Midnight Espresso in Wellington is my happy place. When we visit New Zealand’s capital, chances are high we got a cheap flight that lands us there stupidly early with no hotel check-in for several hours. A visit to Midnight Espresso is a no-brainer: what better place to chill for half a morning, than hunched over a stack of French toast that’s slowly absorbing the maple syrup you just drowned it in? Midnight Espresso makes me wish there were more meals in the day.

Midnight Espresso
At left: A snapshot of the art-filled space that is Midnight Espresso. On the right, a breakfast stack with a hash brown, vegan mayo, hummus, pesto, wilted greens and more.

Speaking of happy places – for my partner, his is Aunty Mena’s, primarily because of their ‘chicken’ drumsticks made from tofu skin, battered and served with sweet chilli sauce. They are exceptional, golden, greasy sticks of delight. Personally, I can’t resist a wonton noodle soup. Aunty Mena’s are intensely flavoured; the vegetable filling had the texture of shredded radish, and the broth was subtle and satisfying. The bok choy made me feel less guilty about the drumsticks.

Aunty Mena Vegetarian Restaurant
On the left: ‘Chicken’ drumsticks, and on the right: fried noodles and wonton noodle soup – both from Aunty Mena’s.

Little Beer Quarter is a beer-focused bar with a pub-meets-hipster vibe and a top-notch pub-style menu – with a few vegan-friendly options. We plumped for the mushroom sliders, which are served on a slightly sweet bun with lentil encrusted mushrooms, iceberg lettuce and sauce. Simple and satisfying. And if you’re not enjoying a Garage Project beer there, definitely try it at the Garage Project brewery itself; nearly all of their beers are vegan-friendly.

Little Beer Quarter
Vegan sliders at the Little Beer Quarter.

Yeah, we went back to Midnight Espresso. Several times.

Midnight Espresso
Vegan ‘Middy’ from Midnight Espresso. A black bean pattie with the works.

If you’re seeing a film at the Embassy (which you really ought to do), there are vegan options galore just next door at Deluxe.

Deluxe
Rice salad and apple pie from Deluxe.

While I am certain that there are plenty of fine establishments serving delicious vegan-friendly food in Wellington, we clearly gave a lot of our custom to Midnight Espresso, which I hope is indicative of the quality. But with French toast like this available, it’s always worth a visit or two, or three.

Midnight Espresso
Vegan French toast from Midnight Espresso.