Auckland’s best vegan-friendly cafes worth booking a trip for

14 February 2019

WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand

Chuffed on High St offers vegan options. Photo/Facebook @chuffedcoffee.

Looking for the best vegan and vegetarian-friendly breakfast, lunch and dinners on offer in Auckland? These delicious destinations host an array of stunning plant-based, organic and meat-free options perfect for your (or your friend, partner,  S/O or cousin’s etc.) diet requirements of preferences.

It can be difficult to eat out for those on a plant-based diet. Thankfully, many of Metro’s Top 50 best cafes in Auckland offer vegan dishes or dishes that can be easily adapted.

Whether you’re based on the north shore, in the city centre or out towards the ‘burbs, there are plenty of options scattered across the City of Sails to choose from. And if you’re not an Aucklander, consider booking a trip just to tick these off your list until your foodie heart’s content.

Auckland’s best vegan-friendly cafes from the Metro Top 50 Cafes 2019 list:



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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.



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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.



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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.



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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 wedge 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.



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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.



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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.

Black and Gold Eatery


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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?



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Good Day

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.


Good Day


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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.



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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.



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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.



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The Lunchroom

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.



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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.



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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.



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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.



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Orphans Kitchen

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.



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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.



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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.



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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.


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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.



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Williams Eatery

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.


Auckland’s best vegan-friendly cafes 2018 list:


St Kevins Arcade, 183 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct   |   bestiecafe.co.nz

With the sun on your brow, expertly made coffee in hand and a dreamy view over Myers Park, why would you want to wake up anywhere else? A year in and it can be difficult to get a weekend seat at Emma Lyell and Tane Williams’ Bestie — a testament to their skill as cafe. Order à la carte, but be sure to follow lunch with a piece of indulgent baking; we recommend a giant slice of cake or a devilishly gooey chocolate brownie.


43 High St, central city   |    chuffedcoffee.com

Tucked away at the end of a nondescript corridor, Chuffed is a sweet surprise, an all-round-inviting space with a few tables up front next to the counter and barista, and a narrow balcony out back. On sunny days, the balcony roof slides back to reveal office towers, cute murals, and a square of the sky; inside, it’s all white and navy with sheepskin-covered stools, cheerful, bearded waiters and a busy-happy vibe. Vegan menu items include a smoked-mushroom medley and freedom loaf with tempeh, but there are all kinds of goodness in the cabinet, too.


537 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn   |   kokako.co.nz

Kokako’s keys were handed from one longstanding cafe owner, Mike Murphy, to another, Troy Mentor (ex-Dizengoff), in 2017 so Murphy could focus on commercial coffee production from Kokako’s newly renovated space in Mt Eden. Thankfully for us — and Murphy — the cafe has been left in safe hands and still hums all week long. Tireless commitment to ethically sourced coffee is still at the forefront of the operation. This, plus head chef Plabita Florence’s ultra-seasonal, hyper-local menu, makes Kokako a very happy place to be.

Little Bird Unbakery

1A Summer St, Ponsonby   |   littlebirdorganics.co.nz

Megan May and Jeremy Bennett are the Real Slim Shadies of Auckland’s raw food scene; all imitators need to sit down. At their flagship cafe in Ponsonby, hearty vegan lunches of kimchi burgers, raw taco plates, and mushroom-walnut burgers work harder than their meat-based cousins to tantalise the palate, representing a revelation in healthy, environmentally friendly eating. An extensive range of cold-pressed juices and medicinal-sounding teas round off the smug feeling.

The Lunchroom

Level 1, 45 Queen St, central city   |   thelunchroom.co.nz

Not your average Gloria Jeans-esque office tower-cafe, The Lunchroom is airy, big-windowed and damn slick. Chef/owner JJ Holland presents daring cafe food with chefy touches. Other details that make this inner-city cafe special? The option to have your iced coffee served over crushed or cubed ice, and a neatly priced wine list. Bookings are available online and recommended. Closed weekends.

The Midnight Baker

218 Dominion Rd, Balmoral   |   themidnightbaker.co.nz

On a busy street famed for its dumplings, this wonky, white-washed cafe offers airy respite from both chaos and gluten. After struggling with her own dietary requirements for years, Yeshe Dawa opened a cafe where she could order allergy-friendly food without feeling like a nuisance. She has made sure everything here is free of refined sugar, wheat, and dairy, as well as vegan. It could feel pious, but it doesn’t — the food’s just really good. Harissa red peppers with toasted chickpeas and oven-roasted tomatoes (pictured left) are a bite of early summer, and “Snickers” toast — with peanut butter and “woahtella” — is criminally delicious.


12 Wyndham St, central city   |   misters.co

The team at Misters have perfected the concept of healthy eating without compromising on flavour. The morning crowd streams in for granola, acai bowls, and smoothies but for lunch, it’s all about the bowls — the Italian, Moroccan, Japanese, Thai and Greek bowls all have vegan options. The menu is free of gluten and dairy, but certainly not taste.


503B New North Rd, Kingsland   |   mondayswholefoods.com

The floor staff at Mondays wholefoods cafe almost seem to walk on air, and, after a nourishing (and guilt-free) breakfast amongst the foliage, you might too. Forget bacon butties — the menu here runs the gamut from warm banana bread with coconut butter and homemade Nutella to quinoa breakfast pilaf with turmeric hollandaise. Supreme Boxer blend coffee sits proudly alongside a range of caffeine-free latte-alternatives, and the thick, fruit-filled, super-food smoothies are next-level.

Orphans Kitchen

118 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby   |   orphanskitchen.co.nzThe sense of conviviality at Orphans Kitchen begins in the tiny, discombobulated kitchen and spreads throughout the rustic, macrocarpa-tabled dining room and exposed back courtyard. Don’t be intimidated by the staff’s too-cool fashion sense — they are helpful and happy to stop by for a chat, and will often take a seat alongside you. Head chef Tom Hishon’s menu champions the ethical, the small and the interesting, with dishes to suit all diets. Long communal tables encourage random conversations with strangers, and kids and dogs are welcome.

Simon & Lee

115 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell   |  simonandlee.com

In an old carpet factory on St Georges Bay Rd, in the heart of Parnell’s rebirth, this light-filled cafe with blue and red accents has been humming since it opened mere months ago. Oliver Simon and David Lee offer a fresh perspective on ho-hum cafe fare with Korean-influenced dishes, like the Good Bowl with cauliflower rice, white kimchi, edamame, avocado, marinated pickled vegetables and onion salsa.

Photos: Supplied / Instagram

This article originally appeared in Metro on Noted

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