These days, with the amount of dietary requirements in play, it’s unusual for an eatery’s menu not to have at least a couple of options for the more specific among us. When it comes to plant-based eating, there’s an increasing local scene dedicated to vegetable-focused fare — so whether you’re a full-time vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or are dining with someone who fits the aforementioned criteria, these cafes, bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants are worth a visit.
Inner-city restaurant East is an entirely vegetarian venture, with 75 percent of the menu dedicated to vegan dishes. A bold concept that was brought to life just this year thanks to a team of passionate experts, East’s modern Asian menu is a delight from start to finish. Housemade sauces (such as the signature vegan XO) are a highlight, as is the totally organic and vegan wine list.
Helmed by clever chef Plabita Florence, Symonds St restaurant Forest pushes plant-based cuisine beyond your wildest expectations. Featuring an ever-changing three-course set menu, plus sides, diners can expect beautifully fresh produce prepared in unexpected ways.
Originally a food truck, Wise Boys has been serving its mouth-watering vegan burgers to the masses since it opened a brick-and-mortar store in Grey Lynn in 2019 and a Commercial Bay outpost just last year. With a menu of banging burgers featuring the likes of crispy fried ‘chicken’, smoky ‘bacon’ and BBQ jackfruit alongside a range of tempting sides, shakes and soft-serve sundaes, the hardest part is choosing.
Water Drop Vegetarian Cafe
This off-the-beaten-track cafe makes for a cheap and cheerful lunch. Water Drop Vegetarian Cafe is situated in Flat Bush at the impressive Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, and no walk around the grounds is complete without a steaming laksa, BBQ buns, or wonton noodle dish — all meat-free, of course.
Next time you find yourself in Ellerslie, follow the queue to Richoux Patisserie, the low-key bakery serving award-winning vegan pies. With clever vegan renditions of mince and cheese pies, sausages rolls, doughnuts and custard tarts (to name just a few), this beloved bakery puts the utmost care into every one of its creations.
There’s a perpetual line outside Sandringham’s Paradise, and for good reason. Whether you dine-in, takeaway or peruse the buffet, there is plenty to satisfy vegetarian appetites. Choose from delights such as the vege manchurian, which sees dense vegetable dumplings fried and coated in an irresistible sauce, bagarey baigan with eggplant cooked in a tamarind gravy, or wholesome daal tadka with lentils, cumin and red chillies.
With big, bold flavours and a special vegetarian and gluten-free menu to boot, Hello Beasty ticks all our boxes for dining out with dietary requirements. The KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) gives the real deal a run for its money, plus dishes like the grilled mushroom pancake and charred broccolini can easily be tweaked to suit vegans.
Morningside’s Kind Cafe has been serving its delicious ‘mostly vegan’ menu since it opened its doors in 2018, with a range of breakfast and brunch fare sure to tempt even staunch meat-eaters to sample something a little different. With the likes of the plant-based double cheddar burger, ‘mince’ on kumara sourdough toast, and breakfast burrito with scrambled tofu, there’s options bound.
Middle Eastern restaurant Ima has plenty to satiate non-meat-eaters throughout its delicious all-day menu. For lunch, we’d recommend the sabich pita. Described as the ‘king of sandwiches’, it’s filled to the brim with smooth hummus, charred eggplants, slices of fried potatoes, boiled eggs, tahini and a fragrant Iraqi condiment called amba. The vegetarian Middle Eastern platter for two will also hit the spot, comprising falafel, hummus, labneh, salad, pickles, olives, Lebanese cauliflower and spanakopita with pita.
Ponsonby restaurant Khu Khu is an entirely vegan Thai restaurant that doesn’t skimp on flavour and finesse. Owner Michael Khuwattanasenee found himself struggling to find plant-based options when dining out, particularly in Asian eateries given their proclivity for not just meat, but also subtle animal-based ingredients like fish and oyster sauces. So he took matters into his own hands, and reinventing the classics to create tempeh pad thai, kumara spring rolls, ‘duck’ drunken noodles and delicious warming curries.
Robinson’s Market Store
While cheese and cured meats might be the domain of the traditional deli, Robinson’s Market Store is a haven for those who keep to vegan and vegetarian diets — and even for those who don’t. Robinson’s stocks a variety of tasty items to fill your fridge and cupboard with, including vegan cheese, meat substitutes, fresh bread, bulk foods and more.
The original raw, organic, vegan eatery, Little Bird is still going strong. Pop into its humming Ponsonby spot for the likes of the famous Bird Bowl, kimchi pancakes, dahl dosa and kumara hotcakes — and make sure you don’t leave without a raw sweet treat.
If you’d like to chow down on some meat-free fare alongside a fellow steak-loving diner who wouldn’t be seen near a leaf of spinach, you’re both bound to find something to love at Devonport’s Vondel. The all-day eatery caters to both preferences, with a vegan Sunfed ‘chicken’ burger sitting next to a Wagyu beef burger on the menu. No need to compromise here.
The Butcher’s Son
Championing plant-based fare since 2018, The Butcher’s Son in Herne Bay invites both locals and curious visitors alike to sample its inventive menu and discover what eating vegan is all about. From familiar favourites like BBQ ‘pork’ bao buns to mushroom pate and ‘chicken’ burgers, The Butcher’s Son offers a delicious crash course what it means to dine out minus meat.
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 dishesm, 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.
Soul Bar & Bistro
Infamous for its 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. For vegetarians, the truffle capellini with cultured cream and parmesan in too good to miss, while vegans can try an irresistible take on Soul’s ever-popular green goddess salad.
The Sugar Club
When the occasion calls for fine dining, look no further than the Sugar Club and its plant-based tasting menu. Not eating meat certainly won’t hold you back here, with a full offering of exquisite dishes and snacks plus optional drinks pairing for a meal to remember.
With locations all over the city, Huckleberry’s organic and wholefood grocery stores cater to shoppers wanting to prioritise healthy eating. The New Lynn branch also incorporates a cafe, serving up wholesome fare with a strong vegetarian focus and the bonus of tasty vegan options.
White + Wong’s
Making it easy to enjoy a top-notch meal alongside your carnivorous counterparts, White + Wong’s Asian-inspired menu is peppered with vegetarian-friendly gems. Find a cracking selection of mushroom dumplings, tofu bao, Penang curry and tempura cauliflower roti rolls ready to be devoured.
For those who want to eat plant-based without any inkling that it might be, Tart Bakery’s sweet and savoury treats are the pinnacle. With two locations — its flagship Grey Lynn bakery and a spot in Commerical Bay’s Harbour Eats, right next to Wise Boys — the bakery’s delicious European-style bread, pasty, pies, doughnuts and sandwiches are made fresh every day and all its food is vegan and free of animal products. Plus, every month Tart’s Great North Road store hosts Taco Tuesday in collaboration with El Taco Vato, where you’ll find the likes of tacos, tostadas and queso-loaded nachos.