The best vegetarian cafés and restaurants in Canberra

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The Goods

The Goods Wholefoods, one of Canberra’s best vegetarian cafes. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or simply trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat, it’s always a good idea to have a go-to veggie cafe.

More and more people are adopting a meat-free lifestyle to improve their health and the health of our planet. To keep up with the demand, wholly vegetarian restaurants are opening, and standard restaurants are developing more exciting plant-based options.

In this article, we’ll give you a few ideas of things to look for in a great vegetarian restaurant, as well as a handy guide to some of the best options available in Canberra.

What makes a great vegetarian restaurant or café?

There’s nothing worse than heading out for a nice vegetarian meal only to feel disappointed and ripped off. Here are a few characteristics that separate the average from the very best vegetarian cafes:

  • Variety. Think vegetarian meals are all the same? Think again. The best veggie cafes turn regular old vegetables into culinary masterpieces. Trust us – you won’t miss the meat one bit.
  • Quality food. Variety is great, but only if the food is of a high quality. In other words, the menu items must be delicious and satisfying.
  • Atmosphere. This one applies to all restaurants and cafes. Overly quiet, uncomfortable eateries are not welcoming at all – no matter how great the food is. The best cafes have a great vibe.
  • Price. You don’t want to pay a fortune for a stingy amount of food. The best cafes leave you full without breaking the bank.
  • Suitable for everyone. Vegetarian cafes are not just for vegetarians. The best of the best will please plant and meat eaters alike.

The best vegetarian restaurants and cafés in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Sage Restaurant

Want something a little bit fancy? You simply cannot go past Sage. While not strictly vegetarian, this award-winning restaurant offers both meat-free and vegan options. With a paddock to plate philosophy, Sage sources much of its fresh produce from its very own farm located just 8.3km from the restaurant itself. Whether you opt for a standard dinner or a 5-course degustation, Sage is one of the best places to indulge in top-quality vegetarian fare.

As Google reviewer and ‘Local Guide’ Peter Davie writes, “We celebrated my wife's birthday here, a wonderful time was had by all. The food was delicious, and the service was excellent. Highly recommended!”

Au Lac Vegan Cuisine

Fresh, healthy, quality vegan food – that’s what Au Lac is all about. This popular eatery offers an extensive menu featuring Asian flavours, and faux meats made of soy. The chefs at Au Lac take great care in the preparation and presentation of their dishes. All produce is sourced daily, and a select collection of speciality ingredients are imported to create a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Facebook user Gayle Catherine left the following review for Au Lac, “I love Aulac! The food is tasty, interesting and has a great variety. It’s great for everyone! The kids even loved it.”

The Goods Wholefoods

The mission at The Goods Wholefoods is to provide pure, unadulterated food that elevates bodies and moods. Whilst not strictly vegetarian, it offers plenty of veg-filled options. With inventive salads, breakfasts, superfood smoothies and healthy treats, this curated salad bar and wholefoods café is dedicated to serving food that is as delicious as it is good for you.

As Natasha Carroll writes in their Google review, “Go-to lunch spot! There is always something fresh, new and healthy to try. The service, coffee and food is excellent every time.”

Sweet Bones Bakery and Café

Sweet Bones is a laid-back vegan cafe and bakery where all the food is 100% cruelty free, can be made gluten-free, and is sourced organically and locally where possible. From a vegan big breakfast (featuring coconut bacon) to a stack of pancakes – not to mention their irresistible display of cakes – there’s something on the inventive menu to satisfy just about anyone.

See what ‘Local Guide’ Erin Rowe had to say about their experience at Sweet Bones in this review, “Amazing Vegan cafe, delicious food for breakfast or lunch, I had the basic banana bread that came with delicious topping, amazing, go on and treat yourself!”

Muse - Food, Wine, Books

Situated between Kingston and Manuka in the chic East Hotel, Muse is so much more than your run-of-the-mill eatery. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and even dessert, the stunning Muse restaurant features an irresistible menu of classic meals and reinvented vegetarian dishes.

As Google reviewer Dani Harris writes, “This is my new favourite restaurant in Canberra!!! Killer Bloody Marys, the souffle is to die for and the customer service is incredible. 10/10!”

If you’re looking for more recommendations of great restaurants in Canberra with vegan and vegetarian options, check out our articles on the best Indian, Chinese and Yum Cha restaurants in town.

Your experience with vegetarian restaurants and cafés in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the places listed above? Have we missed your favourite? If so, please share your feedback in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard to cook vegetarian meals?

Not at all! In fact, not having to use meat will actually make your life easier (and the cost of your groceries cheaper). There are also plenty of recipes that are vegetarian without being "boring" - fried rice, vegetable curries, vegetable stews, and of course desserts are all delicious vegetarian options that you can very easily cook at home.

Should I switch to a vegetarian diet?

This decision is entirely up to you, and unless there are any health concerns there is no real pressure either way. While there are plenty of benefits to not eating meat, you might find that a vegetarian diet isn't for you after all. Do some research and talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you're unsure.

Is being vegetarian better for the environment?

Sometimes. While Canberra is lucky to not need to source its meat from long distances, meat production does have a large environmental impact. Keep in mind though, mass-production vegetable crops do impact the environment significantly as well! All it really comes down to is where you source your produce from, so be mindful when you shop.

What is the difference between vegetarian and pescetarian food?

While vegetarians are strictly no-meat, pescatarians have one exception - they eat chicken, fish and seafood.

Is being vegan better than being vegetarian?

Not necessarily - whether or not a diet is good for you depends entirely on your own body and lifestyle. It's a completely personal choice, so do a bit of research and maybe talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you're not sure.

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canberrascout4:33 pm 06 Nov 19

Felafel Wraps, dips and zucchini balls at http://www.originkitchen.com.au/ manuka shops. Really big servings so great value.

Holden Caulfield11:47 am 12 Nov 15

A bit late to the party, but I noticed the other day that The Drawing Room in Crace has numerous vegetarian/vegan options on its menu.

batmantrilogy7:06 pm 28 Oct 15

Different people different opinions !
i vouch for Au Lac in Dickson .

It’s all about Malasian Chapter in Belco! They have a vegan menu & everything we have eaten from it is delicious. Seriously yummy. The satay tofu balls are a thing of beauty. And the Mamak Mee Goreng with soy meat is my current favourite. Every one always talks about Au Lac, but I implore you to try Malaysian Chapter.

Akiba’s vegan menu is pretty delicious as well 🙂

Malaysian Chapter in Belconnen have a great veg menu and it’s great authentic cuisine.

Sweet Bones, for sure.

I have eaten at Au Lac as well, but the options for anyone who actually doesn’t want mock meat are pretty limited.

8020 … Great vegan options!

Masquara said :

Mysteryman said :

Zan said :

John Moulis said :

…PS Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than vegetarian food pretending to be the very thing vegetarians have foresworn to eat, …

So your non-vegetarians can dine with you and others can try no meat dishes. Think outside the square.

I’m with John on this. I think it’s stupid making faux-meat dishes. I’ve eaten my share of them in support of my vegetarian friends but they never tasted like proper meat. I don’t see the point. Vegetables are nice and can be made very tastily without having to imitate meat.

I wondered about this, and was told that vegans who have made the choice not to eat meat on animal compassion grounds often still like meat, so they are fine to eat meat-like meals that aren’t involving animal death. It’s quite bizarre, but apparently works. You can even get vegan “fish fillets”!

I’ve had all sorts of Faux meats, including Scout Lack of Imagination vegetarian sausage, but one of the worst was a “chicken drumstick” which wrapped some stretched tofu skin around a stick.

Taste: Worse than forgettable.

Fauxness: Looked more like The Mummies Big Toe

Texture: Think dishcloth

Idea: Dumb!

Best of…: Probably on somebody’s list.

Vegetarian food is perfectly fine when artfully cooked, as with any meal. As I have said The Tofu Shop in East Melbourne is fantastically varied and delicious.

Sweet Bones is awesome.

+1 for both Au Lac and Sweet Bones. Both have great food options and super friendly service!

Mysteryman said :

Zan said :

John Moulis said :

…PS Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than vegetarian food pretending to be the very thing vegetarians have foresworn to eat, …

So your non-vegetarians can dine with you and others can try no meat dishes. Think outside the square.

I’m with John on this. I think it’s stupid making faux-meat dishes. I’ve eaten my share of them in support of my vegetarian friends but they never tasted like proper meat. I don’t see the point. Vegetables are nice and can be made very tastily without having to imitate meat.

I wondered about this, and was told that vegans who have made the choice not to eat meat on animal compassion grounds often still like meat, so they are fine to eat meat-like meals that aren’t involving animal death. It’s quite bizarre, but apparently works. You can even get vegan “fish fillets”!

Zan said :

John Moulis said :

…PS Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than vegetarian food pretending to be the very thing vegetarians have foresworn to eat, …

So your non-vegetarians can dine with you and others can try no meat dishes. Think outside the square.

I’m with John on this. I think it’s stupid making faux-meat dishes. I’ve eaten my share of them in support of my vegetarian friends but they never tasted like proper meat. I don’t see the point. Vegetables are nice and can be made very tastily without having to imitate meat.

John Moulis said :

…PS Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than vegetarian food pretending to be the very thing vegetarians have foresworn to eat, …

So your non-vegetarians can dine with you and others can try no meat dishes. Think outside the square.

Malaysian Chapter in Weedon Close Belconnen has excellent vegan food http://www.malaysianchapter.com.au/ as does the Kippax Curry House in Kippax http://kippaxcurryhouse.com.au/ which is Fijian Indian – the RouRou is sublime an the Khattar (Jackfruit curry) great!

South Indian food is often Vegetarian and Rucci’s in Belconnen, Bharat’s (just up the road) and Delhi 6 in Civic all have a wide selection of dishes. Also, the new Khukuri Cross Nepalese restaurant in Civic is worth a visit or two.

Alexandra Craig said :

There’s also a veggie restaurant Au Lac in Dickson. I’ve never been but some friends speak highly of it.

-1 for au lac. it is always too salty; and bizarre that vegetarians should anyway want to eat ‘meat’…

sammy’s do some excellent vegetarian, as does ottoman.

interestingness11:45 pm 08 Sep 15

~also vegetarian~

The best vegetarian food will often be at the best restaurant. I’ve had several unforgettable experiences at Lanterne Rooms at Campbell shops.

For vegetarian restaurants, the usual go-tos are Au Lac and Kingsland, both near each other in Dickson.

As for restaurants-that-don’t-hate-vegetarians: I’ve also had great experiences at Elk and Pea (Braddon) and The Hungry Buddha (Curtin).

Mandalay and both Brods definitely make the list for vegetarian-friendly takeaway.

Global Cafe on Northbourne Ave (Ethiopian). Ethiopian cuisine includes a lot of vegan dishes due to the many religious fasting days in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church calendar.
Phnom Penh in Belconnen (Cambodian) – my favourite is the vegetarian Amok.
Banana Leaf in Civic – try the Vegetable curry with pittu.
The Malaysian vegetable curry from Sammy’s Kitchen in Civic is great.
Ruchi South Indian Restaurant in Belconnen – try the stuffed dosai for something a bit different.

I enjoy Au Lac in Dickson as well, but non-vegetarians I’ve gone with have generally not liked it. Probably because they want the soy ‘meats’ to taste like actual meat and are disappointed when they don’t. Personally, I find the flavoursome sauces a pleasant change from the super-bland sauces many Asian restaurants use in their vegetable dishes. Try the Vietnamese fondue (aka steamboat).

Mountain Creek Wholefoods in Griffith and Local Press down at the Foreshore.

Seriously though. If you try one thing, try the smoked watermelon at Sage. It will blow your mind!!!

VeganOfCanberra6:09 pm 08 Sep 15

Sweet bones and their range of burgers, burritos, and cakes is definitely the best vegan/vegetarian place in Canberra! Unlike Au Lac and Kingsland in Dickson (Which I also love), they use lots of whole foods instead of meat substitutes.

If anyone is in need of vegan support in Canberra be sure to check out the “Vegan ACT” group on facebook. So many helpful people!

I went to Sage recently and had the most incredible 5 course degustation, all vegan – included ‘smoked watermelon’.. So good!! Lazy May’s are also very good for vego options down in Tuggeranong 🙂 Tilleys is a bit more veg friendly these days and seems always to have at least one vegan option. Akiba has its own vegetarian (and vegan) menu, and My Café in Manuka are apparently also fantastic! There’s also a place called As Nature Intended on the north side I am keen to check out. And Kingsland, Au Lac and the fabulous Sweet Bones of course!!

Tldr; it is becoming easier to eat out as a vegan/ vegetarian in Canberra

Love Au Lac.

Kingsland in Dickson is great too. We alternate between the two.

Even as a meat eater, I love the mock meats. Particularly chicken ones.

Definitely have to go to Sweet Bones in Braddon!!! Canberra’s only vegan cafe. They have a massive menu of lunch items and a delicious cabinet of sweets and cakes. You have to try their CinnaBon!

I also recommend Au Lac in Dickson, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant. The curry “chicken” or eggplant claypot are to die for, but you also cannot leave without trying the soy deep fried icecream!!

Malaysia Chapter is also really lovely, they have a meat menu and a separate vegna/vegetarian menu. My favourite there is the soy meat rendeng!

So, excited to see you do a review for the plant-based peeps!! <3 much love

+1 Au Lac

brookcus_falls3:38 pm 08 Sep 15

My sister is now vegan but has been a vegetarian for 10 years. For one of her birthdays she decided we should go out Au Lac in Dickson. While she enjoyed it us carnivores hated it. The “meat” tasted nothing like the real thing and the textures were all wrong.

Recently she taken us to Sweet Bones in Braddon and their food is exponentially better. I like the nachos there but my sister recommends the bacon cheese burger. Their cakes are also really good. Plus it is a cool quirky place to visit. Nice atmosphere and great staff.

Rainbow Dreams in Dickson.

John Moulis said :

I remember hearing about a US steakhouse chain with a logo featuring a smiling pig, and written underneath “Horrifying vegetarians since 1969” 🙂

And the Adelaide pub with “Worst Vegetarian restarian restaurant in Adelaide”.

Think we should kidnap the owner of the Tofu Shop Bridge Road East Melbourne and make him set up shop in Canberra.

PS Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than vegetarian food pretending to be the very thing vegetarians have foresworn to eat, and having tried them, so far off the mark.

I remember hearing about a US steakhouse chain with a logo featuring a smiling pig, and written underneath “Horrifying vegetarians since 1969” 🙂

Non vegetarians would also enjoy the food at Au Lac. It is superb. They have wonderful flavours. There is soy chicken, soy beef and soy fish and you would swear it is meat and fish.

neanderthalsis1:43 pm 08 Sep 15

I recommend Au Lac in Dickson as a completely vegetarian restaurant. Try the duck.

Alexandra Craig12:46 pm 08 Sep 15

I had a pretty fantastic vegetarian burrito at Sweet Bones once.

There’s also a veggie restaurant Au Lac in Dickson. I’ve never been but some friends speak highly of it.

Milly Withers12:28 pm 08 Sep 15

The best vegetarian meal in Canberra is the veggie hotdog at BrodDogs. So good!

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