The vegetarian dining scene has flourished during the past couple of years, particularly on the southern end of the Gold Coast. There’s a growing awareness of provenance and sustainability, education and healthier food habits.
Gone are the days when ordering a vegetarian meal drew the expectation of a plate of steamed vegetables or a green salad landing on your table. Nor is it just about tofu and tempeh. Now your dining preference may be vegan, lactose free, or even paleo (to name a few)! The best vegetarian restaurants show us the importance of the freshest locally sourced ingredients, clever food combinations and excellent cooking techniques.
Here’s a selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly food establishments on the Gold Coast, in no particular order:
Greenhouse Factory 174 Musgrave St., Kirra Ph: 07 55991112
“Just because you’re vegan, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time,” says GreenHouse Factory co-owner Natalie Evans.
The venue is certainly appealing. Fitted out with recycled timber, vertical gardens, large windows and a wrap around balcony, the restaurant overlooks a sweeping view across water to the skyline of Surfers Paradise. Breaking all stereotypes, GreenHouse Factory is the only licensed vegan (or vegetarian) restaurant on the coast. All the cocktails (as well as their juices, of course) are made from fresh juice. There are also several organic wines, including Wild Fox and Angoves; both vegan as well.
In a concise menu of around eight choices, diners are offered options like the Raw trifle of fresh fruit, vanilla cashew cream and raw granola, with dinner options such as Raw pesto zucchini pasta with olives and organic sundried tomatoes tossed with fresh greens. There’s a raw daily dessert as well. Welcome to the modern vegan experience!
Easy House 90 Markeri St., Mermaid Waters Ph: 07 5572 8808
Easy House serves some of the freshest, lightest dim sum found in Queensland. The barbecued pork rolls are cased in the softest flaky pastry, steamed mushroom dumplings contained an exquisite selection of tastes encased in the lightest rice casing. Although the menu sounds familiar to diners, it’s both a vegetarian and vegan restaurant (no dairy, no eggs) and most of the dumplings are gluten free. Mock chicken made from soy paste and mock beef formed from bean curd and mushrooms are subtly flavoured yet tasty and delicious. Yum cha is available all day, or you can choose from about twenty lunch specials. The dinner menu is extensive, with take away also available.
All the Hong Kong style food is made fresh daily and no MSG is used in the preparation. Part of a suburban shopping centre, this tiny shop looks out over a car park. But what the restaurant may lack in ambience will soon be forgotten once you begin eating.
From Earth and Water 2 West St., Burleigh Heads Ph: 0487 826 302
From Earth and Water is, in our books, the epitome of a vegetarian restaurant where all the elements come together in a casual Gold Coast dining style. Nikki Fulton uses 100 % plant based food of the highest quality, freshly sourced from the best local growers. Food in her restaurant is free of all gluten, dairy, refined sugars and processed ingredients. Joining her in the kitchen is Mark, a chef trained under Dennis Cotter, the award winning owner of Ireland’s famous Café Paradiso. Together they look to find flavour combinations that work well to enhance their top quality ingredients, to refine raw food ‘cooking’ techniques and, importantly, to celebrate culinary experience through exquisite presentation. This restaurant tops the list for Gold Coast vegetarian cuisine.
Kuan Yin Tea House 152 Scarborough St., Southport Ph: 07 5511 5121
Kuan Yin Tea House is one of only three Chinese-style vegetarian restaurants on the Gold Coast. The restaurant opened in May 2012, a simple lino-floored café with beige walls and feature panels of bamboo wallpaper, catering for the needs of vegetarians on the Northern end of the Coast. Being modest in décor and price, however, does not mean a lack of choice! There are several pages to the menu, which is divided into snacks (entrées priced below $7), ‘meat’ and rice sets, noodle dishes and soups, almost all under $10. Drinks are featured separately – two whole pages listing milk teas, black and green teas, Taiwanese specialty teas and fresh juices. The photos on Kuan Yin’s menu are a great guide to each dish’s size and appearance! It’s also clearly marked (in pink) which dishes are suitable for vegans, which are gluten-free and which include dairy or eggs.
The Vegetarian BBQ Pork Roll is absolutely delicious: a mix of sweet soy-based protein and salad wrapped in a tender roti-like bread. Sour and spicy dumpling with soup is hearty and spicy, packed with vegetables and delicate melt in your mouth steamed dumplings filled with vegetables and tofu. There’s Vegetarian Takoyaki, textured more like a compressed prawn ball than calamari, served with a sweet and sour sauce, as well as Fried dumplings, parcels of soya bean meat, carrot and cabbage – a delicious lighter version of Gyoza. The Won Ton Noodle Soup is very popular, he says, and kids love the Cheese and vegetable pancake. So much delicious food to choose from with a fantastic range of teas as well.
Tian Ran 2462 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5572 0678
Tian Ran, in Mermaid Beach, seems to have been around forever. Meaning ‘nature’, it’s known for its Chinese/Asian vegetarian and vegan cuisine, using the highest quality, ecologically and socially responsible fresh ingredients. All food is prepared fresh daily from plant sources only. The range of dishes shows imaginative use of gluten and soy protein, mixed with seaweed, mushrooms and other vegetables. Try the Mixed entree, Fried wonton, Pan fried Shanghai dumpling, the Salt & pepper tofu or Ginger & champignon chicken for mains. The restaurant is open daily for dinner from 5.30pm, and it’s wise to book ahead.
Mandala Organic Arts 2558 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5679 1762
Mandala’s fare is vegetarian with vegan and gluten free options available. Using fresh produce from local and hyper-local (its own garden) suppliers, Mandala offers a range of pizzas, salads, rice and stirfry dishes in a community atmosphere. There’s a great range of raw desserts, juices and organic coffee on offer, live music, art and events.
Cardamom Pod 110 Surf Parade, Broadbeach Ph: 0452 218 108
Cardamom Pod is the first vegetarian restaurant to open in Broadbeach. From first glance it’s bright and colourful, yet warm and earthy. A lush living wall of plants, complemented by exotic orchids hanging from the ceiling brings the rainforest inside. True to the beliefs of the Hare Krishna proprietors, its delicious food is prepared without eggs, garlic or onion. Bain-maries are full of samosas and pakoras, Thai and Indian curries, vegetables, polenta squares, lentil moussaka, crisp innovative salads and yummy desserts headed for the glass display cabinet.
Govinda’s 20 James St., Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 5607 0782
An older sister of Cardamom Pod, Govindas is a smaller venue, more suited to faster paced dining. Although your food choices are limited to the dishes on display, it is all very appetising and portion sizes are generous. You pay according to the amount of food you want, for example two dishes and rice costs $9 or three dishes is $11. The food is not only vegetarian, free of eggs, garlic and onion, but also certified organic and free of pesticides, brought daily from the farm in Eungella and prepared on site. Samosas are generous in size and packed with vegies, the vegetarian curry is delicious, the salad crunchy and fresh with grated beetroot, garbanzos, sunflower seeds and prunes. But the standout dish for us is the kofta balls in a tomato-based creamy sauce. It’s sensational! There’s also a mouth-watering assortment of desserts available if you have room after your main course.
Giri Kana 82 Marine Parade, Southport Ph: 07 5591 3555
To Giri Kana, meaning ‘food from goodness’, the owners have brought their wealth of vegetarian cuisine and philosophy. This inviting café under the H2O building opens its arms to us as a healthy haven, a pure vegetarian restaurant with lots of gluten free and vegan options, as well as great organic coffee. Maha, with son Haya at her side, is pleased to have begun her quest to meet and serve local guests, bringing vegetarian cuisine to the northern end of the coast, sharing her gift of happiness and health. In this private quiet oasis, we’re in a calmer more centred place, a world away from the slick frenzied pace outside.
Woodbox Cafe 33 Tallebudgera Creek Rd., West Burleigh Ph: 07 5607 0808
The Woodbox is very organic in focus, not only as a meeting place for groups, but also in the food and beverage served. Sourcing as much organic produce as possible from local suppliers, the café specialises in organic and vegan options, free of preservatives, sugar, wheat, dairy and gluten. It’s ‘clean eating’, with loads of flavour.
Plus a few extras offering lots of vego food:
Ashy’s Clean Eating Kitchen 2375 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
Although owner Ashy Bines has divided loyalties amongst ‘food and fitness’ followers, there’s no doubting the freshness and great taste of the food served in her cafe, which entered the Gold Coast dining scene in November 2013. Dishes contain no refined sugar or preservatives, dairy or wheat; food is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, mostly raw cuisine with additional sides of chicken, fish, lamb (to appease the carnivores), roast vegies, rice and quinoa. Tweek things a bit and it’s also a neat Paleo fit. Moreover, everything’s made in house. Meals are well -riced at $5 (for an acai bowl) – $14 for breakfast and $10 – $17 for lunch. The raw desserts are sensational!
The Magic Apple, Cnr 5th Ave & Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 5576 5588
It’s fabulous to see a longstanding institution, The Magic Apple, revamped. The years of experience in vegetarian cooking have paid off, with clever combinations of whole grains, seeds, nuts and pulses, almost all egg and dairy free, combining to make the Magic Apple a must visit for anyone involved in the ‘wellness revolution’. From burgers to nachos, cakes to juices, there’s an extensive menu of wholesome food available from 8am – 8pm daily.
Wray Organics, 155 Nineteenth Ave., Palm Beach Ph: 07 5576 7111
Southern Gold Coasters are fortunate to have such a great health food shop on their end of the coast. There’s a little cafe attached which has organic breakfast options on offer as well as salad bowls, juices and raw cakes.
The Pocket, 13 Connor St., Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 5520 7770
Well appreciated by vegan, paleo and gluten-free patrons, The Pocket’s menu range has extended to provide many more choices. This is fresh, delicious food: smoky babaganoush (eggplant dip), creamy hummus and labaneh, soft toasted pockets, and still the best falafel in town – the real thing!
Marie Anita’s, 1863 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 5659 1324
Put a background in marketing together with a passion for healthy food, youth and a ‘can do’ attitude, and you have Marie Anita’s. Marie James looks impossibly young to be a business owner, yet she’s taken the plunge. Her gluten-free, sugar-free health café caters for a range of diners who are often overlooked on other menus: those who want or need dairy free, sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan and/or raw food. There’s something on the menu for everyone, made using the healthiest ingredients possible without unhealthy heavy sauces! Sourcing organic food where she can from local suppliers, baking bread, muffins cakes and slices daily, Marie shows us that GF food can still be attractive and taste good. The cost of organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, free range meats, and organic coconut yoghurt all adds up, so it’s great to see that she has kept the price down for her customers. Breakfasts are mostly under $20 and lunch under $25.
Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast http://www.foodgoldcoast.com.au