Plant-based paradise at Lyall Bay's The Botanist

Soak up the sun at this seaside café, serving up vegan and vegetarian delights for brunch, lunch and dinner


Lyall Bay


219 Onepu Road
Lyall Bay

The Botanist is a popular plant-based eatery in Lyall Bay, one of Wellington’s most beautiful suburbs. Right across the road from stunning Lyall Bay Beach, it’s open all day, every day and welcomes all members of the family (including the furry ones).

You won’t find meat on The Botanist’s menu, but that doesn’t mean it’s just for the health conscious. Alongside lighter options, you can fill up on juicy burgers with fries, massive breakfast fry-ups and other hearty comfort food, as well as craft beer on tap, organic wine and botanical cocktails.

Taking the plant-based plunge

Sisters Lydia Suggate and Maria Boyle opened The Botanist in 2017. ‘I’d wanted to do something plant-based for a while, but I wasn’t sure if Wellington was ready for it,’ Lydia says. She wanted The Botanist to cater to all tastes and appetites, rather than limiting itself to ‘either healthy food or junk food’. The menu changes seasonally, but you’ll always find a range of drool-worthy burgers and brunch favourites.

Special mention goes to The Big Lyall, a breakfast extravaganza that puts your standard bacon and eggs to shame: free-range eggs on toast, facon, hash brown, wilted spinach, spicy beans, soy sausage, sumac roasted tomato, battered jalapeños and hollandaise. 

I can’t believe it’s not …

Imitation meats feature heavily on the menu: ‘They’re good for transitioning vegans,’ Lydia says. There’s facon, soy sausage, ‘chicken’, ‘brisket’ and ‘mince’, all deliciously seasoned and meaty enough to satisfy the most rampant carnivore at your table. One of the biggest showstoppers is, unbelievably, a flower: banana blossoms that have the exact texture of fish, battered and served up with crispy, golden chips.

The dinner menu contains an array of shareable small plates, salads and big belly-fillers like lasagne, ragù, cauliflower steak and tacos, all showcasing seasonal vegetables. It caters for not only gluten-free diets but also oil-free, nut-free and onion-and-garlic-free.

Come one, come all

Lydia is no stranger to the food-and-drink biz (she has been involved in several Wellington institutions, including LBQ, Beach Babylon, Nolita and Bebemos), but The Botanist has a special place in her heart. That’s because Lyall Bay is home to her – she lives right down the road and loves the fact that The Botanist has become a gathering place for locals. Kids of all ages are catered for, with high chairs, colouring-in materials and a toy box, and there are dog beds in the fenced beer garden where your pooch can relax after a romp on the beach.

History by the seaside

The building itself has a rich past, stretching back to the 1920s when it was a tearoom. It later became a boarding house and was then divided into three flats before falling into disrepair. It got a full makeover when The Botanist moved in, but Lydia and Maria kept the fit-out simple, out of respect for the site’s legacy: ‘We wanted to keep the character of the building.’

That means fresh white walls, black-and-white tiled floors and dozens of verdant plants hanging from the ceiling. It’s light, bright and airy, befitting the seaside location. Sit out front for a dazzling ocean view, or head back to the beer garden, perfect for soaking up the sun while sheltering from Wellington’s notorious wind.

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