Long gone are the days when mushroom risotto was the only option on Sydney menus for vegetarians. Okay, so a few places are still championing that veggo restaurant staple, but if you know where to go, you need never set eyes on it again. From crisp fried saltbush to chewy Korean dumplings and the mushroom burger of your dreams, here’s where to eat in Sydney for veggos – and, for that matter, everyone else too. Of course if you're a dedicated herbivore, you can find Sydney's best vegan restaurants here too.
Try the: linguine with black garlic and burnt chilli
Mitch Orr’s food may not be traditional Italian but the man knows his way around a plate of pasta, which is why there’re seven variations on the menu at ACME, along with one teeny tiny bologna sandwich. The cooking here is good – and a good time – and you can bring all your meat-free friends for bowls of the malty linguine with a little chilli that gets a lift from black garlic and gentle crunch thanks to tiny crumbs of pangrattato.
Try the: tempura saltbush
When Bar H opened doors in 2010, it set the tone for a new Sydney: mid-priced restaurants offering high-end food – a lot like Melbourne has done for years. Now it's the new normal, but Bar H hasn’t rested on its laurels – it keeps evolving. They do things they’re interested in and at the moment, it’s Chuka cuisine, which is basically Japan’s version of Chinese food. Check out the tempura saltbush. Whole branches of the scrubby plant are deep-fried and served with a cheek of lemon. Pluck the tender, velvety leaves and run them through a side of spicy mayo.
Try the: steamed hokkien noodles
The new Billy Kwong is buzzing and packed, but these days you can book. The other good news is that they cater to vegetarians with aplomb, serving up steamed hokkien noodles in a mindlessly delicious tangle of hot, refreshing and fragrant herbs (coriander, holy basil, mint), dill, thinly sliced cucumber, bean shoots and a julienne of carrots that’ll make even the most hard-bitten carnivore reconsider a herbivorous lifestyle.
Try the: burrata with basil oil, beetroot and sourdough crumbs
Turns out Ormeggio at the Spit’s casual offshoot Chiosco is Sydney's dining unicorn, offering up a waterfront and BYO experience that won’t break the bank. Don’t dig meat? The menu provides ample entertainment that’s free of it. Start with creamy rounds of burrata, drizzled with basil oil and sweetened with beetroot wedges and crunched up with sourdough crumbs. Want more? Order a little wooden box filled with four battered zucchini flower parcels stuffed with goat cheese – crisp, fresh, and creamy all at once.
Try the: reginella
Clearly the roast pork is a drawcard at Maurice Terzini’s most recent Bondi restaurant, but a lot of room is taken up by a huge roaring pizza oven, and not giving the pizza menu some dedicated study time is guaranteed to cause some FOMO later down the track. The pizze are really excellent. The bases are that magic mix of soft yet charred and blackened, beautifully seasoned and smoky, and the fresh, light and simple reginella is Orazio’s ode to the Margherita: tomato, fior di latte and basil leaves.
Try the: cauliflower with almond and mint
Eating in Sydney right now is as much about the good times as it is about what’s on the plate and in the glass and Chippendale wonder Ester is doing something completely their own. The menu goes hard on wood-fired smoke and funk, and it does amazing things to your veg. Roasted Dutch carrots sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and swiped through a whipped parmesan cream are like an autumnal still life and we’re fairly confident that if Ester ever took the whole roasted head of cauliflower with mint and toasted almonds off the menu, the vegetarians of Sydney would riot.
Try the: veggie burger
You may have heard about these guy's epic hamburgers, but did you know they do a kickass veggie burger to boot? Inspired by the owner's favourite veggie burger, the celebrated Superiority Burger in New York, the badboy is made from a blend of brown rice, sweet potato, psyllium husk and whole black beans, which are slightly undercooked, lending the burger a pleasingly nubbly, meat-like texture. And it doesn't give you the bloat, which is major kudos for a veggie burger.
Try the: evergreen
The food at ex-Ormeggio head chef Federico Zanellato's first solo restaurant, LuMi in Pyrmont, revels in the spaces between Italian and Japanese. It’s $95pp for an eight-course degustation, and they’ll happily make it a vegetarian bonanza if you’d prefer. Either way you’ll get a shot at the evergreen – a pre-dessert celebrating all things green. A quenelle of sorrel sorbet sits atop zingy lemon basil granita, minty meringues impersonating petit pois and shiso jelly. It’s not savoury. It’s not sweet. It's... somewhere in the middle.
Try the: mushroom burger
Chin up, carrot lovers: Mary's isn't just for them filthy carnivores. In addition to the beef burgers you’re seeing at market stalls all over town, and now at the new city takeaway digstoo, the Mary’s crew also do a mushroom burger – you get that soft, sweet bun and all the trimmings, only with a mushroom patty instead of meat. How nice is that?
Try the: tteokbokki
At this pared-back Redfern restaurant you get Korean food, but not as you know it. Probably. What Moon Park definitely is, and we can confirm it with our mouths, is a world of good eats executed with great skill. The menu is broken into little and larger dishes meant for sharing, but you can also do a banquet menu for $65pp. Make sure to double down on the Tteokbokki, those glutinous little cylindrical rice cakes rolled in chunky, chopped-up toasted peanuts and knock them back with icy cold tins of OB beer.
Try the: Ora bowl
Ora in Manly is the epitome of all the good things health food can be, with most ingredients sourced locally and organically, plenty of veggie and vegan options, and everything ethical. The 'Ora bowl' sees a big bowlful of fresh greens and herbs tossed with little hunks of roast cauliflower, fine rounds of crisp radish among pink-toned, housemade sauerkraut and toasted sesame and sunflower seeds. There are spoonfuls of various dips on top and you can choose between shredded chipotle chicken, haloumi or avo as your protein component. Whatever you choose (we go with deliciously waxy, charred haloumi), it’s dressed with tahini sauce infused with coriander and lime essential oils (genius!).
Try the: Sumo burger
The burgers in this Randwick restaurant are vegan, and they taste so meaty it’s actually a bit scary. The Sumo burger is a beast: the patty is paired with soft, buttery, chargrilled field mushrooms, a pepper-spiked (plant-based) sausage and silky swathe of roast red capsicum, lettuce, tomato and a fresh tasting tomato relish. It's so tall that it’s almost impossible to eat as a burger. Instead we Jenga that shit right up and nibble on bits and bobs as we go. And it’s excellent: smoky, textural, and full of contrasting – complementing – flavours.
Try the: kohlrabi and enoki
Yellow went veggo in early 2016, and it's so amazing that we awarded it an extra star. They even do a vegan degustation. A dish of kohlrabi and enoki mushrooms will make you wonder why you would even bother eating meat. Crunchy ribbons of the earthy radish decorate a base of nubbly enoki, and the umami-dense vegetable consommé is thick and viscous. Paired with a textural, savoury, skin contact Pecorino from Italy, this is one of the best things we've eaten in ages.
What about your vegan friends?
It doesn't matter if you’re a full-time herbivore or just dabbling in some cruelty-free alternatives, these are the best vegan restaurants around Sydney, from a cheese-free slice at Gigi's Pizzeria to a plant-based burger from Soul Burger. Or maybe it's yum cha that's calling your name. It's all here and totally meat and dairy-free. Want more? Check out Sydney's best vegetarian restaurants.
How about a spot of the outdoors?
Natural beauty is one of Sydney's best assets, so it makes sense you'd want to experience a night or two in the city's great outdoors. Fortunately, camping around Sydney is not only possible, it's often very affordable. Check out our edit of the city's best camping sites for the chance to wake up next to the Harbour, adjacent to crashing waves, or deep in a national park.