Vaguely Vegan in Sydney

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Vaguely Vegan in Sydney

Postby Rachael Henry » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:15 pm

Vaguely Vegan in Sydney

Vegetarians and vegans in Sydney seem not to go to vegetarian restaurants (though they do not go as far as Italian vegetarians who apparently eat ham!) preferring Asian and Middle Eastern food which is plentiful in Sydney and considered better value than the stock in trade of the infrequent vegetarian restaurant.

However, a number of the more alternative inner city suburbs cater moderately well to vegetarians and vegans with their daytime cafes.

Surry Hills is an attractive, buzzy inner city suburb that was first port of call for poor immigrants to Sydney back in the days when it was not a crime to seek refuge in Australia (as long as you were white, admittedly).

A suburb known for its clothing trade, restaurants, theatre and art galleries, for some time now it has also been the official gay suburb - fun, laid back, culturally various and catering for all tastes. It has several Lebanese restaurants around the junction of Cleveland and Elizabeth Streets (also handy if you are going to the Belvoir Street Theatre) and most have a variety of nutritious and delicious vegetarian dishes (eg the mixed plate at Abduls on the corner or at nearby Emads, half a block up Cleveland towards Crown from Elizabeth).

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For something more exotic, some restaurants let you sit at tables on floor cushions and surprise customers with the sudden appearance of a very good (tasteful) belly dancer (who in some cases might be looking for someone to join in but it is possible to decline!)
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Though we do not have the long established traditions of good Indian food to be found in Britain or the specialist vegetarian Indian restaurants of London, still in Surry Hills The Nepalese Kitchen on Crown (tel. 93194264) or the Indians on Cleveland east of Crown are well priced and a bit reminiscent of Indian vegetarian fare in Drummond Street in London.

Day time cafes in Surry Hills and nearby Dank Street, Waterloo, tend to start and finish early (around 8 to 4).

The O cafe (487 Crown Street; see for an online menu) on Crown Street Surry Hills is one of those, offering a home away from home for vegetarians and vegans. It is the vegetarian place in Surry Hills best known for its organic, gluten free, vegan friendly, Fair trade produce, using wholesome fresh local organic produce, creating delicious food and supporting organic farmers (not to mention the body’s needs). Flavoursome, innovative, memorable food is the aim which they seem to achieve with their juices and smoothies, daily lunch specials, array of wonderfully nutritious salads (small $7.50) and wraps (predominantly vegan) as well as hot food and decent coffee. It offers seating indoors and outdoors as well as takeaway, all very reasonably priced. Add to this the colour green, potted Chinese good luck palms and hints of bamboo, a water feature and friendly staff. And you can round off a satisfying meal with home made truly organic sweets bearing names like Bliss balls, praline lush bombs, nickers, salted caramels as well as the more serious bounty bars and spelt muffins, also with their own fans. A select, small range of packaged products on sale over the counter boast organic, vegan or gluten free e.g. the alter Eco range of chocolate bars (organic rather than truly vegan) and fair trade coffees and teas.

Other options for vegans and vegetarians are to be found in two areas adjacent to Sydney University (well patronised by students as well as locals): the suburbs of Glebe and Newtown. More architecturally attractive Glebe (and more bourgeois at the harbour/parkside end) has a favourite haunt of students and vegetarians amongst its many Glebe Point Road cafes in Badde Manners - at the Parramatta Road/University end - a long standing vegetarian institution offering delicious breakfasts but open all day and evening. Nearby is Iku (see for website menu, philosophy and location details), this Glebe cafe is one of a chain with several cafes in the city, lower north shore and eastern suburbs in addition to the inner city suburbs of Darlinghurst (near Kings Cross), Glebe and Rozelle. For an evening drink, early or late, further down the street A Different Drummer (185 Glebe Point Road) is a funky wine bar with dark lighting, wood floor, cool music, and jolly, helpful young barmen skilfully mixing exotic cocktails. Accompanying food options are starters designed to be shared, such as warm Turkish bread and dips, spicy 3 bean nachos, grilled corn with chipotta mayo, lime and Parmesan; button mushrooms with fresh rosemary and garlic, and a few daily specials. The extensive selection of cocktails range from $14 to $18, sours are $16 and martinis $18 to $22, and wine and sangria also available. Not for the hearing impaired.

On the other, south west side of Sydney University, King Street Newtown is equally famous for its cheek by jowl cafes and restaurants of every description alongside bookshops, cinema and fascinating little shops; a slow stroll starting from the university end will sort out those most appealing to your tastes.

More business-like, for self-catering, the eastern suburbs has Macro Wholefoods store (31 Oxford Street Bondi Junction, 8 to 8 approx) with an organic goods store and naturopath dispensary attached to its cafe.

And worth a visit also is About Life Cafe, a chain in inner west Rozelle, eastern suburbs Bondi Junction and Cammeray on the north shore, catering to special diets including vegan, with imaginative cuisine. As well as their cafes in ambient settings, the chain offers purchase of groceries and takeaway plus online shopping. And if you are doing serious self catering, either healthy or indulgent, don't go past Eveleigh Farmers Market on Saturdays (8 to 1)
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in Redfern (next door to Surry Hills), 5 minutes walk from Redfern station, at Carriageworks, half way along Eveliegh.

And finally for something straight, nice, a bit special!

Amidst the vast choice of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian and Korean restaurants on offer in Sydney, The Malaya is an original restaurant of 1960s/1970s fame, now transported from its humble location in George Street by Central Station to wharf quayside (39 Lime Street, Sydney Tel; 92791170 near Darling Harbour), with many dishes of old happily unreconstituted, here lovingly and authoritatively described for fellow vegetarians by restauranteur Rosie Milenkovic:

‘Many Asian restaurants advertise at least some of their menu as being vegetarian or vegan, little realising that we vegetarians can taste the unmistakable flavour of fish sauce a mile off. After years of dining at The Malaya, I think I can safely say that their vegetarian options are truly animal free.

The official vegetarian menu at The Malaya consists of seven dishes, but for some reason doesn't include my favourite, Asparagus Kerabu which I am assured is totally vegan and is a wonderfully light and subtle mixture of still slightly crunchy asparagus and honey peas in a thin but perfectly balanced, garlic, chilli and coconut sauce. Always save a few pieces of the warm flaky roti to soak up the delicious juices. Another favourite starter is the vegetarian San Chow Bow which serves two, and is a finely diced mixture of water chestnuts, carrots, mushrooms and shallots lightly stir fried with garlic and soya sauce and served with 4 crunchy iceberg lettuce "bowls" for you to roll your own.The flavour is beautifully clean and slightly smoky, with no oiliness or heat. A gentle wake up call for the stomach.

If it's protein you need, you can't go past the Szechuan Beancurd with its wonderful ruddy glaze over large triangles of crispy skinned tofu, studded here and there with cashew nuts and shallots and served on a bed of Asian greens. As an accompaniment you could of course, go with plain steamed rice, but the vegetarian Singapore noodles are a personal favourite and come with a luscious gloss and wok -smoky aroma, and apart from Asian greens, shallots, beansprouts and chilli, will now and then surprise you with a large chunk of seared Chinese mushroom.

Another oil free option is Sayor Otak, silken tofu, topped with a paste of eggplant, mushroom, tomato, lemongrass and chilli, wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued.
Or for something richer and truly warming try the Sayor Masak Lemak, a Malay style vegetable curry with lots of chilli, lemongrass and coconut milk. Add a side order of the perennial Salt and Pepper Cauliflower, which is finished with a little chilli and shallots.

Remember when you are ordering, that most of the dishes mentioned, come in meaty varieties as well, so make sure you tell the always friendly and helpful staff that you want the vegetarian version. The Malaya inhabits a very large space, popular with large groups, so you may have to yell, but the hard of hearing can always just sit back and enjoy the theatre of the surroundings and the spectacular view of the water and the reflections of Darling Harbour in it.’

And to tempt you to leave Sydney and head for the wild west, Alice Springs in the middle of the vast desert at the centre of Australia has some surprising choices for vegetarians among its limited tourist fare.

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Of particular charm is The Tea Shrine, Zen Vegetarian Restaurant on Gap Road, just a 5 minutes walk from town, next to a second hand bookshop and opposite the hospital (an attractive building in the vernacular desert style of architecture; last time I was in the Tea Shrine a member of the hospital staff rushed in and persuaded its customers to come and boost the numbers for an opening tour of its brand new state of the art emergency department.) Lunch specials are $12, changing daily (closed Sunday).

There is an extensive specialty tea menu, including AyurLife range of herbal teas and spice blends based on the Ayurveda tradition; Rooibos South African organic tea; herbal teas that are naturally caffeine free, water garden tea with blossoms, fruit infusions that are high in vitamin C sugar and caffeine free, herbal infusions, special herbal blends for a range of ailments, classic teas, china teas, Japanese green teas, Ceylonese and Indian teas, flavoured black teas, special blends and green or white tea.

The kitchen shuts at 3, the restaurant closes at 4. It also has takeaway dumplings, dim sims, steamed buns and curry puffs. Very clean, low key, in a peaceful setting, indoor or out.

Other vegetarian and vegan food in Alice Springs can be found at the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens cafe on the other side of the normally dry Todd River ( the site of the home and native garden of the fearless campaigner for indigenous Australians in the first half of the twentieth century) or more upmarket in Hanumans Indian restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on the edge of town.

If Australia seems a long way away and expensive, remember house swapping can be a safe and welcome introduction to a new place where you stay in the home of someone local, without the expense of accommodation - and Australians love to visit London with all its riches and the glorious countryside and towns around!

Rachael Henry
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:03 pm

Re: Vaguely Vegan in Sydney

Postby parker78 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 11:00 am

Great recommendations!!
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:23 am

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