There is little that brings me more joy in life than finding DELICIOUS vegetarian food. After spending a good chunk of the past four years travelling, I have been lucky enough to eat in a plethora of amazing restaurants all throughout the world. On the flip side, every time I come back home from my travels, I relish being able to cook in a kitchen once again and savour the taste of home-cooked food. As a result, I came to the realisation a short while ago, that I had failed to spend enough time exploring Auckland’s diverse and thriving food scene! So, in order to rectify this situation, I have spent the past few months discovering the vegetarian food scene in Auckland. Let me share with you some of the culinary gems I have uncovered…
10 Best Places to Eat as a Vegetarian in Auckland
1. Little Bird- The Unbakery (Best Vegan Selection)
Offering an entirely plant-based menu, The Unbakery has become one of Auckland’s most prolific vegan cafes. Here, you’ll find a range of healthy yet substantial breakfast and lunch options. The café also has a selection of unique drinks to choose from- everything from the Golden Coffee (made with espresso, turmeric milk and bee pollen)or the Strawberry Goji Nut Milk to a Cacao Superfoods smoothie (which is always my go-to). Just make sure you leave room for a raw treat from the cabinet. Stocked with everything from decadent caramel slice, key lime pie to vegan cheesecakes in every flavour under the sun, you would never guess that these desserts have all been made without dairy products, gluten or a trace of refined sugar.
Must-try menu item: I would highly recommend trying the kumara coconut hot cakes and the kimchi burger- I am normally one to try new things when I go to a café, but I find myself ordering these items repeatedly!
2. Clooney Restaurant (Best Fine-dining)
Fine-dining vegetarian cuisine is not easy to come by. Most high-end restaurants pride themselves on meat-heavy delicacies, often leaving vegetarians in the dark. Clooney is one of the few establishments in Auckland offering a full vegetarian tasting menu. The restaurant has just enlisted a new head Chef, Nobu Lee. Originally from Japan, Nobu brings a Japanese flair into modern Kiwi cuisine, using only the freshest and most local produce. Never before have I been to a restaurant that champions vegetables so eloquently. Within the tasting menu, Nobu ensures each course focuses on a single vegetable, innovatively treating it like a piece of meat. From the freshness of grilled avocado and radish, the creaminess of carrots and cashew nuts and richness of mushrooms and miso, the menu is a journey of perfectly paired textures and flavours.
Must-try menu item: I can’t pick just one thing… The whole vegetarian tasting menu is a must!
3. Monday’s (Best Smoothies)
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Kingsland is Monday’s Wholefoods Cafe. The leafy outdoor terrace makes it an ideal place for a relaxed morning catch-up. Together with good coffee, on the menu at Monday’s is an entirely vegan breakfast and lunch menu, offering everything from buckwheat waffles to pulled jackfruit tacos.
Must-try menu item: The highlight of this café (and what keeps me coming back) is the famed Banana Cacao Smoothie- easily the most deliciously decadent smoothie I’ve ever had… It’s hard to believe it is actually healthy!
4. Mekong Baby (Best Asian Fusion)
Serving up innovative, Asian share-plates, Mekong Baby is always packed out, and for good reason. Although the vegetarian options here aren’t as endless as at other places, there are some solid meat-free offerings, meaning you can appease meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Make sure you try one of the artesian cocktails- there are some seriously unique concoctions to choose from!
Must-try menu item: The papaya salad and crispy rice flour crepe with fried tempeh, mushrooms and chilli jam are both outstanding!
5. Giapo (Best Icecream)
For all ice- cream lovers out there, you CANNOT leave Auckland without going to Giapo. Serving ice- cream unlike you’ve experienced it before, Italian owner, Giapo, has reinvented the world’s most popular dessert into gastronomic works of art. With ice-cream flavours like Whangaripo Buffalo Milk made with Pohutakawa honey and Otago walnuts, everything on the menu is crafted from fresh, local ingredients. Giapo even offers a dedicated vegan menu, with both sorbets and icecream made from coconut milk.
Must-try menu item: The Giapo Bueno, a mix and match of caramel ice cream, Italian meringue, hazelnut praline and amaretti biscuits… It’s the crowd favourite for VERY good reason!
6. Shaolin Kung Fu Noodles (Best Dumplings)
Aucklanders take their dumplings very seriously, and everyone has a differing opinion on where you should go to find the best of these little morsels. We actually stumbled upon Shaolin Kung Fu Noodles by accident, after every other dumpling place we wanted to try was closed. Although this place may be known for its noodles, the vegetarian dumplings we ordered from here were the best ones I’ve had in Auckland so far. I would recommend getting them takeaway and bringing them to the top of nearby Mount Eden for a picnic (that way you’ll avoid having to sit in the rather dismal interior of the place).
Must-try menu item: The fried egg and vegetable dumplings are a stand-out for me.
7. Azabu (Best for Share Plates)
Rated as one of Auckland’s best restaurants, Azabu is another Auckland must for all the foodies out there. If you’ve never tried Peruvian Japanese fusion, it is about time you did. It may seem like a strange combination, but I can attest that every Peruvian Japanese restaurant I’ve ever been to has been outstanding. On the menu at Azabu is a range of different large and small plates that are made to be shared, including dumplings, tostadas, tempura and sushi. Whilst this place would be ideal for pescatarians, there is still a selection of vegetarian plates to choose from, including things like quinoa salad, artichoke dumplings and eggplant tempura.
Must-try menu item- For a flavour explosion, try the tostada with heirloom tomatoes, lemon mayo, jalapeño, mint, basil, almond & coriander.
8. Wise Boys Burgers (Best Burgers)
Although Wise Boys Burgers may not be easy to track down, this ever-moving food truck serves up some of the best vegan burgers in all of Auckland. The burger menu is always changing and rotates between about 6 different burgers, which are all entirely vegan yet incredibly delicious. The egg-free aioli is so outstanding that you can now buy it by the jar!
Must-try menu item- Although I haven’t tried all the different burgers, I can attest that the Kumara and Moroccan spiced patty with lemon aioli is scrumptious!
9. Kokako (Best Brunch & Coffee)
Kokako started as an organic coffee roasting company and has now branched out into starting a flagship café, which is situated inside a converted post office. They now serve up their finest brew beside a seasonal menu full of substantial, flavourful vegetarian food- with all-day brunch on offer.
Must-try menu item- Kumara waffle with poached pears, salted coconut whip, miso walnuts, juniper praline and maple syrup… Is your mouth watering yet?
10. Kaiaroha Cafe & Deli (Best Cabinet Selection)
One of the newer kids on the block, Kaiaroha Organic Vegan Cafe & Deli specializes in a range of nut cheeses, animal-free “meats” and delectable cabinet food. With everything from lasagne, fritters, quiches to tarts on offer, Kaiaroha manages to veganize all the best comfort foods without substituting on flavour. If you are feeling adventurous, try the Toothless Monster Freak Shake- this refined sugar-free, dairy-free take on banoffee does not taste as healthy as it is!
Must-try menu item- You can’t go past the vegan lasagne- it’s warm, comforting, packed full of flavour.
Do you have any AMAZING vegetarian places in Auckland to add to this list? I’m always looking for new places to try!
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