A vegetarian’s Sydney diary

There’s hope for vegetarians Down Under, as this flavourful food diary from Sydney establishes beyond any doubt.

On my very first night in Sydney, I dug my teeth into a warm sandwich full of lettuce, cucumber, beetroot and melting cheese.

It was close to ten in the night, and this little café at the airport was closing down, but the food was fresh and delicious.

If you have always thought of Sydney as being loyal to steak and seafood, it is time to change that perception.

Sydney offers a range of food options for vegetarians and vegans — from breads and burgers to pasta, rice and noodles.

And it’s not all mushrooms and mock meat.

Vegetarian food in Australia includes potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini and lots of pine nuts, almonds and macadamia nuts.

Many cafés use almond or soy milk in their coffees to cater to vegans, and some have healthier versions of delectables with figs, maple syrup or panela sugar as substitutes for processed white sugar.

They serve a variety of snacks, the best loved being the Anzac cookie, which is a crumbly and lightly sweet biscuit made to honour World War II soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.

The city sees almost all kinds of cuisine, from Turkish and Thai to Mexican, Korean and Indian.

My top picks from Sydney this year:

Toasted Banana Bread topped with housemade espresso butter from Single O
(Surry Hills)

Toasted banana bread topped with housemade espresso butter from single o.
Toasted Banana Bread topped with housemade espresso butter from Single O. Image: Susheela Menon.

Not too sweet, this freshly baked slice of warm banana bread gathered a splendid taste when lathered with espresso butter. Speciality coffees at Single O are as popular in Sydney as its beaches or sea gulls.

Sourdough with spiced hummus and Moroccan salad from The Squire’s Landing
(Northern end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West)

Sourdough with spiced hummus and moroccan salad from the squire’s landing.
Sourdough with spiced hummus and Moroccan salad from The Squire’s Landing. Image: Susheela Menon.

The sky was grey as I made my way to this restaurant placed right opposite the Opera House. It was drizzling a bit. The place buzzed with people. I chose cold hummus along with some warm sesame bread, and a Moroccan salad with spiced roasted cauliflower, raisins, rocket leaves, almonds and pomegranate.

Moroccan salad with spiced roasted cauliflower, raisins, rocket leaves, almonds and pomegranate at the squire's landing in sydney.
Moroccan salad with spiced roasted cauliflower, raisins, rocket leaves, almonds and pomegranate at The Squire’s Landing in Sydney. Image: Susheela Menon.

The bread tasted of olives and thyme; the dip was slightly spiced. My nutty salad had the freshest of ingredients and added a crunchy element to my meal.

Black sesame balls with hot chocolate from Boon Café
(Haymarket)

Black sesame balls with hot chocolate from boon cafe.
Black sesame balls from Boon Cafe. Image: Susheela Menon.

A close cousin of Kerala’s hard sesame candies, these black sesame balls were bitter-sweet and soft. The café’s strong hot chocolate filled my soul. Boon Café is more popular for its Thai food — a variety of sodas, desserts, croissant and rice — and the Thai grocery store attached to it.

Boon cafe hot chocolate.
Boon Cafe hot chocolate. Image: Susheela Menon.

Karen’s Tree Hugger Burger from Karen’s Diner
(World Square, Unit 6, Level 1/644 George St)

Karen’s tree hugger burger from karen’s diner.
Karen’s Tree Hugger Burger from Karen’s Diner. Image: Susheela Menon.

This gluten-free burger with a vegetarian patty, lettuce and cheese was perfect for a late-night outing.

Karen’s Diner is known more for its style of functioning, and if you are adventurous and ready to have some fun, then this is the place for you. The waiters are rude to customers, and customers are expected to be rude to the waiters as well. You would hear plates being thwacked on the table and voices raised, but the rules prohibit racism, sexism, body shaming, or homophobic comments. 

Yoghurt Kebab from Don’t Tell Aunty
(Surry Hills)

Yoghurt kebab from don’t tell aunty.
Yoghurt Kebab from Don’t Tell Aunty. Image: Susheela Menon.

Indian cuisine with a difference!

These melt-in-the-mouth kebabs with hung yoghurt, ginger and chilli tasted great with a mild beetroot sauce.

The quirky menu at don't tell aunty.
The quirky menu at Don’t Tell Aunty. Image: Susheela Menon.

Don’t Tell Aunty serves street food and full meals including fresh desserts and drinks. Many of its dishes fuse Indian spices with coconut milk or shredded coconut to offer an Indo-Sri Lankan style that is both delicious and flavourful.

Read more.

10 of the best restaurants you must visit in Australia

Foreign Return in Sydney presents a unique take on Indian cuisine

Five fab Sydney hotels we know you’ll love!