A vegetarian's guide to Visa WOAP
July 21, 2017
I consider myself pretty qualified to espouse the benefits of life as a vegetarian. I spent a dozen years living in vegetarian bliss, but in 2015 after over a decade of abstaining, a slapstick mix-up that was 100% my fault meant Hummingbird’s Dine Wellington braised beef cheek was put down in front of me. I decided to try a small amount for the sake of politeness rather than bring up my mistake, and what I mean by this is I polished off the beef cheek (Hummingbird, you guys are amazing) and then went on a bit of a meat bender to make up for all those years without it.
I’m now merrily omnivorous, but my many meat-free years mean I appreciate and often opt for vegetarian options while eating out. I love seeing chefs creating exciting and unusual meals with vegetables, and am always stoked to see a stellar line-up of veg events in Welly On a Plate. whilst far from being an exhaustive list, here are my vegetarian-friendly 2017 picks, whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian or just doing meat-free Monday:
- What Fat Vegans Eat – Sweet Release Cakes and Treats is a veritable mecca for the dairy-free, with an amazing selection of vegan sweet and savoury treats. This event will change your perception of vegan fare, serving up fast food favourites to prove that vegan kai isn’t all about salads. (Read on to win a double pass to this event!).
- Umami Origami – Egmont St Eatery is bringing back Umami Origami, an event that features four courses that are both vegetarian AND gluten-free – that’s a dietary requirement double-whammy. Expect unexpected ingredients and techniques that aren’t often applied to vegetables.
- Beach Party - whilst not a strictly vegetarian only event, Maranui and Queen Sally's Diamond Deli are both known for their amazing vegetarian selections, and their Beach Party event will bring more of this to the table. A little birdy tells me there'll be vegan and gluten-free treats such as cauliflower, onion, & coriander Pakoras (with coconut yogurt + tamarind & ginger chutney on the side). Helloooooo.
There's an array of meat-free dishes on offer this year, and here are few that sound particularly amazing to me:
- Rata Café’s miso carrots and pickled beetroot in spiced broth with daikon and noodles – I am a huge fan of Rata’s super fresh menu, and anything that comes with broth is good by me. Best enjoyed on the peaceful balcony overlooking Zealandia eco-sanctuary.
- Seize’s vegan big brunch with coconut bacon, sausage and creamy mushrooms – Seize is the place to go if you’ve got dietary restrictions, with lots of ‘free from’ options. The classic greasy big breakfast gone vegan sounds like a great start to the day.
- Milk & Honey’s halloumi with pickled beetroot, raw milk and mānuka honey yoghurt cheese with kawakawa and harakeke seed flatbread – this Kelburn café is staying true to its name, literally incorporating milk and honey into their vegetarian Festival Dish.
- The Botanist’s pumpkin, tofu and cashew ricotta zucchini – these sound like little vegan bundles of joy. The Botanist is relatively new to Wellington’s foodie scene, but already making its mark as the place to go for tasty organic, vegetarian and vegan fare.
- Kanteen’s pani puri with Zany Zeus smoked yoghurt and tamarind water – Kanteen is a gem down the Pipitea end of town, and if you are yet to try pani puri you’ll need to head down there during the festival for these delightful spicy puffs of goodness.
There are also plenty of Festival Dishes and other courses that have vegan or vegetarian options available – keep an eye out for these while browsing menus. I’ve got my eye on WBC’s kung pao veal, which can be replaced with tofu.
Burgers are often a let-down for vegos. Creating the perfect vegetarian patty is pretty difficult, but I’ve had a few absolute pearlers in my time. Keep an eye out for:
- Basque’s Cheese Musketeers with a three cheese croquette patty, smoked chipotle and jalapeños – last year Basque knocked it out of the park with their vegetarian cauli burger, so I have high hopes for this spicy little number.
- Five & Dime’s ‘impossible’ vegetarian patty with pickles, American cheese and special sauce – for vegos who crave cheeseburgers, get your fix at Five & Dime.
- Moon 1’s truffled whole Portobello mushroom with salsa rossa, cream cheese and compound butter – I love a burger that utilises the earthy and, dare I say, meaty flavour of mushroom.
- Husk’s Apocalypse Now with chickpea and smoked mushroom patty, slaw, avo and Texas chilli sauce with jalapeño poppers – this was the burger that was created by committee, and I think the voters got it right.
- Southern Cross’s ‘Kapiti Fried Cauli’ with original recipe fried cauliflower and vegan cheese – inspired by the Colonel, this is fast food gone vegan.
- The Library’s chocolate custard, mousse, cookie and icecream burger – don’t forget that sweet treats are (almost) always meat free. The Library do sweet treats beautifully, and you could even devour this after a savoury burger if you’re that dedicated.
Last but not least, you can't go wrong with a tipple to start or finish off your meal. Cocktail Wellington provides the opportunity to sample some of the best creations this end of the North Island.
- Little Beer Quarter's going Kiwi Hot with a creamy Indian-spiced concoction, so if you're normally a mild to medium this will be one to challenge your taste buds (in the best possible way). A housemade onion bhaji completes the picture.
- Monsoon Poon will take you back to your childhood with a PBJ shake, made all the better with Chambord and Frangelico. Accompanied by a banana, chocolate and hazelnut wonton and there's a whole host of flavour combinations going on that I'm intrigued to get stuck into.
- Mr Go's is fresh off the announcement they'll be open 7 days (not quite 24/7) and their Smoke Spice Supreme cocktail has rum, more rum (cheers to local faves, Smoke & Oakum's), coffee AND not just one, but two of Welly's top chocolate producers; Whittaker's and Wellington Chocolate Factory (I get it, I find it hard to choose between them too).