2 Stancombe Rd, Flat Bush, Manukau City
Tel: +64 9 274 4880
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 4:30pm
THE WATER DROP Vege Café is very different to most of the vegetarian or vegan restaurants you’ll encounter around Auckland. Instead of the usual fairly typical restaurant or café, this setting is quite remarkable because the café is to be found on the picturesque grounds of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple. Even though the location is only minutes from the shopping frenzy of Botany Downs and the industrial areas of East Tamaki, the Temple is as tranquil as if it were located in the rural hinterlands of Asia.
The café itself (or the Tea House as it’s referred to on the Temple’s website), is a small restaurant with a peaceful environment, rustic wooden tables and benches, friendly staff and most importantly, good food. The menu isn’t large, mostly comprising of snacks, soups, stir-fries and noodle dishes. There’s also a daily set lunch made up of three or four pre-cooked dishes.
I’ve worked in this area for most of the year but had never tried the Water Drop Vege Café until a friend of mind suggested I give it a try. Since then, in the space of about three weeks, I’ve been back about five times, along with my brother Greg, who despite being a certified carnivore is more than happy to tag along for lunch. There’s only one way to start off a meal here, and that’s with the BBQ Bun, which is a soft steamed bun filled with a tangy yet sweet BBQ mix. You get two of them for $5, which theoretically makes them an ideal shared starter but it’s almost impossible to only eat only one, so bear this in mind.
My brother loves the Laksa soup, which is a spicy dish filled with noodles and assorted meaty treats (tofu and soy of course). I’ve yet to try it but he assures me that it’s a stunner. I’m slowly working my way through the menu, having tried the cabinet lunch, the BBQ won ton noodles, the won ton noodle soup and the ‘lucky’ noodle soup. All of these dishes have been tasty, hearty food, with perhaps only the cabinet lunch trending towards plainer (yet still moreish) fare.
The best so far has to be the won ton noodle soup, with its thin broth, bok choy and carrots, mince, tofu and won tons. In almost every dish, you’re dealing with fake meat, which might be troublesome if your vegan attitudes shy away from stuff that looks, feels and tastes like meat.
Orders are placed at the counter but the meals usually arrive at the tables in minutes. The prices are quite reasonable, with most main meals costing between $9 and $12.50.
While the food can’t quite match the wonders of the much-missed Rulei in Henderson (and so far, only Loving Hut in San Francisco can match Rulei in my experience), it’s still very enjoyable, and when the relaxing atmosphere and mellow setting are taken into account, the Water Drop Vege Café is well worth the trek out to Flat Bush. If you live nearby, it could well become a regular hangout. ASHLEY KRAMER