In a group of friends, there’s usually at least one person that is vegetarian. But whether it’s due to health reasons, moral obligations or just a matter of personal preference, somebody’s choice to be vegetarian should not mean that they miss out on what Auckland’s dining scene has to offer. A number of the best restaurants in this city feature meat-free dishes that are so good, even the carnivores rave about them. And if you’re trying to decide where to go out for dinner, someplace where as much care is put into the vegetarian dishes as it is into the meat ones, here is a list of our favourite vegetarian-friendly dishes from some of the tastiest restaurants around to hopefully set you in the right direction.
The iconic waterfront stalwart, Euro Bar and Restaurant is another dining spot that offers a menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes, with the fresh burrata a particular favourite. Although each dish is unbelievably delicious, this season it’s the salt-baked celeriac, nasturtium, pecorino risotto and the cacio e pepe-style roasted cauliflower with Parmigiano-Reggiano that have us flocking back.
Japanese cuisine doesn’t only feature fish. Vegetables are also highly prioritised, which explains Ebisu’s swathe of options when it comes to vegetarian cuisine. This is how we would recommend getting the perfect vegetarian meal at Ebisu. Firstly, get a bowl of rice to have as your base and order the miso glazed eggplant, teriyaki tofu and broccolini with yuzu hollandaise. Each dish pairs perfectly with the bowl of warm fluffy rice as the sauces soak right through. Or you could swap out the rice for the vegetarian sushi roll and switch the tofu and broccolini with the tasty vegetable tempura and shredded cabbage salad. Never trade the miso-glazed eggplant for anything.
Believe it or not, some of the best, most renowned dishes from this Italian restaurant on K’Road are in fact, vegetarian. Its spinach and goats cheese dumplings with fried sage have garnered Cotto something of a cult following. The gorgonzola kumara gnocchi and Brussels sprouts are dishes that come and go with the seasons but are always highly-anticipated when they haven’t been on the menu for a while. Cotto always makes sure to have at least one vegetarian main dish on the menu, so vegetarians are sure to find something that suits.
Meat eater or not, you can never go wrong with a meal at Ima Cuisine. The mezze platter is the best way to begin your Ima experience but beware of over-filling yourself with housemade pita bread. We understand that it’s moreish beyond words but you must save room for what’s ahead. On the lunch menu, try the sabich pita. Described as the ‘Israeli king of sandwiches’, it’s filled to the brim with a smooth hummus, charred eggplants, slices of fried potatoes, boiled eggs, tahini and a fragrant Iraqi condiment called amba. All the side salads that come to the table are vegetarian and the fried halloumi cannot be faulted.
Korean BBQ is not all that Parnell’s Han Restaurant brings to the table. Meat is a very prominent component in Korean cuisine but vegetables have equal importance. The modern Korean restaurant is home to the tastiest tofu tacos and the best bibimbap this city has to offer. Different to any bibimbap we’ve ever seen, this bowl features an array of sautéed vegetables and a fried kimchi leaf, followed by seed crackers to add a heavenly crunch to the dish. To make it even better, this can be turned vegan on request which opens it up for even more people to enjoy.
Chef and restaurateur Sid Sahrawat is renowned for his efforts in crafting both vegetarian and meat dishes at all of his prolific restaurants. However, Cassia is one that shines particularly bright as it is home to delicious dishes like the mild and heavenly combination of roasted carrots, vindaloo cream, macadamia masala and coconut; the smoked potato and paneer kulcha, a type of Indian flatbread, served with coriander chutney; and the delightfully organic-looking smoked mushrooms punctuated with balls of bocconcini, drizzled with a green chilli cream and truffle oil.
Soul Bar & Bistro
Infamous for their mac and cheese with ham off the bone, Soul Bar & Bistro offers a vegetarian version of this dish as well. In fact, Soul offers a wholly vegetarian menu, filled with meatless renditions of their regular dishes. The mozzarella toast is a wise way to start any Soul feast and is loved by many.
For mains, fries might be a cliche but Soul’s skinny fries are unparalleled. Each and every shoestring is perfectly seasoned and crispy and anyone who tries these agrees that they are some of the best in town.
This K’ Road bar and eatery has long been flying the flag for vegetable-focused fare. While chef and owner Lukrecya Craw certainly knows her way around meat-centric dishes like the current menu’s veal shank with xi’an spices or Brussels sprouts with lap cheong (a type of Chinese sausage), Peach Pit’s vegetarian dishes are just as satisfying, including the legendary whole roasted cauliflower with ‘strange flavours’, nuts and coconut. Our tip is to make sure you leave room for this, as it usually comes out last and is huge. The other must-order is the unabashedly spicy vegetarian mapo tofu — some of the best in Auckland, even sans meat.