There were times when I was happy as long as a place could offer me any vegan food at all, even if it was just salad and fries. But, happily, these times are over. With vegetarian and vegan diets becoming more mainstream, it is, perhaps, safe to hope for a delicious vegan meal… or I’ll take my money elsewhere.
When I first came to New Zealand four years ago, people back home, (in Germany), thought I would probably starve in New Zealand. It actually turned out to be okay and has definitely further improved since then. Especially in the bigger cities there are plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants and cafés. Living in Wellington got me quite spoilt for choice. Now, while travelling around New Zealand, I’m thrilled to find that the smaller cities and towns have improved as well.
As it can still be tricky to find the right place for a nice vegan meal, especially when travelling through or being new in town, I’ll make it easy for you. On my travels, I shall try as many eateries as possible, (a heroic endeavour, I know), and will share my favourites with you.
I will begin with Taupo. This bustling town has lots to offer: the country’s biggest lake, the spectacular Huka Falls, geothermal parks, and plenty of walking and cycling tracks. When I stayed there for a few days, it rained a lot. So, I spent most of my time hanging out in all the fabulous eateries.
Here are the best 10 vegan-friendly restaurants and cafés in Taupo, (in order of my visits):
1. Fine Fettle Cafe
Vegan classic in Taupo with outside area and separate vegan menu.
By the time I arrived at my accommodation, I was starving. From a previous visit I knew the Fine Fettle Cafe to be a safe bet. I trudged there through the pouring rain and welcomed the opportunity to get dry and warm again in their big but cosy room, with its inviting wood-clad walls and relaxing background music. On nice days you can also sit outside; close to the street but still in a nice spot to people watch and soak up the sun.
They offer a nice range of meals and have a separate vegan menu, including muesli, baked beans on toast, salad and a big vegan breakfast with hash browns, grilled tomato, baked beans, tofu, hummus etc.
I had the morroccan pumpkin kumara soup and it turned out to be the perfect choice for a cold, wet day! Creamy, spicey and served with tasty bread it was filling and quickly warmed me up.
I would have liked to add a dessert as the sweet treats in the cabinet looked so inviting. Unfortunately, previous trials with vegan options didn’t work out that well and they don’t offer any vegan desserts anymore. I still hope that they will give it another try some day, (perhaps if enough of us ask for vegan treats), so that on my next trip I might enjoy a dessert… hopefully while sitting outside and enjoying the sun this time.
Find it at: 39 Paora Hapi Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 8:00 – 16:00
2. The Cozy Corner
Yummy, healthy food in cosy atmosphere. Fabulous presentation.
I had a fabulous start to my first morning in Taupo, with a paleo muesli bowl at The Cozy Corner. It was a delicious blend of a home-made granola served with poached pear, prunes and coconut yoghurt. I was thrilled to not only get loose leaf tea but my favourite Darjeeling tea at that! This is a rare treat in New Zealand, sadly.
Nestled in Suncourt Plaza, you might easily overlook The Cozy Corner on your stroll around town, but this café is a gem not to be missed. It has a cosy interior and their sheltered courtyard with couches and bean bags make this the perfect place to hang out for a while to relax.
I love their menu! It is nutritionally balanced a wide variety of wholesome food, and the odd naughty treat in between. It comes with clear labels for several kinds of dietary needs and apart from the bread all their food is made freshly in the kitchen as well as generally low in saturated fats, sugar, salt and refined ingredients.
At The Cozy Corner it’s not just the atmosphere, the friendly staff and delicious food, it’s also the presentation of the food. Check out their Facebook page for mouthwatering photos!
Find it at: Shop 15, Suncourt Plaza, 19 Tamamutu Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sat 7:30 – 15:30, Sun 8:00 – 15:00
3. Bodyfuel Cafe
Quirky little café with a big range of vegan food in cabinet.
This little quirky and cosy café is a great find for anyone looking for tasty and healthy food. With a massive range in the cabinet plus the regular menu and vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options clearly labelled, you are in for a treat at the Bodyfuel Cafe.
It took me ages to choose but, in the end, I had the toasted falafel wrap for lunch. Filled with veggies and relish it was a really interesting combination of savoury, sweet and spicy flavours.
After this yummy experience it was hard to forego a dessert. Especially the bounty bar, which had drawn my eye. But there were more cafés to check out…
Find it at: 67 Tongariro Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 7:00 – 16:00
4. Raw Balance
Health store and mini café with vegan & gluten free food.
My visit at Raw Balance was a very welcome surprise. Who would expect such a cute eatery full of nutritious, vegan and gluten free food hidden in a small industrial area off Taupo’s main roads?
Raw Balance offers warm meals such as curries and nachos but also fresh salads and a big range of raw treats, juices and smoothies, all made in-house. They even make their own almond milk and have a great range of fermented products like kombucha, kefir, nut cheeses, and sauerkrauts.
Once you have gone through the difficult process of choosing from such a spread, you can relax in the cosy seating area, enjoying the wonderful food and the lovely atmosphere. Afterwards, have a browse through their little shop with all kinds of healthy food, including home-made gluten free bread.
As I had already eaten lunch, all I could eat was a berry cheesecake. It was a delight!
Find it at: 45 Oruanui Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Thu 9:00 – 17:00, Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat 9:00 – 15:00
5. Osteria Taupo
Get your fix of “Bella Italia”.
The day I finally accepted that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I wouldn’t be able to travel to Italy as planned, I went to Osteria Taupo to get my fix of Italian cuisine and flair to cheer myself up.
It was raining again and the outside seating area was out of the question, but the modern and warm atmosphere inside made me feel comfortable right away.
On the separate vegetarian menu (they also have one for gluten free options), labels identify meals that are also vegan or can be made vegan, including starters, pizza, pasta, gnocchi, risotto and some sides like salad and fries.
As there were no alternatives mentioned on the menu like vegan cheese, cream etc., I expected a bit of a bland experience when ordering garlic bread and a vegetable risotto. The waiter confirmed: the latter would now simply come without the parmesan and cream. To my big surprise, the garlic bread was perfectly fine and the risotto full of flavour. Together with a glass of Italian pinot grigio this was a wonderful meal.
You can also find other locations of this family-run business in Matamata, Mt Maunganui and Ohakune. I still remember a visit to the Ohakune restaurant a few years ago where we enjoyed a super cosy place close to the fireplace and a fabulous vegan pizza (again without vegan cheese) that convinced even the meat-loving then-boyfriend.
Find it at: 42 Tuwharetoa St, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Tue – Sat 17:00 – Late
6. The Coffee Club
Outside area with lake view and tasty vegan options.
The next day started with a cold but beautiful morning which I celebrated with a healthy and delicious breakfast while enjoying the fresh air and the view over lake Taupo.
The nice location overlooking the lake (just ignore the car park in front of you) was why I noticed The Coffee Club. While the interior looked perfectly warm and comfortable, for me it had to be a table outside.
The next great thing that made me immediately like the café were the vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options clearly labelled on the menu, which made it easy to spot available meals. Wouldn’t it be nice if all menus looked like that?
The potato & herb rosti stack wasn’t only a pleasure for my taste buds but also for the eyes: it was nicely arranged and served with basil and cashew pesto, baby spinach, balsamic mushrooms, smashed avocado and peas.
This was the first time that I had stumbled across The Coffee Club but later I learned that they actually have over 400 cafés in the Asia Pacific region; a whopping 66 of those are in New Zealand. After the fabulous breakfast experience at the Taupo café I will definitely keep an eye out for them when travelling.
Find it at: 32 Roberts Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 7:00 till late
7. Spoon & Paddle
Beautiful garden café with some vegan options.
I just love garden cafés! So, of course I had to try the Spoon & Paddle café, located in this cute, cosy house and with a lovely garden. I had waited for the first sunny day of my trip to have lunch there and after ordering inside I sat on the deck and soaked up the sun. Wonderful!
There are a few items on the regular menu that can be made vegan (look for the label “VNO”) and with some luck they might also have some vegan options in the cabinet. The friendly waitress took the time to discuss all options with me and, in the end, I went for the shukshukah, consisting of flatbread with hummus, spinach, Israeli spiced tomato, labneh, and dukka. Other options were homemade granola, avocado on toast and a chickpea falafel salad.
The meal had a great mix of flavours and eating it in the sunshine made it even better. The size of the serving was smaller than expected and it was the flatbread that was the most filling. The other options also sounded more like snacks and for this reason, I found it quite pricey, especially as I was charged extra for the vegan version of this meal. However, the lovely location made up for it.
Find it at: 101 Heuheu Street, Taupo, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 8:00 – 15:00
8. Indian Delights
Enjoyable lake view and yummy Indian food.
Located up on the first floor, Indian Delights comes with a great view over Lake Taupo and I was lucky enough to get a table close to the windows which was a delightful start into the evening.
When looking through the vegetarian section of their menu, I came across the next reason for delight: they have eggplant curry, my favourite Indian meal. There are several other vegetarian dishes that are vegan or can be made vegan, among them Chana Masala, Dal Tadka and Vegetable Jalfrazi.
I could not help but order the eggplant curry, of course, and enjoyed a delicious version of my favourite dish, with super soft pieces of eggplant and a slightly hot mix of spices. Together with the view and the friendly service it was a wonderful experience.
Find it at: 10 Roberts Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 11:30 till late
9. Social Club Taupo
Living room atmosphere with an awesome lake view.
A tiny bit out of the town centre, the Social Club in Taupo is the recently opened third restaurant of this group, in addition to the ones in Mt. Maunganui and Rotorua. The location is super handy if you are staying at the Lakefront Lodge (or nearby) as it is right above the lodge reception area.
On my last day in Taupo, I finally went there for breakfast. With the contemporary and friendly interior, it has something of a living room atmosphere which welcomes you to stay for a while. However, the highlight is the lake view! I sat at the window and couldn’t concentrate on the newspaper as my eyes were drawn out to the beautiful lake again and again.
There are a few vegan options on the menu, clearly labelled vegan without the need to skip animal-derived ingredients. I had the only vegan breakfast: the Vegan Warrior, consisting of coconut creamy mushrooms, avocado, cherry tomatoes, baby spinach and hemp pesto served with toasted ciabatta. Nicely arranged on the plate and with a pleasing mix of flavours, this was the perfect start into the day.
For later in the day, the Social Club comes with a full bar and a great array of craft beers.
Find it at: 100 Lake Terrace, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Mon – Sun 7:30 till late
10. Lotus Thai
Tasty Thai food and friendly service.
The Lotus Thai restaurant I actually visited on a later trip than the other eateries, in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, when New Zealand had just gone down to alert level 2 and restaurants and cafés were allowed to open again after a break of about seven weeks. This was my first meal at a restaurant in months and I was excited to get back a little piece of normality.
I chose a table right at the window, watching passers-by on the sidewalk and enjoying the view of the park across the road. Only one other table was occupied, and the waiter really looked after me, taking his time to explain the vegan options. Actually, most of the vegetarian meals are vegan or can be made vegan, such as the curries and stir fries.
The Panang curry was beautifully creamy with a lovely mix of a light coconut flavour, veggies, kaffir lime and peanuts. The presentation was pleasing as well: the curry itself was served in a separate beautiful bowl and the rice came in a star shape on the plate.
Find it at: 137 Tongariro Street, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
Hours: Tue – Sat 12:00 – 14:00 & 17:00 till late, Sun 17:00 till late
Do you know an awesome vegan-friendly eatery or do you want to see your own place featured here? Then leave a comment below or send me a message.
The image was kindly provided by The Cozy Corner.