The café culture in Australia is a strong and vibrant one, and vegan-friendly cafés are sprouting up like mushrooms now. While some are still sceptical about forgoing meat, Aussies have embraced it and have been improving their green game with unbelievably creative and tantalising vegan options.
The cafés don't just serve boring salads, but full-flavoured burgers, delightful tapas, and mind-blowing pizzas so a-maize-ing you’ll forget pizzas traditionally have cheese. These made me think it might be possible to go vegan.
Here's a list of vegan-friendly places to check out if you're in Sydney or Melbourne.
1. Soul Burger
Image credit: @bigbadbinge
With the menu choices mischievously named after classic meat patty burgers, one might mistake this full-vegan burger joint as a regular fast food restaurant. However, a little closer look at the menu and you’ll realise that ingredients are all “plant-based”.
American Badass Burger Image credit: @soulburgerau
To think that plant-based mock meat is inferior as compared to the real deal is naivety. Vegan cafés in Australia have perfected the vegan equation so well that you can hardly tell actual meat and mock meat apart.
At Soul Burger, the mock meat patties are so juicy and flavourful, you’ll forget that it’s a veggie burger you are actually chomping down on.
Korean Fried Broccolini Image credit: @yullissurryhills
A dimly-lit quirky bar, Yulli’s does not look a thing like your typical ‘green’ and ‘clean’ vegan restaurant. Located on the busy Crown Street, it’s a bar that can be easily overlooked. But, only dim ones neglect this bar.
Vegan or not, Yulli’s is a hot favourite among Sydneysiders, and it’s not difficult to see why. The creative dishes at Yulli’s are tasty and flavourful; together with the ambience of the bar, it is the perfect place to go if your palate is seeking something special.
This pizza joint changed its menu to a fully vegan one in 2015, and received much backlash from naysayers. But Gigi Pizzeria has proven their incredible culinary flexibility with their handcrafted pizzas winning over their doubters.
Even without the most basic key ingredient, the pizzas still pack the flavours of what most expect of an Italian crusted pie. Maybe someday, cheese-less pizzas will be the norm.
Calzone con Cavolo Image credit: Sydney Morning Herald
Situated in a tranquil park within the CBD area of Sydney, Bodhi is a yum cha-style restaurant that has traded prawn dumplings for mushroom dumplings.
Image credit: @emily_hunt
Service crew bring around trays of dim sum, and just like in traditional Cantonese yum cha restaurants, you can choose the dim sums you want off their trays. Despite being meat-free, all the dim sums are just as flavourful as their traditionally meat-y counterparts.
Must-Tries: - Shiitake mushroom and asparagus dumplings (AU$ 9) - Pumpkin ball with mushroom and water chestnut (AU$ 8) - Mango and vegan ‘cream cheese‘ pancake (AU$ 9.50)
Address: 2 - 4 College Street, Sydney 2000
Opening Hours: Monday: 11.00am – 3.00pm Tuesday – Sunday: 11.00am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 10.00pm (Closed on Public Holidays)
5. Green Lion Bistro
Green Mack Burger Image credit: @greenlionroar
Green Lion Bistro is a bar that aims to serve your typical bar food such as pizzas, nachos, and fries – vegan-style. Being Australia’s first plant-based pub bistro, Green Lion Bistro hopes to be a game-changer in the pub scene of Australia by not only catering to vegans, but also convincing meat-eaters to love plant-based food.
The pub also serves vegan-friendly alcohol! Just in case you are wondering, most regular wines require ingredients from fish and eggs to break down the grapes.
Image credit: @greenlionroar
Must-tries: - Green Mack Burger (AU$ 19.95) - Peri Peri Chicken Pizza (AU$ 18.95)
*Protip: Attention all vegan enthusiasts! Do check out suburban Newtown, which has a lot of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. There are simply too many to name here!
6. Smith & Deli
The Friendzone Sandwich and Soy Latte
On the top of my list for the best vegan café in Melbourne is Smith & Deli. If you think vegan is boring, this place will pretty much prove you wrong. At Smith & Deli, you will first be spoilt for choice with over thirty sandwich choices on menu. Then, once you’ve taken the first bite out of the sandwich, you just want more.
The wickedly delicious sandwich captivates with every crunch as you sink your teeth into the perfectly toasted bread, while the stuffing of the sandwich oozes out and attacks your taste buds. The mock ham and cheese within the sandwich will leave you speechless on how plant-protein alternatives can taste so good. Grab a cup of soy coffee to complete the awesome vegan breakfast in style.
The Wiggum Sandwich
Tucked in a small alley in Fitzroy, Smith & Deli is one that’s worth the hunt. If you enjoy the sandwiches at Smith & Deli, head over to Smith & Daughters too, a restaurant that’s opened by the same people behind Smith & Deli.
Must-Tries: - The Friendzone - Grilled cheese with vegan ham and tomato (AU$ 10) - Rocky - Sliced philly steak with mozzarella cheese (AU$ 14) – for non-vegans
Address: 111 Moor St, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 8.00am to 6.00pm (Closed on Sundays & Mondays)
7. Neko Neko
Image credit: @yoniyan
While this Japanese restaurant is pescatarian, they do offer vegan options on their menu too. Hence, it is a great dining spot for friends with varying dietary needs.
The small eatery is often packed with guests, with many more in waiting in line outside. So, do come early if you do not want to be disappointed.
Beautiful plating aside, the natural tastes of the food makes the entire dining experience an empowering one encompassing your mind and body.
Being dairy-free, egg-free, and gelatine-free, it’s hard to imagine that this shop sells pastries, cakes and cupcakes – those are easily the key ingredients of any confectionery. But with the right alternatives, vegan pastries can be fantastic too.
As this bakeshop is very popular among locals, much of their cake selections sell out pretty early. So again, be there early to avoid disappointment!
Soot Sprite Matcha Choc (on left) and Cookies and Cream Fuzzy Totoro (on right) Image credit: @mister_nice_guys_bakeshop
Must-Tries: - Cinnamon Bun (AU$ 5.50) - New York Baked Cheesecake (AU$ 8) - Bronuts (AU$ 5-5.50 each)
Jack Black Burger Image credit: @sisterofsoulstkilda
The Jack Black Burger is not only visually enticing, it is also gastronomically pleasing with its intense flavours. The mock pulled pork in the burger is actually made of jackfruit, and is packed with vitamin B6, magnesium, and antioxidants.
This Asian fusion restaurant at St. Kilda also serves up familiar Asian dishes such as Nasi Goreng, Bibimbap, and Ramen, but vegan-style.
Noodles Sister Stir-Fry Image credit: @noshandrun
Must-Tries: - Green Gyoza Dumplings (AU$ 11.50) - Udon Noodles Sister Stir-Fry (AU$ 18) - Jack Black Burger (AU$ 18.50)
Address: 73 Acland St, St Kilda VIC 3182
Opening Hours: 7.30am – 10.00pm daily
10. Matcha Mylkbar
Image credit: @ethicalplate
Matcha Mylkbar is perhaps most famous for their insanely colourful food. From green burgers to neon pink lattes, there are surprises from the beginning to the end of the menu.
There are even “fake” eggs with runny yolks made of linseed protein and sweet potato that pop when you poke them. The egg whites are made of coconut milk-infused agar. If you don’t scrutinise them closely, you might not even notice that the eggs aren’t real. Wow, science.
This is definitely a café you cannot miss if you love weird and quirky food that look amazing on Instagram.