Vegan stocks are on the rise. Maybe it's the respect newly afforded to vegetables and meat's recasting as an environmental villain – or have we simply realised that respecting the whole beast is best achieved by not eating the beast at all? Whatever the case, restaurants are increasingly catering to this growing tribe. Here's our top 10 fine dining places where vegans can eat fearlessly.
Australia's most esteemed restaurant – if you believe the hype behind a certain World's Best list – will also put on a spectacular show for vegans (advance notice appreciated). What more would you expect for a restaurant whose mighty reputation was built on a dish called "A potato cooked in the earth in which it was grown"?
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 03 9530 0111, attica.com.au
Cutler & Co
All of Andrew McConnell's restaurants cater for vegans but Gertrude Street's sexy, super-luxe Cutler & Co is pick of the bunch for the special night out. Go a la carte for mushroom broth with fresh polenta and shiitake mushrooms; celeriac with Manjimup truffle, chestnut and nettle; or snuggle into a winter dessert of baked rhubarb with apple and sorrel sorbet.
55–57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 03 9419 4888, cutlerandco.com.au
FOMO (fear of missing out) isn't an option at Teage Ezard's flagship Mod-Oz restaurant, where an eight-course vegan degustation matches the carnivore's menu blow for blow. In place of the signature chilli-caramel pork hock, try caramelised eggplant with tomato and lime salad, yellow curry dressing and jasmine rice. And instead of the oysters in the Japanese-inspired shooters – silken tofu, with cucumber and apple.
"... have we simply realised that respecting the whole beast is best achieved by not eating the beast at all?'Larissa Dubecki
187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9639 6811, ezard.com.au
Shane Delia's spin on the food of his Maltese homeland and the Middle East naturally skews towards brilliant vegetable-based sides with zesty spicing, but go the full vegan dego for dishes such as zucchini falafel with heirloom tomatoes, black Aleppo pepper and Tunisian brik pastry, or Turkish red lentil dumplings. It's family feasting with a conscience.
21 Bond Street, Melbourne, 03 9629 5900, maharestaurant.com.au
It was an early adapter in terms of being vegan-friendly. Under new head chef Kah-wai "Buddha" Lo, this elegant Fitzroy fine diner sends out a five-course vegan menu ranging from "tastes" such as corn fritters and five-spice salt, to bigger dishes such as black vinegar-caramel glazed eggplant with whipped coconut cream and herb salad.
533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, 03 9481 1177, matteos.com.au
Three young guns who comprise this singular Beaconsfield restaurant, the Bertoncello brothers are seasonal devotees who grow a huge variety of produce in their own allotments. Book ahead for a four-, six- or eight-course vegan menu of vegetable valourising that shows off their creative skills – such as a brilliant snack of orange segment, coated in sugar and rosemary powder then flamed into a herbal-citrus lollipop.
23 Woods Street, Beaconsfield, 03 9769 9000, omyrestaurant.com.au
Port Phillip Estate
Not only an architectural landmark on the Mornington Peninsula, with its arrestingly curved rammed-earth dining room and views of vines and ocean, Port Phillip Estate also puts out the welcome mat to vegans. Semolina-dusted soybean fillets with tomato-stuffed zucchini flowers and tapenade are all part of the mix – and the estate's award-winning wines are the perfect accompaniment.
263 Red Hill Road, Red Hill South, 03 5989 4444, portphillipestate.com.au
Michael Ryan lives in Beechworth but his heart resides in Japan. At his dining room in a converted historic bank you'll find a produce-driven, almost kaiseki menu that reads like poetry – "leeks, almond and shio koji milk, leek, oil and nuka pickle salad". The wine list from Ryan's winemaker partner Jeanette Henderson reads like poetry, too.
86 Ford Street, Beechworth, 03 5728 1786, theprovenance.com.au
It's a contradiction of Chinese cooking that it's simultaneously pork-centric and vegan-friendly. At Neil Perry's paean to Chinese regionality, go the burn with fried salt-and-pepper silken tofu with spicy coriander salad (and cool it with cucumber batons with smashed garlic and ginger); or hit classic dishes such as "fish fragrant" eggplant or magnificent vegetable-based dim sum.
Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 03 8679 1888, rockpool.com/spicetemplemelbourne
A no-brainer: Transformer is all vegetarian with a wealth of vegan options on the menu. Think steamed bao-like bun made from spelt and seeds, wrapped around crisp tofu and pickled cucumber and gochujang-spiced mayo, or tomato "tartare" with pickled shimeji mushrooms and taro crisps. Brought to a cool off-Brunswick Street warehouse by Laki Papadopoulos, longtime proprietor of nearby Vegie Bar, Transformer proves vegans just want to have fun.
99 Rose Street, Fitzroy, 03 9419 2022, transformerfitzroy.com
The Age Good Food Guide 2017 will be available for purchase for $24.99 (with free access to the new Good Food app) from all newsagents and major bookstores from Tuesday, September 13. Pick up your Age Good Food Guide 2017 for $14.99 with The Age on Saturday, September 17.