Let's face it, going on a diet cleanse is not fun. And eating out for lunch or dinner while on said cleanse can be torture. Trying to avoid the fried or carb-loaded temptations can be exceptionally difficult, particularly when the salads on offer present little more than wilted lettuce leaves.
So, to rescue you from the brink of ordering a sanga or steak, we've scoured the streets to bring you 11 of the best salads in Melbourne, which will leave you guilt-free and sufficiently sated. Nom!
Californian Superfood Salad – Pillar of Salt
With its name a nod to the biblical tale of a woman who turned into a salt statue, dining at Richmond's Pillar of Salt has become a religion for many with its honest and plentiful menu, not to mention its funky, urban interior.
The Californian super food salad is literally a bowl full of goodness and, if it's not one of Melbourne's best salads I'll eat my hat. Tri-coloured quinoa makes itself at home on shredded kale, which is intermingled with wild organic rice, charred corn, salted ricotta, black turtle beans, heirloom tomatoes and a piquant lime and jalapeno vinaigrette. Once you consume this salad you will leave feeling like a saint, particularly if you are able to bypass the cabinet of cakes on the way out.
Grilled Chicken Salad – Fonda
Melbourne is mad for Mexican, but few do it better than cruisy cantina, Fonda. Lines are still out the door almost a year on from the second casa opening in Windsor.
The grilled chicken salad gives its menu amigos (tacos, burritos and quesadillas) something to be sneezed at with the addition of quinoa, black beans, coriander, fresh corn, sweet potato, mint, peas and lemon vinaigrette. It's a truly robust salad, and definitely worthy of a spot on our list of best salads in Melbourne! This bad boy will have you squealing 'Arriba' and coming back for more.
Chicken, Avocado and Mango Salad – Cooper and Milla's
If there was such a thing as salad porn, then numerous stars would be born out of Cooper and Milla's. You can't walk past the treat-laden cafe without lusting after the plethora of salads adorning the window. From Greek to ancient grains and a salmon nicoise, Cooper and Milla's has some of the best salads around.
But the go-to has to be the chicken, avocado and mango salad. Slathered in a creamy yet light citrus mayo, it's simple yet sophisticated and tastes naughty when it's not.
Avocado and Grilled Haloumi Salad – Little Deer Tracks
Tucked away in a side street off bustling Sydney Road in Coburg is vegetarian gem, Little Deer Tracks, which specialises in organic Italian cuisine. The dishes on offer are so tasty they'll even be a hit with the most diehard carnivores.
The particular dish in question is proof that salads do not need meat to be filling. Sitting on a bed of mixed greens, the sumptuously salty haloumi is without a doubt the hero of this salad, with strips of roasted red capsicum, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, and of course avocado, the ultimate support acts. The citrus balsamic reduction and spiced pecan nuts provide the finishing touches to this best salad pick.
Smoked Chicken Salad – Charlie Dumpling
As with any new walk-in restaurant in Melbourne, the queues are out the door for Charlie Dumpling, which opened in Prahran earlier this year. But with chef Dylan Roberts (former Cutler & Co and Claremont Tonic) performing a modern twist on traditional Chinese, it's certainly worth the wait.
The smoked chicken salad is the perfect accompaniment to the mouthwatering dumplings on offer, but is large enough (and delicious enough) to be consumed on its lonesome. The woody-flavoured chicken pieces are buoyed by shredded wombok and crisp bean shoots and seasoned with sesame, black pepper and rice malt dressing. One of the best Asian-influenced salads in all of Melbourne town!
Image Credit: Pillar of Salt Facebook
Vermicelli Noodle Salad – VPR Vietnamese Street Food
Blink and you'll miss this hole-in-wall Vietnamese cafe located in Southbank's Freshwater Place. VPR Vietnamese Street Food can be found up a set of stairs filled with suits from nearby offices savouring the fresh ingredients on offer.
Of course there's the obligatory rice paper rolls and pho, but one can't go past the vermicelli noodle salad which comes with a choice of lemongrass pork, Vietnamese-style chicken, fried tofu and mushrooms, flash fried beef or homemade seafood spring rolls. Servings are exceptionally generous and blended with mint, basil, julienne vegetables, fried shallots and roasted nuts. Yum!
Protein Powerhouse Salad – Crisp
You have to hand it to Crisp. The owners have seemingly mastered what city office workers have been crying out for – a salad bar with quality ingredients, which tastes like real food! And if you're counting calories you've come to the right place; each salad comes with a number.
Diners can create their own salad 'in four easy steps' by selecting a leaf, protein, four ingredients and a dressing, or choose from the Chef's Cut of 10 seasonal salads. With a name like Protein Powerhouse, at just 472 calories you know your insides are in for some purification – flaked Sirena tuna is mixed with edamame, egg, beetroot, quinoa and spinach, and topped with a lemon caper dressing. Surely one of the best healthy salads to be found.
Cabbage, Radish, Pea and Parmigiano Salad – Mr Wolf
Mr Wolf in seaside St Kilda is arguably one of Melbourne's finest pizza establishments, but if you're not digging the dough, it also dishes up one of the best salads I've ever eaten.
Some might say the cabbage, radish, pea and parmigiano salad is more of a side dish, but once you wrap your laughing gear around this baby you won't want to share. Mint, chilli and lemon juice accent this dish to a T.
Nicoise Salad – The European
The European has deservedly earned a reputation as a Melbourne institution, and not just because of its grand Spring Street location across from Parliament House. Sourcing only the best produce from Australia and Europe, chef Ian Curley is a master of honest, simple food that takes its cues from France, Italy and Spain.
The iconic restaurant is home to the best nicoise salad in town. The confit tuna is immaculately perched on a bed of blanched yellow and green beans, kalamata olives, heirloom tomatoes, kipfler potatoes, peas, zucchini flowers and soft boiled egg. The white anchovies are subtle and the salad is lightly dressed with lemon and olive all. Just bliss.
Organic Black Bean Noodle Salad – Shebeen
Drinking at Shebeen is pretty much compulsory given that 100 per cent of profits made from each alcoholic beverage sold goes directly to the developing world. But one must drink responsibly, so luckily the food menu is a treat for the taste buds too.
The organic black bean noodle salad is the perfect partner in crime, given it's not only healthy, but also scrumptious, with its lime miso dressing and sprinkling of slivered almonds. Its vegan-friendly and gluten-free, but for an additional $4 you can add smoked tofu, pork belly or pulled pork.
Moroccan Carrot Salad – Huxtable
Smith Street has become one of Melbourne's most popular eat streets in recent years, with new restaurants popping up at every turn. One of the most popular dining options is Huxtable, with a menu designed to share from the sea, land and earth.
It's hard to pick a salad on the menu to single out, but the Moroccan carrot salad is the perfect accompaniment to any land or sea dish, with the addition of beluga lentils, green olives and bold flavours of harissa and mint.
TUL Note: A born and bred Melburnian, Rebecca Elliott has a serious passion for her city. Combining this with her love of food and a fine drop of wine, on any given weekend, or anytime for that matter, Rebecca can be found sampling the fare at the latest dining hot spot and then sharing that experience with anyone who will listen.
Main Image Credit: Huffington Post