Travelling to smaller towns in South Australia can be a challenge for anyone with specific dietary requirements. Here are all the places I went to while eating vegan in Robe or the Limestone Coast
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
Robe is best known as a beach destination, and is most popular over the summer months of the year. The town is beautifully set up for this, with a number of great food and beverage venues.
I did not visit in summer though, I was in town at the end of July. This is exactly when the locals pack their bags and go on holidays themselves (“Italy is popular this year” I was told).
So, being winter, there were a number of venues that were not open for me to sample. But still, there were enough places open for me to have lunch and dinner for each of the days we were in town, without doubling up.
As we arrived in town late in the afternoon, we had to wait a little to access our accommodation. We whiled away the time by doing a small wine tasting at Karratta in the centre of Robe.
It’s only a couple of doors down from the Caledonian, and when we asked about recommendations for places to eat (something I always like to ask the locals) we were told our options for a Monday night in July were the Caledonian!
Nothing else was open, even the other pub in town was closed due to renovations. So we called in to make a reservation, just to make sure we got a table.
The Caledonian Inn is perfect for a winter dinner. They had a nice open fine going in the main bar, and a warm, inviting dining room. We were seated in a booth, which meant we had heaps of room.
During summer there is outside seating with a view of the ocean.
I was impressed to see actual vegan options on the menu here, not just items they could modify. There was one entree, one main and one dessert labelled vegan, and one more main with a vegan option.
The chefs here at the Caledonian Inn are Nepalese, and the vegan entree was Jhol Momo. I’d never had this before but it was so tasty.
For the main, I opted for the vegan option of mushroom and lentil ragu. It was so tasty, and a huge portion. I took my leftovers home with me for lunch later in the week.
I don’t usually have dessert, but when there’s a vegan option I sometimes can’t help myself. Here they have a chocolate lava cake, which we shared between the two of us – it was so rich that sharing was perfect.
Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the vegan options here, since this is a country pub in its off-season. My husband loved his fish meal too.
Olive’s is an upmarket pizza bar, which we later learned is owned by the same people as the Caledonian Inn.
We visited here on our second night in Robe, but after an afternoon of coffee, beer and snacks, we only wanted something quick before getting back to our room to watch the Australia girls play in the World Cup.
Olive’s was more like a restaurant than a traditional casual pizza bar. They don’t offer vegan cheese, so pizza was out for me. There was one vegan pasta on the menu and two other items with vegan options.
I chose the puttanesca, which was one of the meals with a vegan option. Unfortunately, when it arrived, I knew immediately that it wasn’t vegan – I could see a few anchovies.
If you asked me my least favourite food, anchovies would be in the top two, I couldn’t stand them even when I did eat meat.
So my meal went back and they remade it. Now, I always say the measure of a restaurant is not always if they get everything right, but if they get something wrong, what they do about it.
Not only were there profuse apologies on multiple occasions, I was offered a free glass of wine too. So many places these days just replace the meal when it’s wrong, so I was happy with this.
We only had a main meal here, and even then we took some pizza home with us for later.
While mistakes were made, my meal was really tasty and the service recovery was good. In my opinion, this is a good option for dinner or lunch in Robe. If only they got some vegan cheese for their pizzas, it would be great!
We had walked past the Black Swan a few times in the days before, but I wasn’t sure if it was open. As we drove into the town centre for dinner we saw the lights on and stopped.
I hadn’t done any research, but on asking, they assured me they could make some vegan dishes.
Black Swan is a tapas bar and restaurant. Visitors enter into a small bar area and they can just have a drink and a snack, or they take a seat in the adjacent dining room for a meal.
The menu is on a large blackboard on the wall, which gave me the impression it changes regularly. There are large plates, like the char sui roasted pork my dining companion had, or sharing plates, such as chicken wings and tacos.
There was a chickpea curry available on the menu but I wasn’t feeling like curry so I just chose two of the side dishes – pan-seared broccolini with chimichurri and roasted winter vegetables.
Both dishes were delicious, and definitely enough for me. Even though I shared them, there were still some leftovers at the end.
Overall the food was tasty, but the variety wasn’t huge. I would be interested to see what other options they provide over the year as this menu is clearly very much for the winter season.
We love Asian food, and I can almost certainly get at least something at any Chinese restaurant, but we have also been severely disappointed in the quality at country Chinese restaurants in the past.
Sometimes the food is what I describe as “westernised”. Think sweet and sour pork and honey chicken!
So our expectations weren’t high when we arrived here. We were delighted to be greeted by Chinese staff and a suitably tacky dining room (all the best Chinese restaurants are kitsch!).
The menu has quite an extensive range of dishes, but none of them are marked as vegan.
That doesn’t worry me a lot in Chinese restaurants because I have learnt it’s easy to ask simply for some stir-fried vegetables (no fish sauce!) and steamed rice and they are almost universally happy to do it.
This time I felt like the vegetable fried rice, and I asked for that to be made vegan and that was no problem. It’s a simple meal, but this was so tasty. Of course, there was too much for me, so I took half home for my dinner the next day.
Again, there were not a lot of choices here, and no clear labelling, but the staff were great and happy to alter a dish to suit my needs.
Drift is a great little cafe right in the centre of town. We called in here for lunch after spending the whole morning doing the Robe Coastal Walk.
Breakfast is served until 11;30am and brunch and toasties are available all day. The menu consists of most of the traditional breakfast/brunch items that can be found anywhere.
Vegan items were noted which made it easy. There was a green bowl available, and I did note they had vegan mayonnaise available.
I have to admit though, I didn’t look too closely because I spotted the vegan toasties! As soon as I saw they were an option, I was totally having that, because it’s one of those simple but rare comfort foods I love.
There were two options, one mushroom and caramelised onion, the other Mediterranean vegetables. It was a hard choice, but I went with the mushrooms, and they were SO tasty!
I was tempted to order a second! It took willpower not to return to this same place for the same meal every day of our stay.
The Union Cafe was closed for the majority of our visit, only opening the day we were leaving town. It was being given a makeover while it was closed, so we were excited to take a look.
We called in early for breakfast before our drive back to Adelaide. I really wanted to love it here, but unfortunately, there is not a huge choice of vegan dishes on the menu.
I’d love to see them offer a vegan option for their smashed avo, as so many other places do.
The only breakfast item that gave a vegan option was the Big Vego breakfast. Once altered to take out the eggs, halloumi, and hash browns it didn’t leave a lot on the plate for the price.
I instead went the other way and built my own meal of ciabatta, mushrooms, avocado and tomatoes, which was slightly cheaper.
I had considered just getting toast and Vegemite, but they don’t offer margarine or another non-dairy butter substitute to make that a little more palatable.
To be fair, the meal I did have was delicious, it just took a little bit to get there. At lunchtime, there is a vegan falafel wrap available, and there were some vegan slices in the cabinet for something sweet.
Robe Bakery is your typical country bakery offering a range of sandwiches, rolls, pies, pasties, cakes and pastries. They also do coffee.
Normally, getting a salad roll from a bakery is a fairly safe option for me when we’re travelling. Everyone can put some lettuce, tomato and cucumber between bread.
While they did do this for me here, it was a little difficult. All their sandwiches and rolls are pre-made, and all of them had meat or cheese in them.
When I asked if they could make me something, I was told they didn’t do that, there were only pre-made options.
I explained I didn’t eat dairy, and they begrudgingly said they would make a roll – but only after they had served everyone who was waiting.
So my recommendation here is if you want to just grab a sandwich, be aware this bakery may not do it, especially during busy times.
More on Eating Vegan in Robe
Apart from the places we ate, we also had coffee at The Pastry Place and Mahalias Coffee, and both of these, along with the other cafes we visited, had a range of alternative kinds of milk available for drinks.
In fact, I would be fairly confident that no matter where you want to get a coffee in Robe, there would be a vegan option.
I also was able to pick up a fresh vegan pasta salad in the supermarket to take with us for lunch when we were hiking. There was a second option available too – perhaps a quinoa salad?
We did not eat at the Robe Seafood & Takeaway, because it seemed like the only option for me there was hot chips. And while I love hot chips, I wanted to try other places.
Looking for more things to do while you are on the Limestone Coast? Read these next
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