Where to Take A Vego This Valentine’s Day

By Kathryn Kernohan
4th Feb 2014

Flowers? Tick. Card? Tick. Declaration of love booked into the classified pages of the Herald-Sun? Tick. Now all you need is a venue to celebrate Valentine's Day with your beloved. There's no need to stress if your other half happens to be vegetarian – Melbourne is home to an array of vegetarian-friendly restaurants perfect for special occasions. From buffets to banquets, degustation to fine dining, here's our ultimate guide to the city's best spots for a meat-free Valentine's Day
Carlton institution, Shahakari, which has had a presence in the suburb since 1972, is a venue for milestones, if we've ever seen one. Pull up a seat in the tastefully decorated dining room and choose from the East-West menu of curries, noodles and claypots complemented by a comprehensive drinks list. Make sure you leave enough room for dessert – the tofu caramel (with crushed pistachio, toffee and raw coconut sugar sauce) never fails to win rave reviews.

Shakahari | 201 - 203 Faraday Street in Carlton

Think Greek food and you invariably think of charcoaled lamb and fresh seafood. Hellenic Republic does all that – but there's a surprisingly large selection of meat-free dishes on offer, from the classic spanakopita to vegetable moussaka and the signature saganaki. Both Hellenic branches (yup, there's now a second one in Kew) offer two separate banquets, which the staff will cheerily modify to suit vegetarians, even when they're dining with a carnivore.

Hellenic Republic | 434 Lygon Street in Brunswick East & 26 Cotham Road in Kew

Image Credit: Hellenic Republic Facebook

A fixture on Brunswick Street for two years now, Madame K's continues to impress with its all-vegetarian and vegan menu of Thai and Asian-inspired dishes. Soy meat is a big fixture here, with skewed 'chicken' satay, 'lamb' curry and lemongrass 'duck' on the menu alongside traditional stirfrys, soups and curries. The wine list helpfully points out which drops are vegan-friendly, and the inviting interior is highlighted by decorative wallpaper and elegant light fittings.

Madame K's Vegetarian Restaurant | 367 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy

As soon as your dining companion informs the staff at Kumo that he or she is vegetarian, the table will be delivered a copy of the vegetarian menu. Delicious meat-free choices include pumpkin and asparagus tempura, ramen salad and vegetable skewers – and since the dishes are designed for sharing, you may as well order them all. Complete with Melbourne's best sake selection, Kumo has a dark, stylish interior with communal benches and booth seating. It's the closest thing you'll get to celebrating Valentine's Day in Tokyo without leaving town.

Kumo Izakaya | 152 Lygon Street in Brunswick East

Vue de Monde. Photographed by Dianna Snape.

Good luck getting a reservation to Shannon Bennett's Vue de Monde if you don't already have one. Landing a table on level 55 of the Rialto is hard enough as it is, without Valentine's Day to contend with. But the 14-course Gastronomes menu – available to suit vegetarians or vegans – is the stuff of legend in Melbourne's vegetarian community. Vue's other sites – 401 St Kilda Road, 430 Little Collins Street, Heidi Museum and Melbourne Airport – also serve vegetarian incarnations of their four-course, $18 lunchboxes.

Vue de Monde | Level 55 at 525 Collins Street in Melbourne

With a name like The Meatball & Wine Bar, many assume this casually sophisticated eatery – on Flinders Lane and Swan Street – doesn't accommodate vegetarians. But scroll past the ball-based puns ("choose something for your balls to sit on") on the menu, and there they are – balls of cauliflower, chickpeas and coriander. From there, they can be customised with a variety of sauces and sides. And really, nothing screams romance like sharing a Whoopie Mac (housemade ice cream sandwich), does it?

The Meatball & Wine Bar | 135 Flinders Lane in Melbourne & 105 Swan Street in Richmond

Pea & mint salad with air-dried ricotta - yes please! Image credit: Meatball & Wine Bar Facebook

The accolades continue to fly thick and fast for Attica – as well as being voted in at 21 in S. Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurant list (the highest Australian entry), Ben Shewry's Ripponlea restaurant was also recently named Best Restaurant in Victoria by The Age's Good Food Guide. From Wednesday to Saturday, there's an eight-course tasting menu also available with matched wines. One of the signature dishes is "a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown" – a slow-cooked potato with vibrant flavours. We're getting hungry just thinking about it, and we've already booked for next Valentine's Day!

Attica | 74 Glen Eira Road in Ripponlea

The Langham's signature restaurant, Melba, occupies a prime position on Southbank, with postcard-worthy views across the city a beautiful backdrop to your meal. Here, you'll find arguably the city's classiest buffet – where you can go back for seconds, thirds and fourths without judgement. Various 'stations' serve everything from sushi and curries to risottos and claypots – all cooked before your eyes and to your liking. Try the ever-popular naan bread stuffed with M&Ms (trust us, it's amazing), before ending your meal slumped over the impressive dessert cabinets.

Melba Restaurant | The Langham, 1 Southgate Avenue at Southbank

One of Melbourne's newer all-vegetarian restaurants, Mama Roots has a cosy, homely interior and a menu to match. Meals here – from the twice-baked polenta wedges to the Cajun blackened tofu and Moroccan tagine – won't break the bank but are flavoursome and filling. Many dishes are vegan, and there's an affordable banquet of tapas, mains and mint tea available. Make sure you leave room for dessert – the housemade apple tea cake is killer.

Mama Roots | 599 High Street in Northcote

Joseph Abboud's award-winning restaurant specialises in the Middle Eastern flavours you know – chargrilled cheese, tangy yoghurt dips, pickled vegetables – with a contemporary spin. While there's predictably plenty of meat on the menu, staff can cater the two varieties of banquets for vegetarians. A word of warning: once you've tried the spectacular Sigara Boregi (filo cigars stuffed with haloumi, feta and kasseri), you'll be dreaming about them for weeks.

Rumi | 116 Lygon Street in Brunswick East

Main Image Credit: Inside the Bag

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