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, grocery stores and restaurants are worth a visit.
While it started life as a food truck, Wise Boys has been serving its mouth-watering vegan burgers to the masses from Grey Lynn since last year and now within newly-opened Commercial Bay. With a menu of bangers like the satay tofu Smoke & Fire, pulled jackfruit Hungry Jack and chickpea Crispy Fried Chick, the hardest part is choosing which one to sink your teeth into.
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 three locations — Grey Lynn, St Kevin’s Arcade and the a new Commercial Bay outpost, 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 plant-based and free of animal products. Night owls would do well to visit the Commercial Bay location, as Tart offers gourmet vegan pizzas by night until 10PM.
Helmed by clever chef Plabita Florence, Symonds St restaurant Forest pushes plant-based cuisine to be all it can be. Featuring an ever-changing three-course set menu, plus sides, diners can expect beautifully fresh produce prepared in unexpected ways.
Robinson’s Deli & Food Store
While cheese and cured meats might be the domain of the traditional deli, Robinson’s Deli & Food Store is a haven for those who keep to vegan and vegetarian diets – and even for those who don’t. Robinson’s Deli stocks a variety of tasty items to fill your fridge and cupboard with, including vegan cheese, meat substitutes, fresh bread, bulk foods and more.
If you’d like to chow down on some palatable 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 Vondel. The Devonport all-day eatery caters to both preferences, with a vegan ‘Filet O Fish’ comprising tofu and vegan cheese sitting next to a Wagyu beef burger on the menu. No need to compromise here.
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 at Khu Khu diners will find all their favourites like “prawn” pad thai, pinapple “bacon” fried rice and delicious warming curries.
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.
The OG raw, organic, vegan eatery, Little Bird is still going strong. Pop in to its humming Ponsonby spot for the likes of the famous Bird Bowl, kimchi pancakes, kumara hot cakes — and make sure you don’t leave without a raw sweet treat.
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, clear noodle soup, or BBQ wonton noodle dish – all sans meat of course.
The Butcher’s Son
Reimagining what it means to eat vegan, The Butcher’s Son in Herne Bay will change everything you thought you knew, including the fact that a ‘chicken’ burger can be plant-based without compromising the flavours we know and love.
With locations all over the city, Huckleberry’s organic and wholefoods 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. Currently on the menu, find a spiced black bean and kumara quesadilla, creamy mushrooms on toast and a superfood salad with polenta.