Since becoming vegan a few years ago, I came to realise that there weren’t very many vegan Vietnamese options out there. Vietnamese cuisine is one of my favourites, so it was a little disheartening to discover the lack of choices. Until I came across Fina’s Vegetarian Café.
Fina’s started out on Victoria Street in 2011, right in the heart of a strip lined by some of Melbourne’s revered Vietnamese restaurants and soup kitchens. Steven and Christine Nguyen started their café and the name was derived from a combination of their two daughters’ names. They envisaged a destination where people could enjoy healthy Vietnamese favourites with an eye for compassion towards animals. They also, simply, wanted to make a living and enjoy seeing customers enjoy their menu.
The drawcards here are simple Vietnamese hawker favourites all served speedily. There’s the fresh and crunchy bun cha gio chay – a lively rice vermicelli salad threaded with crispy sprigs of mint, coriander and tofu strips, all topped with golden spring rolls and crushed peanuts. A side of non-fish “fish sauce” partners this salad, the quintessential ingredient here, and is delicately sprinkled over the top of the salad. A light sprinkle is enough to bring a zingy flavour to the dish while not making it soggy. Another filling and substantial treat comes in the form of banh mi chay – a French bread roll jam packed full of shredded mock chicken and satay tofu, all topped with a bouquet of lettuce, carrot, radish, cucumber, coriander and a scattering of peanuts. This is the perfect dish for anyone in a hurry who needs a quick and hearty meal.
An extensive, unexpected list of favourite beverages are available to choose from as well – freshly squeezed juices and an espresso bar – alongside a cabinet bursting with creamy cakes and baked treats. It’s pleasing to find a vegan selection in this enticing cabinet. There’s black forest cake and even a peppermint pattie sponge, supplied by Melbourne’s king of vegan cakes Mister Nice Guy.
There’s nothing better than a Vietnamese location with vegan options as well as dessert options to match. Though, said location is also very cheap and that’s not a bad thing either!
Visit Fina’s Vegetarian Café and discover these yummy Vietnamese hawker treats for yourself. 268 Victoria Street Richmond, Victoria 3121 Australia. Open daily 8:30am to 9:30pm. Phone 03 9428 6765.