BY NAYANI DE SILVA
Eating out as a vegan can be an extremely hard thing to do. You always have that sneaking suspicion that the waiter couldn’t be bothered to ask the chef how the meal is prepared and it is in fact made with animal stock, butter, eggs or cow’s milk.
Being a student on a budget but also committed to having a active social life, I have journeyed all around my area of the CBD and inner west to dine, and sometimes further.
These are the top 5 places I frequently visit:
1. Iku Wholefoods – Glebe
The amazing atmosphere and cheap prices make Iku Wholefoods in Glebe an absolute winner. The meals range from $5 – 15 and it include pumpkin lasagnes, cannellini bean pies, curries, cheesecakes and friands. There is also a unique drinks range that features coconut waters and organic ice teas. What sets Iku from all the rest is the amazing outdoor dining area they have. After you order and receive your food from the main counter, you can walk down the restaurant to what once was a back yard and enjoy your meal. The wooden benches and cushions achieve a communal feel, something unique that I have yet to find anywhere else.
2. Havana Beach – Manly
South American with an emphasis on Cuban cuisine, Havana Beach is a unique experience. Situated right on the water on Manly Beach, the sound of waves and the Cuban art hanging from the walls create a relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately Havana Beach isn’t all vegan so ordering can be tricky. For starters, the guacamole and corn chips is perfect. Portions are more than generous and it is certified safe for vegans. For mains, my favourite is the nachos, with no cheese or sour cream. The nachos are encased in a tortilla that has been moulded in a bowl and fried. For $15, the portion is about the size of your head – great value for money. The vegan chilli con carne has depth of flavour and a good kick of spice. All this food for $20 and location combined makes Havana Beach a great place to visit.
3. Basil – Newtown
Basil is somewhere I hold close to my heart, it’s where me and my boyfriend had our first date. The service and atmosphere were both perfect – not too loud so we couldn’t hear each other and not too quiet that it made it awkward. There is a whole section on the menu dedicated to vegetarians and vegans, making Basil a wonderful place to dine. Items range from classic Italian dishes such as pizzas and pastas and also the staples such as nachos. What sets Basil aside from eateries that offer both meat and vegan options is that it replaces dairy cheese on the vegetarian options with a cheese that’s vegan-friendly – something scarcely found. The dining area is quite small, so bookings for dinner on a weekend night are essential. Drinks are what you would expect and there are no desserts on offer which simply means you have an excuse to stroll down King Street and try sorbets at N2, Gelatissimo or Gelato Blue.
4. Peace Harmony – Wynyard
There is completely no meat, dairy or eggs on menu at Peace Harmony which makes it a safe haven for any vegan out there. It offers classic Thai foods such as green/red curries, pad thai, laksa and tom yum. Meals range from $10 – 15 and portions are huge. Drinks are rather typical and also feature non alcoholic beers – the plus corkage for BYO is cheap. The servers are always polite and food comes out fast. Peace Harmony is perfect to take someone for a date. It’s quiet and intimate and the Buddhist and animal rights quotes on the walls make for great conversation starters. The easy location makes Peace Harmony a must for any vegan Sydneysider.
5. Green Gourmet – Newtown
Amazing yum cha selection and fake meats, the only thing that bought Green Gourmet to number 5 and not higher is because it’s quite pricey. An absolute favourite of mine is the salt and pepper squid, it’s so good you probably can’t tell the difference from the real thing. Again while it’s pricey, running at $17.80 a plate, the upside is that portions are huge. Something unique to Green Gourmet is the lunch and dinner buffets that have an enormous selection. Lunch is considerably cheaper than dinner but even then, it’s difficult to afford on a student budget. Atmosphere is pretty ordinary and knowing everything is vegan can be comforting, because sometimes the servers can be hard to communicate with. The great thing about Green Gourmet is the raw cheesecakes and soy ice creams. The adjoining vegan deli and grocers next door sells the best vegan brownie you could ever imagine for only $5.40. Established 16 years ago, Green Gourmet is an institution in the vegan world, and for good reason – they’re great at what they do.
I hope that as my situation changes, I’ll be able to post something that goes along the lines of ‘Best Vegan Eateries in Sydney (regardless of price)’ – nonetheless, I’ll always be searching for new places to dine and trying to share the knowledge with as many people as I can.
Do you have any tips for vegan diners? Please let us know and we’ll add them to Nayani’s list 🙂