The vegan dining scene has flourished during the past few years. Gone are the days when ordering a vegetarian or vegan 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 keto (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!
Owned by Chef Ryan Jacobs and his partner Kylie Wood, BKA Vegan sets out lofty ideals (Be Kind Always). The couple are starting with a great base. Coming from the business world, Kylie is focussed on excellent customer service, and Chef Ryan Jacobs has been in the industry for over 30 years, starting out in his family’s Gold Coast restaurant as a kid before moving to Sydney to hone his skills.
A mainstream chef, recently he’s headed kitchens at Calavera, The Collective and Iron & Resin Garage before the couple began their own stall at the Sanctuary Markets, Currumbin, gathering a loyal following of both vegans and non-vegans. Somehow it fits with the menu: un-fussy food with down-to-earth plant-provided goodness. Drawing from the palate of world flavours, Chef Ryan gives us a celebration of all things earthy, presented with the polish of an accomplished chef. Dishes include Balinese Nasi Campur, Black bean and roasted vegetable enchiladas, and even a vegan cheese platter!
Izakaya Midori (Vegan) 7/ 50 Woodland Drive, Reedy Creek Ph: 07 5645 6625
Midori (meaning ‘green’ in Japanese) is the Gold Coast’s first plant-based Japanese restaurant, our first and only vegan izakaya. Chef Fumiyoshi Iwasaki has worked in two of our most respected Japanese restaurants, Kiyomi at The Star and Yamagen, before becoming vegan and taking the chance to open a plant-based restaurant with partners.
The menu carries many Japanese favourites, from edamame (including a smoked version) to gyoza, and sushi to curries. It’s not all traditional fare though, the chef putting his own vegan spin on well-known dishes and creating original new ones. Amongst other spectacular-looking dishes, taking pride of place is the signature Midori Ramen, a deep rich green plant-based soup containing ramen and vegan pork mince. It’s not only deliciously addictive but also Insta-worthy.
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!
Versace-trained chef and restaurateur Chef Jared Peck, with his Taiwanese partner Chiyun Wu, has opened their first vegetarian café and bar. Doko Demo V (meaning ‘anywhere’ in Japanese, the V standing for ‘vegetarian’) is situated on the ground floor of the Burleigh Motel. The former Vietnamese restaurant has needed few cosmetic changes, the theme of casual dining amongst natural bamboo complementary to the vegetarian and vegan style of dining.
The all-day breakfast menu features many favourites: Smashed Avo with feta, Eggs Bene with plant-based ham, Pittaya bowls lined with fresh fruit and French toast with berries among the extensive menu items on offer. Each dish is marked as vegan, vegan option, gluten-free or gluten-free option.
It’s on the lunch menu that we see the emergence of global flavours in the vegetarian and vegan dishes: burgers, hot dogs with sauerkraut, hearty lasagne, trios of tacos, salads and colourful poke bowls stacked with vegetables and rice, all meat-free. From the dishes we tasted, this is a ‘wholefood’ restaurant. Yes, it’s vegetarian, with a wide variety of vegan and gluten-free dishes available, but primarily it’s flavoursome, well-presented plant-based cuisine at a keen price. Our bao are filled with luscious plant-based meat substitute and veg, the ‘BBQ pork’ in the poke bowl particularly tasty and interesting to mainstream diners.
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 (Vegetarian, 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 (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 (Vegetarian, 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.
The Milkman’s Daughter (Vegetarian), 1/43 Alfred St, Mermaid Beach
‘Eat consciously. Live consciously’ is the motto of The Milkman’s Daughter. It’s a place where ‘pretty’ and ‘tasty’ meet. Gorgeous enough to send millennials into a ‘perf’ rave about their new ‘fave’, our meals at The Milkman’s Daughter not only meet all the criteria of our disparate group, but they’re also exceptionally delicious and nutritious.
Lemon ricotta pancakes come with custard cream, toasted walnuts, passionfruit and fresh berries; Grain salad has roasted dukkah chickpeas, quinoa and freekeh salad with pomegranate and mint, spiced puree, spinach, house hummus, house vegan aioli and artisan Iranian pita… There are so many flavours, so eat ‘mindfully’, savouring every bite!
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.
Goodness Gracias, 1114 -1116 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach Ph: 07 5534 4941
With new owners late in 2018, Goodness Gracias made the switch to vegan. Wee love that they’re making food traditionally using organic @donacholita blue and white tortilla chips which taste amazing!
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.
Farm & Co (Vegetarian, Vegan friendly, Organic), 529 Cudgen Road, Cudgen, NSW Ph: 02 6693 2196
Farm & Co is many things to many people – a family farm, organic farmgate store, vegetarian and vegan cafe and selfie with sunflower spot (to name a few)!
It’s a farm-to-fork experience in its purest form, the breakfast and lunch menus of about a dozen dishes each showing off the work of not only the farmers but also Head Chef John Wearne (ex-Slow Food restaurant Rasoterra Bistrot, Barcelona) ably helped by Peruvian Carlos Salazar.
“John has brought an Asian style of dining that he loves – bao, cold soups (such as the smoky Strawberry and tomato gazpacho we enjoy for lunch) and almond soup,” owner Michele tells us, “as well as his take on other world classics.”
“The café is complementary to what we do,” adds Michele, and it’s plain to see. Rather than ‘foods that replace meat’, this is a wholistic plant-based menu including eggs and cheese (notably from the local Byron Bay Mozzarella Co) in some dishes. Tortillas from Dona Cholita are filled with pulled jackfruit, black beans, avocado and pico de gallo; Mushroom ragout presents three types of mushrooms on a next of crispy Sebago potatoes; Roast fennel and blue cheese tart sits in a short pastry crust, while for a different take, Potato salad is dressed with soy milk, oil and dill, Dijon mustard and capers. It’s all so delicious tht we’d travel to dine there.
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.
Blendlove (Vegan, Raw & Wholefood) 1/253 Ferry Road, Southport
Beginning with a focus on raw wholefood cakes, Blendelove has morphed into one of our most consistent plant-based cafes. Salads, bowls and burgers gives a broad sweep to the menu, but the meals are very generous and beautifully presented. Moreover, it’s a really pleasant place to hang out with a friend for coffee and cake, breakfast or lunch.
I Like ramen (Vegan), Cnr Wave St & Gold Coast Highway, Nobby Beach
We LOVED going back to I Love Ramen for all their new dishes, like this trio of bao. Plum glazed duck, karaage jackfruit and panko mushroom, here’s looking at you, kiddos! Take friends so you can try lots of different dishes. We made (vegan) ‘pigs’ of ourselves trying the texture sensational Roast lychee salad with chilli tamarind jam, the punchy ‘Fish’ fragrant tempura eggplant…not to mention the ramen we all know and love.
Oh yes, we know that the restaurant is I LIKE RAMEN, but this is a love affair…and it’s all plant-based. Love comes first, people.
Chi Ran (Vegetarian, 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.
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.
Plant Based Cafe, Grice St., Paradise Point (yet to be reviewed)