Veganism is no longer a trend in Sydney – you only have to look at local pubs that have switched out steaks for pulled jackfruit, pizzerias saying farewell to milky mozzarella and the number of purely plant-based eateries popping up across the city to know that the shift towards plant-based eating is well and truly here to stay.
Surry Hills has long had Yulli’s to cover your veggo nights out, but there’s now a daytime destination in the Shift Eatery, a vegan café and delicatessen peddling super sandwiches, tiny sweet treats and solid coffee. Did you know the humble Ruben sandwich has a vegan brother? He’s a lot younger, more sustainable, and a lot less meaty – his name is Steve.
The Steve Sandwich – like the seven other sarnies on menu – uses meat and mayo substitutes, many of which are inspired by popular carnivorous favourites. The ‘Join the Club’ piles up “chicken” schnitzel, “turkey” slices and “cheddar cheese”. If that feels like a few too many air quotes, we’re with you. They don’t clarify what the faux alternatives on the menu are, precisely, making your selection process harder than it needs to be. What is the chicken, if it’s not chicken? After a chat with our waiter we find out the peppery turkey is made in house using seitan (also known as wheat gluten or wheat meat) and the schnitty is soy and potato-based, made by Fry’s Family Food. The vegan aioli really makes an argument for passing on its eggy counterpart – it adds creaminess and zest. The bright orange slices of cheddar boasts a very similar consistency to a Kraft single. The schnitzel is mostly a wheat crumbed coating, but fills out the sandwich nicely, and the avo, tomato and lettuce do what they do best. The only thing missing is a chutney or salsa to really make this a banger sanga, but we're not missing the meat.
If it’s a no-go for faux, try the big bad bowl, which comes packed with roasted pumpkin, warm rice, spicy beans and acidic sauerkraut. There’s a nice contrast of textures between squashy eggplant and fresh salad leaves, and for what is ostensibly a salad, you’re left feeling properly full. Add in a smoothie (the Berry Nice is a strawberry-fuelled, creamy delight, but at $10 is a little steep for a beverage) or a coffee (the slow drip uses beans from the nearby Sample Roasters) and you’ve got a damn fine midday repast.
For takeaways, there’s a fridge stacked with many of the vegan substitutes you’ll find on the menu – it’d be very easy to spend a day’s pay on organic macadamia Persian feta; caramelised beetroot dip; black miso and garlic kim chi; and mango coconut flavoured ice cream.
Whether you’re a carnivore looking for a little help with meat-free Mondays or a full-time vegan, Shift Eatery is doing some of the most creative meat-free alternatives in town. This little deli makes a good argument for shifting gears over to plant-based dining, or at least trying something new.