Look back as little as ten years ago and the incidence of food allergies and intolerances seemed far less widespread than they are now. Today, 1 in 20 children and 1 in 100 adults are affected by some form of food intolerance.
Results of a survey conducted by The Vegan and Vegetarian Society of Australia in 2010 found that around 5% of us identify as vegetarian, with a tiny 1% vegan. Maybe it’s just my penchant for vegan food blogs talking, but I was surprised this figure was so low!
Whether for health or cultural reasons, or for the sake of ethics and sustainability, speciality diets are the norm, so naturally Melbourne’s cafe scene has had to keep up.
Here are my picks of the best haunts for those with special dietary requirements:
202 Carlisle St Balaclava VIC 3183
Nestled in a secret hideout between a supermarket and a carpark, Monk is Balaclava’s local hidden gem.
Though Monk’s best known for its specialty coffee and impressive list of teas, more exciting is the exclusively vegetarian and mainly vegan menu, which contains plenty of gluten free, sugar free and soy free options. Strange as this may seem for a menu of mainly breakfast choices (buckwheat apple pancakes are my top pick), it took me 3 visits to even notice the absence of eggs from the menu!
Come for the interesting food and hang around for the laidback atmosphere. Those situated further north should keep an eye out for Monk’s new addition, Admiral Cheng Ho in Abbotsford – apparently larger than their teeny predecessor and with a greater focus on coffee.
421 Brunswick St Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9417 3338
It was the 93% rating on Urbanspoon that first drew me to Yong, and after eating there it’s easy to see understand the generous assessment.
The extensive vegetarian (mainly vegan) menu contains plenty of gluten free, raw, organic and meat-substitute choices. On my visit, we sampled ‘raw nachos’ – very interesting!
The service is fast and friendly, and the food delicious. Ordering a raw dessert is a must. I highly recommend the cheesecake.
3) Red Robyn
393 Camberwell Rd Camberwell VIC 3124
(03) 9077 3763
With a gluten, lactose and fructose intolerant owner, Red Robyn is serious about providing tasty options for those with a wide variety of restrictions.
All-day breakfast gets me every time, and I was pretty satisfied with my French toast with blueberry and lady grey compote, plus salted caramel comb. As well as an enticing breakfast list, Red Robyn also boasts an array of lunch choices – all with a guide for meals that are vegetarian, egg free, dairy free, fructose friendly, vegan, FODMAP friendly, can be made FODMAP friendly, and those that contain nuts. Pretty impressive!
261 Brunswick St Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9416 3991
Owned and run by dietitian and cupcake extraordinaire Mary Lin, Merry Cupcakes is more than just another cute cupcake store. Made to be a ‘healthier’ treat, they contain less saturated fat and sugar, and more fibre and fruit and veg than a typical cupcake. This is partly due to the fact that all cupcakes are vegan friendly, containing no animal products. A number of gluten free options are also frequently offered, and if the interesting flavour combinations don’t entice you, the names will. The rotating roster of offerings include Beet It, Vanilla Ice, Strawberry Fields Forever, Severice Snape and Pumpkin Head.
300 Bay St Brighton VIC 3186
(03) 9596 4047
‘Local, seasonal and healthy’ is the objective of this suburban cafe, with a focus on great quality ingredients and the support of local producers.
Rupert and the Fig offers an extensive breakfast and lunch menu; with plenty of gluten free (plus gluten free options for those that aren’t) and vegetarian choices. The coffee beans are organic and fair trade, the milk is biodynamic and pretty much everything else is free range.
For delicious fare without bending your ethics, Rupert and the Fig is worth a visit.
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