Vegetarianism, like many dining options, goes in and out of fashion. However healthy eating seems set to stay. The odd vegetarian dish can be a welcome break from the traditional ‘meat and three-veg’ and can be a very healthy form of eating with many proven heath benefits (unless you prefer multiple wheatgrass shots). What’s more, at this time of year, many varied types of fruit and vegetables are becoming available so the options are extensive and good value. So if you feel like a bit of a health kick or simply some fresh food options, there are many such places in Melbourne, are a just a few to get started:

One of the oldest vegetarian institutions in Melbourne is Shakahari in Carlton; a place where only a generation ago vegetarians would queue to buy their brown rice. The modern Shakahari is a no nonsense restaurant with a big emphasis on quality produce with every dish boasting a variety of flavours and ingredients.

This October and its wintry predecessors have offered up a very broad range of ingredients for the seasonal food-lover that have been taken full advantage of in the menu. Dishes span from exotic black fungi with sweet lemongrass and herbs, to very filling curries and silky tofu. What’s more, with melon, lotus blossom, coconut and local berries available, fruits desserts are delicious too. The best part; you walk out feeling healthier, fuller and your hip pocket only a little lighter.

Another option, not so far away in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy is the very popular, somewhat off-beat Vegie-Bar. Whilst queuing for a seat in its factory like interior, the MC, commanding pen in hand, pointed out some of the new specials currently available. Cherries and currants are swamping Melbourne markets at the moment and there was a huge slab of muesli, choc-cherry slice available. It’s an all day cafe that boasts ever-changing options of daily specials and juices, a takeaway option ideal on your way down to the Fitzroy pool.

The crowd is mixed as is the food options and prices are very reasonable. Think Moroccan tagines, hot falafel rolls or, not so healthy, huge serves of tacos with thick cream and sauces or waist deflating cakes and sponges. Another plus is the option of special gluten free, vegan and glucose intolerant dishes and most other dishes can be rendered as such.

At Vegie Bar the mixed crowd adds to a certain bonhomie and vibrant atmosphere where the staff dash around energetically and individuals can either remain comfortably anonymous reading the paper while sitting on a group table.

Speaking of groups, the famous Lentil As Anything cafes in St Kilda, Abbotsford Convent and Footscray offer a unique dining experience as a not-for-profit vegetarian group of restaurants. The brain-child of founder Shanaka Fernando, profits are put back into funding projects to help acclimatise and re-establish the lives of migrants and refugees. The philosophy behind Lentil As Anything is to believe in the generosity of its patrons and, with this is mind, customers pay what they can afford to or however much they think the food is worth. Surprisingly this formula has worked very well and is not taken advantage of. The food and drinks are of a very high quality and of generous portions.

There is a strong focus on Indian and Sri-Lankan based dishes and at the moment the availability of mango and paw-paw is evident as is the pineapple. So order the smoothies! The atmosphere differs in each of these locations but there is always music playing and they cater to all types. Tucking into a freshly made salad or organic eggs while overlooking the Abbotsford Convent’s gardens is a wonderful way to start or end the weekend. Cultural activities are also staged throughout the week. Students adore these cafes as do the more creative types but come the weekend it’s a haven for all and sundry.

So as the summer months draw near, put away your steak knife and get set for light, fresh eating, and tuck into some great veggie options around Melbourne.

Shakahari
201-203 Faraday St, Carlton
(03) 9347 3848

Vegie Bar
380 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 6935
www.vegiebar.com.au

Lentil As Anything
Various Locations - St Kilda, Abbotsford, Footscray
www.lentilasanything.com