Known for its greenie credentials, it’s no surprise that Wellington has some of the best vegetarian and vegan cafés in Australasia. Culture Trip selects the best in the city.
Gone are the days when vegetarians and vegans belonged to some kind of secret society, almost behind closed doors. People embrace the food movement, and this has resulted in some innovative cafés sprouting up in cities everywhere. Fortunately, Wellington leads the way in the stakes, with the locals revelling in a multitude of exceptional cafés that stay true to their convictions. Culture Trip presents some of the best vegetarian and vegan cafés in the city. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Explorers, beach enthusiasts and surfers will find a great deal to get excited about at Maranui Café. Venture about five kilometres (three miles) south of Wellington city centre to Lyall Bay and soak up the beach atmosphere before discovering this quirky vegan-friendly café on the Parade. To start off the day in style, try the After Swim Super Snack complete with smashed avocado, fresh tomato and basil. For lunch, the Seaside Scrambled Tofu never fails to please, served with stir-fry vegetables and coriander. Gaze out to the sea, enjoy beach views and spend some quality time at one of Wellington’s most iconic of cafés.
For those tight on cash, do not dismay, because at Aunty Mena’s a delightful meat-free meal can be enjoyed by anyone on a budget. Just a stone’s throw away from Vivian Street in Te Aro, Aunty Mena’s puts all its efforts into the food. Though the decor may not please everyone, the quality of the food speaks for itself. This vegetarian-only Asian eatery on Cuba Street is a great starting point in the city for anyone looking for a good-value lunch. It specialises in Malaysian cuisine, and there are also plenty of curries, Chinese dishes and tofu meals to keep everyone happy.
Simply known as “The Cross”, this is a stylish café/bar on Abel Smith Street in Te Aro with a funky vibe and retro decor consisting of purple and maroon sofas, old-school wallpaper and wooden features. It caters for everyone, having a car park, disability access and even allowing dogs in the garden bar area. As part of the community as any eating place in the city, The Cross’s staff look forward to welcoming regulars and newbies alike. With plenty of activities on offer, there is no time to be bored – there are life drawing sessions, evening gigs, quizzes and even massages. The menu will bring a smile to die-hard fans – its burgers, mixed grills and stuffed portobello mushrooms will all appeal to dedicated vegetarians and vegans.
At 519 High Street in Lower Hutt is Nature Vegetarian, an aptly named boutique restaurant dishing up refreshing mains and vegetarian-friendly steaks, soups and noodles. All dishes are lovingly created using the finest, freshest ingredients. About 80 percent of its extensive menu is suitable for vegans, with the roast bean curd and mixed tofu a stand out. Phone orders are welcome for takeaways, but it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For meat-free lovers with a penchant for southeast Asian cuisine, Nature Vegetarian sets the bar very high indeed.
Marketed as a “divine and healthy eating experience”, Higher Taste is based in Old Bank Arcade on Customhouse Quay and operates as a non-profit restaurant run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The amiable staff are all Hare Krishna devotees, and they enjoy getting the locals involved in their practices; every Saturday they host a group called Journey of Self Discovery for anyone wishing to take part in Bhakti yoga. As if that isn’t a unique selling point in itself, Higher Taste serves plenty of strictly vegan dishes, from pakoras to aloo gobi to Bombay street food. Relax in the calm surroundings and soothing music and find your inner self.
Bikaner is a 100 percent vegetarian Indian restaurant on Jackson Street – Petone’s main thoroughfare. Conveniently for vegetarians, it is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. The variety of fare on offer is amazing; choose from South and North Indian main dishes, chaats, naans and paranthas. As the only fully vegetarian restaurant in Wellington serving authentic Jain food, Bikaner is essential for Wellingtonians craving wholesome spicy vegetarian dishes – plus, it also does takeaway and catering functions. Specialities include paneer tikka masala and thali (round platters traditionally served in the Indian subcontinent).
Lord of the Fries
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Fancy a burger, but restricted by the usual meat varieties? Make a beeline for Lord of the Fries on Cuba Street, where delights are in store for vegetarians, including a host of burgers, hot dogs and breakfasts. Try the Chick’n Waffle for breakfast or the jalapeño-infused Tijuana hot dog for lunch, which is a spicy Mexican favourite and 100 percent vegan. For larger appetites, the Biggie burger is more than enough for even the most hungry. Founded by committed vegetarians Bruce and Baksho in 2015 in Melbourne, they brought the now well-known vegetarian brand to Wellington in 2018 and haven’t looked back. Who said meat-eaters should have all the fun?
The Botanist is another fantastic vegetarian spot on the beach in Lyall Bay – if a vegetarian can’t find a delicious meal here, then there is no hope. The Botanist is suitably named and caters for a cool clientele who appreciates a great beach spot. The decor is heavy on plants (it’d be disappointing if it wasn’t), and its menu reflects a love for everything vegan. For a truly authentic beach experience, go for the vegan-friendly fish and chips with pea and mint purée. Open seven days a week from 9am-10pm, it has a wide range of beers and a happy hour (the “hoppy hour”) from 4pm for two hours. Perfect.
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