I love my food. I mean, I really REALLY love my food. And I’m a vegetarian, which can be a bit tricky when travelling. Happily, I discovered heaps of special-diet-friendly menus in New Zealand (woohoo!), and I’d like to share some of my favourite food stops on the North Island…
Matakana Market Kitchen (on the drive from Auckland to Bay of Islands)
The clue is in the name – This relaxed restaurant is all about locally sourced, seasonal, fresh ingredients, in a beautiful riverside setting. The fresh “flower-pot” seeded bread is incredible, and I could live on their homemade houmous (this place needs a deli counter!). I opted for the creamy kale and garlic portobello mushroom buckwheat risotto with lemon zest and rocket (and parmesan – not veggie, but an option if you are simply meat-free). Fully licenced (yay!) with gluten free menus available too, MMK is a perfect brunch, lunch or dinner stop. http://www.matakanamarketkitchen.co.nz
The view from the riverside terrace at MMK.
Orbit 360 Dining (Auckland)
More risotto… but this time 190 metres above Auckland’s buzzing streets on level 52 of the Sky Tower! Tranquil contemporary dining while you rotate 360 degrees with fab views of the city and beyond. Again focusing on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, the a la carte menu offers lots of veggie and GF options. I loved the fresh potato gnocchi starter, and the creamy lemon vegetable risotto tasted fresh and light. Bookings are essential for Orbit 360 and you can keep your table for up to 2 hours – time for two rotations! http://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/restaurants/orbit
Ernest Kemp steamboat trip (Taupo)
OK not a restaurant… and not particularly vegetarian… but the Cocktail Sunset Cruise with complimentary wine, beer, pizza and cakes deserves a mention. You’ll have a glass of wine in your hands within seconds of boarding, and by the time you discover the Maori carvings you’re sailing out to see are actually pretty recent you probably won’t care. http://www.ernestkemp.co.nz
PS I choose a meat-free diet but I’m not super-strict, so I didn’t check with the restaurants whether every ingredient in their vegetarian options was strictly vegetarian. I hope this blog post will help both vegetarians and others who make meat-free choices without having strict objections to ingredients derived from animals. Freedom of choice… no judgement here!