Smith Street has no shortage of vegan-friendly eating, but Copper Branch, a new plant-based eatery imported from Montreal, is like none other. As one of the globe’s largest vegan restaurant chains, they’re promoting a fresh approach to fast food, backed by streamlined technology and a bit of local flair. Here’s what to expect.

It’s one of more than 50 locations worldwide
The chain has sites across North America and Europe, but the Collingwood store is its first in the southern hemisphere – and there’s plenty more where this came from. Grove Food Group, the company behind this Melbourne location, plans to launch 100 more across Australia and New Zealand over the next 10 to 15 years.

“We’re trying to be that trusted convenient brand you’re gonna start seeing in other states, airports, shopping malls,” group operations manager Nathan Wills tells Broadsheet.

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There are no deep-fryers in sight
Though burgers and chips are core components of the menu, nothing is fried, nothing is frozen and most ingredients are made in-house. Wi-fi-controlled Unox Speed-X ovens help expedite the process while cutting out the need for fryers and grills.

“We take everything in a raw state 90 per cent of the time and we process it ourselves,” Wills says.

That applies to everything from the tempeh “bacon”, which is sliced, marinated and smoked until it resembles something akin to cured meat, to the fries, which are prepared over a painstaking three-day process of steaming and double-roasting.

The menu will carry you from breakfast through to dessert
The stars of the morning menu are the gluten-free bagels topped with fixings like hash browns, vegan sausage and Just Egg. If you know vegan food, you know this plant-based egg alternative has changed the vegan breakfast game – and Copper Branch is the only place in Australia currently using the American-made product.

“I’m not gonna tell you my secrets on that one but we’re already putting feelers out there to do the Just Egg distribution in Australia and New Zealand,” says Wills.

For lunch and dinner, tuck into “cheesy” kimchi toasties, DIY power bowls with your choice of base and protein, and “meatball” subs dressed with pesto and vegan mozzarella. Then finish off your meal with a cinnamon bun or chocolate zucchini brownie – two Canadian favourites that have made their way to Melbourne.

It’s a testing ground for emerging food brands
From the Heston Blumenthal-endorsed mushroom meat, Fable, to meat-free meatballs from Queensland’s Fenn Foods, many of the core ingredients are sourced from within Australia. And with time, the team hopes to increase this ratio.

“We want to become this sort of melting pot for Australian brands to hit the retail market,” Wills says. “Even if it’s a small-time company that’s come up with a brand-new plant-based product, we’ll try to give them a shot, showcase their products and then maybe we can put it on the menu full-time.”

Copper Branch
338 Smith Street, Collingwood
0483 109 932

Mon to Thu 7am–10pm
Sat & Sun 8am–9pm