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Main meal at Kindred Darlington
Photograph: Anna Kucera

The best restaurants for vegetarians in Sydney

More than a few good reasons to go meat-free

Written by
Time Out editors
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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 staple, but if you know where to go you need never set eyes on it again. Not all of these restaurants are exclusively vegetarian, but everyone on this list is serving the kind of exciting, delicious vegetable-based fare that will make you reconsider meat in favour of a whole head of cauliflower, a perfect pizza or a totally plant-based degustation.

If you're a dedicated herbivore, you can find Sydney's best vegan restaurants.

The best vegetarian restaurants Sydney has to offer

  • Restaurants
  • Potts Point
  • price 2 of 4

When Yellow ditched meat from its dinner menus last February, the staff noticed a surprising change in its diners. Sure, there were more vegetarian and vegan guests – that was a no-brainer. What they didn’t forecast was the mood-lifting cheer that followed the switch: customers didn’t just bring their appetite, they stepped up the niceness and gratitude, buoyed by the arrival of a vegetarian restaurant with fine-dining cred.

  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Woolloomooloo
  • price 2 of 4

Vegan cheese. It’s one of the many oxymoronic snack stars on the menu at Alibi, the wholly veggie bar and restaurant in Woolloomooloo. You’ll find it inside the Ovolo Hotel – and it’s a brave move for a boutique hotel to make its food and beverage offering nut-and-plant-based (or perhaps an indication of how far we’ve come). Whether you’re totally animal-free, lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive or just down to try something different, this platter is creative and moreish.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Woolloomooloo

You might assume the long-running vegan menu at Otto was inspired by some righteous celebrity. After all, this glitzy Woolloomooloo institution is known for being a wharfside runway for stars, and there are many A-listers who are pin-ups for the plant-based diet. Turns out a regular – a vegan diner who has been visiting fortnightly for a decade – was the one who sparked executive chef Richard Ptacnik’s experiments with animal-free dining. And so the question becomes: how does a menu without egg, meat and cheese rate in a restaurant known for stylish updates on Italian food? Well, it turns out you can drop the pork ragù and squid ink and still eat incredibly well at Otto.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Chippendale

For vegetarians, scanning an Italian menu can feel like a game of chance. Spot the right words (stracciatella! brown butter!) and you’re in for a good time, see a bland risotto and the night could be ruined. But at Kindred, Matt Pollock’s homey 40 seater in Darlington, plant-based options dominate the menu, so the odds are ever in your favour. In the 18 months since the neighbourhood Italian opened, the former A Tavola chef has shifted towards a bigger line-up of vego dishes that aren’t just cheaper, but more popular. It’s easy to see why regulars are embracing the switch. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Surry Hills
  • price 3 of 4

Ownership over falafel is a battle zone: Israel, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon all want to claim credit. But here’s an open-and-shut case that everyone can agree on: coating cauliflower in falafel mix and deep-frying it is an excellent thing to do. Especially when it’s served with a creamy pool of harissa-tahini-yoghurt sauce, thinly sliced black grapes and a dusting of dried molokhia, known as Egyptian spinach. That’s the kind of modern spin they’re on classic Middle Eastern dishes at Nour, and for a vegetarian diner, the options are bountiful.

  • Restaurants
  • Newtown

Turns out pizza without cheese is still bloody excellent. Sure, there were a lot of naysayers on the internet when Gigi on South King Street changed to a plant-based menu, but they were wrong, because a chewy, wood-fired pizza base covered in a layer of sweet golden tomato puree and tender ribbons of capsicum gets all the umami depth it needs from a liberal dose of olive tapenade, capers, chilli, oregano and olive oil. The salty, savoury and spice trifecta hits all the right flavour zones on your tongue – we swear you won’t even miss the mozzarella. Don’t believe us? Just try getting a table – it’s a packed house every night.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Marrickville

In a city where you can get pizza by the metre and deep-dish versions impersonating a Mary’s burger, is it still possible to stand out with slices of pie? Yes and Madre in Marrickville is doing just that. This tiny corner pizzeria is the latest venue for Piero Pignatti Morano and Kim Douglas, the A-team behind the ever-popular Two Chaps café, located only blocks away. And they’ve tuned out all the gospel about what makes a classic Italian pizza to create something thoroughly local and unlike anything else around, namely, a dedicated vegetarian pizza restaurant.

  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Pendle Hill

Pendle Hill, a small suburb in the western suburbs, lives large as a busy hub for the Sri Lankan community. The neatly packed Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants and grocery stores along Pendle Way are busy with shoppers and diners stocking up on dried goods, curry spices and something readymade to take home for dinner. The most popular choice is a curry plate, and the place to get it is Abie’s Vegetarian Takeaway. Here, you’ll find all the colours of the edible rainbow in the 20 different all-veg curries on offer.

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  • Restaurants
  • Sydney
  • price 1 of 4

Maybe you thought you’d have to give up on the joys of small plates of dumplings delivered sporadically to your table on a Sunday morning if you went vegan? Well we’re here to tell you that Bodhi Restaurant Bar in the city has your yum cha cravings covered. The only thing missing is the rumbling trolleys, but in exchange you get to eat your cruelty-free sui mai out under the shade of a giant fig tree in Cook and Phillip Park. Mother nature approves.

  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Sydney

You might not expect a seriously schmick wine bar and restaurant housed in the original Fairfax building in the heart of the CBD to be all about inclusivity, but the Bentley Restaurant and Bar by sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage wants everyone to have a good time. If you’re not here for the full sit-down dining experience that’s A-OK. Don’t really dig on eating things with faces? Vegans and vegetarians get their very own tasting menus here – eight courses of the fanciest veg within the city limits. 

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  • Bars
  • Surry Hills
  • price 1 of 4

There seems to be two approaches in Sydney’s vegan dining scene. The first tries to replace and replicate the meat, dairy and egg with faithful recreations. The other school of thought seems to go along the lines of ‘vegetables are fucking awesome’ and lets plants take all the lead roles in the dish. Yulli’s approach is the latter. This long-standing vegetarian eatery on Crown Street also has a dedicated, and expansive, vegan menu, including vegan wines. And don't forget to order the coconut and edamame moneybags: they're a showstopper.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Surry Hills
  • price 1 of 4

Anyone who thinks vegan can’t be fun needs to both update their opinions from 1998 and also get to Bad Hombres, stat. What started as a Mexican Chinese mash-up from Toby Wilson (Ghostboy Cantina), Sean McManus (Neighbourhood Surry Hills) and Jon Kennedy (the Sandwich Shop) with a 60 per cent veg-powered menu has now gone the full vegan and we’re into it.

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  • Restaurants
  • Modern Australian
  • Chippendale

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.

Soul Burger
  • Restaurants
  • Randwick

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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Marrickville

If you’re going to open a coffee place, right up the block from a taxi depot and a primary school is a perfect location. But this warehouse dining room also opens at night with an all-vegetarian, menu of cheese, dips, and antipasti, creative house-made pasta and salads. They release the new menu each week on a Tuesday, and they'll whip up a vegan version for most things so your dairy-free pals can also join the party. 

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