There’s no restaurant more quintessentially Fitzroy than Vegie Bar.
The Brunswick Street institution has been at the forefront of vegetarian dining since 1988, becoming one of Melbourne’s most popular haunts for both the health conscious and hungry.
Laki Papadopoulos came up with the concept 27 years ago with the aim of bringing approachable vegetarian food to Fitzroy. It all started in a small corner building with Laki and his wife doing everything themselves: cooking, serving and washing the dishes. The community took to it like a house on fire and the culinary idea grew rapidly. Over the years, constantly building on that success, the business expanded into adjoining buildings, taking over the warehouse next door. This is when Mark Price joined the business. As well as expanding the size of the business, Laki and Mark have introduced additional elements to the restaurant’s repertoire, including the raw menu and desserts offering.
Vegie Bar’s success lies, in part, to Mark and Laki’s dedication to using only the best produce. They have two vegetable purveyors who go to markets and deal with farmers directly, focussing on what’s in season and what’s in bountiful supply. There are approximately 30 different Victorian farms and growers that supply Vegie Bar’s menu, ensuring that only the freshest ingredients appear on your plate.
The menu, while completely meat-free, is inspired by dishes from all over the world, giving customers access to a myriad of avours and ingredients. The miang kham is the perfect introduction to Vegie Bar’s fare – the raw Thai street snack mixes shredded coconut, lime, chilli, lemongrass, ginger, tamarind in a betel leaf for a refreshing start to the meal. The samosa is equally appealing, with a mild vegetable curry lling, tzatziki and fresh chilli dipping sauce.
The larger plates offer bucket loads of variety, with everything from roti wraps to raw Pad Thai. Try the traditional lentil burger complete with satay sauce, butter lettuce, tomato, cucumber and beetroot, or opt for the Sienna pizza, which combines caramelised onion and red capsicum steeped in a tangy red wine marinade and finished with sliced halloumi and roquette.
The raw Malaysian curry will have your tastebuds tingling, with daikon, carrot, capsicum and seasonal vegies tossed in a Malaysian-style lemongrass and coconut sauce. Served with bloomed wild rice and currants, snowpea shoots, coriander and lime, it won’t leave anyone wanting.
The drinks menu is just as diverse. Choose from the curated wine list or try a cocktail, which incorporates healthy mixers such as ginger kombucha, spirulina and wheatgrass juice. There are a number of cra beers and ciders on o er, but if you’re off the alcohol, order a freshly squeezed juice or smoothie.
Its heaving popularity means that at peak times, a wait is to be expected. But Laki and Mark have covered all their bases, offering a bar at the back of the building where you can sip on a tipple from the extensive cocktail, wine and beer list.
Having well and truly conquered the market, Mark and Laki have also gone on to open Vegie’s Bar upscale sister Transformer Fitzroy, as well as the South East Asian-inspired Rice Queen. With such a firm grip on what diners want, there’s no guessing what success story they’ll come up with next.