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What Is Melbourne’s Vegetarian Food?

Melbourne is the best city in the world for vegetarians. Every day of the week, from fancy desserts to budget eats, we serve up exciting, inclusive, and delicious plant-centric fare.

Meatless restaurants like Moroccan Soup Bar have been beloved local staples for decades. While finding a place to eat that doesn't serve meat can still be difficult, options have improved greatly in recent years, especially at larger chains. Here are some of the best places to get plant-based takeout or delivery.

The era when vegetarian options were merely lip service has long since passed. Many restaurants now offer entirely vegetarian or vegan menus to promote the health benefits of these foods. Vegetarian and vegan chefs in Melbourne are making their mark on the food scene, with incredible new plant-based restaurants opening every year in neighbourhoods like Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond, and St. Kilda.

Here are the top ten vegetarian eateries in Melbourne, and you'll want to pay attention. That means even your vegetarian friends will want a taste.

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Best Vegetarian Food In Melbourne

Melbourne, Victoria's capital, is no longer a distant second when it comes to meatless dining options. Meat-free diners in Melbourne need not worry about where to find a satisfying meal, as vegetarian restaurants of all price ranges are springing up all over the city.

Plant-based foods are gaining popularity as a result of societal shifts towards more healthful diets and a heightened focus on the sustainability of our food systems.

Smith & Daughters

Fitzroy's Smith & Daughters looks like an old-school rock n roll bar, but the cross-shaped neon sign on the wall tells you why you're here: to 'eat vegan'.

In these days of fake news, fake meat and fake dairy, eating ethically don't mean your only friends are salad. Moreover, abattoirs might soon become obsolete with Silicon Valley start-ups figuring out how to grow our food in labs. But if this all sounds a little to sci-fi, wait till you hear what Shannon Martinez is achieving in her compact kitchen.

Martinez opened Smith & Daughters with business partner Mo Wyse in 2014. Aiming to dispel the myth that vegan cuisine is lacklustre, they started with a Latin-tinged menu but did a switcheroo to Italian in May. A great move – who doesn't love pasta – but how on earth are they going to pull off cured meats and buffalo mozzarella using just plants?

Diehard curd lovers: prepare to be impressed. 

The creamy, slightly sweet ricotta smeared on the pizza fritte is made in-house exactly like dairy milk ricotta but instead soy milk. Sharp, fruity parmesan, a product from Greece, replaces the real thing in many dishes but is especially pronounced in the cacio e Pepe, where thick bucatini noodles are made piquant with loads of Kampot pepper and sticky from black fermented garlic, delivering a strong umami hit despite the non-dairy cheese.

A little poetic faith is required to embrace the 'meat' fully. The mushroom, eggplant, dried tomato and olive mixture that mimics 'Nduja on the pizza fritte is moreish but missing the fiery hit of the spreadable pork salumi. 

The carpaccio arrives looking the part – squinting and low lighting help – with the soft, pink paper-thin 'meat' (points for taste but not so much for texture) crowned with lashings of parmesan, rivulets of bitey horseradish cream, fried capers adding mustardy tang, figs for sweetness, and a mountain of peppery rocket. Raw beef carpaccio, this is not, but the parts work so well together that the fantasy holds up.

Martinez likewise nails the elements in the ragu using a traditional recipe but substituting oxtail with mushrooms that have been dried, shredded and compressed. Sure, you can taste the mushrooms, but with vegan butter adding meat-like sheen and carrot and celery delivering sweetness and depth, she pulls off the slow-cooked, broth-dense flavour and silky texture. Lose a point for the sticky polenta underneath that doesn't quite get the consistency right.

Another upside to veganism is that you can fit more in (read: dessert). Italians will swear you can't make the sabayon, a kind of custard, without eggs, but Martinez does a bang-up job of it in the tiramisu using a sulphuric salt egg yolk substitute. 

Spiked with the fortified wine Marsala, it's folded through a fluffy, soy-based whipped cream, with house-made savoiardi biscuits soaked in espresso and whispers of Strega and amaretto completing the most indulgent vegan dessert you'll ever eat. Or try the Baked Vesuvius – their take on a Bombe Alaska – in which aquafaba whipped into a meringue is torched at your table for maximum theatrics. If vegan food means we can still have our cream and eat our charcuterie, consider us converts.

Veggie Bar

Ahh, Veggie Bar, a Brunswick Street favourite since 1988. We've all heard of this institution putting veggies front and centre, from the menu to the neon Vegie Bar sign out the front. 

The menu is inspired by Asian flavours, with curries, noodle dishes and dahls, but they also have some fabulous veggie-packed pizzas. So get there early, or you'll find yourself in the queue. 

Transformer

Think of this as Vegie Bar's sophisticated older sister. Transformers have taken vegetables into the fine dining sphere in a relaxed Manhattan-style venue, with exposed beams, brick walls and vertical gardens. 

Their 'feed me' menu takes you through seven steps to veggie heaven, all topped off with a great cocktail and wine list. 

Onda

Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will enjoy the hearty, South American-inspired dishes and warm, familiar service at this Melbourne restaurant. In Spanish, the word for "vibes" is "onda," and this spot definitely has that. Each dish on the menu is an elegant fusion of classic and contemporary flavours.

The maple chipotle glazed eggplant, slaw, and red pimento puree burger is a hearty option, and the polenta chips with lime aioli and pickled jalapenos are a tasty appetiser. The drink menu features a range of Spanish and Argentinean classics, as well as some more exotic options like the fiery Cusco cocktail.

Transformer, a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne that defies expectations, is king in the Fitzroy neighbourhood. The restaurant, located in a converted transformer factory, serves a global menu with influences from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Asia.

One of Transformer's speciality cocktails pairs well with the Beetroot tartare served with cattle seed cream, Davidson plums, and russet crisps.

Mankoushe

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Run and owned by two self-proclaimed hipsters, this Brunswick favourite churns homestyle Middle Eastern food straight from the garden. Mankoushe first opened as a bakery, milling Victorian wheat on-site to turn out spinach and feta pastries, its cult-status halloumi pies and vegetarian 'pizzas' before taking over the space next door and encouraged sit-down banquets. 

Dinner isn't always strictly vegetarian, but all-vegan dinners can be organised on the spot. Hit an ATM before heading in; this eatery is cash only.

 Feast of Merit

Vegetarians have always had it easy with Middle Eastern cuisine, and Feast of Merit is no exception. The Melbourne vegetarian restaurant draws its inspiration from the beliefs of traditional northeastern India. When someone in a community suddenly becomes wealthy, they often invite their neighbours to a celebratory feast known as the "feast of merit."

Y-Feast GAP's of Merit initiative seeks to secure ongoing support for the organization's fight against poverty. The head chef, Ravu Presser, serves huge salads with freekeh and harissa flavours. This hip spot has something for everyone, including meat and meatless options and a hip rooftop bar.

Red Sparrow Pizza

You can have your vegan pizza and ooey-gooey vegan cheese too! All right, you can do that now. If you're in Melbourne and looking for a vegan pizza, Red Sparrow Pizza is your best bet. To put it bluntly, they're Melbourne's best pizza. You can't tell the difference between real meat and their incredible meat substitutes.

For those of you with food allergies, they also offer gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free alternatives. Pizza can be taken out or enjoyed in the restaurant's trendy, industrial setting in Collingwood.

Neko Neko

Winter's tightening grip turns our yearnings to comfort food. Landlords across Melbourne may refuse to install double glazing, but at least we can warm ourselves from the inside out with steamy stews and starches, summertime ideals of virtuous eating be damned. But what if belly-warming food could also be wholesome and healthy, satisfying without tasting soporific? Could you leave it to the Japanese?

Down the city end of Smith Street is Neko Neko, a cosy little eatery cooking homestyle vegan and pescatarian Japanese for which it has amassed a loyal following. Forgoing dairy and red meat – staff instead pack dishes with vegetables cooked, raw and pickled while working in plenty of seeds and whole grains, elevating dishes that would usually leave you feeling comatose into lighter but no less satiating weeknight dinners. 

Vegan Japanese curry fills gaping winter appetites, arriving via a boat-shaped vessel where a shore of bitey purple rice meets thick, earthy curry. Unlike its South Asian counterparts, Japanese curry is light on spice. Instead, it is made by cooking down root veggies, including onion and carrot, into a curry powder roux that becomes gently sweet and starchy. 

Plopped on top are a couple of panko-coated potato and bean croquettes drizzled in spicy coriander and bulldog sauce. The veritable carb-fest is balanced by various veggies, from a perky floret of blanched cauliflower to a tangle of pickled daikon ribbons. Packing in your RDI of fibre has never been so enjoyable.

And while we love a gut-busting, rib-sticking tonkotsu as much as the next person, Neko Neko's vegan ramens offer a lovely depth of flavour. There's a light soy-based broth and a chilli tofu number peppered with cashews. 

Still, our hearts belong to the tantanmen, in which a miso broth fortified with ground sesame, soy milk, and a slick of chilli garlic oil tastes properly rich, creamy and I-can't-believe-it's-not-meaty. Springy noodles and a generous scattering of soy mince, bok choy and mashed tofu round out a full bowl we'll be thinking about for a long time.

A well-loved haunt for both far-flung vegans and hipster locals, Neko Nekos tiny room, is at capacity just about every night of the week. It's a big hit for lowkey dates and a safe space for solo diners to nurse a glass of natural wine from a window seat. 

By nailing humble and homey cooking, just with better ingredients and a daintier touch, Neko Neko ticks all the boxes, easily becoming a place that even in this choice-overload part of town, you'd put on regular rotation. 

Mukka

Mukka is the best place in Melbourne to get high-quality, filling vegetarian food, thanks to its Indian cuisine and hip atmosphere.

This Indian restaurant has something for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans, thanks to its wide variety of meat and meat substitute options. The menu is a throwback, with staples like South Indian dosa chicken curry and hints of Indian street food making an appearance.

Tandoori mushrooms, paneer tikka, and other skewered dishes are some of our favourites. We recommend a rose and cinnamon lassi to complement your meal.

Green Man's Arms

From what I overheard, this is the best spot in Melbourne to get some of the city's famously crisp potatoes. A plant-based pub feed may sound strange at first, but trust us when we say the food at Green Man's Arms is top-notch. The menu is inspired by the flavours of Lebanon and changes with the seasons.

Rare Hare

Going regional for a day trip is standard these days, but being stranded outside of the city usually means having to starve if you're not a meat-eater. Unfortunately, rare Hare is not a vegetarian restaurant, but options are plentiful and are not menu afterthoughts. 

Graze on the freshest crudités served alongside a chunky macadamia skordalia, slice into fudgy lengths of charcoal eggplant smothered in sweet, red miso or dive into a whole roasted sweet potato slathered in a wattleseed butter, offset by accents of fried, salty capers while staring out over the expansive, picturesque Willow Creek vineyard. It will be a meal worth leaving the city for.

Trippy Taco

Trippy Taco is the best Mexican restaurant in town for a chill evening with friends. As the name implies, these tacos are so delicious that they will give you a serious food coma.

Customers line up out the door and delivery drivers come and go at all hours of the night at the Gertrude Street location. Get together with your pals at one of the best vegetarian cheap eats in Melbourne and wash down your veggie tacos with a Mojito.

Admiral Cheng-Ho

Head to Abbotsford's top spot for artisanal coffee and organic brunch dishes for a more relaxed vibe. The hip spot is a must in the Melbourne vegetarian restaurant scene with a fully plant-based vegan all-day brunch menu. 

The toasties are a simple delight, or for something more substantial, try the 'Northside Jimbo', with cornbread, miso vegemite, avo, roasted tomatoes, cheese and chilli oil. Coffee is house-roasted from Disciple Roasters. This spot offers an expert mix of Australian brunch culture and fine vegetarian dining.

Combi

Raw vegan foodies unite! Combi embodies free-spiritedness and adventure and serves a diverse menu built around healthy and organic eating. Known for its selection of raw cakes and smoothies, and acai bowls, Combi is a summer hot spot for anyone looking for a fresh and healthy pick-me-up. 

Combi now has various locations across Australia, slowly but surely becoming ingrained in the quintessential Aussie summer experience. The peanut butter cup smoothie is the perfect healthy, refreshing treat!

Yong Green Food

Yong Green Foods was founded in late 2009 by two sisters who are vegetarians despite living in meat-centric South Korea. The restaurant was almost immediately successful thanks to its innovative menu that combined raw and whole food elements from Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican, and Italian cuisines.

In less than a year, they won their first culinary award (Vegetarian Victoria's Restaurant of the Year, 2010) thanks to the popularity of their extensive and exceptionally nutritious menu.

The productive pair is on a roll and has no plans to stop anytime soon. The Lees have been hard at work finishing up a new macrobiotic menu to accompany the current one, and it looks promising: fried lotus root, pickled daikon, and mock tuna with sesame seeds, to name a few.

Raw sage, the restaurant's signature dish, is one example of the organic, vegan, and gluten-free options on the raw menu. In addition to a unique assortment of Asian teas, the Lees also offer almond milk and fresh fruit smoothies.

Some of the most popular dishes include the housemaid kimchi gyoza, chickpea kora with beetroot walnut dip, and the Korean barbeque with mock beef. The desserts are low in fat and suitable for vegans. Unfortunately, the green tea ganache had run out by the time we got there, but the vanilla soy ice cream with sweet, sticky red beans was a close second.

Moroccan Soup Bar

You might have seen these guys on the news during lockdown handing out meals to hospital staff. That's the kind of thing they do here, they've got big hearts and believe it or not, you can taste it in the food. Packed full of flavour, Moroccan Soup Bar meals are worth waiting in line for. Then, try out the banquet with friends for the epitome of Moroccan dining. 

Now that dinner is sorted add this cafe to your notes because we found Melbourne's best vegan breakfast spot.

Veggie Bar

The heartbeat of Melbourne's vegetarian food scene can be found at Vegie Bar, which has become practically an institution in and of itself. It's right in the middle of Brunswick Street, serves only plant-based foods, and has an approachable, casual atmosphere.

The curries and fried noodles at this Vegetarian restaurant take their inspiration from Asian cuisine. There's a lot of room, but be aware that it can get crowded. Your visit to Vegie Bar will not only satisfy your hunger, but it will also make you feel like you've joined the vegetarian community in Melbourne.

Want to go to Veggie Bar for a meal? Then join the queue. The restaurant has been open for 20 years, and it is always packed; reservations are recommended for parties larger than six people. The staff, thankfully, works together effectively to seat customers quickly and then usher them out again.

Once everyone has checked in, names will be taken, numbered cards will be distributed, and the hungry masses will be led to a lovely courtyard with plenty of shade, a cash-only bar, and a large, well-stocked seating area. When a spot opens up at a table in one of the dining rooms, the next people to sit down at it are usually seated within minutes, often with a beverage already in their hand.

The high ceilings, concrete floors, and brick walls create an atmosphere reminiscent of a stable, and the likelihood of being crammed in close proximity to a complete stranger is high. There is a combination of private and shared tables, as well as a few long benches for extra seating.

For those who suffer from agoraphobia, the bustle of a restaurant at dinnertime may be too much to bear, but for the rest of us, it's all part of the fun, and we forget about it as soon as the food arrives. It's the whole reason why meat eaters and vegetarians alike continue to flock to the Vegie Bar, despite the occasional crowding.

Specials boards are regularly updated and always interesting to peruse; regular menu standouts include tofu and feta stuffed deep-fried mushrooms. You can get a full bean burrito and a vegetarian pizza for under $10, both of which are excellent options.

The restaurant and courtyard bar both feature a wide selection of alcoholic beverages from around the world. The suggestions made by the house are also completely reasonable. Vegie Bar is definitely worth the wait.

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Attica

Visit Attica for a fine dining experience, and the world-recognised diner offers a separate degustation menu for vegetarians. Owner-chef Ben Shewry creates artful and surprising menus and makes extensive use of native ingredients and an Australian interior with Australian designer tableware and chairs. The long multi-course meal is an experience in itself, one of the most remarkable and captivating restaurants in Australia. Luckily, vegetarians don't have to miss out!

Maha

Maha, another option for Melbourne's gourmets, has been called "an experience for the senses." Maha is famous for its wide variety of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine served in an artistic and modern atmosphere.

Seasonal ingredients and the chef's creativity inform the restaurant's set menus. Make sure to plan ahead if you want to dine at Shane Delia's charming masterpiece.

FAQs About Melbourne's Vegetarian Food

Melbourne is a fantastic city to be vegan in. There are plenty of great places to eat, markets, and community events happening every week. Social Melbourne has a vibrant vegan social scene, with regular dinners, drinks, discussion groups, and picnics!

Food safety and how you can provide free food in the City of Melbourne If you offer a program or service that donates or provides free food to the community, you must contact the City of Melbourne's Health and Wellbeing branch on (03) 9658 9658 to discuss your food safety requirements with one of our Environmental Health Officers. How to contact us

The vegan dining scene has exploded in Melbourne over the last few years. The days of soggy mushroom burgers and sad-looking salads are long gone—these joints are serving up some seriously delicious eats. Plus, they're all healthy, fresh and easily just as delicious as a cheese-covered steak (that's our story, and we're sticking to it).

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