Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Melbourne
We have searched Melbourne for the best vegetarian experiences and have put together our "best of" list.
In no particular order -
1. Smith and Daughters (vegan) and 2. Smith & Deli
3. Vegie Bar
4. Lentil As Anything
5. Trippy Taco
6. Grill'd (vegetarian option)
7. Lord of the Fries
8. Yong Green Foods
9. The Grain Store (vegetarian options)
10. Moroccan Soup Bar
1. Smith and Daughters, Smith & Deli - Brunswick
Smith and Daughters has an amazing feel to it; a Latin American restaurant on Brunswick St that is the result of a dream of two zany and extrovert ladies, award winning chef Shannon Martinez (ex Gasometer, The Sweetwater Inn and South), and Mo Wyse (ex Manager at The People's Market), bringing her design and business savvy expertise. Smith and Daughters promises much if the recent launch is anything to go by. The World Loves Melbourne was invited seemingly along to the launch with half the hipsters of Brunswick. Let it be said, Smith and Daughters is not exclusively for hipsters; it brings vegan food to Melburnians in a new way.
As a lover of croquettes I enjoyed the Tuna and Green Pea Croquettas, Spanish bechamel folded with tuna and green pea served with caper aoli and a wedge of lemon. A spectacular success, with the right amount of golden crunch on outside and super creamy inside. Plump generous tasty croquettas with a winning aoli. My desire is to return and get me more of these...
Tamales were a fun small plate; a single serve of the traditional Mexican favourite with Masa filled with mushroom, nopales and grilled corn then steamed in a corn husk. Served with fresh lime and hot sauce. I was like a kid in a candy store opening up my tamale to discover the delectable filling inside. What I also loved was the hot sauce, which packed some punch.
Then it was time to check out Shannon at work on the paella, revealed as Shannon's super secret, at least 4th generation, family recipe with all the necessities flavourful vegetable saffron stock, green peas and veg prawns, sausage and scallops.
A paella to behold... Smith and Daughters is taking all before it, including People's Coice winner in the Time Out Awards.
Smith & Deli is a revelation; always packed and a retro deli that serves up some of the most innovative food in Melbourne.
3. Vegie Bar - Fitzroy
Vegie Bar has been a vegetarian mainstay for years and is nearly always packed out, making it a place to be seen in eclectic Fitzroy. The restaurant promotes healthy eating at a reasonable price, offers food from around the globe and does not believe food should be overworked but have minimal human involvement.
We came here with friends and enjoyed a large selection of quality dishes. Some of us at the table were vegetarian and some were at the other end of the scale (ie never ate vegetables). A couple of us wondered whether we could secretly slip some chorizo onto the pizza when it arrived – but that was deemed an inappropriate idea. Some of us were here to experience something new (or unfamiliar) and we should keep it that way.
Vegie Bar pumps with communal tables, exposed brick, specials written on a whiteboard, funky lighting, group tables and a great little area upstairs where you can peer on hipster HQ below. There’s plenty of action as staff meander through the throngs to deliver meals to tables. Funky music is playing but you can’t really hear it because this place is loud with convivial conversation.
The pizzas are wonderful and great value. For around $12 you get a pizza that may well satisfy your hunger. I ordered 2 pizzas and could only eat half of each. The Sienna pizza is magnificent described as having a rich Italian napoli base comprising of fresh tomato, basil, red wine and garlic. Topped caramelized onion, roasted red capsicum, haloumi cheese, wild rocket and lemon are a sensational flavour profile. Vgie Bar is generous on the haloumi which appealed. The caramalised topping is also a winner. And the rocket is a great contrast. My friend often orders this from a nearby business and describes it as the best pizza she has ever eaten. I believe her.
The Italiano is also a pizza of note, featuring a pesto and napoli base with baby spinach, Spanish onion, sundried tomato, roast pumpkin (generous chunks), olives, mozzarella and fetta. Vegie Bar has been consistently great for over 20 years and is still going as strong as ever...
4. Lentil As Anything -Abbotsford and various
Lentil As Anything speaks of food, culture and community. The website says “Lentil As Anything is a unique not for profit organisation. At our core are the pay as you feel restaurants where customers give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to donate towards the philosophy”.
I was struck by the beauty of the Abbotsford Convent with high ceilings and amazing architecture. This is a large restaurant with 150 seats. And it has a great buzz on a Saturday morning. Food is sourced from local suppliers and is prepared on site We ordered a selection of dishes and they were all very tasty. The Sri Lankan Farmer’s Breakfast was recommended and is something really different from our usual breakfast fare – thin pancake filled with spiced potatoes, served with yoghurt raita and tomato chutney. Yum! Had some real tang.
I also enjoyed the Sweet Lace Pancake – featuring thin pancake topped with stewed fruit, served with cream and your choice of chocolate or maple syrup. We went the chocolate! This was a great breakfast option.
Lentil as Anything has a great number of volunteers who support, as part of a great social project. People only pay what they think the meal is worth, which allows anyone to be able to afford to eat here. It also brings out the worst in some people who just don't pay - come on people! I've been to several of the Lentil As Anything restaurants, including for lunch, and they all have excellent vegetarian food.
5. Trippy Taco - Gertrude St
Trippy Taco is a hipster Mexican restaurant unique in Melbourne. I love this vegetarian place with it’s friendliness, quality and variety. Standouts include it's tacos, burritos and the vegan quesadilla - all top notch. As a chip lover I consider their fries to be the best in Melbourne with a killer smoky seasoning. (Have been known to eat two bowls...) The staff are great here, and have engaged me with somewhat trippy banter! Kick back and chill here - no formalities...
Did I mention the Nachos? A small serve was more than enough for a whole tribe. Everything fresh and tasty with black beans the key ingredient… I judge a vegetarian restaurant also by the extent it fills me up (must be quality though) and Trippy Taco are generous in their portions. Sort of place you love to come back to… (photo courtesy Trippy Taco Facebook page).
6. Grill'd - Richmond and various
7. Lord of the Fries - Melbourne Central and various
Lots of thought goes in to all the LOTF products and they are passionate about authenticity. LOTF is oft categorised as fast food but it turns fast food on its head. Nothing of greasy or stodgy. Intelligent, flavoursome food that is sustainable. LOTF is continuing to prove that great food can benefit the consumer and the earth.
Operating sustainably is no joke to Lord of the Fries whose staple chips are produced from local Victorian-grown potatoes and delivered to the LOTF locations in trucks fuelled by the recycled oil was used to fry the chips.
Lord of the Fries shows much flair when it comes to vegetarian cuisine. You feel like they are breaking ground especially when it comes to the convenience genre they operate in. The Vegan Patty used by Lord of the Fries has the look, taste and texture of meat with virtually no fat. So you don't leave the restaurant feeling heavy and bloated. These are great health choices for the 21st Century. The mock beef patties are high in protein being made from Textured Soy Protein. And gluten free.
The business’ mission to minimise their eco footprint and make the world a better place exists throughout; from the food to promotional items produced on 100 per cent recycled paper and supporting like-minded charities like Wildlife Victoria, Edgar’s Mission and the Sea Sheppard.
8. Yong Green Foods
Yong Green Foods is the quintessential vegetarian haven with organic foods, menu items marked to help those with food intolerances, raw, vegan and gluten free foods. Those in the know rate this as one of the best. Not only savoury, such as the Thai Green Curry and biodynamic brown rice and Rawsagne, but the sweet options have attracted much acclaim such as Buckwheat Pancakes, Chocolate Cheesecake and Caramel Slice.
Also come here for the Lentil Hot Pot, Kimchi, Tofu patty and Sushi (it's a broad menu). And they also feature the superfoods such as Chia. The staff here are super-friendly and knowlegeable.
9. The Grain Store - CBD
The Grain Store is another foodie haven in our fair city and is causing massive interest for its European rustic ambience and imaginative French and Mediterranean cuisine. It's a highlight on the Flinders St side of the city. The fit out is full of style with barn doors at the entrance, painted timber, elegant tables and chairs and deft arrangements of flowers and produce. For vegetarian, The Grain Store is a welcome place with half it's brunch items vegetarian choices.
The philosophy pays respect to the precinct - nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of the Melbourne CBD, The Grain Store is a throwback to the days when many buildings in the area were used as holding stores for shipments – oftentimes, grain – coming off the Yarra River. Charm and elegance shine through with a touch of country styles and is enhanced further by the outstanding engaging service from the staff. This is a customer focused restaurant and a perfect place for a business lunch or when meeting friends.
The Grain store has excellent vegetarian options for dinner such as Cumin roasted cauliflower, butternut squash & halloumi briq, grain tabouleh, chipotle labne, spiced pepitas... Or at lunch try the NICOLA POTATO GNOCCHI & ORANGE CAULIFLOWER with roasted brussels sprout, kale, pistachio gremolata, olive, manchego. But the breakfast is the vegetarian's delight with NICOLA POTATO GNOCCHI & ORANGE CAULIFLOWER with roasted brussels sprout, kale, pistachio gremolata, olive, manchego or PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM & GRUYERE POTATO RÖSTI with poached eggs, hazelnut hollandaise, sunchoke chips...
The Grain Store website gives more of the philosophy - "We serve food the way it was meant to be enjoyed – nutritious, healthy, and always delicious. We don’t use many additives, because we don’t need to. When our ingredients taste this good all on their own, why tamper with them? Combining his fondness for rustic, traditional European fare with modern techniques honed from years of training in some of the best fine dining restaurants, head chef Ingo Meissner seeks to take you on a culinary adventure that will excite, surprise and delight you.
As skillful as he is principled, he is passionate about delivering beautiful food, but he also wants to make that food more accessible to people. That is why here at The Grain Store, customer interaction (and satisfaction) is our number one priority."
The Grain Store is a foodie haven that impressed during my breakfast and lunch visits. We also attended a superfood health event here. I'm keen to return for more.... Highly recommended.
10. Moroccan Soup Bar - Fitzroy North
Moroccan Soup Kitchen is the name on many lips when it comes to vegetarian food in Melbourne, for its interesting food that comes not without a hit of spice. The restaurant is a small intimate venue on St Georges Rd and it can be tough to get a table with perennial popularity including a loyal local following. Sometimes people complain at vegetarian restaurants that they don't get filled up on food - but here you can get full on superb food for only $20 or $25 (with dips) for a banquet. There is no written menu as such, just go with the flow...
The Chickpea bake is famous at Moroccan Soup Bar, a favourite for many years, with crunch on top. Come here for fine Moroccan cooking such as stews and traditional dips, as well as beetroot and potato offerings. But its the Chickpea bake that has everyone coming back. Many people bring their own takeaway containers here because there is just so much food - even after spending only $25 or so per head. A quaint touch is the complimentary peppermint tea or traditional Moroccan coffee at the end of your meal.