The vegetarian dining scene has flourished during the past few years, particularly on the southern end of the Gold Coast. Elsewhere on this site we’ve looked at food trends – the 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):
Cardamom Pod Brickworks (Vegetarian; vegan and GF on request) 3/3 Brolga Ave, Southport Ph: 0424 251 008
When Cardamom Pod Broadbeach began serving à la carte breakfasts, the Gold Coast’s vegan/vegetarian dining scene took a massive turn skywards. With beautifully presented, nutritious meals made to order, Cardamom Pod converted a throng of fans, their fruit and flower laden ‘Pod’ breakfast bowl being named one of the best dishes on the Coast. It was so popular, in fact, that the team decided to start a new restaurant at the Brickworks Centre on Ferry Road, specialising in à la carte.
Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, the new Cardamom Pod holds many of our favourite dishes (such as the Pod’s special açai or pitaya bowl) as well as some delicious-looking new ones! Salads, koftas, tempura, fritters, rice paper rolls, burgers and tacos… There are so many choices, we’re amazed at the inventiveness of it all, let alone its presentation.
Cardamom Pod is the haven of the super healthy, and good food never looked this good. We’re reminded to eat the rainbow of colours. No matter what you choose, here comes your meal in a bowl perfectly arranged by Debbie, or on a hand-thrown plate adorned by flowers and cacao nibs, or in a coloured glass with fruit edging its rim. Painstakingly presented, gorgeously feminine and markedly Instagrammable, we gorge on this food with our eyes before a bite ever passes our lips. Simply beautiful! So awe-inspiring that we know it must be good for us!
Greenhouse Canteen + Bar (Vegan) 1916 Gold Coast Hwy, Miami Ph: 07 5520 7722
“Just because you’re vegan, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time,” says GreenHouse Canteen co-owner Natalie Evans.
Fitted out with recycled timber, large windows and plants to give a greenhouse-like effect, this restaurant takes over its predecessor, Greenhouse Factory (Kirra). Breaking all stereotypes, GreenHouse Factory is the only licensed vegan (or vegetarian) restaurant on the coast.
Diners are offered a multitude of options on the menu as well as raw desserts. As dishes arrive at tables around us, we stop and stare. They’re really generous portions; plates laden with goodness. Frankly, I’d forgotten how much volume our vegan friends eat! All ‘grass’ (greens), you may think, but there’s a lot of nutritional density in here as well, the besan flour really high in protein; nuts, oils and coconut high in fats; as well as seeds and grains; so the serving is more than ample.
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. Hugely popular, it pays to book! Welcome to the modern vegan experience!
Sozo Cafe (Vegetarian, Vegan friendly, Dairy-free) 20 Stuart St. Tweed Heads Ph: 07 5536 5901
Sozo is a gorgeously appointed little cafe opened in December 2016 by the Dan family, tucked away just off Coolangatta’s main street. Chef Michael Cluer serves vegetarian with vegan options. Everything is made in house, from burgers and pancakes to salads and raw cakes. There are some interesting twists on known ingredients.
In the ‘cafe without coffee’, our turmeric latte (made with your choice of coconut, soy or almond milk) is served with a lavender macaroon in a stunning Robert Gordon mug. The Maple macadamia pancake with house-made banana ice cream, fresh fruit and nuts was a delicious treat. You can grab a salad to go or sit and relax in this delightfully relaxing space. There’s an upstairs space which hosts workshops, counselling and fitness classes.
Easy House Vegetarian Restaurant (Vegan) 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 fronts out to a car park. But what the restaurant may lack in ambience will soon be forgotten once you begin eating.
Cardamom Pod (Vegan friendly) 2685 – 2689 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach Ph: 0452 218 108
Cardamom Pod was the first vegetarian restaurant to open in Broadbeach. With its move to a new location facing onto the park, it is now our classiest vegetarian restaurant. From first glance it’s bright and colourful, yet warm and earthy. 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 raw desserts headed for the glass display cabinet. This is vegetarian food for the 21st century! Breakfast, especially, is a standout!
Govindas Pure Vegetarian (Vegan friendly) 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.
Govindas Surfers Paradise (Vegan friendly) 3120 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise Ph: 0455 665 928
Although overshadowed by both the size, position and range of food at Cardamom Pod, Govindas Surfers Paradise is well worth a visit. It’s in a high traffic tourist area, so it’s very convenient. Choose from a large single plate ($11.90) or the ‘All you can eat’ self-service buffet, priced at $14.90. Both include freshly made hot and cold dishes on display: kofta, dahl, potato curry and vegetable curry, as well as several varieties of salad. The plates are huge, the food tasty and filling, but it’s amazing to see hungry travellers fill up a second and even third plate, having chosen that option.
Giri Kana Café (Vegan friendly) 82 Marine Parade, Southport Southport Ph: 07 5591 3555
Trying to find good healthy food on the northern end of the coast?
Don’t despair, because the Giri Kana Café is now open! To Giri Kana, meaning ‘food from goodness’, Maha (Maryanne) and Victor Machevsky 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, 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.
Lord of the Fries (Vegan), 8 Cavill Ave., Surfers Paradise
Vegans rejoice! Lord of the Fries has opened on Cavill Ave., bringing ethical fast food to town. The store is 100% vegan, kosher and halal certified, bringing a plant-based twist to fast food. Chips, burgers and sliders can now be a vegan treat.
Tian Ran (Vegan), 2462 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Ph: 5572 0678
Tian Ran seems to have been around forever. Boasting one of the most hospitable hosts on the Gold Coast, the ever-smiling Eric, Tian Ran is known for its Chinese/Asian vegetarian and vegan cuisine, using ecologically and socially responsible fresh ingredients. All food is prepared fresh daily from plant sources only. The range of dishes show imaginative use of gluten and soy protein, mixed imaginatively with seaweed, mushrooms and other vegetables. Overlook the mock meat names, and ask which dishes have been deep fried, and you’ll be more likely to land a dish which pleases you! Open daily for dinner from 5.30pm.
The Woodbox Café (Vegan friendly) 15/33 Tallebudgera Creek Road, 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. ‘Clean eating’, with loads of flavour.
Kuan Yin Tea House (Vegan friendly) 2/152 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. Great food!
Blendlove (Vegan, Raw & Wholefood) 1/253 Ferry Road, Southport
Of course, the focus here is on raw wholefood cakes, but there are some great salads coming out of this cafe as well, and it’s a really pleasant place to hang out with a friend for coffee and cake, or a light lunch.
Elixiba (Vegan) The Kitchens, Robina. This cafe, decked out in polished driftwood-like furniture, serves up great vegan gluten-free food: salads, protein bowls, rice paper summer rolls and unusual vegetable combinations, some of which takes a while to make.
Loki Cafe, Tweed City. Specialty coffee, vegan burgers and healthy treats – yet to visit.
Nude Sisters Whole Food Kitchen (Vegetarian) Cnr Sunshine Blvd & Markeri St., Mermaid Waters
Georgia Homer and Rebecca Askey are the nude sisters. Neither nude nor sisters, actually. It’s all about the concept; the dream of getting back to basics. Their gorgeous cafe caters for vegetarian breakfasts and lunch. The mainstay is their gorgeous cake cabinet full of raw, vegan cakes and slices that delight and intrigue us. How could anyone ever leave without one!
Kiss the Berry, Burleigh Heads – Yet to visit.
Chi Ran (Vegan friendly) Pacific Fair (downstairs in food court), Broadbeach
Chi Ran is a new vegetarian bar in the western section of Pacific Fair. With the same chef as Tian Ran, the style here is Chinese vegetarian, although the flavours are milder than Tian Ran. All meals are under $12 – rice paper rolls, sushi, gluten-based mock meat and vegetables served with brown or white rice. All dishes can be made gluten-free or vegan on request.
Bamboo Flute (Vegetarian) 152 Griffith St, Coolangatta Ph: 0412155066 Hare Krishna-run vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. Yet to visit.
Orchid Vegetarian Cafe (Vegetarian) Monte Carlo Arcade, 38 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise
Wray Organics (Vegan friendly) 155 Nineteenth Ave, Elanora 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.
Other vegetarian and vegan dining options:
Many other mainstream restaurants offer good vegetarian options. For example, many Indian restaurants (such as Agnee and Indian Hut) offer some interesting vegetarian dishes such as dosa, moilee, saag and kofta. Italian restaurants (such as Double Zero, Salt Meats Cheese, Gemelli, Baritalia and Cicchetti) offer great pizza and pasta. Thai is also a winner! Here are a few others to start you off:
All-Time Coffee, Mermaid Beach have vegan donuts and vegan options on the menu!
BSKT, Mermaid Beach. Trendy beach cafe which offers lots of healthy options, including a good range of vegetarian meals.
Baritalia, Surfers Paradise, leads us on an all-encompassing journey through modern regional Italian cuisine. As one of the owners, Stacey, is vegetarian, gluten-free and vegetarian choices are clearly marked. All of Baritalia’s food is made in house bar the pasta, sourced from local producers Pasta Fresca, a couple renowned for their artisan fresh pasta and sauces. Expect Italian regional specials such as huge mozzarella and artichoke balls (pictured).
Cha Tea Providores at The 4217, Surfers Paradise, has a Vegetarian High Tea priced at $35 per person.
Cocotte, Robina, has a menu clearly marked with vegetarian and gluten-free options. This is exciting Japanese-French/Mediterranean fusion food, served in a delightful garden setting.
Commune, Burleigh Heads, has ‘Meat free Mondays’ as well as a range of vegetarian food options available on other days. Great juices and coffees too!
Caffe Republic, Bundall has lifestyle choices integrated into the menu with gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo clearly marked by symbols. Expect such goodies as fresh fruit with Coyo coconut yoghurt and chia topped with organic raw paleo granola on the breakfast menu, luscious salads at lunch and Snake Oil’s lemon and ginger kombucha on tap. Yum!
Elk Espresso, Broadbeach. With Head Chef Gene Cavalchini (ex Sirromet and Tukka) on board, the well-chosen, eclectic menu is rustic and retro with a modern twist; one of the best daytime menus we’ve seen. Changing with the seasons, some brekkie standouts when we visited included Blueberry and coconut breakfast panna cotta with granola, summer fruits and cinnamon yoghurt, as well as the Brekkie Tacos. Lots of salads dot the lunch menu.
Fiery Deli, Burleigh Heads (Vegan friendly). This café brings together a healthy combination of Venezuelan and surf culture food. Arepas are central to the menu. Made on maize or corn meal and cooked to order, arepas are naturally gluten free, with no preservatives or additives. Filled with your choice of locally-sourced salad vegetables, onion, rice, black beans, scrambled organic eggs, capsicum, avocado, fresh herbs and spices or any combination of the above, an arepa makes a healthy, flavour-packed, filling meal which is easy to grab in two hands. (Meat options are also available.)
Genki Cafe Palm Beach, offers a daily vegetarian special in a pleasant atmosphere. Food is Japanese-inspired and there’s a great range of juices and Byron Bay teas available in this trendy little lunch spot.
Hard Rock Cafe, Surfers Paradise has just added far more vegetarian options to their menu. We especially liked the Quinoa burger with a touch of curry to spice things up, and the Grilled Vegetable and haloumi wrap. Wash it down with a beet, orange and ginger juice and you’ll feel a whole lot better than most rockers do the morning after!
Helen’s Heavenly Bulk Foods, Burleigh Heads recently expanded into bigger premises with the addition of a juice bar. They offer a vast array of nuts and seeds, mueslis & cereals, baking goods, gourmet chocolates & lollies and organic goodies.
Kiss the Berry, Burleigh. Specialists in Acai bowls and juices.
Little Asia Restaurant, Palm Beach. We’ve only recently become aware of this restaurant, located in Philippine Parade, Palm Beach. Open Tuesday – Sunday, dine in or take away, there’s a large vegetarian range of dishes available. BYO.
Main Street Burger Bar, Broadbeach. These guys have a finely tuned ‘Millennial’ menu that’s vegan, vegetarian and ‘food intolerant’ friendly, yet still lots of fun. Months of developing recipes have led to success: interesting vego patties on the burgers and the best totally crispy sweet potato fries we’ve tried, served with smoked chilli mayo. Yummo! Vegan ice cream and shakes round off a really user-friendly menu.
Marie-Anita’s, Burleigh Heads. Marie-Anita’s 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.
Mudjira Village Eatery, Mudgeeraba Plaza, has a menu which is half vegetarian.
The Pocket Well appreciated by vegan, paleo and gluten-free patrons, the menu range has extended to provide many more choices. This is fresh, delicious food: smoky baba ganoush (eggplant dip), creamy hummus and labaneh, soft toasted pockets, and still the best falafel in town – the real thing!
Raw Energy, Coolangatta, uses the freshest ingredients with minimal interference in food production. Although not totally vegetarian, there’s a great range here of juices and smoothies, salads, burgers and sandwiches from raw plant ingredients.
Seaduction, on the first floor of Peppers Soul overlooking Surfers Paradise Beach, offers a full vegetarian degustation menu.
Taboon, Robina (Vegan friendly), has a weekend breakfast, which gives a different take on vegetarian morning fare: Sahklab porridge with spiced apples and almond kadaiff ($7.50), Shukshooka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce) on Roasted field mushrooms with Middle Eastern salad and pita ($14.50), or Baked eggs on zahtar pita with Middle Eastern salad and yoghurt sauce ($9.50) – my idea of a fabulous breakfast!
Videre has a weekend High Tea which, with 24 hours notice can be vegan! $35 per person on the weekend; $29 midweek.
Zambrero, Southport Park, Coolangatta, Tweed City, Surfers Paradise. No, we’re not advocates of fast food, but Zambrero’s a bit different. Choose black Pinto beans, fresh guacamole and salad in either a burrito or bowl, and a fresh vego meal can be sorted for under $10. There are times when a Zambrero really hits the spot!
Wray Organics, Palm Beach & Broadbeach
Mrs Flannery’s, Miami, Bundall & Robina
Helen’s Heavenly Bulk Foods, Burleigh Heads