Seven Vegetarian Spots to Travel for this Meat Free May

Waiter holding two vegan dishes at Hillside Kitchen in Wellington.

Challenge yourself and go Meat Free this May. The planet, the animals and your body will thank you for it.

Words by: Kelly Tapper 

Photography by: Neat Places

Embarking on a month of meat-free eating may seem daunting at first, but there are some outstanding eateries across Aotearoa to smoothly navigate you through. Whether you’re looking for meaty substitutes or out-of-this-world vegetarian dishes, you’ll find something that will fit the bill. 

In fact, the benefits of cutting out meat extend far beyond our mere bodies;  it’s also overwhelmingly good for the planet. All too often thinking about tangible ways to help with the climate crisis can feel beyond the realms of our own capabilities. However, if there is one simple change we can make, it’s starting with what’s on our plates. As author Jonathan Safran Foer said ‘saving the planet begins at breakfast’ and he’s not wrong. 

So go on, challenge yourself this May, and let these top-quality spots become your new favourites this Meat Free May (and beyond). 

Grater Goods - Christchurch

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105 Orbell Street, Sydenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Vegan butcher may sound like an oxymoron but that’s exactly how Flip Grater describes her work at Grater Goods, an outstanding plant-based restaurant in Sydenham. The bistro come deli produces an extensive range of meats - think chorizo, pastrami, pepperoni, furkey, faken and sausages that will have even the staunchest carnivore questioning their ways. If you’re looking for delicious vegan food in Ōtautahi and equally fine wine, this is the place to visit.

East St Café - Nelson

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8 Church Street, Nelson, Nelson Tasman

Having clocked up over a decade as a vegan establishment, East St Café in Nelson can be revered as true pioneers of the plant-based food movement (proudly holding the title of NZs first vegan café and restaurant). East St has earned a reputation for producing hearty meals for brunch, lunch and dinner showcasing just how darn delicious vegan food can be. We love everything they do but their burgers are stand-out.

Hillside Kitchen - Wellington

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241 Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington

Hyper local produce is the cornerstone of the delicious creations coming out of suburban Hillside Kitchen. Preferring not to put a label on the food (although it is decidedly meatless), they instead triumph by putting out a wholesome menu comprised of forgaged, seasonal and locally grown ingredients. Open for lunch and dinner service, a thoughtful set menu is on offer for diners, and on the weekend you can build your own brunch with a raft of tasty options.

Little Bird Kitchen - Auckland

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1 Summer St (Rear Tenancy down Summer St), Ponsonby, Auckland, Auckland

A quintessential café for those seeking out world class plant-based fare in Auckland. Little Bird Kitchen is tucked away just off Ponsonby Road in a beautifully restored heritage building. The menu changes frequently to align with the seasons but one everlasting menu item is their iconic Bird Bowl. The Bird Bowl is the best of everything, allowing you the chance to sample a different morsel of each seasonal salads and falafel. Save some room for their raw treats too, they’re not to be missed either.

Gatherings - Christchurch

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5/2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Head chef at Gatherings, Alex Davis, has cleverly cultivated a menu that heroes food produced in the Canterbury region. By selecting the best organic and seasonal vegetables grown locally, he fosters techniques and flavours to transform even the most banal veg into outrageously tasty dishes. Full disclaimer: Gatherings do serve line-caught fish but their vegetarian and vegan offering is far too good not to share.

Forest - Auckland

177 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland

Auckland’s Forest plays homage to vegetarian cuisine in their intimate restaurant blessed with just 6 tables. Dynamic, experimental and surprising flavour combinations come together in beautifully presented vegan and vegetarian dishes here. With a focus on sustainability and waste reduction, Forest serves an exuberant set menu based on seasonality and what they have been able to preserve. A complimentary cocktail and wine list rounds out the whole experience very nicely indeed. Bookings are essential to help their goal of minimal food waste.

A colourful striped cos with lovage, smoked beetroot, and pickled yellow beetroot from Forest, Auckland.

Burger Plant - Dunedin

654 Great King Street North, Dunedin

Dunedinites can count themselves lucky they have Burger Plant at their fingertips. A vegan takeaway joint serving up 100% vegan fast food that is both easy and yummy to devour. What’s not to love? There's a decent selection of burgers; everything from a Mexican inspired patty to their OG cheeseburger. You also have the option to make it a combo meal, or tack on a vegan friendly sundae. A great option for ardent meat lovers looking to try something new.

Burger from Burger Plant in Dunedin.

Neat Auckland Places

The Caker

The entrance to the store.
Place Auckland

These baking queens have made a name for themselves as having the “the most delicious, beautiful cakes in Auckland”.

Black Door Gallery

Various artworks on display including a glass bird in the foreground at Black Door Gallery, Auckland.
Place Auckland

Parnell is well known and loved for its thriving creative scene.

Tür Studio

The entrance to the store.
Place Auckland

A creative space continually merging and progressing to match the ever growing importance of art in Auckland’s culture.

Twenty Seven Names Newmarket

A hem of a dress.
Place Auckland

The flagship store for the Wellington-based brand.