I landed in Melbourne with weary eyes and messy hair. My friend and I had gotten up at 4:30 AM for our flight, only to have it canceled. Luckily, we were able to squeeze on the next one, putting us in Melbourne at 9 AM. I looked at my friend as our Uber approached. I knew we were thinking the same thing: we needed food, and we needed coffee. It was a good thing we had just arrived in Australia’s vegan haven.
Our first stop was breakfast. Before we could even think about checking into our Airbnb, we needed something to eat. We went straight to St. Kilda, a hippie neighborhood right along the coastline that boasted a plethora of vegan options. I discovered Matcha Mylkbar on Instagram and wanted to see what it was all about. The menu greets you with a middle finger emoji, and a small blurb about the reason why they choose to offer a strictly plant-based menu, which is inspiring on its own. But as my eyes moved down the menu, I could feel my little vegan stomach tingling with even more excitement. I was already adding Vegan eggs, “amaze bowls,” and a purple peanut butter latte to my “list of things to eat before I die” before I could even look at the rest of the menu.
After a filling meal of avocado toast (with a fried vegan egg on top, I might add), it was time to check into our Airbnb. We were staying in Collingwood, a neighborhood just a short walk away from one of the most vegan-friendly areas in Melbourne: Brunswick St., in Fitzroy. Aside from its vegan charm, it’s also filled with swanky bars and vintage clothing shops. We spent the rest of the morning exploring Fitzroy, drifting in and out of each thrift store, stopping only for mid-afternoon drinks on a velvet couch.
By the time we finished, it was late afternoon, we were tipsy, and we wanted food. At the end of Brunswick Street, we found Vegie Bar. A cute, hip cafe with an exclusively vegan menu. Health foodies beware, much of their menu is fried, but they do have a bit of raw food as well. I had an amazing raw taco with a sundried tomato shell, and a samosa served with coconut tzatziki (my stomach is grumbling just talking about it). My friend had a veggie burger, which was dubbed the best one she had ever eaten (it must be true because I wasn’t allowed a bite of it!). After lunch, we pushed our food coma aside and went next door to Girls & Boys Fitzroy. This was one of my favorite experiences in Melbourne, by far. Girls & Boys is a completely plant-based, naturally sweetened dessert bar. I got coconut soft serve dipped in chocolate (I didn’t even know that was possible!), and I was in heaven.
We thought about going back to our apartment after that, but we figured that we only came to Melbourne with one mission: to eat and drink our way through the city, so that meant it was time for happy hour. Fitzroy Social was a gem we stumbled upon while shopping. The decor was so mesmerizing that we stood for a good five minutes trying to capture it on camera. After looking at the happy hour menu, we left, vowing to come back that afternoon. Melbourne is an expensive city (though not as pricey as Sydney), so we were ecstatic to find a deal as good as this one (12 AUD cocktails, 5 AUD beer/wine, 6 AUD spirits). They also had cheap appetizers, such as tacos, which I was easily able to make vegan.
Dinner was just across the street, at Smith & Daughters. This restaurant is definitely the most famous vegan place in the city, and that says a lot in Melbourne. It’s the big, bad wolf of vegan food. We did a couple of shared plates, and what stood out to me most was the corn and jalapeno fritters, with a dipping sauce that was to die for. I can still taste them to this day (and when you take into account that I also had a jug of sangria at dinner, that’s pretty impressive).
The rest of the night was spent dancing and laughing at any bar we could find off of Brunswick Street. With the incredible social scene they have in Fitzroy, we had no trouble finding one.
Our first day in Melbourne was spent in a food coma, supplemented by cocktails. My friend and I planned to do the same thing for our second day, plus a little more sightseeing. Breakfast was coffee, as we had big plans for lunch later. Melbourne is known for their coffee more than any place in Australia, and as a newbie coffee lover, this was great news to me. Plus, every place you step into will offer a vegan substitute (or multiple) for milk, making your morning wake up even easier.
We spent the rest of our morning on Chapel Street, the hub of Melbourne’s shopping and eating community (which, besides coffee, are the two most important things Melbs is known for). There is so much to see; you could spend days going in and out of shops and still not be satisfied.
Lunch was at the long-awaited Trippy Taco, a Mexican vegan/vegetarian restaurant with multiple locations around the city. I found this place when I first started researching Melbourne, so I was dying to try it. I had a taco, tamale, and corn on the cob, topped with vegan cheese and chipotle aioli. I paired that with a cold beer, and it was such a good experience that we snuck in another trip just before catching our flight.
We decided that we needed to walk off that lunch, so we set about in search of graffiti. Melbourne boasts some of the most amazing graffiti in the world. They even have an anonymous artist, similar to Banksy, who puts up murals relating to pop-culture. We found a five-story replica of Beyoncé’s baby announcement, in the middle of a seemingly deserted neighborhood. All over the CBD, there are small alleyways scattered about, and you’ll find them each uniquely covered in graffiti. A quick google search will tell you which laneways are currently the most interesting to see.
After a long nap, and a few pre-dinner cocktails, we decided on Italian. I’ve always had the hardest time finding good Italian food without the animal by-products, which is why I was ecstatic to try Nostralis Pizza. They’re known for their ability to make a vegan pizza taste better than a traditional pizza, and it exceeded my expectations. They have all kinds of toppings (including pumpkin!), but I went with a tried and true favorite, veggie.
Overall, Melbourne brought laughter, dancing, and good food. And what more could you ask for in a new city? I’ll admit it; I’m quick to fall in love with new cities. I’m known for coming home from a trip and exclaiming that it’s the BEST CITY EVER. But believe me when I say, that Melbourne, you really are the best city ever, especially for us vegans.
Have you sample the delightful vegan cuisine in Melbourne?
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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Matcha Mylkbar, Sydney Vogl