Vegan Comfort Food is Where the Home and Heart Lie

Last weekend involved much eating and meeting up with friends and family. There was a causal drinks meeting with a local film company at The Fox Hotel in Collingwood on Friday afternoon, dinner with a good friend at Vegie Bowl in Forest Hill Friday night, lunch with my parents at Br Black Juicery in Berwick on Saturday afternoon, and movie followed by dinner with girlfriends at Oneworld Knox Ozone on Sunday afternoon. By the time my head hit the pillow Sunday night, I hit a brick wall. As an introvert who generates her energy from within, there was nothing left in the tank once I arrived at the desk Monday morning. Still, despite impending fatigue, I felt nourished after a weekend spent with cherished friends and family.

vegan gluten-free food travel melbourne australia travel tips

As a travelling vegan writer and blogger, it has fascinated me that we as humans intricately tie our consumption of food with time in the company of others. While fascinating, it’s a way of life I have known all my life. My dad was a chef, and there have been many an afternoon or evening where he laboured his love into a meal shared amongst the family. Some of my friends also love catching up for a coffee, which turns into two or more over a few hours sitting in a sunny courtyard at a local meet-up spot.

While I’ve dedicated almost all my life to travelling and eating, the last seven or so years have involved travelling and eating from a vegan standpoint. What has baffled me in these last few years is the fact that much of humanity spends time with loved ones by finding home in eating comfort food at the expense of cooking slaughtered animals. Such animals, at some point in their lives, had spent their own family time nourishing their babies with feeds of milk; providing comfort to their own families much the same way as humans nourish and comfort their family members with food. How can we as humans comfort our families with ‘foods’ that have been taken from the lives of other animals?

When I announced to my family I was vegan those years ago, my dad was the hardest hit. He couldn’t quite understand, especially since we shared a common, close bond built through cooking and consuming food. Still, my dad has grown into his new role of chef to me, and he is excited to share his latest vegan creations when I arrive home to enjoy a meal with him. What’s more? He ate – almost – a full vegan meal at Mr Black Juicery last weekend (sans the milk in his cappuccino). And, yes, he enjoyed it. Their beetroot buckwheat pancake stack is pretty incredible, I must admit!

vegan gluten-free food travel melbourne australia travel tips

This one simple act of sharing a vegan meal with family, in the name of love, shows that it’s possible for vegan food can create a space where heart and home can be found. It made me realise that veganism, despite the utter distain that many people have for it (for reasons I still can’t grapple) can lead the way when it comes to those foundational aspects of being and living.        

So far, I’ve travelled through the Middle East, America and Canada, India and South-East Asia, not to mention through my homeland of Australia. What I’ve discovered is that all humans on earth have a shared connection with food. Food brings people together in love and harmony. Why can’t humans express this love and harmony through eating vegan food? Why is it so hard for humans to even contemplate the notion? Why is there an ongoing and constant need to kill other beings just so we can gather together in celebration? One’s suffering shouldn’t be at the centre of another’s joy. That’s just a tradition I cannot no longer accept, while it pains to me to remember those years in my life when I unconsciously did.   

Have you enjoyed a vegan meal with loved ones? If not, then I encourage you to explore the possibility of having a vegan meal with friends and family.

You can check out my Aussie Vegan Directory where you’ll find a long list of places around Australia, ordered by state, including solely vegetarian/vegan places as well as spots classed as omnivore.

Enjoy, with love.

To Market, To Market to Find Melbourne’s Vegan Boom

2017 in Melbourne, and worldwide, has been touted as the Year of Being or Becoming Vegan. Melbourne, Australia has witnessed a boom in local vegan markets across the city; vehicles to reach vegans and non-vegans on a hyper-local level.

A massive, one-day event on World Vegan Day in November has occurred in Melbourne for the past few years, now. After attending some of these events myself, it has become clear that the demand for vegan products and all-round vegan curiosity in general, has grown exponentially around town. Melbourne’s existing vegan micro-businesses, new vegan product creators and purveyors now have a number of markets to reach Melbourne’s existing vegan community and a burgeoning new fan base.

Let’s explore four of Melbourne’s newest vegan markets on the block in 2017.    

Compassionate Living Vegan Pop Up Market is roving around town

Melbourne’s suburb of Cranbourne East, in the outer southern fringe of the city, hosted an ethical and compassionate pop-up market featuring vendors with a sustainable living approach. Cranbourne East will also host a twilight format to this market on November 18, complete with live music. The Compassionate Living Vegan Pop Up Market commenced earlier in 2017 and will be expanding its reach to The Dandenong Ranges, the hills of Melbourne’s outer east, with a Valentine’s Day theme early February next year. The market series’ aim is to be grassroots with boutique-style flair.

Compassionate Living Vegan Pop Up Market vegan gluten free Melbourne Australia
Compassionate Living Vegan Pop Up Market cheese vegan gluten free Melbourne Australia

The vegan vendors are thus one hundred percent genuinely ethically-minded businesses selling cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly goods. Market-goers are encouraged to bring their own containers and bags for purchases, and non-vegans are asked to be respectful by not bringing non-vegan products with them. Entry is free at these pop-up events, which is an added bonus. Follow Compassionate Living here: @CompassionateLivingVeganPopupMarket 

Abbotsford Convent is doing good with its Vegan Mini Market

Abbotsford Convent in inner-city Melbourne, a village of historic buildings and sprawling grounds, has become famous with locals being a keystone multi-arts destination. Abbotsford Convent draws on its grounding vibes of doing good (the site was the old Convent of the Good Shepherd monastery) to host a Vegan Mini Market the first Saturday of each month from September to December. ‘Delicious and ethical produce and products’ are showcased to those seeking new vegan goodies. The Vegan Mini Market was founded by two local Melburnians who are keen to host stalls spruiking food, fashion and crafts, and is the perfect canvas for local vegan micro-businesses. Entry is also free here but onsite parking is at a fee. Follow the Vegan Mini Market here: @Veganmm

Surfing the Vegan Makers Market Mornington Peninsula

Boasted as a market for “all of Melbourne to enjoy”, The Vegan Makers Market Mornington Peninsula is coastal Melbourne’s first vegan market. About an hour’s drive from Melbourne, attending this market is the perfect excuse to go on a spring daytrip. The Vegan Makers Market Mornington Peninsula is another boutique market hosting food trucks, culinary vendors, handmade products and live music.

Vegan Makers Market Mornington Peninsula Victoria Melbourne Australia food lifestyle
Vegan Makers Market Mornington Peninsula Victoria Melbourne Australia food lifestyle

Hosted by events company Mermaid Sorority, the event features businesses selling products that are fully vegan, cruelty free and ethically sourced. Located at a civic leisure centre, food trucks are found out front outside, while the home, food and lifestyle stalls are found indoors. Visitors are tempted here in their hundreds – by their vegan curiosity, established vegan way of life, and the free entry and parking. Follow the organisers of the Vegan Makers Market here: @Mermaidsorority

Gigantic vegan eating guaranteed at the Big Vegan Market

In May this year, something incredible happened. Melbourne hosted its first Big Vegan Market, at the Royal Exhibition Building in the inner-city. Naturally, it seemed that every single vegan in Melbourne (and those who are thinking about being vegan) turned up. As such, organisers – Melbourne Vegan Eats – attracting an overwhelming number of vendors wanting to be involved.

Big Vegan Market vegan gluten free Mwlbourne Australia
Big Vegan Market gluten free Melbourne Australia
Big Vegan Market vegan gluten free Melbourne Australia

There were over 150 vegan stalls for Melburnians to swoon over who didn’t have to ask about ingredients. It was a market where vegans could wander and purchase freely and compassionately. On the day crowd numbers swelled by the hour, not to mention bellies and shopping bags. Visitors only had to drop a $2 entry fee in a bucket at the door before partaking in this gigantic vegan day. Follow the organisers of the Big Vegan Market here: @melbourneveganeats

Big Vegan Market Melbourne Australia vegan gluten free cake

Have you attended one of Melbourne's incredible markets? Have you been a part of the boom? Let me know how you've contributed to the vegan boom in Melbourne, and what you've discovered along the way!

Travelling Narcissism: The Excess Baggage of Travel

Recently, the internet has been shining a lens on the rise of the travelling narcissist.  

Let’s start by understanding what we mean we say someone is a narcissist. A narcissist is someone who has an “excessive interest in or admiration of themselves”.  An article was published by Matador Network recently, written by a self-confessed travelling narcissist discussing the rise of such a phenomenon.

travel travelling narcissism travel tips

While the author delved in to some detail around his own online ogling habits and both sides to his story, I started to ask myself why this would appeal to a traveller. How do self-indulging desires even emerge when you travel?

Many of us live in a privileged world of opportunity and travel is a privileged activity hundreds of thousands of people practice (given they have the funds and drive to do it). With the rise of social media, we as users are also enticed by the urge to share the best moments of our travelling lives, with little to no room for imperfection or ‘epic fails’. We are drawn to images of where and when life is perfect – the popular phrase ‘making memories’ comes to mind. Perplexingly, the moments we’d rather be sprinting from rarely appear in newsfeeds.   

travel tips travelling narcissism travel

Sure, there are moments in travel which are immortalised by social media in order to journal said moments. One thing that brings me joy as a traveller is to look back over my photos to relive said moments in my mind and the lessons they taught me. But when does this cross the boundary between retrospective reminiscence and blatant narcissism?

You could say that travellers who Instagram and Facebook their travels might be seeking that self-serving, self-gratifying sense of ‘look at me’. Is this now the aim for travellers – to ‘share’ their experiences with those in their virtual world without a sense of higher purpose or ambition? Travel can be a vehicle for communicating to the world how amazing one’s life is and, as Matador Network’s article explores, rather than challenging travellers in situations that may be dire (even detrimental) for locals or local habitats. It seems that some travellers may be stepping further away from learning and self-exploration, and rather be aligned with attracting more likes and gratification from friends or followers instead. Whatever happened to being inspired and motivated by our own curiosities to travel to a destination rather than following the road paved by others? It’s one thing to be inspired, but truly another when we are inspired to travel somewhere on a Facebook whim only to experience exactly what another traveller has experienced.

travel travelling narcissism travel tips

Each travelling experience is unique, so why not start with that thought? Why not start with that first step being: “where do I want to travel to and what can my world teach me?” Then, it’s a matter of removing ourselves from the frame. Shine the lens on what’s being discovered, what knowledge is being learned, what can others in foreign lands teach us and what information we can share with friends and family when we arrive home? I still believe that sharing on social media is a great way to share such knowledge, but it’s the way in which it’s being done that’s important. What other ways can we do this as travellers when we surrender to the open road? One, take more photos of what’s around you rather than you. Two, understand and respect local laws or rules rather than becoming oblivious to what’s happening in that moment. Three, use social media to educate why you can’t do something or can’t explore a particular area then start a conversation rather than creating a never-ending stream of perceived ‘awesomeness’.

travel travelling narcissism travel tips

Create your own travel itinerary and set travel intentions rather than simply following someone else’s. Switch off your inner auto-pilot in order to discover the road less travelled and pack your backpack with those mindful intentions. Finally, try to switch the phone off every once in a while. You’ll be surprised on what you’ll discover – both within your surrounds and within yourself.

Exterior acceptance doesn’t have to be included when you travel. Shed yourself from the excess baggage that is travelling narcissism and explore the beauty in the imperfection instead. 

So, Travellers – have you encountered any travelling narcissism while on the road? How do you shed this excess baggage and what lessons did you learn as a result? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

4 Nutrient-Packed Bushwalking Foods to Stash in your Backpack

Spring is springing up here in Australia and the countdown to more days spent in the outdoors is on. Bushwalking, hiking, picnics with friends are those stellar ways to maximise the benefits of our time outdoors – fresh air, warm sunshine, and soothing views of trees, plants, wildflowers and wildlife.

Nature walking bushwalking Melbourne backpacking tips food vegan

With bushwalking and hiking comes the need to fuel the body so it can go that extra mile and deeper into the wilderness. In our current world of fast, instantaneous way of living, it’s easy and tempting to pack processed and packaged foods in the daypack. It’s contradictory to think that we seek time in nature, yet we let ourselves fuel our bodies with foods that are as far-removed from nature as food can get. How then, in this current world, can we fuel our bodies optimally without the side-effects and comedown s from high levels of sugar, salt, caffeine?  It’s safe to say it’s easy-peasy to pack a daypack with healthy options so you can get deeper into your practice of getting back to nature.

Nature walking bushwalking Melbourne backpacking tips food vegan

Prepare a portable container with fresh vegetables and hummus dip

If we think about vegetables, they are almost always in our fridge at home. Chop up and pack a portable container with bite-sized broccoli or broccolini and cauliflower flowerets, carrot sticks, capsicum segments and side it with a generous dollop of home-made hummus (or a ready-made brand that’s as close to homemade as possible). If raw is too raw for you, then steam your veggies the night before and refrigerate ready to go. Go crazy on the broccoli – it actually has twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Bonus!

Nature walking bushwalking Melbourne backpacking tips food vegan

Add seaweed to promote brain power

You can buy sheets of dried seaweed in many supermarkets now, which is a great source of iodine. The brain loves iodine, even when you’re tackling that particularly hard hill climb and you need to put your mind in a state over matter and negative thought. All you need to do is take a couple of sheets of dried seaweed, fold over a couple of times and thinly cut it over your packed vegetables with a pair of scissors. Super easy and a super source of bushwalking brain power.   

Don’t forget to pack a good ol’ apple

I love coffee and tea. Do you? As much as they’re enjoyable, they can deplete your adrenal glands, making hiking and bushwalking all the more harder and unenjoyable. Instead of making a coffee stop on the way to your bushwalk, pack an apple in your daypack. Not only is an apple more replenishing for your body and you’re saving on non-biodegradable waste, an apple is jam-packed with all you need for a sustained bushwalk – way more energy than a coffee (think – fructose sugar rich and high in carbohydrates). 

Nature walking bushwalking Melbourne backpacking tips food vegan

Bushwalkers are nuts about nuts

Hopefully, you’re not anaphylactic or allergic to nuts so you can reap the bushwalking benefits of these morsels. Create your own raw trail mix container of nuts and seeds. Some of my favourites include raw cashews, almonds, macadamias, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds and dried goji berries. One of my least favourite nuts is the pecan nut, but be sure to add a couple in anyway. They’re packed heavily with anti-oxidants to help with cell repair when you’re hiking about in the wilderness, not to mention protein (like the rest of your mix).  

So, how do you power up for your bushwalking? Do you pack these foods into your daypack? Or, do you pack another food that’s equally beneficial? I’d love to hear your thoughts on your bushwalking foods.

Once your daypack is packed, you can then head out on a great Australian bushwalk. Check out my article over at Chief Active on where to go and what to hike around Australia.

A Laneway Lunch at The Organic Food & Wine Deli in Melbourne

When you think of organic food, as far removed from your mind might be a cobblestoned laneway in the heart of Melbourne’s bustling CBD. Back in 1999, founder Jeanette Taylor launched The Organic Food & Wine Deli with the intention to “offer the best in organic produce and ready-made food in an environmental setting for all to enjoy”. A traveller in her own right, Jeanette has an extensive background cooking in restaurants in Sydney, Canada and London.

The Organic Food and Wine Deli Melbourne laneways Degraves Street Australia

Once back in Melbourne, Jeanette cottoned on to Melbourne’s obsession with food, and promptly researched the best in organic produce that the city (and beyond) has to offer. All such ingredients were gathered together in the tightly knit ‘hole in the wall’ in Degraves Street; one of Melbourne’s key iconic laneway locations. Nutritious, ready-made food thus has been sold at The Organic Food & Wine Deli to locals, city workers and travellers alike ever since.

Dining in holes in the wall create the best travel experiences for me. The intimacy of such food stops gives travellers the unique opportunity to dial in to the urgent hum of the spot, the conversations that come and go and the shop-talk between staff. Travellers have an insider ability to chat with the purveyors on an even level about their creations.

The Organic Food and Wine Deli Melbourne laneways Degraves Street Australia

What’s easy about ordering at The Organic Food & Wine Deli is that the rotund cabinets (taking up the bulk of the space in this petite store) show off everything that’s available to purchase. Decisions can be made in a blink of an eye with quick-fire precision, and the order line moves at speed as the whir of an essential coffee machine up motors along (coffee culture is rampant in Melbourne’s laneways). From plump savoury parcels with golden, thickly baked pastry cases (think pies, pasties) to takeaway containers stuffed with the day’s salads, and freshly baked spongy cakes laced in smooth and generously smeared icing.

The Organic Food and Wine Deli Melbourne laneways Degraves Street Australia

What my precision-perfect order hones in on, is a couple of vegan, gluten-free choices that make for the perfect, comforting laneway lunch as pedestrians bustle by. I sit at a small wall bench and squat on a chair, careful not to take up too much space. Within a few minutes, lunch is served warmly and warmed – a slice of Vegan Kashmir. My fork slices off a corner of crusty maize pastry baked to golden, then scoops up mouthfuls of filling – brown rice and silverbeet risotto. The topping is just as comforting, smooth potato dusted with a medley of herbs, all on a ceramic plate.

The Organic Food and Wine Deli Melbourne laneways Degraves Street Australia vegan

What is tempting about this lunch is that the entire order is served at the same time. This means two things. One, I eat my slice of Vegan Kashmir way too quickly because I can’t wait to launch into my slice of cake. Two, I really should wait until after lunch to order cake. Going back to my lunch, the lovely slice of Vegan Kashmir is demolished in record time. A main serve that’s delicious and satisfying while leaving a small amount of room needed to start on the cake. It’s a large portion of orange poppy-seed cake with a thick smear of creamy icing. Such a tangy, zesty and sweet flavour, making my cake choice all the more moreish, topped by a slice of candied orange to nibble on.

What The Organic Food & Wine Deli serves are hearty homestyle meals that can be devoured and enjoyed in a locale that’s as far-removed from home as you can get in your travels. A humble hole in the wall experience in the middle of a capital city where home can be found.                    

Experience a laneway lunch at The Organic Food & Wine Deli for yourself. 28 Degraves Street Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia. Phone: 03 9654 5157.

Open Monday to Friday 7.00am to 7.00pm, Saturday 8.00am to 6.00pm, Sunday 9.00am to 5.00pm.

There is a second store located at 603 Orrong Road Prahran Victoria 3181 Australia.

Celebrating Melbourne’s Liveability for Vegans with 100 Victorian Directory Listings

Part of my motivation for starting the Fire & Tea blog is my passion for travelling through the city in which I live. This week, Melbourne was voted the world’s most liveable city in the world for the seventh year in a row. Seventh year in a row! Thinking back, I’ve been vegan for almost all this time (just shy of one year) and my blogging has documented much of my vegan travels, both in Australia and abroad. You may have also read my previous posts about how liveable Melbourne is for vegans.

What I love about Melbourne is that travellers can use the city as a central hub from where their travels can oscillate – within the city’s limits and beyond into regional Victoria.

Since starting my vegan journey, I’ve been documenting the spots around town and regional where I’ve managed to eat a vegan meal (full vegetarian and/or vegan hotspots or locales that host vegan menus or vegan options), experience a vegan activity or shop vegan. Last weekend, I reached my 100th vegan directory listing. What a timely moment, to coincide with Melbourne’s latest liveability crown!

To celebrate, I have listed the mighty scroll below for your vegan travelling pleasure. I hope you manage to travel to Melbourne in your lifetime and experience the vegan travels that await you.

Albert Park: Urban Projuice for breakfast, brunch, lunch, desserts, cakes and hot and cold drinks
Ascot Vale: Mister Nice Guy's Bake Shop for savoury and sweet pastries, deli items, sandwiches, cakes, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Ascot Vale: World Vegan Day at Melbourne Showgrounds (a massive vegan festival to celebrate World Vegan Day each year)
Bacchus Marsh: Peace Love Vegan Cafe and Bacchus Marsh Natural Health for brunch, lunch, coffee, cakes and natural health supplies
Bayswater: The Hatter & The Hare for gourmet vegan menu options, hot and cold drinks, and cakes/desserts cooked onsite in the patisserie kitchen
Beaufort: Forest Haven B&B for an all-vegan and eco-friendly bed and breakfast
Belgrave: Archie's Place for vegan options in gourmet gelato, vegan gluten-free waffle cones, waffles, shakes and smoothies
Belgrave: Earthly Pleasures for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Belgrave: Evolve Fair Food Store for breakfast, brunch, lunch and hot and cold drinks
Belgrave: Grunge Cafe for breakfast, brunch, lunch, cakes, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Belgrave: Savvy Organic Pizza & Icecream for pizza and house-branded icecream and gelato
Berwick: Mr Black Juicery for breakfast, lunch, dessert, cakes, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Brunswick: The Cornish Arms for pub food, lunch, dinner, desserts and drinks
Brunswick: Moroccan Soup Bar for dinner banquets, takeaway, desserts and tea and coffee
Brunswick: We Love Life Festival held annually at CERES
Brunswick East: Kumo Izakaya for Japanese dinner, desserts and hot and cold drinks
Brunswick East: Tamil Feasts at CERES for dinner events with funds going back into the community to support Tamil asylum seekers
Brunswick East: Wildcrafted for groceries, ethically sourced gifts, lunch and drinks
Brunswick East: Whole Lotta Love for drinks and nibbles
Camberwell: Red Robyn Cafe and Restaurant for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Carlton: Big Vegan Market at Melbourne's old exhibition building (the first market was held in May 2017; here's hoping for more!
Carlton: Mantra Lounge for a rotating daily menu of vegan dishes and desserts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus meditation nights
Carlton: Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant for dinner, drinks and desserts (Melbourne's first vegetarian restaurant!)
Collingwood: The Fox Hotel for pub meals, drinks and rooftop bar
Collingwood: The Horn African Restaurant for Ethiopian dinners and hot and cold drinks
Collingwood: The People's Market for trash and treasure, stall food and drinks
Collingwood: Shu Restaurant for dumpling banquet nights and hot and cold drinks
Collingwood: Vegan Wares for shoes, boots, sneakers, sandals, other shoes, belts, guitar straps, wallets and bags (My hiking boots are from here!)
Collingwood: Wood Spoon Kitchen for lunch, dinner and drinks

Collingwood: Wholey Day Market for organic, gluten-free, vegan and wholefood vendors (check their Facebook page for future dates)
Cowes: Island Wholefoods for breakfast, brunch, lunch, desserts, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Croydon: Holy Basil Thai for lunch, dinner and hot and cold drinks (sister restaurant to Vanilla Orchid Thai Restaurant)
Croydon: Kofi Beans for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee and hot and cold drinks
Croydon: Taco Bill for Mexican lunch, dinner and hot and cold drinks
Croydon South: Eastfield Natural Foods for short order items, cakes, groceries and hot and cold drinks
Croydon South: Etiko for ethically produced and fair-trade vegan sneakers and footwear, t-shirts, hoodies and bags, underwear
Dandenong: Gibe African Restaurant for Ethiopian lunch, dinner, coffee (plus coffee-making ceremony at extra price) and hot and cold drinks
Doncaster: Vegie Mum Vegetarian Restaurant for Chinese lunch and dinner
Eltham: Second Home for breakfast, lunch and plant-based all vegan turmeric lattes
Elphinstone: Bed & Broccoli for an all vegan bed and breakfast (Australia's first vegan B&B)
Ferntree Gully: Chosen Bean Cafe for breakfast, brunch, lunch and hot and cold drinks
Ferntree Gully: Mountain Gate Chinese Restaurant for vegetarian section of their menu with items that can be veganised
Ferntree Gully: Waratah Organics for breakfast, brunch, lunch, cakes, coffee, hot and cold drinks and takeaway
Ferntree Gully: Wholefood Merchants for breakfast, brunch, lunch, salads, desserts and cakes, hot and cold drinks and groceries
Fitzroy: Curry Smuggler for their dedicated separate menu of vegan Indian entrees, main meals and sides
Fitzroy: Fina's Vegetarian Cafe for Vietnamese lucnh and dinner, cakes, hot and cold drinks
Fitzroy: Friends of the Earth Food Co-op and Cafe for lunch, hot and cold drinks and groceries
Fitzroy: Gelato Messina for house-made gelato and coffee
Fitzroy: Radhey Kitchen and Chai Bar for lunch, desserts, cakes and hot and cold drinks
Fitzroy: Rue de Creperie for French savoury and sweet crepes and hot and cold drinks
Fitzroy: Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant for Ethiopian platters, all-teff injera and hot and cold drinks
Fitzroy: Smith & Daughters for brunch, lunch and dinner

Fitzroy: Smith & Deli for deli-style lunchtime sandwiches and rolls, cakes, coffee and deli supplies
Fitzroy: The Cruelty Free Shop for groceries, books, clothing, household items toiletries and Melbourne's annual Vegan Day Out event
Fitzroy: Transformer Fitzroy for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and hot and cold drinks
Fitzroy: Vegan Day Out which is a one-day exploration of vegan options on Brunswick Street (hosted by The Cruelty Free Shop - grab your map from there)
Fitzroy: Yong Green Food for raw lunch, dinner, desserts and drinks
Fitzroy North: Tramway Hotel for burgers and drinks
Footscray: Krishna on Barkly for fully vegetarian and vegan Indian entrees, mains, sides and drinks
Footscray: The Reverence Hotel for Mexican-inspired pub food for lunch and dinner, beers, desserts and hot and cold drinks (live bands, too!)
Forest Hill: Vegie Bowl Restaurant for Chinese lunch, dinner, banquets, desserts and hot and cold drinks
Geelong: Dolly's Sister Vegan Cafe & Bar for their all-day menu, Sunday menu, salads, raw dishes, smoothies, hot and cold drinks, beers/ciders and wines
Gembrook: The Independent for its separate Argentinean vegan menu for lunch, dinner, hot and cold drinks (warning - Argentinean meat barbecues feature here, too)
Glen Waverley: Mountain View Hotel for its annual Vegan Night featuring a 100% vegan menu of entrees, mains and drinks
Hawthorn: Veggie on Board for Taiwanese food, entrees, main meals, hot and cold drinks, green tea and yum cha
Healesville: Alchemy Yarra Valley (a word of warning - there is taxidermy present here)
Kaniva: Heartfelt for lunch and hot and cold drinks
Kensington: The Abyssinian for Ethiopian dinners and hot and cold drinks
Kew: V Series for breakfast, brunch, lunch, desserts, cakes, hot and cold drinks, dinner Friday and Saturday nights (used to be called A Caterpillar's Dream)
Lancefield: Edgar's Mission Farm Sanctuary for getting back to nature and animals through pre-booked tours
Lilydale: Foods with Benefits for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, hot and cold drinks
Lilydale: Round Bird Can't Fly for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, hot and cold drinks and cakes
Malvern: Street Organics for breakfast, brunch, lunch, special event dinners, high teas, hot and cold drinks, cakes and groceries
Melbourne CBD: Gong De Lin for Chinese lunch, dinner, desserts and hot and cold drinks
Melbourne CBD: Supercharger at Emporium for takeaway lunch, cold drinks and desserts
Melbourne CBD: The Organic Food & Wine Deli for vegan options in salads, pies, pastries, quiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks
Melbourne: D'lightful Fine Turkish Delight for Turkish Delight as vegan options at markets around town
Moonee Ponds: Olivia Spring Cafe for all vegan Vietnamese meals, hot and cold drinks and cakes
Northcote: Loving Hut Northcote for lunch, dinner, desserts, hot and cold drinks and cakes
Northcote: Shoku iku for raw lunch, dinner, desserts and 'hot' and cold drinks
Preston: La Panella Bakery for baked goods with vegan options and vegan banh mi
Preston: The Food Truck Park which holds vegan and vegetarian food truck weekends regularly (not to be confused with the Northcote park!)

Richmond: Gelato Messina for house-made gelato and coffee
Richmond: Loving Hut for Asian lunch, dinner, desserts and hot and cold drinks
Richmond: Pana Chocolate for raw handmade chocolates and desserts
Ringwood: Phoolwari Tandoori Indian Restaurant for dinner
Southgate: La Camera for Italian lunch, dinner and hot and cold drinks
South Melbourne: Shakahari too for dinner, desserts and hot and cold drinks
St Kilda: Fritz Gelato for vegan gelato flavours and hot and cold drinks
St Kilda: Mr Natural for gourmet pizza
St Kilda: Sister of Soul for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, hold and cold drinks, dessert
St Kilda: Trippy Taco for Mexican lunch, dinner and hot and cold drinks
St Kilda: Vegilicious for vegetarian and vegan lunches, dinners, desserts and hot and cold drinks
St Kilda: Veg Out Community Gardens for general wandering and admiring the community's communal edible gardens and local artwork
Templestowe: Power Plant for breakfast, brunch, lunch, desserts, coffee, hot and cold drinks
Upwey: Abitza Cafe for coffee, hot and cold drinks and some lunch items on request
Wantirna: Oneworld Knox for their separate vegan menu of Asian food for lunch and dinner, and hot and cold drinks
Warrandyte: Vanilla Orchid Thai Restaurant for lunch, dinner, dessert and hot and cold drinks (sister restaurant to Holy Basil)
Warrandyte: Warrandyte Riverside Market for regular vendors that are vegan or with vegan options such as Von's Vegan Bakehouse and YAY Foods
Wonga Park: Kellybrook Winery for wines, ciders and its annual Kellybrook Cider Festival

I’d love to hear if you have travelled to Melbourne, and experienced any of these listings for yourself. Or, have you found some new secrets listed? Pop your stories about your Melbourne/Victoria travels in the comments below!
(For the rest of Australia, have a peek at my Aussie Vegan Directory)

The Hatter & The Hare and a Vegan Wonderland Adventure in Melbourne's East

“Who are you?” enquires the Caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, Sir,” Alice confesses in a perplexing tone. “Because I’m not myself, you know?” The Caterpillar inhales scented smoke from his hookah before heaving it from his lungs in a barrel towards Alice. “I do not know”, he declares. “Who are you?”

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

It’s a roundabout of riddles when Alice speaks to the Caterpillar, almost like the start of my visit to The Hatter & The Hare in Melbourne’s east. Once my meal – suitably named Caterpillar’s Riddle – arrives in front of me, the mystery evaporates and curiosity is cured; just like the Caterpillar’s hookah halos. One riddle is solved (which we’ll get to), but a couple more linger like ‘how on earth does a ‘160-seat foodie haven’ come to arrive in the industrial suburb of Bayswater? And, ‘how is The Hatter & The Hare packed by early lunchtime on a sunny winter’s afternoon and I have to wait patiently for a table to open up?’, or even ‘how does a smattering of vegan options magically appear as I turn the pages of the café’s clipboard menu?’

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

The Hatter & The Hare is only a couple of kilometres from my home. Yet, it’s like barrelling down the rabbit hole and being spat out into a tea party inspired wonderland of colourful furnishings matched with gloriously crafted food across two kitchens (the main kitchen in the back and open patisserie out front). The Hatter & The Hare is fashioned by pastel-painted colours, gorgeous trimmings and seating; even the quaint lime-coloured fold-up table my husband and I are seated at (complete with slat chairs) is positioned snugly by the tall and sprawling window flooded in sunlight. I’m in full view of the outdoor patio where brunching guests paw over weekend papers, and veggies in potting boxes soar with green shrubs and herbs. It’s cosy and communal here, in this winter wonderland.

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

Now, back to the curiously tasty food. Aside from carefully crafted and gleaming high-tea sweet treats in the front cabinet that greet and schmooze guests as they arrive (ample Mad Hatter’s tea party fare, let me tell you!), there’s a mid-winter menu to bring unexpected flavours and warmth to the table. I am coaxed by a heading marked ‘Eat Me’ and I find exactly what my winter appetite is calling out for. I read over the description to the vegan dish Caterpillar’s Riddle but there’s no gluten-free abbreviation in sight. So, I wonder: ‘Are you gluten free, too? Because you read like you are!’ Not long before my question seeps to the surface of my mind, the table is visited by a friendly waitress who can help me make sense of the riddle. “Let me check for you,” she offers with a grin and initiative. Moments pass and she’s back. “Yes, it is!”

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

After a while from ordering, Caterpillar’s Riddle emerges from the depths of the kitchen and onto the tabletop, gleaming in the sun. From the first spoonful of rich and hearty mushroom broth, I know this is a dish that will sing to my winter comfort-food heart. The broth is the moat where fluorescent green peas float like buoys, feeding the slab of root vegetable polenta standing solid in the middle of the rotund bowl-plate and towered by more roasted parsnip spears and sautéed mushroom rounds, garnished by green and purple beetroot leaves and sprouts, and crispy, spindly enoki mushrooms. The colours bounce off the walls and surrounds, as if the colour green is the ribbon that ties everything at The Hatter & The Hare together – from the fresh walls and outside dining area, to the shiny pastries waiting to be devoured in their the cabinets and plants dotted around the dining space. I’m revived after I polish off this comforting dish, accentuating the culinary adventures to uncover here. Though, enough room needs to be left in the tum-tum to try a sweet afterwards.

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free
The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

Thankfully, The Hatter & The Hare has a few vegan cakes to choose from (think brownies, gorgeously iced carrot cake and dainty cupcakes), but there’s only one choice that’s also gluten-free. Not all is lost and one choice is all that’s needed to sample the fruits of the patisserie’s labours. My cherry ripe paddle pop is served to the table on its own saucer, complete with a glistening golden dessert spoon aside a warming cup of matcha latte with soy milk. Once the dessert spoon cracks the paddle pop’s chocolate casing open, there’s a blushing coconut filling found to feast on in between sips of matcha. For the finale, the glacé cherry sitting humbly on top is nibbled on as the last dregs of matcha are gulped down, finishing off this lazy lunch on a sweet high.               

The Hatter & The Hare Bayswater Melbourne Victoria Australia vegan food travel gluten free

Riddles aside, The Hatter & The Hare is hosting its hearty and tasty food drenched in exquisite, sometimes unexpected, flavours, together with brilliant attention to customer service, not to mention baked sweets and sweet drinks to swoon over. These are all the makings for a fanciful tea party-like lunch that can be experienced in downtown Bayswater on a sunny day, in the hope that you stay as long as you willfully wish.

During Lewis Carroll’s infamous tea party, Alice asks White Rabbit: “How long does forever last?” to which he replies: “Sometimes, just one second.” Your mission as part of your invitation to try The Hatter & The Hare is to make forever last that little bit longer than one second. It’s oh-so-easy to do. 

Looking for a fanciful foodie wonderland adventure with vegan options? Visit The Hatter & The Hare at 1/21 Scoresby Road Bayswater, Victoria Australia 3134. Phone: +613 9720 5230.

 Hours: 7.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 4.00pm Saturday and Sunday. Kitchens close at 3.00pm and drinks station closes at 3.45pm.

Parking is limited so be sure to park at the Bayswater Hotel across the road and wander over. Or, take a train to Bayswater station (only a short walk away).

The Hatter & The Hare only accepts bookings for functions so get in early to secure a table, particularly on weekends.

Discover 4 of Western Australia’s Incredible Wildlife Experiences

Western Australia is one of the world’s largest states and bounds of outstretched landscapes are navigated by travellers who discover incredible wildlife experiences along the way. From the depths of the Southern Ocean off the coast of Albany to the captivating coral colonies of Ningaloo Reef, there is breathtaking and oftentimes unique wildlife to encounter. Western Australia also just happened to be my home for most of my childhood. This meant I was able to experience some of these incredible wildlife experiences while I was there.  Hopefully, these experiences will coax you in mapping out your own Western Australian wildlife journey!

Geordie Bay at Rottnest Island. Photo courtesy of Rottnest Island.

Geordie Bay at Rottnest Island. Photo courtesy of Rottnest Island.

Bike ride around Rottnest Island to spot quokkas

Rottnest Island, only 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth, was once stumbled upon by Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh in 1696. He spent a few days on the island and decided to name it ‘Rotte Nest’. The reason? He mistook the local wallaby-like marsupials, quokkas, as rats (‘Rotte Nest’ translated to “rat’s nest”). The traditional owners of Rottnest, the Noongar people, were more established and connected to Rottnest having inhabited the area while it was still attached to the Western Australian mainland 7000 years ago. They eventually named the island ‘Wadjemup’, or ‘place across the water’ when the island was separated from Western Australia after rising sea levels. Rottnest’s curious marsupials were eventually given their namesake by those indigenous to the area, and it’s what we know them as today.

Many now make the journey to Rottnest Island, or ‘Rotto’, by ferry to frolic in aquamarine waters edging the fine sands. There are next to no cars here, so the best way to explore Rottnest Island is by hiring a pushbike. Take your time to circumnavigate the island when you can witness its famous native resident; one of the only places to experience them. Quokkas are generally nocturnal so you’ll spot these gorgeous mammals in their element resting and dozing in the shade under native bushes and tea trees roadside. Though, keep your eyes peeled for an occasional spotting of an active quokka with a baby in her pouch. A bike ride will also bring you face-to-face with Rottnest Island’s intriguing salt lakes. 

Snorkel alongside whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef

The northern west coast of Western Australia is where one of the world’s biggest fringing reefs lie – Ningaloo Reef. Stunning marine wildlife awaits snorkelers at this unmissable World Heritage-listed marine park. Rare turtle species and manta ray swim through schools of over 500 species of native fish and a rainbow of coral bridges. Ningaloo Reef is also one of the world’s most accessible reefs for snorkelers who effortlessly swim out to it from the beach. What really draws in the travellers is Ningaloo Reef’s ultimate marine experience – swimming with incredible whale sharks. Between April to July annually, those visiting the area can swim alongside this gathering of the world’s largest fish that grow up to 16 metres long!

Western Australia’s “gentle giants” swim throughout one of Australia’s pristine ecosystems, making a journey to Ningaloo Reef an extraordinary and unique travel experience. You can partake in this exhilarating adventure by booking a tour with an operator from Exmouth or Coral Bay. Ningaloo Reef is also popular for its yearly visit of humpback whale pods migrating to the area between June and November. You can also cap off your Ningaloo experience by taking a kayak to a remote area and spot peaceful dugongs.

 Join a whale-watching trip in Albany

Starting in Western Australia’s lush south, the wildlife experiences are abundant in Albany and happen willingly seaside. This southern coastal town is Western Australia’s first European settlement and home to some of Australia’s impressive oceanic creatures. What is ironic about Albany, is that the town was once a flourishing whaling town. Nestled by the Stirling Ranges and cradled by the Southern Ocean, Albany was the final destination for first settlers to arrive on the ship Amity in 1826. Over the course of 150 years, Albany whalers scoured the ocean in search of gracious southern right whales to feed its industrious ambitions. Thankfully, whaling ceased in Albany by 1978. Since then, Albany has been focused on the conservation of whale populations for visitors to enjoy.

From June to October is the best time of the year to visit Albany for whale-watching and what better way to experience these gentle, deep-sea monoliths in their natural environment than by taking a cruise from the local pier. It’s during this time of year that southern right whales are nursing their young; a beautiful opportunity to witness these whale families. If you’re visiting between August and December, discover a kaleidoscope of wildflowers carpeting the south-west region near Albany too.

Make friends with the dolphins at Shark Bay

A typical childhood memory for many West Australian residents is travelling the thousands of kilometres from Perth to Monkey Mia in Shark Bay for an encounter with the area’s adorable bottlenose dolphin population. When tourism started to spike, visitors to Monkey Mia could actually buy buckets of fish and wade out off the beach to feed these beautiful mammals. This practice started as a result of local fishermen feeding the dolphins back in the 1960s.

Common sense for conservation prevailed, and this en masse feeding was eventually phased out. Though, you can still enjoy the company that these creatures bring while in their natural habitat and partake in a controlled feeding session with a ranger daily. Dolphins play in their pristine, water wilderness and have been doing so here for about 40 years. Shark Bay itself is a World Heritage-listed area and spans over 2 million hectares across two peninsulas. The local Malgana people named this area Gathaagudu, or ‘two waters’. No wonder the dolphins have been coming to this area for so long! Some of Monkey Mia’s quieter attractions can be experienced as well – dugongs, manta rays and turtles that inhabit Shark Bay.

For an all-encompassing experience, head to the ancient stromatolites located at Hamelin Pool where you’ll witness some of the largest and oldest living fossils on the planet. And for a novelty, bury yourself in miniscule shells at Shell Beach. It’s a beach formed from an uncountable amount of shells; one of the only places on the planet where shells replace beach sand.

Have you ever visited Western Australia and experienced one of these incredible wildlife experiences? Or, do you have plans to visit in the near future? Feel free to share your plans in the comments below. I'd love to hear your Western Australian travel stories!