Where we went: Hobart and surrounds
When we went: August/ September (very late winter/ early spring)
A while ago, as Sommelier and I were wandering around the waterfront in search of late-night sweet treats, I found a girl crying outside a party and went and gave her a cuddle and invited her to come with us to get ice cream. She told me through heavy sobs that she could not, as she was a vegan (Van Diemen’s Land creamery has vegan options, but I didn’t know that with certainty at the time). We delayed our ice cream trip until our new, teary, vegan friend had stopped crying and returned to whence she came, but it did get pose a question to us: where can a couple of meat-eaters take a vegan friend, now that they have one?
Sommelier and I aren’t vegans, but we’re invested in mindful consumption so we’re vegan curious and have been known to dabble. We’re also both great lovers of food. We set about spending a weekend touring the markets and cafes of Hobart town to see how the vegans who walk among us every day live and eat in a city famous for its food and wine. We set ourselves 2 limitations on this mission: the first – all foods consumed must have been vegan from the very beginning (rather than the cheese/mayo just being left off in a sad little “ta-da” moment of lacklustre dining): the second – all foods must be found and sampled over the weekend period so as to fit in to our wedding budgeting plan (no take-out on weeknights).
Saturday – Circle of Life donuts, Federation Chocolate, Veg Bar.
Saturday, for many travelling to Tasmania, is all about Salamanca markets. Australia’s largest outdoor market (the famously terrible weather in Tasmania makes it a very questionable location for such a market, but that’s a debate for another day). Salamanca supports a hub of artists, artisan producers, and knick-knack salespeople. It also attracts humans in droves (my least favourite way of experiencing humans), so despite being certain that there is vegan food to be sourced among the crowds at Salamanca we agreed, as a couple, that there have to be more people-free places to explore the plant-based nom-noms.
Circle of life – Liverpool Street
Circle of Life’s main claim to fame is a hot nutella fountain (nutella is not vegan, so we did not partake), but they also have a vegan range. Sommelier and I are donut connoisseurs and take all things related to donuts very seriously. We purchased a strawberry glazed one and a vanilla slice one, though there were 2 other vegan options available. Vegan donuts are texturally slightly different from regular donuts, they tend to be a little more chewy and gooey (this is preferable to us) and we shared this deep-fried and very healthy (plant-based therefore counting as our serve of vegetable for the day) breakfast on the move through to Federation Chocolate which is my favourite food place in all of Hobart.
Chocolate is one of Mother Nature’s greatest accomplishments, and it is one of her greatest mercies that it can still be delicious without addition of animal products. Federation Chocolate looks like a tiny little cottage a-drift in a field of concrete, but, as any good oompa-loompa knows, chocolate factories are way bigger on the inside. There is a viewing area where you can watch them making and pouring chocolate, there is a display case were you can see all the hand-made stuffed chocolate flavours (bon-bons?) and, because they work with Tasmanian producers to coat your most frivolous food fantasies in chocolate there is never anything there that doesn’t taste like waking up well rested on a weekend feels. We chose a 4 piece box (we have a word for ‘chocolate box’, it’s “ballotine”, but we don’t have a word for chocolates with stuffing!?) of hand-made filled chocolates (truffles??) from their vegan range. Sommelier, obviously sleep-deprived and delirious, thought that this was enough chocolate. He was wrong. We also bought their limited edition whiskey soaked and rum soaked dark chocolates (the rum one is too good for human consumption and it is a cruel and unusual torture that there is only a limited amount of it in this world), but decided not to buy any of the dark chocolate blocks (the ‘counts as a vegetable’ argument didn’t fly twice in a row).
Federation Chocolate – Victoria Street
Veg Bar – North Hobart
Veg Bar is an entirely vegan, American cuisine inspired restaurant located on the North Hobart restaurant strip. Parking can be very difficult – I have no helpful advice but patience and a prayer to the parking faeries if you want to dine in. The good news is that Veg Bar is also a take-away place and they are on ubereats. The burgers are particularly good, as are the jack-fruit loaded fries and I highly recommend them both, Sommelier got the nachos and I got a southern burger and we shared the buffalo cauliflower wings and fries. We got ours delivered right to our door so that we could wear our comfy clothes and have a giant vegan fried foods feast in our living room with no one but the x-box judging us.
Sunday – Ginger Brown, Farmgate Market, Boodle Beasley.
Ginger Brown – South Hobart
We woke up late on Sunday morning, and were very slow getting out of the house because I spent most of the morning googling the menus of cafes around. We settled on Ginger Brown, a popular café in South Hobart and it had the highest number of vegan options of the cafes we looked at. We had a romantic and intimate brunch sitting outside (near the dog-water bowl on the off chance that there would be dogs to pet – there were!). We had house-made baked beans and a cinnamon hot-cake (we shared both meals). There were baked goods on display (and I assume sale) inside the café, some of which were vegan (we didn’t get any on account of our plans to go to Farmgate Market), and we had no trouble at all finding incredible, wholesome food with no sulphites, and no animal-bioproducts, and we were already pretty full by the time we got to the Melville street car-park for the Farmgate Market.
Farmgate Market – Bathurst Street
Farmgate is an exclusively food market, and there was no shortage AT ALL of Vegan options. Lady Hester has a vegan donut now (relatively new to the menu), there are vegan ice-creams and yoghurts, Bury-Me-Standing (bagel place on the street where the market takes place—they also have a stall at the Salamanca Market) is mostly vegan with a few vegetarian options, there were dumplings and sweet treats and breads, there are vegan cheeses, fresh falafel mix to take home…we feasted. We ate until we were uncomfortable and then we bought some vegan pesto and a bunch of veg and plant-based groceries to prepare vegan meals throughout the week and then we went home to nap off our food coma and prepare for dinner.
Boodle Beasley – North Hobart
For dinner we wanted to see if we could find ourselves a pub meal, partly because we wanted to know if a vegan pub meal was even possible, but mostly because we wanted to have a relaxed time (and certain members of the couple refused to wear anything other than her comfy stretchy jeans and a grandpa jersey). Our plant-based pub meal needs were met, once again, in North Hobart, just across the street from Veg Bar, at Boodle Beasley. The thing that I like most about Boodle Beasley is that the neighbour’s cat wants desperately to be inside the bar, but, for OH&S reasons, it is not allowed in the bar. This does not stop it from trying to get into the bar every time anyone opens the door to the beer garden, where the toilets are located. If you’ve never watched a series of people ranging from tipsy to drunk trying to discourage cat from getting inside while they, the human, is trying to get outside you should. It is peak people-watching. Boodle Beasley’s menu changes often, but there is always a vegan option. We thoroughly enjoyed our tofu bao, tempura cauliflower, crispy tofu lettuce cups, and kale chips, with a side of vegan beer and tipsy cat-wrangling. By all accounts it was an excellent way to wind down from a weekend of urban foraging and intensive vegan recon missioning.
You may know a vegan, you may even be friends with a closeted vegan (a ‘vegetarian’ who ‘hates eggs’ and ‘is lactose intolerant’), and you may have dined out with them before and felt that it would be a miserable existence to always order the vegetarian option with the mayo or cheese removed, and you would be right. Nothing ruins a meal quite like having an element that a food catering professional felt necessary in the first place removed and never replaced. It leaves the dish feeling unbalanced and poorly put together. The good news is that this isn’t compulsory; what more and more good food establishments are realising is that by leaving animal-biproducts off the plate a meal can cater to several dietary requirements at once (egg allergies, lactose intolerance and milk allergies, Muslim, Hindu, people with that freaky tick-born disease that makes you allergic to meat…just to name a few), furthermore there is nothing, literally nothing preventing non-vegans from enjoying plant-based foods except internalised negative stigmas. I work in a café with multiple vegan options on the menu and one of the most common phrases that I hear is “I’ve never tried vegan food.” As though they’ve never, in their entire lives, eaten a meal without any animal products in it (if this is true it’s mildly alarming). A more plant-based diet can help to reduce carbon emissions, increase the amount of veg you eat in a day, and assist in one’s ability to comfort crying, vegan strangers, should you ever find yourself in that situation. All we are saying is give veg a chance. If it’ll help to strengthen your resolve chocolate, at least, is a vegetable!