The dietary divide can make or break a good meal. Vegetarianism is certainly not new, yet it’s still surprisingly difficult to find a place that caters to both ends of the spectrum. The rise of the barbeque has seen joints springing up all through the city, which would make a vegetarian break out in a cold sweat before resigning to ordering the side salad without the bacon bits.
We also have a ton of vegetarian restaurants, often with vegan, raw or gluten free leanings, many of which your carnivorous mates are unlikely to want to go near with a barge pole. Don’t even get us started on how the sharing plate phenomena makes this problem into an utter disaster.
To solve this dilemma and make that meal smooth sailing, we’ve rounded up our top picks for where vegetarian and omnivores (we’ll call them carnivores for argument’s sake) can happily eat in harmony.
Euro has had a little facelift but the expression is still there in full force! One of Auckland’s classic wining and dining spots may be an oldie, but Executive Chef Gareth Stewart has ensured that vegetables are given their rightful place on the menu. The menu is handily separated into Pasture, Bird, Ocean and an all Vegetarian section. The vegetarian section is extensive, all right, with no less than eight options—all of of which are available in entrée and main sizes. That said, the heirloom tomato, seared watermelon and buffalo milk labneh will likely tempt absolutely everyone present.
The fabulous fare at Ortolana matches its gorgeous surroundings and is simplicity at its best. There is always a plethora of vegetarian options available at breakfast, lunch and dinner, mixed with several top-notch fish and meaty options. Most of Ortlana’s vegetables come directly from their Kumeu orchard, meaning these “garden to fork” meals are as local as can be. The vegetarian gnocchi are a revelation, as is the air-dried pork piadina. Everyone wins! Head next door to the exquisite Milse for dessert, where absolutely everything is vegetarian-friendly (funny that).
The French Café
The very mention of a degustation dinner for vegetarians and meat eaters to enjoy together seems completely impossible. At many places it is, but not at The French Café. Offering an entirely vegetarian tasting menu, the table can enjoy their six course degustation in perfect harmony to celebrate any special occasion. The vegetarian version is just as, if not more, inventive that its meaty counterpart, so all parties will be seriously satisfied.
Since opening last year, Ralph’s has been pumping out perfect burgers and even better sides along with killer alcoholic slushies. The vegan patty comes with Ralph’s own take on Big Mac sauce and is a veggie feast and is “meaty” without the meat. There’s also a cheese burger, pork belly burger and fried chicken burger for those looking to exercise their canine chompers. Vegetarian sides include jalapeno poppers, corn tamales and Mexican street corn which will satisfy all at the table. Also now doing daytime food with all-but-one menu option available veggie. Perfect for soaking up last night’s slushies…
Welcome Eatery’s seasonal menu usually ticks one of each box—vegetarian, pescatarian and full boar carnivore. The lamb salad is perhaps Auckland’s best use of our national meat, while the vegetarian pasta or their tomato and caprese salad will satisfy even the most discerning of vegetarians. Pescatarians need not be left out with Welcome Eatery’s daily fish dish—it changes constantly but is always solid. Sleek spot for a business slunch or midweek catchup.
Ah, a perfect spot for vegetarians and meat lovers to put animal rights arguments aside and dine with an amazing view. Soul Bar offers an entirely vegetarian menu with a cold, hot and side sections. The Handmade linguine with Curious Croppers’ tomatoes, sweet basil and parmesan is not only strictly vegetarian, but is a step better with these beautiful local artisan ‘toes. Those looking for a meatier option will love the incredible crab ravioli or slow cooked pork belly.
Middle Eastern food is a perfect option for vegetarians given their fantastic use of the humble vegetable. Just ask Ottolenghi. And any meat eater that’s eaten something from Plenty and rethought whether their next meal reeeeally needs meat. For the best example of this, visit Ima Cuisine on Fort St for a sharing experience that will delight all. The beauty is that the sharing part is in the sides which really are the star of the show—for $13 per guest you are treated to no less than five inventive vegetable dishes to match with your protein of choice. There’s lamb, chicken, beef and fish – but also a vegan sabich or halloumi for the veggies.
Bird On A Wire
Yeah you read right—Auckland’s best chicken shop is also a fantastic space for those with a penchant for animal rights. Now offering a superlative tofu option to upgrade your choice of their daily salads, vegetarians can get in on the action too. That said, those salads are amazing in and of themselves—their naked salads will delight both vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Carnivores who are equally interested in animal ethics will be pleased to know that all of Bird’s chooks are absolutely free range. A tofu option is available at all stores, including Bird On A Wire’s brand spank’n new Ponsonby Central store.
Asian cuisine is a hard one for vegetarians at the best of times, but strict vegetarians will particularly hit issues with Japanese will its strong presence of seafood. Ebisu to the rescue! Serving up some of the best sushi in Auckland, their set menus are perfect for bridging that dietary divide, making for a perfect business lunch or dinner spot. They have you covered at both meals with their set vegetarian and meat-filled meals. It’s obvious that equal care and thought has been put into both menus—the carnivores at the table will be reaching their chopsticks out to try the veggies miso glazed eggplant without a doubt!
Craving meat-free meals? We’ve got 21 of them here!
Image credit: Ebisu