Auckland's best vegan-friendly cafesby Metro
Auckland's best vegan-friendly cafes from the Metro Top 50 Cafes 2019 list.
Auckland's best vegan-friendly cafes from the Metro Top 50 Cafes 2019 list.
It can be difficult to eat out for those on a plant-based diet. Thankfully, many of Metro's Top 50 Cafes in Auckland offer vegan dishes or dishes that can be easily adapted.
Ōrākei Bay Village, 228 Ōrākei Rd, Ōrākei
Part of an eastern suburbs retail complex that opened last year, Ampersand seems to hum at all times of the day, and it’s not hard to see why. While the large space can feel a tad cold and cavernous at night, the veranda overlooking Hobson Bay is hard to beat on a sunny lunchtime. Breakfast and brunch offerings include ramen alongside more-standard fare, while bistro-style dishes — steak frites, pasta, crêpes — take centre stage at lunchtime. A plant-based menu is presented alongside the regular one without comment, and luckily — because it’s the sort of place where it feels wrong not to order an alcoholic beverage — the drinks list is great.
67B France St, Eden Terrace
This year, Bestie got a sibling cafe in Baby, which is much smaller than its big sister, with only a communal table and window seating inside. There’s still a vibe, thanks to excellent playlists — running from 2005 Kayne, to G Unit, and Nesian Mystik — a well-curated stack of glossy mags, cookbooks, and the staff’s natural cheer. If it’s on (the food changes often), get the eggplant parmigiana sandwich — all tomatoes, parmesan-crusted eggplant and melty cheese. Wash it down with an old-fashioned lemonade; it’s got just the right amount of tang.
268 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Newbies take note, because Peter and Sarah Wren have been setting the tone for great cafes in this city since 1996 and everything they’re doing is still bloody excellent: switched-on, professional service from staff who seem to genuinely enjoy looking after people, a menu that under-promises and over-delivers, and coffee that takes more than 10 seconds to hit the table, because it’s made carefully to be creamy and smooth every time. That’s the thing about Bambina — everyone cares enough about what they’re doing to do a good job. It’s not the fanciest joint in town, or the trendiest. They’re just doing what they’ve always done, and doing it damn well.
St Kevins Arcade, 183 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct
The cool thing about Bestie is that owners Tane Williams and Emma Lyell have created an artsy-cool atmosphere without making the place feel intimidating. The contents of the heaving cabinet are shipped in from sibling cafe Baby each morning and are always worth a look — think jazzed-up old-school bakes like Louise slice, gooey chocolate brownies, or a giant wodge of cake. The à la carte menu features refined versions of clever, comforting combinations such as flatbread with pickles and labneh, the perfect Sunday-afternoon cheese toastie, and peanut-butter doughnuts.
79 Carlton Gore Rd, Newmarket
Perched overlooking the treetops on the cusp of the Domain, this minimalist set-up is a worthwhile pit stop. If you’ve got a dog in tow, it will be offered a snack from a tub of dog biscuits by the smiley staff. The coffee is Supreme, in quality and brand, and the menu brims with big rich flavours and twists on the classics. There’s also old-school milkshakes and fat burgers stacked with crisp onion rings, pickles and cheese — worthy of another lap around the park.
Black & Gold Eatery
1/33 Triton Drive, Rosedale
In a less-than-glamorous setting at the back of a strip mall, Black & Gold is a haven of coffee culture in semi-industrial Albany. Unsurprisingly, given the dearth of decent cafes in these parts, it’s always cranking, but service is smooth and swift. And as is to be expected when a pair of baristas are running the show, the coffee is top-notch. Owners David Huang and Kayoko Nakamura set up their own roastery, Society Coffee, here last year, and it’s soon to move to their new Browns Bay cafe, A-Block. The Black & Gold menu features cafe classics made new — think eggs benedict on house-made crumpets — as well as Asian-influenced dishes such as “Nippon pancakes” with pumpkin-cranberry purée, sticky sesame balls, berry icing, meringues, orange jelly and candied walnuts.
43 High St, central city
Sandwiches have been a bit of a thing again this year, and that’s no exception at Chuffed, where the short sandwich offering is the star — both the Reuben and the poached-chicken options are excellent. That said, we really like the rest of the menu, includes cauliflower salad — the vegetable of the moment. Chuffed is small, and extremely popular, but they run an efficient waitlist and offer takeaway pre-orders online. How’s that for service?
3/78 Coates Ave, Ōrākei
This is what a cafe should be. You walk in and feel welcome, there’s not an ounce of pretension and the coffee, food and service are on point. Service is friendly and efficient and the food doesn’t try too hard, with comforting, well-executed brunch fare like house-made baked beans on sourdough. The counter food is top-notch, too, with a rotating selection of sandwiches, salads and baked treats. Keep an eye out for their evening pop-ups with burger outfit Bearded Clam.
537 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
There’s something special about a cafe that stays as consistently good and busy as it’s always been, even after a change of hands. That’s certainly been the case here. We really like the semi-industrial space, and the subtle, fruity coffees owner Troy Mentor continues to serve, but the really great thing about Kōkako is you can visit with your most vegetable-averse friend and chef Plabita Florence’s skill at cooking with plants will impress. From black garlic mushrooms and leek on sourdough, to kumara waffles with poached pears, we’re yet to have a dud dish. Her sporadic evening pop-ups follow the same vegetables-are-the-hero philosophy as the day menu.
Little Bird Unbakery
1A Summer St, Ponsonby
When you’ve had enough of greasy food, one of Megan May’s plant-based meals should revitalise. Everything on the seasonal specials board is good, and we recommend sharing two dishes to get ultimate bang for your raw vegan buck. The dosa wrap, filled with masala-spiced cauliflower and broccoli, is enormous and way more exciting than you’d imagine a vegetable wrap to be, the nourishing smoothies are thicker than a Maccas shake, and the cheesecakes — with their subtle coconut undertones and creamy richness — are a not-so-guilty pleasure.
4A Ōwairaka Ave, Mt Albert
Hooray! You don’t have to walk through the kitchen to get to the toilet here any more, and the plants and tables are looking much tidier. In the past year, L’Oeuf’s new owners have smartened the place up to become, once again, a lovely little spot for breakfast. The best dishes have a broadly Asian bent — try The Nest — two pumpkin-seed-crumbed eggs in pastry with salad and beetroot ketchup. It's one of Auckland’s most photographed breakfasts since 2013.
Level 1, 45 Queen St, central city
All the usual cabinet suspects are here, of course, but order off the menu for more- inventive fare, like the smashed avocado. Up the escalators and a world away from Queen St, The Lunchroom’s smart, expansive space provides a hushed and welcome respite from the corporate hustle.
The Midnight Baker
218 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
After struggling for years with dietary issues, Yeshe Dawa, aka The Midnight Baker, said no to gluten, dairy, alcohol and refined sugar. It changed her life and inspired her to open a dairy- and gluten-free vegetarian cafe on dumpling-rich but cafe-poor Dominion Rd. The hearty dishes here surprise with their complexity as Dawa showcases what can be created just with plants. The best part? Everything’s huge and very filling. A pile of house-made baked beans is so high it defies gravity, pulled jackfruit tacos are enough to feed two hungry people, and Dawa’s signature gluten-free “freedom” loaf, which forms the base of several dishes, is dense and satiating. Open weekends only.
460 Lake Rd, Takapuna
Returning to the Top 50 after a two-year absence, this low-key Shore-side charmer serves healthy all-day breakfasts and half a dozen lunch options. For breakfast, try gingerbread waffles with poached pear, and for lunch, the mimosa bowl, a tasty protein-packed pile of beans in a tomato sauce with olives, avocado, brown rice and lentils. A pleasant spot for solo eaters; choose from the pile of papers and magazines, then claim a seat at the communal table upfront, a stool near the back or a spot outside and settle in.
12 Wyndham St, central city
Dishing up healthy fast food to hordes of hungry office workers, this weekday hotspot can be crowded, noisy and smoky — but it works. Join the fast-moving queue to order lunch at the till, where helpful staff guide newbies. It’s a simple idea, done well: you choose a “bowl” — options currently include Bali, Moroccan, Thai and Nordic — which have different bases such as noodles, rice, quinoa. Then add protein, such as silken tofu. There’s no dairy, gluten or refined sugar, and no compromise on flavour, either. A small cabinet has tarts and slices, and there’s coffee, of course, but the bowls are the stars of this show.
118 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
The beauty of Orphans by day comes down to two things: the light, which streams in through that big front window all morning long, and the fact they take a similar approach to daytime eating as to evening — stripped-back plates of food that have managed to define a New Zealand cuisine. There are no cafe standbys here; the closest they come to a mainstay is sourdough dishes and cake-like crumpets with honey from their rooftop hives. The constantly evolving menu is at once comforting and challenging: for the longest time we were fond of the rye gnocchi with a forest floor’s worth of mushrooms, and a slow-poached egg.
St Kevins Arcade, 183 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct
Oli Bradford’s bright and breezy cafe may be brand new but his recipes are not. The menu of hoppers — Sri Lankan fermented pancakes filled with various things — is inspired by the food Bradford’s mum taught him to cook. While the food looks to South Asia, the vibe and fitout are inspired by Wellington’s chilled-out cafe culture — there’s a relaxed, almost bohemian atmosphere, and quirky, arty things like tumblers made in Indonesia from recycled wine bottles. They’re open until 4pm.
Rosebank Coffee & Kitchen
1/2 Jomac Place, Avondale
While decent cafes are popping up all over West Auckland, Rosebank, which is under new ownership, remains worth a visit. On first glance the setting, a semi-industrial block of shops just off Rosebank Rd, doesn’t hold much promise, but the light and airy glass-walled cafe, with its minimalist decor and hanging greenery, provides a very pleasant spot to while away an hour or two. The menu has plenty of innovative offerings — think gnocchi with parsnip purée, red cabbage, pear, manchego (opt-out for vegans) and kawakawa — and tempting sweet options fill the cabinet. There’s also a kids’ menu, Brother’s beer on tap, a thoughtfully compiled wine list and a few cocktails, and it stays open into the evening on Friday for pizza nights.
33 Victoria St East, central city
Scarecrow offers a slice of clean country living amid the big city smoke, serving food beautiful in its simplicity, where you can also fill your basket with hand-picked organic produce and artisanal products from around the country. Fittingly, the coffee is fair-trade from Kōkako, the cabinet is a bounty of salads and sandwiches, and the specials celebrate seasonal cooking. Wooden bentwood chairs and antique scales complete the marketplace vibe, while jazz tinkles from the speakers, inviting you to stay for something sweet. Try a spiced apple frangipane tart, blueberry crumble, or miso brownie.
184 Garnet Rd, Westmere
Splashed in varying shades of deep sea blue, and with a peek of the ocean on the horizon, this suburban cafe has an easy holiday vibe, with laidback service led by owner Brodie McDonald, who makes a mean coffee. They don’t shy away from punchy flavours in the AM at Seabreeze, with an exotic menu that includes kitchari, a daal and basmati dish with peas, pomegranate and yoghurt. Come afternoon, when the corner soaks up every last ray of sun, there’s Sawmill beers to drink.
Simon & Lee
115 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell
Oliver Simon, who co-owns this place with David Lee, must be one of the most charming people in Auckland hospitality right now. He’s warm without overdoing it, running the floor with friendly efficiency, and you can just tell he loves the work. Food is Korean-ish, cooked to a level that matches the service, with highlights that include crunchy, spicy dolsot bibimbaps. The perfect stop after scoping out the vegetables, and the dogs, at La Cigale.
G03/85 Daldy St, Wynyard Quarter
Is this the new Auckland? Williams Eatery occupies a quiet corner of Wynyard Quarter, a pedestrian laneway on one side, planting on the other. It’s very calm in the Nordic way — blond timber, raw concrete — and the staff tend to short-hemmed pants, caps and orthopaedic sneakers. The service is excellent, there’s always filter coffee and the food is brilliant: thoughtful and inventive, and not very meaty. Hurrah! At breakfast, even that millennial standby of smashed avocado on toast comes with “dehydrated olive” and green herbs. The rest of the menu is short and deliberate, with faintly Asian overtones that we like very much. Equally, though, it’s a fine place for a quiet coffee during the week, when there’s room to chat or linger with a book. We like that, too.
This was published in the November - December 2018 issue of Metro.
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