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Seven Inner West Restaurants Perfect for a Group Catch-up When Everyone Has Different Dietary Requirements

These cosy neighbourhood spots will ensure not one of your pals leaves hungry.
By Melanie Colwell
December 13, 2021
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By Melanie Colwell
December 13, 2021
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SEVEN INNER WEST RESTAURANTS PERFECT FOR A GROUP CATCH-UP WHEN EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT DIETARY REQUIREMENTS

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These cosy neighbourhood spots will ensure not one of your pals leaves hungry.

Group catch-ups: fun while they're happening, but a nightmare to organise. Conflicting availability. Wildly varying budgets. Throw a few different dietary requirements into the mix and you might find yourself thinking it'll be easier to stay home.

Don't give up just yet. We've teamed up with Inner West Council to select eight local spots that'll make planning the next birthday bash, celebratory dinner or casual catch-up a breeze. These cosy restaurants have plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans and those with gluten, dairy or nut intolerances. And, in fact, most of them are pretty affordable, too. But finding a time and date when every person in your group is free? We're afraid you're on your own there.

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    You’ve likely seen us rave about the pasta nights at Two Chaps before. They’re currently still on hold post lockdown, but thankfully you can get your fix of Italian-inspired vegetarian eats from the crew elsewhere. Sister venue Pizza Madre continues the Marrickville cafe’s focus on stellar vegetarian eats using quality produce in the form of woodfired pizza. Plus, here, there are many more options for your pals that are gluten-intolerant or vegan.

    The menu changes monthly to accommodate what seasonal produce is available, but could include inventive combos like fermented habanero and black garlic puree with broccolini; potato cream, spinach and shiitake mushroom; and woodfired carrot puree, confit garlic and roasted fennel. The drinks menu is short and sweet — a well-thought-out selection of small-batch wines and locally brewed beer. Don’t skip dessert: the candied macadamia and wattleseed tiramisu is to-die-for.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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    Even if your next catch-up is focused more on drinking than it is eating, bar snacks are still an important consideration. If your crew is in it for the long haul, you’re going to need some quality, stomach-lining eats — and Leichhardt’s premier small bar Golden Gully may just have some of Sydney’s best. Bonus: there’s no meat in sight.

    Tuck into the likes of corn poppers with jalapeño mayo, barbecued mushroom skewers and smoked garlic hummus with sourdough. If dinner is indeed the main affair, head upstairs to the restaurant to enjoy the four-course vegetarian set menu for $45 per person. Either way, you and your pals will have an impressive lineup of drinks to choose from, too. There are Australiana-inspired cocktails, natural wines and craft beer on tap.

    Image: Trent van der Jagt

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    Grabbing a bottle of wine from P&V Wine and Liquor Merchants, then popping across the road for a BYO-friendly dinner at Cairo Takeaway: it’s the ultimate inner west one-two punch. And if it’s been left up to you to organise the group catch-up, it’s one that’ll certainly impress the masses.

    At this little corner shop on Enmore Road, you can expect a lively vibe — try to nab a table in the courtyard for the best results — and punchy Middle Eastern flavours. Your crew can go all-in and share house specials like the vegetarian mixed plate (with falafel, fried cauliflower, salad, pickles and dip) and slow-cooked fava beans with salad and boiled eggs. Or, if sharing isn’t everyone’s vibe, opt for a pita pocket with the filling of your choice — falafel, cauliflower, charcoal lamb or charcoal chicken — served with bread, salad and dip.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    Between making up for all the missed celebrations during lockdown and the beginning of silly season, calendars are filling up fast. So if your group can’t find a free night, why not opt for a daytime gathering instead? Marrickville’s contemporary Vietnamese diner Hello Auntie runs bottomless brunches on Saturdays, and it could be just the solution to your social quandry.

    For $70 per person, your group can enjoy angus beef tartare and scallop ceviche (both dairy-free) to start, followed by build-your-own rice paper rolls and lettuce hearts with belacan dressing. Plus, there’ll be free-flowing spritzes — take your pick from passionfruit grape, strawberry lime, or lychee ginger. If you’d rather stick to the a la carte menu, Hello Auntie has a lengthy vegetarian section, plus plenty of vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options.

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    There are more than a few good reasons to visit Emma’s Snack Bar with a group. First, there is always palpable energy to the joint, which will immediately put everyone in a fun mood. Second, Emma’s allows BYO wine ($5 per person corkage) which means more dollars can be spent on food.

    And, of course, the more people you have, the more dishes you can order from the menu. There are plenty of must-haves, from the punchy garlic dip and fried cauliflower with tahini to the juicy chicken shawarma and lamb kafta. There are also two very generous banquets (meat and veggie versions), both available for just $55 per person.

    Image: Arvin Prem Kumar

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    Choosing Gigi Pizzeria for a group hang is a risky move. The King Street institution is damn popular and it doesn’t accept bookings, so at least one person will need to volunteer as tribute and wait in line. But if you can pull it off, you’re in for a treat.

    Of course, the 100-percent vegan restaurant is known for its woodfired pizza, which comes topped with creative combinations of veggies, dairy-free cheese and plant-based sausage. Tuck into the likes of roasted potato, garlic, rosemary and black truffle pâté; cauliflower puree, artichokes, pinenuts, capers and currants; or swiss brown mushrooms, dairy-free blue cheese, radicchio and roasted walnuts. For your gluten-free friends, there are three pizzas on offer, plus gluten-free gnocchi with napoletana or green pesto sauce.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    Maiz Mexican Street Food has a festive all-day brunch offering that is guaranteed to get the party started. Maiz’s menu is inspired by co-owner Juan Carlos Negrete’s time living in Central Mexico, and there’s plenty of choice for your vegan, vego and gluten-free friends. You won’t find tacos, but instead sopes, thick round tortillas topped with vegan hibiscus flower and pineapple jam, beef barbacoa or spanner crab and goat’s cheese.

    For something a little more brekkie-leaning, opt for the tlacoyos divorciados (a thick corn flatbread filled with black beans, eggs, salsa and herbs) or one of the scrambled egg-stuffed torta rolls, with your choice of chilli mayo and smoked mozzarella, vego chorizo and fermented cabbage, or beef brisket. If all the seasonsal partying hasn’t caught up with you quite yet, wash your feast down with Maiz’s range of mezcal, tequila, Mexican beers and Mexican-inspired cocktails.

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To discover more spots in the inner west and businesses to support, head to the Inner West Council website.

Top image: Emma’s Snack Bar, Arvin Prem Kumar

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