A New Experience... Visiting New Zealand
(AKA The Diary of A Really Picky Vegan Who Hates Rice And All Asian & Indian Food)
By Shari Black Velvet
Usually when I head off on travels I go west. Often to New Jersey… or New York. However, this time, things were different. I was going somewhere…er… new. I went down under. I actually headed all the way to NEW Zealand.
Never will I complain about a short flight to the US again. It actually took me about 30 hours, with connections to get to New Zealand. Picture the scene – Birmingham to Dubai (about 9 hours). Change planes. Dubai to Melbourne (about 14 hours). Get off, walk through security and round the airport only to get on the same plane after it’s refuelled. And then Melbourne to Auckland (3 ½ hours or something like that). I left the UK on November 29th. I landed on December 1st.
The flights ended up all being delayed by an hour or so. We actually landed in Auckland an hour and a half later than our scheduled time. That, coupled with the fact that going through customs and immigration took FOREVER, meant that I didn’t get to go to the vegan store in Auckland the day I arrived. I got to my hotel at about 6.30pm. After checking in, checking my internet connection and checking my hair (lol) I went to see if I could find any vegan food. Although I’d travelled and hardly slept for 30 hours, as soon as my feet land on foreign soil I need to go exploring. The energy drink that I gulped down before getting to security in Melbourne helped a bit…
The nearest veggie place to my hotel was (Revive) at 16 Fort Street (http://www.revive.co.nz) although at 7.30pm they didn’t seem to have that many options. They have different meals every day and you can choose from a selection at the counter. They also have a salad bar and sell smoothies and small cookies/treats at the counter too. There is another Revive in the city on Lorne Street. I liked that it was next to a place called 'Velvet Burger' - although I don't think their burgers were vegan-friendly. Or velvety, for that matter.
I ended up deciding to carry on and see what else was around (Even if I’m hungry, I’m still picky!). I ended up at Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant. This is located at 50 High Street. There were a small group of food outlets together and Sunflower was in the middle. You have to walk up an aisle to get to them towards the back of the building. Sunflower is predominantly an asian restaurant (too bad I don’t like asian food!). Open until 9pm Monday to Friday meant that I had time to sit and eat. The female member of staff that served me was very polite and friendly. There is a good selection of food on the menu although most is asian. I opted for fries and a vegetarian bacon burger. You can choose a small or large burger. I chose the small, since I wasn’t sure I’d really like it. The burger included carrots and lettuce. It wasn’t bad although not as nice as the western vegan bacon that you can get. No complaints from me on the fries... I ate all of them. If you like asian food you will probably love this place though. A nice place with friendly staff and with a variety of food that’s not too expensive.
On my second day in Auckland – my first full day - I knew I had to go to the vegan store. The vegan store is called SAFE. Or rather, it’s SAFE’s Cruelty Free Shop as SAFE is an animal rights campaign group in New Zealand. SAFE is short for Save Animals From Exploitation. They have an online store which I’d checked out so I was super-excited to go to the actual shop. I knew I had to buy some goodies, so trekked over to 179 Karangahape Road. I discovered that Karangahape Road is actually a pretty cool road with some charity shops and second hand stores. Before I got to the vegan shop I’d already bought two tops and a jacket (awesome velvet tops for $10 = WIN!). SAFE’s Cruelty Free Shop is located in St. Kevin’s Arcade, which is a spotless little arcade. The shop is quite small but it has lots of things to buy – both inside and out. There was a rail outside with cruelty-free campaign T-shirts for sale and a table with animal rights leaflets and info on. Inside the shop had everything from vegan cosmetics to chilled and frozen food such as soya cheese (they even have Sheese which is made in the UK) and ice-cream, non-frozen food, household products and more. I ended up buying a Lentil and Potato Pie as well as some marshmallows, Twilight bars, a pack of vanilla macaroons and Frooze Balls. As I had a microwave in my hotel it meant that I could heat the lentil and potato pie up – so when I got back to my hotel that evening (after walking a million miles to Mission Bay!) I tried the lentil and potato pie. It tasted awesome! In fact, I tried to go back to the store a few days later to buy another but they aren’t open on Mondays (the day I went back), so unfortunately I couldn’t get another. Gutted! If I lived in Auckland I would go to SAFE’s Cruelty Free Shop all the time. In fact, if I lived in New Zealand at all, I’d order from their website - http://www.choosecrueltyfree.org.nz. Definitely one of the coolest things about Auckland.
There were other vegetarian eateries along Karangahape Road – unfortunately due to my visit being short I didn’t get chance to go in them. Rasoi Vegetarian Restaurant was just a couple of minutes away from SAFE’s store. Rasoi is at 211 Karangahape Road and is an Indian restaurant. Across the street was Hare Krishna’s Food For Life Vegetarian Restaurant at 268 Karangahape Road. Definitely the street to visit if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
A day later I took a flight to Wellington, met a friend and after a walk around the waterfront went in search of vegan food. Unfortunately Wellington wasn’t quite as vegan-friendly as Auckland. That said, probably my best meal was from Wellington. But we’ll get to that later. Wellington DID have some cool health stores including Commonsense Organics which is a little like Wholefoods except on a smaller scale. They sold a range of health products and organic products including vegan food although the store wasn’t all vegan or vegetarian. There are a couple of Commonsense Organics in Wellington – the one we went into was at 267 Wakefield Street. www.commonsenseorganics.co.nz
They also have the smaller Homestead Health Food Shop at Cuba Mall. We found Higher Taste Restaurant at the corner of Custom House Quay and Hunter Street. Higher Taste is another Hare Krishna restaurant. You only see the name in the window as you have to go down a few steps to the door.
Like the Hare Krishna place in Auckland, the food choice was not too extensive, so we didn’t stop to eat. Instead I made my friend walk all the way to Cuba Street to see what was up there. I later wished we’d just stayed at Higher Taste as the place we ended up in had hardly any vegan food – although they did do me a soya hot chocolate (joy!). Also, Aunty Mena’s, also on Cuba Street, looked promising when we saw the sign – with ‘Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant’ lit up. Although it turns out it serves malaysian and chinese food, which neither of us wanted.
Next day, my other friend arrived and after a few hours spent walking from Island Bay to Sinclair Head (we REALLY wanted to see the seals, but there were none around, sob...), we heads back to Cuba Street. I had Kreuzburg Summer Café listed in my ‘vegan-friendly cafes’ list – so we got off at the nearest bus stop and found the café. Interestingly it’s an outdoor café at the end of a road. Unfortunately it had stopped selling veggie burgers and sausages, so with dejected looks on our faces (or at least mine), we left to continue the search. This is where the coolest food on the trip pops up. Just as my stomach is about to scream ‘Shariiiiii, what are you dooooooing to meee?’ we stop at an Italian Pizza Place. I’d spotted this the night before, when we were in Cuba Street. We’d already ordered in another café and while we were waiting for the food to come, I decided to be anti-social, leave my friend sitting there and go for a walk up the road to see what else was around! Although I didn’t find a good vegan place, I did stumble across a vegan pizza diner that had a vegan pizza on its menu. Mission accomplished. It has a vegan Romana Pizza on its menu… so we sat and ordered one of those. Damn… it was amazing. Best thing ever! It was a cheeseless pizza but it tasted as good as a soya cheese pizza. I was in Heaven. It was as if it was my birthday and I’d just been given the best present in the whole world. www.italiano.co.nz Seriously… I never knew cheeseless pizza could taste so good.
It’s a shame we were leaving Wellington the next morning as I’d have loved to go back to Caffe Italiano for another vegan pizza, but alas, we had a flight back to Auckland. Being in Auckland gave me chance to visit more vegan places there though. I found Golden Age at 61 Victoria Street West, which is the first 100% vegan restaurant in Auckland. I could feel multiple red heart symbols popping out of my eyes when I caught sight of the restaurant. With ‘Be Veg Go Green Save The Planet’ written above it, it was love at first sight! Unfortunately, the bad news (for me) is that again, it’s an asian type of restaurant. The menu includes lots of soup, tofu, curry, fake meats such as ‘not-duck’ and ‘not-chicken’… and… rice. Their desserts include ice-cream, steam sesame buns and various cakes. I bought a cheesecake to take away (and then ended up having another vegan pizza at a pizza place... It wasn't as good as Caffe Italiano's though). The diner is a part of the Supreme Master TV chain (which have Loving Huts in the UK). They also had a small table outside with some animal rights leaflets. They’re open from 11.30am until 9.30pm Tuesday – Saturday and 4.30pm – 9.30pm Sunday and Monday. Check http://www.veganrestaurant.co.nz for more info.
My trip to New Zealand was fun. Although on occasion it was a bit of a trek to find good vegan food (my suitcase of crisps always comes in handy), I did discover some nice places. Asian cuisine definitely seems to dominate. That said, I now know that if ever I’m getting desperate, I can always just have a cheeseless pizza at a regular pizza store, and it should suffice my cravings (as long as the base is vegan). Vegetarianism and veganism is becoming more and more common and accepted. Every time a non-vegan friend has been with me for a vegan meal they’ve loved it. Although this trip to New Zealand was a new experience and one I’ll remember forever, I think next time I’ll stick to New York or New Jersey. At least the flight is shorter.