We’ve heard of Wellington as being the cooler cousin to Auckland, and having been to both cities, that does a bit of a disservice to Auckland. It’s larger and more spread out so it’s certainly harder to get sense of the local culture than the smaller city of Wellington, but that doesn’t mean Auckland is devoid of progressive attitudes, contemporary chefs and unique restaurants. What we found in Auckland was a city rich with passionate chefs and proprietors, delicious vegan food and down to earth people all around.
We stayed three nights in the CBD, the Central Business District, where most of the hotels in the city are located. The CBD was a convenient location for a number of vegan options and easy transportation links throughout the city. Since the Spring weather was temperate and surprisingly dry during our stay, we managed to walk everywhere including the particularly vegan friendly area of Ponsonby.
If you intend on visiting Auckland, you won’t be short of options because the list of places we visited is far from being comprehensive. There were a number of restaurants that we would have love to have tried if we had more time.
Burger Fuel is a local fast food chain with outlets throughout New Zealand and a handful of international locations in the Middle East and Australia. We tried Burger Fuel when we visited Wellington a few years ago and were reasonably impressed with the place. According to their site all vegetarian and vegan items are cooked on separate stations from the non-vegetarian items. Along with the efforts to segregate the vegetarian items in the kitchen, we’ve also been impressed with their use of local ingredients like kumara.
We’ve tried their vegan burger (V-Dub Vege is vegan upon request), soy shakes (careful though, the chocolate soy shake is not vegan) and both the spud and kumara fries in the past, but I think we saved the best for last on this trip.
For a deliciously hearty snack, try the Burger Fuel Motobites. Cooked in 100% pure canola oil, they come with a yogurt relish or lemon aoli, but since neither are vegan you can simply request one of the vegan sauces instead. Vegan sauces available are Tomato Sauce (ketchup) and Sweet Tomato Relish. We recommend the Sweet Tomato Relish, it has more depth than the Tomato Sauce and this sweet and acidic sauce is a nice combo with the crunchy and creamy Motobites. Sweet Tomato relish is free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. One order of Motobites will set you back NZ$6.90, but it’s well worth it for ‘8 crumbed pumpkin, carrot, chickpea and ginger bites.’
Check out Burger Fuel’s page on ‘Vege & Vegan Info‘ for more information on their commitment to providing vegetarian and vegan options.
Burger Fuel Auckland
291 Queen Street (Multiple locations)
Hectors Restaurant & Heritage Auckland Lobby Bar
The Heritage Auckland Hotel offers a raw vegan breakfast, an exclusively vegan lobby bar menu and an extensive vegan menu for lunch and dinner including a vegan wine list at Hectors Restaurant. For more on the Heritage Auckland Hotel, check out our in depth post on one of the most stunning meals we’ve ever had.
35 Hobston Street
Il Buco – CBD
Il Buco, literally ‘the hole’ in Italian, seems an apt name for this small pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) place on the busy pedestrianized Vulcan Lane in the CBD. Pick your slice from the display case with the clearly labeled vegan options and they’ll re-fire your pizza (or offer it to go). Seating is limited but the food is quick and the atmosphere casual. They have a barista and a selection of hot and cold drinks available. Along with a variety of vegan pizza options, Il Buco also has two daily soups that may occasionally be vegan and potato croquettes that are vegan when ordered without the sauce (mayo sauce isn’t vegan and actually isn’t even vegetarian due to gelatin).
Prices can seem a bit steep at NZ$6/slice but they’re pretty filling and typically quite good. The Vulcan Lane location will usually have 3-4 varieties of vegan pizza available and they occasionally rotate the selection.
Vulcan Lane is the second of two locations, the original Il Buco is located on Ponsonby Road in Auckland.
Il Buco Auckland
35c Vulcane Lane (Multiple locations)
Little Bird Organics – Ponsonby
Vegan, organic and with plenty of gluten-free and raw options. Really ticks a lot of boxes. We loved the build out of this place with the old industrial architecture and simple design touches throughout. The Summer Street location where we dined was a bit small and filled up quickly during the lunch hour. An extremely popular place and for good reason – they have an inventive and inspired menu with options for everyone and the food presentation was stunning.
We wanted to love the food as much as we loved the presentation but sadly everything came up short on flavor and the dishes needed more texture. Fortunately these meals were fairly light and won’t leave you feeling lethargic afterwards, so there’s certainly that. Service at the counter is available for take away orders and there is a large display case of desserts and sweets. Service was sufficiently helpful and quick, being seated can be a bit confusing with staff criss crossing one another and the occasional person ordering from the counter for dining in. If you plan to dine in, take a seat and they will take your order at the table. As good as Little Bird is, we left feeling like they could be even better and hopefully they’ll get there!
A fusion dish of Indian and Mexican. A fermented dosa pancake topped with mexican spiced mushrooms, tomato salsa, shredded iceberg, chimichurri sauce, coriander & crushed avocado.
We overhead the waitress explain to someone nearby that this was one of the spicy dishes but it wasn’t really spicy, perhaps we have a different concept of spicy because I detected very little heat. The flavors were nice but a bit subtle and once you finish half of the dish, it became a bit boring and lifeless. The pancake was too soggy after being loaded with all of the toppings.
Kumara Gnocchi $19
Perfectly formed gnocchi made fresh daily served with locally grown out of the dark oyster mushroom, fresh winter frisee, little bird pickled onions, finished with a tarragon cream & pine nut parmesan.
Surprised that the gnocchi were virtually flavorless. I am always drawn to kumara since it’s a local product in New Zealand but I wish they had found a way to infuse or retain more flavor. The pine nut parmesan looked remarkably like cheese but lacked any sort of salty or umami flavor. Being a fan of French flavors, I was excited by the tarragon cream but sadly didn’t pick up tarragon in this delicate creamy light-green sauce.
Passion Fruit Cheesecake (Raw) $8 (not photographed)
The passion fruit topping was delicious all on its own and the cheesecake was perfectly smooth and creamy. The base was clearly raw and nut-based and generally okay. Overall we loved the passion fruit but felt the rest of this cheesecake lacked flavors. The cheesecake was creamy but nothing about it said cheese. There was no sourness to it and nothing particularly cheesy. Perhaps, as with the rest of the dishes we tried at Little Bird, the best elements were the freshest and simplest ones.
While we waited to order our cheesecake we had a sample of their raw mint fudge bar and it was rich, decadent and refreshingly laced with the flavor of natural mint.
Little Bird Organics Auckland
1a Summer Street (Multiple locations)
Located next to Ortolana in the Pavilions at Britomart, this little dessert bar and patisserie is worth seeking out for their exquisite sweet treats. The signage and entrance for Milse are small, almost hidden. Once inside, the ornately encased long narrow foyer is representative of the attention to detail and design here, the geometric patterns surround display cases of desserts. Ask an attendant which items are vegan, on our visit there were three options available to take away and different options available for dining in. The dining area nestled in the back is small, private, dark and cozy. The ambiance of the dining area seemed refined, this is certainly an upscale dessert bar in the city.
Britomart, 27 Tyler Street
Revive Cafe – Wyndham Street
With two locations centrally located in the CBD, these salad bar/deli style cafés are unpretentious and often quite healthy. With a daily changing menu (posted online and out front of each restaurant on a weekly basis), the entirely vegetarian Revive cafés often have a number of vegan and gluten free options. One should note that items marked V for Total Vegetarian (no eggs or dairy) do occasionally contain honey, so be sure to ask if an item contains honey. Portions are hearty, prices are reasonable and ingredients are fresh.
Revive Cafe Auckland
24 Wyndham Street (Multiple locations)
Wedge Juice Bar
This simple yet delicious juice bar is neatly tucked away in the charming Elliott Stables food court and market, located in the shadow of the Sky Tower in the Auckland CBD. Raw vegan juices using only fresh ingredients are NZ$7. We tried a number of juices during our time in Auckland but this was by the far the freshest and the best. We had the special ‘Enter the Dragon’ juice that consisted of beetroot, orange and purple carrots and dragon fruit. Topping off this wonderful experience was our chat with the owner, a passionate man who is doing what he loves at Wedge. There’s nothing better than buying something from someone who is truly passionate about what he or she does. We loved it and highly recommend it for anyone staying or working in the CBD. The owner Andy is committed to only using fresh ingredients, with no added sweeteners, syrups or additives of any type – just fresh fruit and vegetables in these juices!
Wedge Juice Bar
Elliott Stables, 39 Elliott Street (Front Entrance)
Little Bites in Auckland
Located upstairs from a bar on Vulcan Lane, not far from Il Buco. Raw Power! is a vegetarian cafe with a variety of vegan options sweet and savory. We weren’t especially inspired by the savory menu, but the selection of cakes and cookies were tempting enough. We had a generously sliced piece of cake that was filling and well flavored, if not a bit simple. An easy stop for a quick bite if you’re in the CBD.
Cafe Raw Power! Auckland
Floor 1/10 Vulcan Lane (2nd Floor)
Banana Bean Iced Coconut Cream Dessert by Nice Cream (made by Tommy & James)
Found at Nosh Metro – Ponsonby. Vegan & Gluten-Free. Made with coconut cream, banana puree and vanilla bean paste. Absolutely stunning flavor and available in a perfectly snack-sized little tub (125mL). Available at most high end or natural grocers in the area.
Nosh Food Market (Ponsonby)
254 Ponsonby Road (Multiple locations)
Pana Chocolate & Passionfruit Macarons by Little Bird Organics
Thanks to the lovely Koko for these delicious treats: Little Bird Organics Passion Fruit & Macadamia Macaroons and Pana Chocolate with Sour Cherries. These passion fruit & macadamia macaroons literally melted in my mouth with a tangy tropical burst! Probably the best thing we had from Little Bird Organics (reviewed above) and understandable why they were flying off the shelves at the cafe. I could easily eat far too many of these if given the chance.
Little Bird Organics
1a Summer Street (Multiple locations)
Coffee and breakfast bar by morning, beer, wine and small bites by the evening. At least one vegan option on both the AM and PM menus.
Imperial Lane Auckland
7 Fort Lane or 44 Queen Street