The Lotus Heart Vegetarian Restaurant
363 St Asaph Street, Christchurch
03 377 2727
The Herb Centre Cafe
223 Kilmore Street, Christchurch
03 365 3011
A RECENT WEEKEND stay in the Christchurch CBD turned up a couple of real gems for vegetarian foodies. I have to admit that we’d never have found either of these places had hubby not googled for ‘vege’ restaurants before we arrived, anxious to make sure we didn’t go hungry during our three days away.
Let’s start with The Lotus Heart Vegetarian Restaurant, and should you decide to visit their website for more details, please don’t be put off by the fact that there’s quite a ‘spiritual’ overtone to it. If anything, I’m sure this only enhances the quality of the food. Having dined here, I can assure you that this is a great restaurant, with lovely staff, a very pretty setting and fabulous food – how could that not nurture your soul?
Trading since 1996 and most recently formerly located in the historic Post Office building in Cathedral Square, the LH was forced to relocate following the closure of the PO building following the earthquake. Now to be found in St Asaph Street, the restaurant is located in the Sri Chinmoy Centre, along with a small gift shop, health store and music shop.
The menu offers a good range of choices, some vegan, and some can be made vegan on request. The (non-alcoholic) drinks/smoothies menu is good too. We opted for the home made ginger beer. I started with soup of the day, a thick,creamy carrot and kumara mix, served in a mug which was generous enough as an entrée. I also thoroughly enjoyed my Sun Burger, a tasty sunflower seed pattie, with melted cheese, house chutney, mayo, gherkins, tomato and lettuce, on Turkish bread, served with salad. For an extra $2.50 I was able to choose vegan ‘cheese’ – no, it’s not the same as traditional dairy cheese, but it does adds the same creaminess in dishes that benefit from a little ‘ooze’ factor. I had a small taste of the Zen Sticks which hubby enjoyed as his entrée: these were skewered tempeh cubes, grilled and served with some sort of sauce, which he followed with a vegetable pizza (with vegan cheese of course). We considered trying the delectable sounding ‘double layer vegan chocolate cake’ for dessert, but decided that would be just too greedy, as we’d polished off two courses already and sent embarrassingly clean plates back to the kitchen!
If you plan to visit this restaurant for dinner, I heartily recommend that you make a booking (we had, luckily) as the night we dined it was full, and we noted that a couple of groups had to be regretfully turned away. Now, I’m not going to name-drop, but suffice to say that I did recognise one diner in the restaurant that evening, even though I was not a local. His presence at the LH was validation enough for me to believe that no animals were hurt in the making of any of the dinners, and that all the cows, chickens and goats who happily surrendered their milk and eggs were tucked up SAFE in their cosy homes for the night. [Oh, I get it! – Slow On The Uptake Ed]. The LH is open for breakfast and lunch most days and dinner on Friday/Saturday night. If you’re in Christchurch, it’s definitely worth a visit.
The Herb Centre Café is another great choice, for breakfast or lunch. Attached to a Wellness Centre/clinic and dispensary, this small eatery offers ‘nutritional plant-based cuisine’. All food is made on the premises and there are dairy free and vegan options available.
The Potato & Kumara Rösti served with a selection of salads and house-made chutney (gluten free, dairy free, vegan) was very tasty. The selection of salads here is great, and not only do they taste good, but they are pretty gorgeous to look at too.
The café has an excellent range of hot and cold drinks and smoothies. It seems I’m starting to develop a special interest in ‘ginger tonics’, and this time I was offered the choice of having it hot or cold. I chose hot and it was amazing, warming it seemed to really bring out the heat of the ginger and the sweetness of what I think (hope) was honey – it would have been the perfect choice of beverage with breakfast too, or with a dessert.
When we arrived at about 1.30pm on a Friday, the cafe was really busy, but we did get a table. Much like The Lotus Heart, The Herb Centre Café obviously has a devout following, and I can see why, in both cases.
I love Christchurch, and it was good to see that although the city may be broken, it is slowly on the mend and it will be beautiful again. And now I have two more reasons to want to return time and time again, to check on progress in our lovely garden city. CARRIE STEELE