Melbourne’s best restaurants for vegetarian dishes aren’t necessarily exclusive to the meat-free cause, but this top ten certainly knows how to treat their V-flying friends well.
Welcome to vegetarian nirvana. This converted warehouse on backstreet Fitzroy hosts an upscale restaurant where everything is vegetarian and a strong sub-set is vegan. Chestnut and ricotta gnocchi with porcini puree would convert anyone to the cause.
99 Rose Street, Fitzroy; 03 9419 2022
Even vegetarians like to eat in restaurants on the World’s 50 Best list, and Attica’s Ben Shewry is happy for them to realise their dégustation dreams. No afterthought, the vegetarian dishes prepared by the multi-award-winning Kiwi chef (including the playful avocado on toast appetiser) are as creative as those you’ll find on the omnivore menu.
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea; 03 9530 0111
Monk Bodhi Dharma
A backstreet bolthole hosting a coffee roastery and café, the Monk’s all about the vegetarian dishes. Whether it’s zucchini hotcakes or coconut and rice pudding with Earl Grey and spice-macerated fruit, it’ll set you up for the day – and Friday nights are reserved for vegetarian and raw dinners.
Rear 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava; 03 9534 7250
Smith & Daughters
The most common phrase you’ll overhear at Smith & Daughters is, “Is it really vegan?” With items like tuna piquillo peppers on the menu any confusion can be forgiven, but the short answer is – yes. Everything is plant-based and meat-free, although chef and co-owner Shannon Martinez is a mock-meat expert whose cheesy morcilla empanadas are utterly convincing.
175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; 03 9939 3293
It’s a garden-to-table experience at this wildly creative Beaconsfield restaurant run by the three Bertoncello brothers, who grow a sizeable amount of the produce themselves and espouse a root-to-tip philosophy of minimal waste. The affinity with the plant side is palpable with dishes such as vegetable tarts made with crisp cabbage leaf shells.
23 Woods Street, Beaconsfield; 03 9769 9000
The Cornish Arms
This buzzing joint is truly a two-speed gastropub experience, with a meaty menu politely cohabiting alongside vegetarian and vegan dishes that know plant-based eaters just want to have fun, too. Cue unabashed junk food extravaganzas such as a vegan take on the Big Mac.
163a Sydney Road, Brunswick; 03 9380 8383
Moroccan Soup Bar
It’s a 19-year-old Melbourne institution where the all-vegetarian menu is recited verbally for each table and the silken chickpea bake with crunchy flatbread and yoghurt has a cult following. No alcohol, no fuss, just a whole lot of delicious Middle Eastern heart.
183 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North; 03 9482 4240
Another high-profile fine-dining restaurant paying more than lip-service to vegetarians, Shane Delia’s Maha will put on an elegant but gut-busting Middle Eastern spread that swings from smoked-turnip soup with roast garlic, pine nuts and nasturtiums to Turkish red-lentil dumplings and garlicky cumin-baked eggplant.
21 Bond Street, Melbourne; 03 9629 5900
You can count on an Indian restaurant to deliver some great vegetarian dishes, and this hip street food eatery near the Edinburgh Gardens has enough tricks up its sleeve – including a yoghurt and turmeric curry with spinach fritters and a “Colonel Tso’s cauliflower” – to keep the vegetarian god Ganesh very happy indeed.
167 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North; 03 9497 8101
The name ought to alert you to the raison d’etre of this holistic Burnley café, where the emphasis is on food that will boost energy, wellbeing and happiness (hence the reference to serotonin, the mood-regulating chemical). We say wellness, shmellness – the all-vegetarian dishes, such as a Mexican waffle and banana pancakes, are quite simply delicious.
52 Madden Grove, Burnley; 03 9428 8256
Top image: Maha