Sofia Levin

If you're happy and you know it: Swing seating at Serotonin Eatery. Click for more photos

Melbourne's best clean-eating cafes and restaurants 2016

If you're happy and you know it: Swing seating at Serotonin Eatery. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

This year, let's ditch the words "post-Christmas diet" in favour of wholesome eating and not leave ourselves open to shattered New Year's resolutions.

We're spoilt for choice in Melbourne when it comes to all things vegetarian, vegan, cold-pressed and paleo, but the following establishments don't compromise flavour for nutrition – and neither should you.

Chia Party pudding at Combi.
Chia Party pudding at Combi. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones.

Here are the top 10 clean living food and drink experiences to have in Melbourne this summer.

Cave man-friendly 

If everything about the hunter-gatherer diet appeals to you, except for the hunting and gathering, Patch Cafe is for you. Tucked away under the Studio Nine development in Richmond, the mod-industrial space heaves on weekends as health fanatics and the hungover dig into twice-cooked pork belly with kimchi 'slaw and waffles made from pumpkin, banana, coconut flour and almond butter. 

'Soyvlaki' at Tofu Shop international.
'Soyvlaki' at Tofu Shop international. Photo: Gary Medlicott

Patch Cafe, 1/32 Bendigo Street, Richmond, 03 9029 0328, patchcafe.com.au

Upscale vegetarian

Brought to you by the team behind Vegie Bar, Transformer offers upscale vegetarian considered ace enough to impress carnivores. A tonne of greenery takes the warehouse from same-old to concrete jungle, while cocktails range from kombucha spritz to a "master-cleanse-tini". Order the "Feed me" menu – a steal at $35 for lunch and $45 for dinner. Better yet, bookings are encouraged. 

Transformer, 99 Rose Street, Fitzroy, 03 9419 2022, transformerfitzroy.com

Cheap fun

Tofu Shop International has held the Bridge Road front since 1982. More than three decades later, customers still linger outside in the lead-up to lunchtime. There's an unpretentious hippy vibe and friendly faces behind the counter, where soy supporters choose from a plate piled high with dishes of the day or grab a falafel wrap to go. Try the tofu dip and, weather permitting, the tofu ice-cream.

Tofu Shop International, 78A Bridge Road, Richmond 03 9429 6204

Clean-eating cafe

Combi has been keeping it clean since 2008 with pressed juices, social media-worthy smoothies and glass jars layered with all the usual superfood suspects. The rest of the menu is bright and simple: think avo toast, sprouted bread, raw pizza and zucchini spaghetti. Their Instagram – @wearecombi with more than 50,000 followers – is a fantastic illustration of what they're about. #nofilter needed.

Combi, 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, 03 9531 0084, wearecombi.com.au

Fro yo & juice

Set to be the clean treat of summer 2016, Ayomo's Freeze Up! frozen yoghurts are the first made in Melbourne using cold-pressed juice. There's Summer Lovin', with apple, pineapple, lemon and mint, or Garden Green with apple, celery, cucumber, spinach and kale. Also keep an eye out for Ayomo juice kiosks at QV, Chadstone Shopping Centre, Doncaster Westfield and Southland during the January sales – with bottles from $6 a pop, they're by far the best value in the pressed juice market. 

Ayomo,26 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 03 9686 9941, ayomo.net

Golden oldie

Perhaps the most established vegetarian venue in Melbourne, Moroccan Soup Bar was drawing queues and rocking a no-bookings policy long before Flinders Lane knew how. Visit with six or more and book, otherwise prepare to line up for legendary chickpea bake and BYO Tupperware for leftovers. Owner Hana Assafiri​ recently opened Moroccan Deli-cacy in Brunswick East, a more casual daytime affair also worth visiting. 

Moroccan Soup Bar, 183 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, 03 9482 4240, moroccansoupbar.com.au

Groundbreaking vegan

Ever caught a vegetarian friend staring at your bacon? Take them to Smith & Deli. Run by the Smith & Daughters crew around the corner, this takeaway shop is the only place you'll find vegan reuben sandwiches and meatball subs that don't insult the real thing. There's also coffee, salads, take home meals and baked goods (try the vegan croissant). Worth the wait. 

Smith & Deli, 111 Moor Street, Fitzroy, 03 9042 4117, smithanddaughters.com

Happy and wholesome

As of April 2015, no list of clean eats is complete without corner cafe, Serotonin Eatery. The premise is simple: consuming food that releases serotonin – a feel-good neurotransmitter in the gut and brain – will make you happy and healthy both inside and out. Sit on a swing chair, sip a golden turmeric latte and don't forget to Instagram your "positive pancakes". 

Serotonin Eatery, 52 Madden Grove, Burnley, 03 9428 8256, serotonindealer.com

Itsy-bitsy organic

It's not the size; it's how you serve it. That's the case at Walk Don't Run, a 30-seater organic cafe from the duo behind Merchants Guild and Prana Chai. There's a focus on mindful eating, with a Japanese slant to the menu and superfoods in every dish. French press is served instead of espresso to discourage milk and sugar, while raw treats are a must on the way to the station. 

Walk Don't Run, 17 Morey Street, Armadale, 03 9500 0823, walkdontrun.com.au

Rawesome desserts

If the tagline "decadence without the guilt" doesn't grab you, the Rawgan Wheels, raw doughnuts and raw salted caramel tarts certainly will. Everything at Raw Trader is sugar-, gluten- and dairy-free, as well as organic and uncooked. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a dessert bar, but CBD workers often stop in for mid-week breakfasts, such as chia bowls and supercharged granola. 

Raw Trader, 10 Sutherland Street, Melbourne, 0478 692 008, rawtrader.com.au