Relaxed vibe: inside Vegilicious.
Relaxed vibe: inside Vegilicious. Photo: Wayne Taylor

118 Carlisle Street St Kilda, Victoria 3182

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Opening hours Wed-Sun 11am-11pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9537 3820

The vibes are good and the vegetarian food is filling at this relaxed old factory space near St Kilda Town Hall. Potted greenery, recycled craft, dreamy dreadlocks and chunky timber tables set an earthy tone. There are cosy nooks to sip on kombucha cocktails and large tables where groups can gather for cheap feasting.

Owner Giovanna Ghelardini knows her wholefoods: she was part of the original Lentil as Anything team and Vegilicious has popped up at markets and festivals for seven years. Even in its permanent home, Vegilicious still has a colourful, raggedy, warm-hearted festival feeling, and strong links to the 4DVerse arts hub upstairs add to the table-hopping community mood.

The food is more old school meat-is-murder hippy cooking than modern superfood fad stuff. The menu cherry-picks favourites from around the world: there's okonomiyaki, a sturdy Japanese cabbage pancake topped with sweet mayo and crunchy sesame seaweed, a very meek Indian curry, and really good fluffy potato gnocchi with a tomato sauce that let the dumplings down by tasting mostly of raw onions (there's also a creamy spinach sauce, which was better).

Marinated tofu and vegetable stir-fry.
Marinated tofu and vegetable stir-fry. Photo: Wayne Taylor

My favourite dish was a satay stir-fry with grilled firm tofu, a heap of crunchy vegetables and a choice of couscous or rice (I chose couscous because anytime I can visit two continents for $18 I'm doing it). The cooking isn't sophisticated but it's honest and inexpensive.

There's a full bar, including cocktails that gesture towards health. I can't imagine that vodka boosts the purported benefits of kombucha, a brewed drink that's supposedly good for gut activity, but the kombucha vodka cocktail definitely goes down easily.

Desserts hit trendy sweet spots in rather delicious ways. Raw bars include buzz ingredients like chia seeds, amaranth, coconut oil, flaxseeds and spirulina. I think I got an energy boost just from writing them down.

Rating: Three stars (out of five).