Gather your crew
When it’s time to eat out with your people, you’re going to want to please them all. Here are our top picks for plant-based venues that will do just that.
South Brisbane, QLD
Nothing says ‘good night out’ like a big Mexican feast with friends. This is why El Planta, a plant-based taqueria in South Brisbane, is the perfect place for your next meal with mates. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including their famous made-to-order tortillas, which are then topped with a range of meaty vegetables, sauces, and salsas. Their most popular dish is the Pescado (‘fish’ tacos), made with heart of palm – not that you’ll be able to tell the difference. Since opening, they’ve made over 30,000 of these tasty delights! It’s not all about the tacos though. El Planta offers a great range of snacks, mains, and sides, including grilled corn and house-made chipotle, best washed down with a grilled pineapple or blood orange margarita.
What I love most about El Planta is that everything on the menu remains as close to its plant form as possible. Even the plant-based meats are made in-house, including specials like ‘chorizo’ and ‘pulled pork’ in adobo sauce, that will impress vegans and non-vegans alike. Dining at El Planta feels like being in the home of a friend; the venue is friendly, unfussy, and understated, scattered with photos and framed prints on the walls, and filled with large tables perfect for communal dining. While the menu changes regularly, rest assured it is always 100 percent plant-based, mostly gluten-free, and always delicious.
Byron Bay, NSW
If you are plant-based or vegan, you’re probably used to the moans and groans of your meat-eating mates when you suggest another veg-only restaurant for dinner. But if you’re in Byron Bay or heading there for a holiday, you can be sure that even the most devoted carnivores in your group will be happy at No Bones. This plant-based restaurant is nestled in the heart of Byron’s bustling vegan scene, and a night out with friends here delivers more than just what’s on the menu. The atmosphere, service, drinks and, of course, the ethos are all just as important. No Bones manages to do a sensational job of it all.
The dining experience exceeded my expectations and, from what I could tell, those of others too. I couldn’t help but listen to comments from the tables around me as plates came out: “Is this really vegan? Surely not.” But you better believe it – everything is. The ‘calamari’ is made with konjac while the ‘pâté’ is made with shiitake mushrooms, flavoured with truffle and cognac. These are a couple of the most popular items on the menu, and for good reason. My personal favourite on the night? Gnocchi with pumpkin cream, asparagus, and sage butter pine nuts. Whatever you choose, it’ll be best enjoyed with one of their mouth-watering cocktails or a glass of natural, organic, sulphate-free Aussie wine. Dessert lovers are in for a good time too, so I strongly suggest saving room. You won’t regret it.
ALIBI BAR & KITCHEN
Alibi is a stylish restaurant and bar offering fun, fresh plant-based food, and is situated in the Ovolo Hotel on Woolloomooloo’s historic Cowper Wharf. Whether you’re after a casual or sophisticated meal, you’re in for a bright, immersive, and delicious dining experience with your crew here. You’ll be blown away by the venue’s notable design, bursts of colour, and funky furnishings. The main dining space offers both lounge and bar seating, with large communal tables perfectly suited for dining out with a crowd. For a casual bite, head to the bar where you’ll find a range of indulgent vegan dishes, including nachos (with all the trimmings), southern fried chick’n burgers, tacos, dumplings, and more.
For special occasions, be sure to try the refined tasting menu, designed in collaboration with a pioneer of plant-based cuisine, Chef Matthew Kenney. The restaurant menu offers an elevated experience that will delight your senses, featuring dishes and drinks that have been created through smoking, fermentation, and even molecular techniques. Think: raw heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagne with marinara and macadamia ricotta, sweet potato gnocchi, or strawberry shortcake with lemon verbena ice cream. The cocktails are an adventure of their own too, featuring an abundance of fruits, botanicals, and vegetables. If you have a friend that needs a little convincing when it comes to crossing over to the plant-based side for some fun, this is the place to take them.
Windsor and Geelong West, VIC
If there is only one place amid Melbourne’s bustling vegan scene I can recommend for your next night out with friends, it’s Yeah Boy. With restaurants in both Geelong West and Windsor, the aim is to create diverse, tasty food with a considered menu that meets the needs of everyone. Case in point, Yeah Boy is a dream for those with dietary requirements; it’s a place where you can loudly and proudly be plant-based, coeliac, nut free, soy free, dairy free, or even onion and garlic free. While not entirely vegan, the extremely inclusive menu means that everyone can approach dining with confidence, knowing you’ll enjoy a delicious meal without compromising on flavour.
The Yeah Boy menu offers bowls, sides, and bite-sized plates designed to be shared, which you may not want to do once you get a taste of the food. Signature dishes include the Sexy Mexi bowl, with crispy, quinoa-flaked tofu, smokey chipotle corn, charred pineapple, and capsicum salsa. Then there’s the cult-favourite K’tucky Fried Cauli or the slow-grilled Eggplant Steak with chilli oil, pickled onion, and chimichurri. Whatever you have, try pairing it with a passion fruit kombucha mojito, my personal favourite from the extensive drinks list. With its warm and welcoming atmosphere, abundance of plants, moody lighting, and a killer soundtrack of throwback tunes, Yeah Boy is the perfect place for mid-week catch-ups and weekend celebrations.
THE BUTCHER’S SON
Prepare to fall into a plant-based food coma after a visit to The Butcher’s Son, located in Auckland’s Herne Bay. The Butcher’s Son centres around a passion for deliciously wholesome food that is just as tasty as its non-vegan counterpart (and a whole lot better for you and the environment too). The menu features both new and nostalgic dishes, including pad thai, bao buns, burgers, pizzas, tacos, and nachos – made completely free from animal products. If you’re feeling spicy, their famous jalapeno poppers, filled with house-made mozzarella and coated in quinoa flakes and spices, are not to be missed. Alongside the irresistible comfort food, you’ll also find a range of fresh, seasonal salads and nourishing bowls.
For those wanting to kick it up a notch, the restaurant has a bespoke collection of vegan craft beers and wines, as well as a cocktail list with all of your favourites. If (like me) you’re a fan of an amaretto sour, you’ll be pleased to hear they shake up their own version of this delicious cocktail, skipping the egg whites and using aquafaba instead – that magical liquid from a can of chickpeas. The interior is bright, spacious, and inviting, offering ample seating for groups of diners both indoors and out. This self-proclaimed ‘butcher of the future’ may well be loved by animals and feared by plants, but you can be sure it will be a crowd-pleaser among vegans and non-vegans alike.
Cover image: Fiora Sacco for Alibi Bar & Kitchen