No judgment, no dogma, no tofu. That’s the vibe at Green Lion, Sydney’s first vegan pub. It sits above the unassuming Red Lion pub, a Rozelle local with old codgers at the front, pokies at the back, and Toohey’s on tap. The upstairs kitchen, bar and balcony was sitting vacant until Bhavani Baumann and Sacha Joannou approached the owner with their business proposition. In just six weeks, the entrepreneurial pair snapped up the space, nutted out the menu, and claimed the city’s first vegan pub mantle.
Green Lion have embraced the ‘Lord of the Fries’ niche market, and taken it up a notch. The menu is co-designed by Sadhana Kitchen’s chef Rose Markcrow, but it’s slight on the raw food front. Instead, you’ll find a familiar roll call of beer-friendly food such as hot dogs, pizzas, fries, and burgers.
The latter stream steadily from the kitchen counter. The Green Mack, a non-meat homage to the Big Mac, has become the de facto signature dish. Its likeness to the original in terms of flavour and appearance is undeniable, right down to the ‘special sauce’, a concoction of soy milk, mustard and pickles. For reasons I cannot fathom, my dining partner goes all George Costanza on me and tackles her burger with a knife and fork. Please do not do this.
The nachos get a tick for the tasty beefless bean mince, topped with guac, salsa and sour cream. The lasagna is so-so—it’s covered with a strangely sweet tomato passata, and I was really hoping it would be laden with layers of roast vegetables. Luckily, the trio of baja fish tacos is a winner. The battered fishless fish is firm and fleshy and tastes remarkably...like fish, really, and is pretty moreish with the cabbage slaw and non-yoghurt sauce.
For dessert, the peanut butter fudge brownie is serious business. There’s a solid three-centimetre slab of peanut butter wedged between two dense brownie slices. Seek relief with the sides of raspberry coulis and Over the Moo vanilla dairy-free icecream. It’s really good.
Green Lion has only been open for a few weeks, but word has spread quickly. Thursday to Saturday are their busiest nights, attracting a near and far crowd of vegans and meat-eaters alike. On a moderately bustling Wednesday night, I spot Bhavani packing a gift box of desserts for a pair of diners who have travelled all the way from Parramatta. It speaks volumes of how this place is so welcoming and welcomed, principled but not arrogant, and gaining a reputation for its good, honest food that also happens to be animal-free.
Want something sweet? Here's where to find vegan desserts in Sydney.
Image credit: Claudia Shmueli