There are plenty of takeaway slow-roasted shoulders of lamb out there, but hey, vegans and vegetarians have money too, you know.
Their buying power, combined with the rise of flexitarian eating, means we're seeing more options than ever, during lockdowns at least. You can now order plant-based meals from Three Blue Ducks, Bistro 916, Ormeggio, Chat Thai, Nomad, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Porteno, Fratelli Paradiso, Alberto's Lounge and many more. Even good old Mary's Burgers offer four different vegan burgers. That's not even counting existing vegan restaurants such as Mark and Vinny's, Peppe's and fine-diner Yellow.
But there's a bigger choice to make. Do you stick with cuisines that have championed vegetables for centuries – Middle Eastern, Lebanese, Mexican – or do you go new-school with today's meat alternatives? That's OK, I've done the hard work for you.
Fysh and chips from Alibi, Woolloomooloo. Photo: Jill Dupleix
The order Brisket burger ($20), Mac 'n' cheese balls ($6 for 4), fysh and chips ($20), Black Forest cheesecake ($8).
Do not believe your eyes. The brisket in Alibi head chef Kevin Voon's brisket burger is made primarily from shiitake mushrooms. The "fish" in the fysh and chips is a mixture of soy and pea protein flavoured with paprika, turmeric and rosemary; and the cheese in the crumbed and deep-fried mac 'n' cheese balls uses coconut oil, nutritional yeast and citric acid in place of dairy. The Black Forest cheesecake is built with macadamia and cashew nut butters rather than cream cheese and eggs.
But, you know, stick a burger of any kind in a soft potato bun with dill pickles, slaw and a (bloody) hot sauce and it will press the burger button. Have a couple of beers, and battered and deep-fried soy protein served in a box with spice-dusted fries (real potato!) will give you a fish and chips experience. Slather anything with cherry compote and kirsch coconut cream, and you're in the Black Forest.
It's not my scene, but alternative meat and dairy products fill a real need, and make sure vegans aren't excluded from the takeaway bandwagon.
Fresh, bright produce from Kepos Street Kitchen. Photo: Harriet Davidson
Kepos Street Kitchen, Redfern
The order Mezze box ($49 for 2-4 people), tomato crostata ($45 for 2-4 people)
It's a joy to open the box of mezze goodies from Israeli-born owner-chef Michael Rantissi. Everything is so bright, so fresh and so real, from a richly gloopy hummus, to a zucchini (not cucumber) tzatziki that sings with flavour. Mouttabal (eggplant dip) competes with labne in the rich stakes, and there's carrot and cuke crudites for crunch. With bread, it's enough for a meal, but you can add on eggplant moussaka or a rustic tomato crostata topped with cherry tomatoes and dollops of ricotta, the pastry lined with pesto. Not just great food for vegetarians. Great food for everyone.
Colourful snacks from Bad Hombres. Photo: Milad K Photography
Bad Hombres, Surry Hills
The order Mexican bowl ($16.50), charred chipotle corn ($1), soft corn tortillas ($4), guacamole ($4)
With rice, beans, corn and chilli as part of an everyday diet, going Mexican is a no-brainer for vegans, says Bad Hombres' Jose Artidiello. Their biggest seller is the lockdown burrito, but I'm here for the Mexican bowl, a bright, salady affair with its segregated piles of rice, black beans, pico de gallo, corn, slaw, nopales (cactus) and guacamole, with a serve of miso eggplant for meatiness.
The creamy, rich guacamole is great slathered on the nicely rustic corn tortillas, and something special happens when you mix beans and rice together. The corn disappoints – no juicy freshness – and I do not think miso eggplant will be a big hit in Oaxaca anytime soon.
How to order Pick-up or delivery. 40 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, badhombres.com.au
Bad Hombres makes sure there's lots of colour and interest across avocado, greens, grains and tortillas. For people craving burgers and fish and chips without actual meat or fish, Alibi delivers with all the requisite char, soft buns, sauce, crunchy batter and salty fries. But nothing is better than a talented chef cooking the food of his own heritage like a dream. Kepos Street Kitchen for the win.