Since first writing this post back in April 2016 the sustainable movement has taken Sydney by storm. Back then, the Inner West was probably the only place to get a decent vegan meal. Nowadays, vegan restaurants are popping up all over town, and there is a growing focus on locally sourced, hearty, sustainable menu options across venues in Sydney and surrounds.
This updated version brings you a continual insight into how to dine both ethically and sustainably in this up-and-coming global hub, and the below map will guide you there.
Brought to you by the people behind Sydney’s Wayside Chapel, Heart Cafe is Bondi’s first social enterprise cafe, returning hope to the lives of unemployed young people by supporting them into paid hospitality traineeships.
Inspired by their no “us and them” ethos – a mindset that promotes inclusion for all members of the community – the cafe is a welcoming place where locals and visitors to Bondi can meet to enjoy great food and coffee in good company. Profits from Heart Cafe go back into Wayside Chapel’s Wingspan Project to transform the lives of young people.
Location: Marrickville & Annandale
I just love the concept of this sustainable café in the heart of Marrickville in Sydney’s inner-west. The popular Cornersmith Cafe is all about sustainable and ethical food production and business practices, which include sourcing products from small-scale growers in the local community and surrounds.
Their menus are seasonal which means none of this importing everything just to satisfy our cravings, but rather using what we can grow in our current climate and creating dishes that work with what is available, having a much lesser impact on the environment. The café also does their own pickling and run regular pickling workshops for both adults and children.
Interested in free pickles? Check out their boards for a list of vegetables they are looking for and swap your home-grown veggies in for a jar of pickles.
Also situated in Marrickville, Two Chaps is famous for its coffee, breakfast and bread. They bake all their bread on-site and you can choose between durum semolina loaf and ciabatta, using white or wholemeal organic stone-milled flour.
As a receiver of Oz Harvest’s food collection, Two Chaps’ ethics and sustainable practises make it a prime contender for one of Sydney’s most ethical eateries. Visit the café, which is fitted with rustic, second hand décor and an open-aired kitchen, and enjoy some of their exquisite, cruelty-free vegetarian meals for breaky or lunch.
The Freedom Hub Café is an urban escape where you will instantly feel freedom from daily pressures. The café offers speciality coffees and Australian sourced teas; all food is ethically sourced and supports local Australian business. 100% of profits go towards supporting survivors of modern slavery.
Ruby Lane is an organic eatery in Sydney’s seaside town of Manly. From local artisan bread to pasture-raised and organic eggs, to organic, fair-trade coffee, eating ethically just got a lot easier.
Owner, Phil Dawson, is passionate about providing consumers with more ethical and sustainable choices when dining. Not only does Ruby Lane practice sustainability in their food, but they also contribute to a number of local community initiatives helping both the people and the local sea life. By dining at Ruby Lane, you can support the Sealife Trust and help to preserve sea turtles in the Northern Beaches.
Colombo Social is a Sri Lankan bar and kitchen with a purpose – “Enabling Communities, Transforming Lives. Serving Social Change One Meal at a Time.” This ethos is represented in their business structure, providing employment opportunities and vocational training to refugees, asylum seekers, rough sleepers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Last year, through the restaurants meal donation program, Colombo Social provided over 40,000 meals to people in need and continue to do so today.
Stop by for a meal designed to give back and celebrate the sharing experience of Sri Lankan cuisine, blending native cooking techniques with contemporary Aussie favourites.
The Stirrup Café is a small coffee shop in the Addison Road Community Centre of Marrickville. They source fair-trade coffee from Papua New Guinea and Kenya, creating a positive impact on the lives of farmers and their villages. Through their purchase of 1 kilogram of coffee beans, $4.50 goes to a local farmer and $1 directly to the community where the coffee is grown. It might not seem like a lot but it is a fair and decent wage compared to many exploited coffee farmers around the world. The café also partners with TAFE and SSI to provide barista training for young people, the unemployed, refugees and recent migrants.
You can find the café open on weekdays and Sundays at the front entrance to the Addison Road Community Centre.
Location: Surry Hills
Gratia, Latin for gratitude, is bringing the philanthropic café concept to Sydney’s chic Surry Hills. Sydney’s first ‘profit for purpose’ café is giving away 100% of their profit to charity. How does that work? Pretty simple really. Once the bills and staff are paid, the rest of the money goes to people who need it more than we do.
Half of all donations received through Gratia sales will go to the project’s own foundation, The Pure Foundation. The other half will go to charities decided by the customers themselves. Customers can either choose from a charity or nominate their own. With all-day breakfast from 8 to 3 pm, stop in and help to support the causes they, and you, care about.
The Saint Peter mission is to “showcase Australian sustainably sourced seafood, prepare it expertly and serve it simply.” The business works closely with fisherman around Australia to source top, sustainable seafood to serve to their customers.
Recognised in both 2018 and 2019 by the World Restaurant Awards for their ethical thinking, this top-rated Paddington eatery is a not-to-miss for seafood lovers in Sydney.
For the vegans
Bodhi (Closed in 2022)
Location: Sydney CBD
Bodhi is an award-winning restaurant specialising in vegan yum cha and pan-Asian cuisine. Tucked behind Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, this delightful family-run restaurant offers a full vegan menu created with an emphasis on locally sourced and organic ingredients, handcrafted by expert chefs using traditional techniques.
Their menu includes a range of plant-based meats, with a signature dish of vegan smoked duck sliders, available on the al la carte dinner menu.
Visit for lunch to experience the popular vegan yum cha amongst the venue’s serene garden setting.
Situated in the community of Sydney’s inner-west, Lentil As Anything is a not-for-profit restaurant whose main mission is to provide wholesome and nutritious meals to the community, where money is not a concern. The meals are provided with the assistance of volunteers in the community and instead of a price tag, they only request is a contribution based on the individual’s unique experience.
With the successful philosophy running in six locations throughout Australia, the restaurant and organisation promote the values of human dignity, justice, hope, compassion and community, and show us how, through these values, we can create a giving society where everyone is treated equally and provided equal opportunity.
Arguably the best vegan pizza in Sydney, Gigi brings people from all over to dine on their range of traditional Neapolitan pizzas – without cheese or meat.
Located in buzzing Newtown, the venue is so popular you may have to line up to get in. I can vouch for this though – the wait is worth it.
Related Reading: Best Vegan Restaurants in Sydney | Broadsheet
Fast-food gone ethical
Location: Multiple locations across Sydney
This Mexican food chain whose tagline is ‘Mexican with a mission’ is Australia’s first philanthropic fast-food franchise, and for every burrito or bowl purchased one plate of food is donated to someone in need. Consumers at Zambrero’s 110 restaurants across Australia, New Zealand Thailand and Ireland have, to date, provided over 8 million meals to the developing world.
The Sydney branches are located in Darlinghurst, Coogee and Lidcombe, and serve all of your favourite Mexican delights, including vegan and vegetarian options. Not looking for a full meal? Purchase one of their food muesli bars in-store and Zambrero will donate one breakfast meal to an underprivileged Australian.
Location: Multiple locations across Sydney
Soul Burger brings plant-based burgers to Sydney. The franchise is committed to serving plant-based foods, which are low in calories and better for the environment while maintaining a low environmental footprint.
You can dine-in at their various locations around Sydney, get your burgers to go, or have them delivered to your door.
Obsessed with vegan burgers? Join the loyalty program, redeem points and get a birthday burg.
The Responsible Cafes initiative
Responsible Cafes was founded in 2013, as an initiative of the award-winning not-for-profit Responsible Runners. They are now one of Australia’s most innovative, popular, & fastest-growing programs actively engaging cafes, councils and the community to improve sustainability.
Over 5000 cafes across Australia are now registered with Responsible Cafes, and offer patrons the option for reusables while promoting sustainability and waste reduction.
It is estimated that Australian’s use 1 billion disposable coffee cups and lids every year – this would have risen due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Responsible Cafes has played a big role in helping cafes get back into a sustainable way of doing business by promoting the use of reusable cups.
Looking for a sustainable cafe in Sydney – Search the Responsible Cafes’ map here.
Travelling to Sydney?
Before you go: Travelling offers a gateway to incredible experiences, but unexpected situations can arise. Our travel insurance and money management partners offer the protection you need while embracing local tourism:
– SafetyWing, for long-term travel insurance that starts at $42 per month.
– Revolut, for managing international payments with ease.
– Wise, for the most affordable currency conversion fees and a virtual card that you can top-up in seconds.
When considering flights, you can utilise platforms like Skyscanner or Kiwi to compare flight costs and identify flights that minimise your carbon emissions. Additionally, if you are able, you can offset your flight’s environmental impact through Offset.
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