Ok, there are no cronuts in Cronulla. Certainly not vegan ones. But, surprisingly enough for a sleepy little suburban surfing town, there is some good vegan food to be had (and I just couldn’t resist putting “cronuts” and “Cronulla” together in a sentence – what is a blog for if not some creative licence?).
Cronulla is a fairly typical little Australia surfing town in the Sydney area – a strip of shops and bars in a pedestrian area, about a 5 minute walk from the waterfront and a big beach.
Australia isn’t known to be particularly vegan-friendly (very meat-and-two-veg), and very few places will have any idea whether their vegetarian dishes are dairy- or egg-free free, let alone what “vegan” means. However, they are so clued in to the gluten-free scene that they are very willing to find out for you, which is the important thing.
You might have read my post a while ago offering some tips on dining out, and frankly every vegan blog and forum has some version of the same information – the latest I have seen that I thought was very well put was Cadry’s over at Cadry’s Kitchen. All the above advice will get you fed, but to save you the guesswork, here are some of the options I dug out.
When we arrived we were pretty hungry, so we hit Hog’s Breath Café, who despite having a slogan of “Eat more beef” offered some really appetising salads. I went for the Avocado & Crumbed Mushroom salad though I asked to swap the crumbed mushrooms for grilled mushrooms (which I had seen available as a side) as I suspected the breadcrumbs would have been stuck on with egg.
I also asked for a side of bruschetta, checking that it was dairy-free (even though most restauranteurs look at me like I have two heads when I suggest that their bruschetta might be made with butter). The waitress came back and explained that they use the pre-buttered garlic bread slices for their bruschetta, but that they would give me vienna loaf instead. Helpful and pro-active, thumbs up from me.
It was awesome, all the flavours and textures were fresh and varied and all meshed well together, and the dressing was subtle but brought everything together neatly. The bruschetta, despite looking like toast with a side of chopped tomatoes, was actually perfectly toasted and the tomatoes were so nicely seasoned. It was a really satisfying and fairly healthy meal for $20.
I wasn’t actually hungry for any form of dinner even hours later, but I still had a burrito from Guzman Y Gomez, you know… for research. Their veggie versions include guacamole, and add mushrooms to their fajita mix instead of the usual peppers-and-onions combo. Just found out it was only 650 or so calories too, not bad for a fast-food meal the size of my head! I didn’t take any photos because a burrito is a burrito and I lack the camera skills to make it pretty, and while it didn’t set my tastebuds on fire it was pretty tasty.
We then couldn’t resist a scoop of gelato over at Frangipani, where the server was totally on the ball about dairy-free options; peach, kiwi, and the ubiquitous lemon. For some reason I went for kiwi, and as you might suspect it was only OK. Still, good to know that creamy icy things are available for vegans until 10.30pm.
Our hotel at Taren Point, an odd combination of family bistro/sports bar/gambling lounge/trucker stopover in the middle of a business park, provided some cereal as well as a couple of slices of bread and the usual hotel array of spreads, so I saved some money at breakfast by buying some soy milk and bananas.
After the previous night’s burrito-and-gelato escapades, that breakfast kept me going for a good few hours, though after a ferry ride to Bundeena, I did pick up a smoothie from one of the three cafés by the ferry stop. They normally make their iced coffees and smoothies with ice cream, but if you ask they can make them with just soy milk and ice. Not as sweet or decadent, but actually quite pleasant if you feel like something healthy and refreshing.
One of the cafés, Café Manna, advertised falafel kebabs and sandwiches, but I wasn’t hungry enough until after a walk around the national park, at which point they were shutting (3.30pm ish, for reference).
That evening, we hit a spot we had had our eye on, the Great Southern Burger Co.
They have a ridiculously extensive menu including 3 veggie options (non-vegan veggie patty, all veggie, or falafel) and a bunch of beautiful looking but not very veg*an-friendly salads. I went for the Evergreen Garden with avocado, grilled mushroom, grilled pepper, lettuce, tomato, and beetroot, omitted the cheese and replaced the mayo with chilli sauce. It was tasty and not too heavy or mealy. The fries looked great, but I had a side of roasted veg – the smallest serving is big and only $4.80 – I don’t know why everywhere doesn’t offer this because I would eat it everywhere, all the time.
And that was pretty much it for Cronulla – didn’t really have the time, money, or spare tummy-space to explore more eateries, but there were plenty of Thai establishments, a couple of Chinese and Vietnamese, a few pizza places, another couple Mexicans, and a few cafés which could probably have made something tasty if only a grilled veg sandwich.
On our way back to drop our friend at the airport, we stopped in at Westfield and explored the food court – plenty of potential vegan options, but for $9 I got a falafel plate with 3 falafels and salad, at Dergah Grill. Expecting a food court-sized serving and meek salad, I was so impressed with my plate piled high and complimentary hummus and chilli sauce:
I’m glad I didn’t get the $11 vegetarian plate with a cabbage roll (the size of a burrito), falafel, dolmades, and salad!
Long story short – brush up on your dining out skills (remember practice makes perfect, and the only way restaurants are going to learn to cater to vegans is if we start eating out more!), and have faith in Australia. After the last few days, I certainly do!