The sweet meadow
Once considered the domain of ‘hippy cafes’, the days of not being able to find restaurants, bars and cafes that serve plant-based fare are well and truly over. While cities tend to lead the way when it comes to food trends and innovation in dining, regional Victoria is home to a growing number of eateries choosing to offer inventive vegetable-centric menus with dishes that go beyond the typical vegetarian mainstays. Further to that, restaurants and cafes that serve meat are also coming to the party by offering speciality vegetarian menus and even themed vegan degustation nights.
Dedicated vegan/vegetarian restaurants and cafes
Daylesford and Macedon Ranges
Found right in the heart of the rural foodie enclave Kyneton, Hamster is a light-filled vegetarian café owned and run by a passionate, local cook. Featuring a diverse range of dishes infused with global flavours, Hamster may be located in regional Victoria but it has international sensibilities. Interesting dishes like Thai sticky black rice pudding, Japanese cabbage pancakes and Hungarian vegetable bake bring the flavours of the world to Kyneton in a relaxed setting. 5 High Street, Kyneton
Located in the well-preserved historic town of Maldon, Zen Eden Produce & Café is dripping in small town, country charm. Vegetable-based menu items like tarts, pies, crepes and lasagne feature on the menu, as does fair trade coffee, tea and a range of biscuits, slices and cakes. 6 Main Street, Maldon, +61 408 319 188
Ballarat’s favourite vegetarian and vegan restaurant Chat for Tea provides healthy yet filling Asian dishes packed with flavour. Diners can choose from curries, gyoza, samosas, noodles and more – all made without meat. An impressive range of hot and cold tea options (include bubble tea) make this the perfect place for diners to try new tea varieties beyond the usual English Breakfast or Earl Grey. 25 Armstrong Street North, Ballarat, +61 3 5331 3898.
Serving raw, vegan, organic meals and treats to the people of Castlemaine from a dressed-up vintage trailer, The Conscious Caravan is run by an inspiring local who is passionate about veganism, reducing food waste and eating ethically. Known for producing some of the best vegan desserts and cakes in this corner of the state, this is the place to get cheesecake, tiramisu, and caramel slices – all made without eggs or dairy. 14-16 Mostyn Street, Castlemaine.
Proving that the desire for vegan food lies ways beyond the bounds of Melbourne city, the Mornington Peninsula’s first vegan cafe and store opened last year. Wombat Café and Store provides locals and out-of-towners with organic coffee, salads, light meals and sweet treats like brownies, cakes and slices – all made without animal products. 230 Boundary Road, Dromana, +61 3 5987 1193.
Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula
Dolly’s Sister Vegan Café and Bar is a local favourite with vegan and vegetarian diners in Geelong. Featuring an all-day menu packed with vegan dishes, diners can choose to try vegan mac n’ cheese, raw green curry soup, raw lasagne or a lentil burger. Smoothies, sweets and preservative-free vegan wines are also available at this community-minded café. 221 Moorabool Street, Geelong, +61 3 4245 1013.
Opening in late 2016, The Sweet Meadow is Echuca’s newest (not to mention prettiest) vegan eatery. Open Thursday to Monday for breakfast and lunch, this plant-based health bar is filled with vases of flowers, potted plants and a range of cruelty-free foods that have got locals and visitors talking. From refined sugar-free sweets to raw desserts, vegan donuts and big, meat-free breakfasts packed with nutritious ingredients, The Sweet Meadow is one to watch. 640 High Street, Echuca, +61 3 5482 4099.
Open for breakfast and lunch, Mildura’s Clove Organic Shop and Café features an evolving seasonal menu full of sustainable food choices. With all dishes being vegetarian (and some vegan) this café serves up breakfast and lunch staples as well as house-made cakes and biscuits, and fair trade coffee. 121a Eighth Street, Mildura, +61 3 5021 2230.
Great Ocean Road
Day Kitty Café keeps the people of Warrnambool happy with fresh vegetarian fare served with a smile. From cold pressed juices to Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls, rainbow salad bowls and beyond, this café keeps upping the ante when it comes to creating fresh, healthy, innovative vegetarian meals and snacks. Stocking a huge range of organic, probiotic and prebiotic tonics, Day Kitty Café is keeping diners happy and healthy. 52b Kepler Street, Warrnambool, +61 3 5561 6921.
The owner of Anglesea’s Diggers Vegie Kitchen is on a mission to enlighten people about the pleasures of following a plant-based diet. Offering dishes like beetroot burgers, raw Buddha bowls and dairy-free desserts, this humble café also offers themed vegan dinners and the odd spot of live music too. 5 Diggers Parade, Anglesea, +61 3 5263 3535.
Places that champion vegie dishes
Having meat items on the menu doesn’t stop these eateries from providing seriously good vegan and vegetarian options to the people of regional Victoria.
Daylesford’s Himalaya Bakery and Café is well known for its range of plant-based savoury pies and vegetarian and vegan breakfast options including dishes like mushroom scrambled organic tofu and spinach and potato pies. In Queenscliff, Pomegranate has a sharp focus on vegetarian food with dahl, kidney bean curries and falafel wraps giving meat-free diners plenty of choice. Geelong’s Freckleduck proves that a good café breakfast doesn’t have to feature bacon, with inspired, meat-free breakfast dishes like peanut butter and jelly waffles bringing in the crowds. Mornington Peninsula’s Assaggini offers an extensive vegan menu featuring a range of inventive plant-based dishes. Hosting sell-out vegan degustation dinners throughout the year, Assaggini is proving to be a much-loved dining destination for vegans from near and far. In the wine-growing area of Coldstream, ezard provides five and eight course vegetarian degustation menus matched with premium wines.