No more do you need to query the stock, cross-examine the waiter, and Google the jelly: there now exist places across Australia in which no animals were harmed in the production of your meal (thank you, Delicious team).
You can pull up a chair in a growing number of local restaurants and forget for a moment cattle flatulence, the plight of the orange roughy, the imprisonment of the bees.
Gastronomy’s best and brightest have cottoned on to the idea that some humans, be it occasionally or always, want no meat, no milk, no odds and ends, from beasts.
And that the most sensible answer to the new order is not another vegetarian lasagne.
Vegan and vegetarian dining now can be a party not a penance, and chefs are finding joy in the subtle distinctions the plant-world gives us, allowing nature to shine brightly on our plates.
No Bones, Byron Bay
Not to be throwing about generalisations about hippies and influencers, but if any part of Australia is well suited to a vegan-only restaurant, it’s Byron Bay.
Actually, No Bones arrived late on the scene, trend wise, in 2018. No Bones knows – they say so on their website – that a plant-based diet goes a long way to fight climate change, so it’s on an expedition to “save the Earth one brussel sprout at a time”.
It’s working towards being 100 per cent carbon neutral, and sourcing locally. Wines and beer here are Australian, in a bid to reduce freight.
The food is great. Start with zucchini flowers stuffed with dill and would-be ricotta, then move on to “calamari” with togarashi and Japanese mayo, but not.
It’s nourishing, satisfying, fresh food with soul, and there’s nothing better than sitting in No Bones’ outdoor space to soak up the sunshine and dine on all the good things nature has to offer, including rather excellent cocktails.
11 Fletcher St, Byron Bay; nobonesyronbay.com.au.
How daring, how completely rogue Yellow was in 2016 when it turned green. Not least because back then – and let us not forget how meat-driven dining was in 2016 – it was a pretty well-liked restaurant without such a radical move.
But Nick Hilderbrandt and Brent Savage, the sommelier-and-chef team behind Bentley and Monopole, seemed determined to give people what they want even if they don’t quite realise it yet. Bentley, Yellow and Monopole had successfully offered vegan tasting menus for years, and suddenly it seemed like the time had come.
Vegetarian was having a moment; a novelty that has resolutely endured. Yellow remains one of the best plant-based restaurants in Sydney.
The menu is inventive and delicious, playing on textures and richness, bringing umami where vegan dishes can often be lacking.
Burnt cabbage comes with broad beans and whipped Dutch potatoes. Hemp seed gnudi bathes in tomato dashi with shiso.
Yellow is a compelling glimpse into what vegan dining can be, and long may it lead the way.
57 Macleay St, Potts Point; bentleyrestaurantgroup.com.au.
Allegra Dining Room, Adelaide
This chic dining room in Adelaide does inventive, textural dishes evoking all the nuances we want from our best meals out, without using the one thing most restaurants rely on to achieve it. Animals.
There’s sesame butter and walnut cream, the grit of toasted popcorn and cheesy references of miso and pine nuts, the tang of yoghurt, things charred and slow roasted and fermented. And yet this remains an ardent vegan restaurant.
Stand and applaud the dedicated team behind this quite remarkable place – which describes itself simply as seasonal and plant-based, without shoving the vegan thing down our throats – a win for omnivores who might start feeling a them-and-us vibe as years pass and more plant-based restaurants open that are worth our attention.
L1/125 Gilles St, Adelaide; allegradiningroom.com.au.
Smith & Daughters, Melbourne
Chef and restaurateur Shannon Martinez has played a huge role in flipping the script on what vegan food can be.
When she announced her stunning and vast all-day vegan hub in Collingwood in 2021 – replacing her original deli and restaurant – she said there is nothing else like it in Australia, and she was right.
There are queues every morning for breakfast and cocktails at night outside Smith & Daughters, which sets out not just to cater to vegans but to give everyone a covetable meal that’s also a break from meat.
Martinez does disconcertingly real takes on charcoal chicken and even blood sausage morcilla, or there is fermented potato bread stuffed with fillings such as house-made vegan meat or cheese.
Much of the menu revolves around the use of fire, and plates of spice-studded produce with keen attention to texture.
It’s a sharp, creative menu that makes vegan an exciting option for even the most determined omnivores.
107 Cambridge St, Collingwood; smithanddaughters.com.
Inside the Ovolo Hotel in Fortitude Valley ancient-flavours are being treated with uniquely modern techniques and thinking. ZaZaTa is a vegetarian restaurant that does locally sourced produce with a Tel Aviv vibe, it’s Middle Eastern meets the Med.
Think: Halloumi doughnut with chill jam, salt and aleppo pepper crispy tofu with toum, and barbecue cauliflower shawarma with labneh mornay, green mango and curry leaf oil.
This place is vibrant, a stunning blend of old-world elegance and new-world fun, with chef Mike Jackson at the helm of an inventive, delicious no-meat menu.
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley; ovolohotels.com.
Pizza Madre, Sydney
This bustling pizza shop on Marrickville’s bustling Victoria Road doesn’t shout about its only-vegetarian menu, which does gluten-free and vegan options on many items.
It’s that good. Rather than reeling in no-meat eaters with slogans and promises, it spends energy on the actual food.
And so news gets around that there’s amazing pizza here made using a Two Chaps sourdough starter, and everybody comes.
There’s often a queue outside Pizza Madre for a table. It is vegetarian-friendly, to use the worst term to describe any menu, but it is also all-human friendly.
Because humans like great pizza, they will turn up for a charred and chewy base topped with butter roasted mushrooms, cime di rapa, fior di latte, Monte rosso washed rind cheese and garlic oil pizza because it’s so very good.
The menu is seasonal and local – which means no imported Tipo 00 flour – to kick another goal for the planet.
And the pistachio tiramisu dessert is a knockout.
2/205 Victoria Rd, Marrickville; pizzamadre.com.au.
Originally published as Veg out at Australia’s best plant-based restaurants
Originally published as Australia’s best plant-based restaurants, including No Bones, Yellow and Allegra Dining Room
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