We all know that there are lots of lovely vegetarian restaurants and cafes offering delicious veg*n food, but this doesn’t always help when we’re eating out with meat eaters at meat-focused restaurants.
Lately I’ve been really happy to find vegan options popping up in the most unexpected places.
The advice I was given when I first became vegan, at the start of this year, was that I should always call ahead to check that a vegan option would be available. That’s great in theory, and I’ve done it when I can, but it’s not always possible when eating out is a spontaneous thing. On occasion, I’ve been fully prepared to settle for a bowl of chips just so that I wouldn’t miss a social occasion…but here’s the thing—I haven’t had to settle for a bowl of chips, or a plate of vegies or a green salad. I’ve been really surprised at the fantastic vegan food I’ve been served up in the most unlikely places.
So this is what this post is about—giving a virtual high 5 to all the fantastic places I’ve been to lately that have offered me (sometimes with no prior warning) some glorious, imaginative vegan meals.
I’ve mentioned this one in an earlier post. Sure, they were offering a vegan degustation, so obviously they were in the meat-free mindset, but the extra efforts they went to, to provide me with a fantastic vegan degustation were really appreciated. I didn’t miss any courses, and nothing I was served was stop-gap or second best.
My high school reunion was held at this suburban bowls club, probably not known for its vegan fare. I didn’t expect too much in the way of vegan finger food, even though they’d enquired about dietary requirements, but I was happily surprised by the range of options I was given – and not on a special plate in the corner, labelled ‘Vegan’ either. This was handed around like all the other food, and the waiters were all knowledgeable about what was in each item. I especially liked the pita bread wedges filled walnuts.
The following week I went to another reunion dinner (big year!), this time at the Bouzy Rouge in Bridge Road, Richmond. My heart had sunk when I’d read their online menu. Not much in the way of vego food at all, so I got in early and emailed them. At first they’d offered me fish…oh dear! I figured that I’d eat before I went…but luckily I didn’t eat too much, because they provided a fantastic set menu, with my own little board of tasty finger foods, WAY better than what the other diners were served… of course, I was biased.
Our social club organises special lunches every few weeks, and I often wonder if I should take part, because having to find vegan options for me makes more work for them—although they very generously insist they are happy to do it. The most recent couple of lunches have included delicious vegan pizza with sweet potato and caramelised onion (from Crust Pizza), and a gorgeous range of vegan dips, marinated vegetables and bread. I really, really appreciate their efforts. (Of course, there are the mandatory comments about weird rabbit food, etc., but I pointed out that if we just made all the lunches vegan and gluten free, everyone would be happy… ;-)).
A couple of weeks back, my mum, two of my sisters, my brother and I met for lunch at Doyles in Mordialloc. We were heading for the café, because I figured that a pizza menu is easily made vegan—just get a vegie pizza and ask them to leave the cheese off—but somehow we got talking to one of the staff in the main restaurant, and she spoke to the chef. Next thing I knew, I was offered a plate of roasted vegetables, cous cous, olive tapenade, and some other delicious bits and pieces. It was so tempting that I wasn’t the only one of the group who took up the vegan option. It was so unexpected that they would prepare that, with no prior warning—and they were more than happy to do it!
The following week, my sister who’d missed out on the family lunch invited me to lunch at a local café. She’d got a deal on Living Social, and as it was ‘Meat-free Monday’ at the café, I was her lucky guest. I didn’t have any trouble finding a vegan lunch option on the menu, but when I checked out the desserts, they were all baked goods or dairy-based desserts. I was about to settle in for my usual soy hot chocolate, when the waitress, listing the cakes and slices available, happened to mention the vegan cake on the counter. Apparently the chef is vegan, so they often have vegan baked goods! (something I will definitely be keeping in mind in the future). The cake was absolutely delicious—I’m not even sure what it was—but it had vegan cream cheese icing and warm raspberry sauce, so how could it go wrong?
Then there’s all the fantastic vegan takeaway options I’ve been offered lately, from non-vegan places like:
- Mr Burger. A couple of work friends put me on to Mr Burger. They have a Mr Veg burger (with a felafel patty) that they are happy to make vegan by not adding cheese or mayo—easy! (and really nice). Food truck food always tastes a lot better than everything else, I reckon! STOP THE PRESS! Mr Burger’s rolls aren’t vegan. They will serve it in lettuce leaves, though. Sounds a bit desperate…but I reckon that might be OK – or I’ll take my own bread next time.
- For the Love of Pizza (and most other good pizza restaurants). Make up your own, but I love the pizza with olive paste (stops you missing the saltiness of cheese and salty meat), potato, pumpkin, caramelised onion and herbs.
- Just yesterday I noticed Roll Lane. It is a little Vietnamese place offering a small range of dumplings, Pho, Bun and some salads. What I was surprised to see was that the menu had a vegan version listed for each of the dishes! I tried the spinach and mushroom dumplings, which were delicious (although I think I’ll get two serves next time, because they were small). Can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!
When I stopped eating meat almost 20 years ago, I had enough trouble finding lacto-ovo vegetarian options when I ate out. Now I seem to be finding vegan food everywhere, and it’s always such a lovely surprise.
So, to all the cafes, hotels, restaurants and food trucks offering vegan food – I THANK YOU (and the animals thank you)!
Dammit! I can’t embed the video I wanted to use, so if you’re a cafe or restaurant offering vegan food, you’ll need to click through to watch it on YouTube.