I dropped by Blue Bird Vegetarian Cafe (another tip from Carla) for a late brunch on Saturday morning. It's a slice of old school vegetarianism and associated with Sri Chimnoy, an unsophisticated, cheery and meditative place stocked with spiritual brochures and books. The staff were uniformly lovely and down to earth - the first I encountered urged me not to rush my ordering decision, the second helpfully walked me through my options, and a third later engaged me in a thoughtful conversation about my work.
The menu is entirely vegetarian with plentiful vegan and gluten-free options, clearly marked. It's centred around a display case of salads, sandwiches and cakes plus 'gourmet bowls' from the kitchen, where you select a starch (rice, potato, kumara) and one of half a dozen stews (such peanut satay or chilli black bean). There's also nachos and burgers, juices and smoothies
I focused on the sausage rolls in the cabinet ($NZ4 ~AU$3.60) and ordered cauliflower salad (NZ$7.00 ~ AU$6.40) to fill out the meal. The roll was small and mostly puff pastry; when I dug down to the filling it was much like my own - nutty, but with a little added carrot. The salad was the right ingredients in slightly unbalanced proportions - the enormous chunks of raw cauliflower were tough to take on, and the dressing was a little heavy on the vinegar, but I loved the fresh peas, and the capers and greens were nice accents.
When I saw iced chai on the menu ($NZ7.50 + 1.50 ~$AU6.80 + 1.40 for rice/soy milk), I had to try again. It was very sweet and milky, with a spoon of cream in the top but (I could barely believe it) it actually used real tea. A bit milkshakey, but easily the best I've ordered thus far.
The Blue Bird isn't going to win any awards for innovation but it has a calm and welcoming atmosphere and plenty of nourishing food at reasonable prices - the ideal complement to Merediths' degustation further down Dominion Rd.
In addition to the two posts on easy as vegan pie, The Blue Bird also gets a thumbs-up on Cheap Eats.
The Blue Bird Vegetarian Cafe
299 Dominion Rd, Mount Eden, Auckland
+ 64 9 623 4900
veg meals NZ$9.00-15.50 ~ AU$8.20-14.00
Accessibility: The entry appeared flat and tables inside were moderately spaced. I ordered and paid at a low-ish counter and my meal was delivered to my table. Gendered toilets are located up a flights of fairly steep stairs, but are roomy once you get there.