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Eating out in Melbourne: The ‘vegan capital of the world’

MELBOURNE — The vegan scene in Melbourne has been growing steadily, and the city has even been dubbed by the international press as the ‘vegan capital of the world’. The inner-city suburb of Fitzroy especially is abuzz with dining options for those into a plant-based diet, and the selection of venues across the city include restaurants, pizza joints and ice-cream bars, and anything from Asian to Mexican fare.

MELBOURNE — The vegan scene in Melbourne has been growing steadily, and the city has even been dubbed by the international press as the ‘vegan capital of the world’. The inner-city suburb of Fitzroy especially is abuzz with dining options for those into a plant-based diet, and the selection of venues across the city include restaurants, pizza joints and ice-cream bars, and anything from Asian to Mexican fare.

Here are five vegan restaurants to try on your trip to Melbourne.

Yong Green Food

A vegetarian and vegan restaurant which opened in 2009, this eatery has expanded beyond its initial focus on raw food. “We still have a raw food menu, but recently we’ve shifted our energies towards Korean temple food. This means simple dishes that use seasonal veggies prepared and presented in a balanced way,” explained owner Seonmi Lee.

The signature dish here is the Yin and Yang Charger, which is a platter of organic and seasonal ingredients that changes each week depending on what is available. The restaurant has partnered an organic farm close to Melbourne that provides fresh, local and organic ingredients, and its rice is sourced from a biodynamic farm near the border with New South Wales. Served with all its dishes, this rice is special in that it is hand-seeded into rice bays and grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

Don’t miss the house-made miso, which the chef prepares from scratch, as well as its unique vegan kimchi, which Lee described as “an adaption of a recipe handed down to us by a long line of Korean grandmas”.

421-423 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; yonggreenfood.com.au

Girls & Boys

Opened this January, Girls & Boys is a takeaway vegan dessert bar with a moniker that aims to induce memories of the days when ice cream vans used to come round. It shares a space with Vegie Bar Take Away, the takeaway and delivery arm of Vegie Bar, which has been serving vegetarian food since 1988.

Girls & Boys is dedicated to indulgent and healthy plant-based treats and sweets, and specialises in Pimped Out Soft Serve Ice Cream and vegan gelato. The menu also includes cakes, smoothies, thick shakes, spiced mylks and speciality lattes. One of the newer items on the menu is the choc hazelnut ice cream sandwich with a raspberry centre. You will also be able to grab cold-pressed juices, tonics, and a daily selection of salads and specials in the “pick-up” fridge.

This dessert bar is the brainchild of Laki Papadopoulos and Mark Price from popular vegetarian restaurants Transformer Fitzroy and Vegie Bar. “We wanted to explore the health benefits to a plant-based diet further,” said Papadopoulos. “The menu at one of our other restaurants, The Vegie Bar, is now mostly vegan, and we wanted to go further with what we had been offering in the way of desserts there.”

The clientele here is a mix of people, from vegans and the health-conscious to the curious and carnivores. As Papadopoulos explained: “It’s appealing to everyone as, after all, everyone loves ice cream!”

382 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; girlsandboysfitzroy.com

Red Sparrow Pizza

This pizza joint is one of the newest kids on the vegan block, having opened in February this year. Owner Michael Craig said: “I opened a vegan restaurant simply because I am vegan, and I wanted to eat high-quality vegan pizza and hoped others would too. I’ve been a vegan chef for the past 12 years or so, and felt this was something that was missing in Melbourne.”

The menu consists of wood-fired pizzas made without the use of any animal products. The dishes are a modern twist on classic pizzas such as the margherita, using dairy-free fior di latte, organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil, and a pepperoni featuring a soya-based pepperoni, dairy-free mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce.

“We also enjoy creating our own specialities, such as our hummus and dukkah pizza with coconut yogurt, and the mint of our supergreen pizza with spinach and kale pesto, zucchini flowers, broccolini, pumpkin seeds and micro herbs,” Craig said.

The restaurant’s clientele is a mix of vegans that travel from across the city, as well as locals who are not necessarily vegan or vegetarian, but have become regulars.

406 Smith Street, Collingwood; www.redsparrowpizza.com

Loving Hut

This is part of a family of vegan restaurants with over 200 locations all around the world; it has a branch in Singapore too. It specialises in Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Asian fusion cuisine, and all the ingredients used here are 100 per cent plant-based. So you will get dishes like Malaysian Char Kway Teow, Tom Yum Soup, Assam Curry and Thai Green and Red Curry. The menu also includes raw and gluten-free food.

10/242 Victoria Street, Richmond; lovinghutmelbourne.com.au

Smith & Daughters

This eatery is run by two women with a combined experience of 35 years in the food service industry. The entire menu here is plant-based, local and organic and free of “mass-produced junk”. They also do not serve anything from big-name soda companies, dairy milk and alcohol processed with animal ingredients.

Set in a historic bluestone corner property, the food here is Latin-inspired and covers cuisines from countries including Mexico, Spain and Colombia. You can enjoy tapas such as Blood Sausage Empanada, Tuna-Filled Piquillo Peppers and Salt Cod Fritters. If you are in the mood for something bigger — or if you just do not want to share — try options such as the Seafood Stew or the Eggplant Bake.

Smith & Daughters also serves a good selection of coffees, cocktails, wines and beers, as well as brunch on weekends.

175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy; www.smithanddaughters.com

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