Regrettably, for most people words like 'variety' or 'mind-blowing' don't often pair with vegetarian food. But I reckon Melbourne stands to challenge that notion. For veggie-lover or meat eater, you ought to check out these joints and be swept off your feet with finger-licking vegetarian delights.
I started scouring the town for vegetarian restaurants when a couple of us took the Meatless Monday pledge. And like everyone, I was amazed how simple ingredients could combine to take the form of culinary masterpieces. However, with no surreptitious intention of propagating vegetarianism, I've compiled a list of some of the best vegetarian eating houses in Melbourne.
Veggie Bar One of the busiest joints in town, the Veggie Bar is a true Melbourne gem. The ambience is amazing – relaxed, spirited and perennially abuzz. The menu, essentially vegetarian, includes dishes from all around the globe. The standard menu has some excellent options for brunch but do pop a look at the 'specials' board. Organic Lentil/Tofu Burger, Stuffed Mushrooms, Bengali Kofta Curry are some of the absolute must-try dishes. They also serve a good variety of organic wines, smoothies and fresh juices. The portions are fairly big and everything that's dished out has a creative appeal. A word of caution: don't leave your table all at the same time; chances are your place will be occupied within minutes. When: Monday to Friday 11am-10pm; Saturday to Sunday 9am-10pm Where: 380 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065 Contact: 03 9417 6935
Shakahari Shakahari elevates vegetarian dining to a different level. The food is innovation and exemplary, both in terms of presentation and palatability. Apart from vegetarian food, the menu also includes vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free dishes. They use seasonal fresh produce hence the menu keeps rotating quarterly. Over the years, Shakahari has bagged several awards of excellence for their pioneering approach to food. The decor is simple and the service is excellent. If you thought vegetarian food was humdrum, go to Shakahari. When: Lunch – Monday to Saturday 12pm-3pm; Dinner – Sunday to Thursday 6pm-9:30pm, Friday to Saturday 6pm-10pm Where: 201-203 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 Contact: 03 9347 3848
Lentil as Anything The word 'priceless' couldn't bear more meaning for a restaurant's menu than it does for Lentil as Anything. This is a series of innovative 'pay as you feel' restaurants in Melbourne where the diners pay what they feel the dish was worth (unless of course, someone decides to be cheeky). The menu is fundamentally vegetarian, but offers good range of breakfast/lunch/brunch dishes; there are a host of good curries, salads and burgers. The food is inspired by international cuisines, fusing Asian, Middle Eastern and western flavours. Currently, there are three restaurants in Melbourne – one each at St Kilda, Abbotsford Convent and Footscray. When: Monday to Friday 9:30am – 9:30pm Where: 41 Blessington Street, St Kilda VIC 3182 Contact: 04 3038 8984
Gopals Gopals is a no-frills vegetarian restaurant, bang in the centre of the city. Their aim is to offer simple yet delectable vegetarian and vegan food on a budget. The cuisine is essentially Indian but they also serve some good European/Asian appetizers, salads and desserts. The 'thalis' (read special platters) are fairly large. The curries and other vegetable dishes keep rotating on the menu to include fresh, seasonal produce. The restaurant, operated by Hare Krishna devotees, has been serving food for over 25 years. When: Monday to Saturday 11:30am - 8:30pm Where: 139 Swanston Street, 1st Floor, Melbourne VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9650-1578
Crossways It is a sister restaurant of Gopals, catering to students, people with health benefits and pensioners. You can (if you're one of the above) have all you want (including a drink and a dessert) for just $5. Others can also enjoy this simple, wholesome, vegetarian food at a low price. The menu changes daily. When: Monday to Saturday 11:30am - 2:30pm Where: 123 Swanston Street, 1st Floor, Melbourne VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9650 2939
Moroccan Soup Bar
For a change you won't have to go through the ordeal of pouring over the menu. Hana Assafiri, the 'custodian', goes to each table and doles out the menu of the day, verbally. Taking inspiration from North African cuisines, the lip-smacking vegetarian dishes are prepared using fresh organic produce. The flavours are mild yet authentic. The decor is reminiscent of Moroccan and Middle Eastern flair. Another impressive thing about the place is the speed at which the food arrives. Some of the best-loved dishes include couscous, baked chickpeas and Egyptian-style lentil. Don't miss a luscious piece of baklava before stepping out. When: Lunch - Tuesday to Sunday 12pm - 3pm; Dinner – Tuesday to Saturday 6pm - 10pm Where: 183 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North VIC 3068 Contact: 03 9482 4240