time Out Food Awards.
Owners Mo Wyse and chef Shannon Martinez have been pushing Spanish/Latin American vegan eats and horchata highballs at this punk of a Fitzroy diner for years. Midway through 2018, they decided to change pace and turn Smith & Daughters into an Italian eatery with just the same amount of flair and meatless wonders. Keep in mind that the ever-changing menu is made for sharing, so you'll want to bring your crew.
Shortly after opening Smith & Daughters, Martinez and Wyse came up with a different, but no less inspired, concept; an all-vegan take on the Jewish deli. Here, you can stock up on 'ham', 'salami', antipasto goods and sticky, sweet buns, or grab a sandwich (filled with delicious imposter smallgoods, of course) to go.
It’s been around 30 years since Vegie Bar first wowed Brunswick Street. Now Laki Papadopoulos and Mark Price have upped the ante with Transformer, a grown-up vego restaurant tucked in the smartest warehouse transformation you ever did see. The focus is on haute meat-free cuisine without the capital V, with no well-worn vegetarian menu staples in sight.
If you're a regular at this Fitzroy stalwart, then you know how to wait. And you know it's worth it. Decades on, Vegie Bar is a well-oiled machine, pumping out everything from well-priced, generous salads to a bean burrito with the works, with organic wines and superfood smoothies to wash it down.
It may be a more expensive option, but the kitchen crew at this Carlton institution does much 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.
Built in 1854, the Cornish Arms has been a mainstay of Brunswick social life for over a century. It also boasts what is probably the most comprehensive vegan pub menu in Melbourne. If you can figure out how the chefs magic up a vegan fisherman's basket – complete with bean curd fish, vegan prawns and calamari – then you're a genius.
Formerly La Bussola, this East Brunswick pizzeria has maintained its neighbourhood restaurant feel (think shiny brown floor tiles and exposed brick walls), but has also added some contemporary touches, like the option of vegan cheese. There are plenty of vego options; the potato number with caramelised onions and leeks is a standout.
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 ($220) with relish (pun intended), with his trademark dish of potato, baked in its own earth, putting in repeat appearances.
2015 was the year that the three Bertoncello brothers – the eldest of which is 27 – burst into Beaconsfield with a degustation-only fine dining restaurant and a commitment to champion locally sourced vegetables. They'll happily adapt your meal to be meat-free, so file this in the special occasion folder, vegetarians.
Simple, honest Lebanese fare is the mainstay of this East Brunswick restaurant, which means that vegos naturally get a solid look-in. 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.