Tucked discreetly away on Summer Street, Little Bird Unbakery in Ponsonby is undoubtedly an Auckland hotspot. Hotspot only in the figurative sense though because there is no high heat cooking going on here; nothing is cooked over 46 degrees, to be specific. Amidst this melting pot of cacao, coconut oil, and dedicated health nuts (no pun intended) is a little slice of ethical sustenance that’s delicious enough to convert any sugar-loving, meat-eating foodie into a happy little vegan for the day, and now the night.
With its soft glowing light, exposed bricks, and that calming delicate chatter, Little Bird is a retreat in itself for a Friday night out, as I gratefully just discovered. Curious to test out the menu and see if the popular raw vegan café could continue to shine in the moonlight, my friend and I booked a table for our weekend “date night”, and what we discovered was, in my opinion, even better than the daytime trip.
It may at times feel too sceney and too crowded when the sun’s out, but step inside Little Bird at night and it’s anything but. For one you have to book, so that alleviates the queues and that all too familiar “sorry, it’s about a forty five minute wait for a table” weekend story. The setting too seems to lend itself better to the nighttime vibes; there’s something about the cosy space and serene ambiance that becomes much more magical come twilight. Think lengthy discussions with good company, an intelligent choice for dinner in more ways than one.
Be warned; there’s not even a glass of organic wine on the menu. This sanctuary is an alcohol-free zone. Cocktails come in the form of kombucha concoctions, with teas aplenty and their famed cacao “hot chocolates” for a post-dinner treat. Sorry to all the smoothie and fresh juice junkies too, these ones are whisked away with the sun.
Designed to be shared, the menu is separated into ‘Little Shared Plates of Botanical Goodness’ and ‘Large Botanical Shared Plates’; the former consisting of Kale Chips, Spring Rolls, Slow Cooked Baby Beets, their famous raw Tacos (familiar from the lunch menu, minus the cauliflower rice; these in themselves have developed a cult following), and a weekly special; the latter including a Seasonal Market Plate Special, Kumura Gnocchi, Middle Eastern Plate, and a Kimchee Pancake.
Before even arriving I knew I simply had to have the raw tacos if they were the menu; my friend had no choice in the matter. Having never tried them this plate was a no-brainer for me, especially considering this is probably the most talked about Little Bird dish, and now I know why. These melt in your mouth handmade tacos with their Mexican mushrooms, avocado, and jalapeño slaw are not only wonderfully light but the balance of fresh, zesty flavours is like some sort of edible godliness. And to think I thought the raw vegan tacos at Gracias Madre in LA were good, these delights put that WeHo fare to shame.
Not a fan of potato gnocchi, or potatoes at all for that matter, I was eager to try the kumura version. This sweet little root vegetable is a bit of an obsession of mine, making its way into almost all of my homemade salads. Served with oyster mushrooms, tarragon cream, pine nut parmesan, and pickled onions, and nestled upon a bed of healthy greens, this was the antithesis of a stodgy pasta dish. Undeniably delicious and surprisingly filling, these little bites of goodness (and boy were they good) made for two very content customers. Better than the real thing too, in my humble (*cough* potato-hating) opinion.
With three options on the menu and a cabinet full of all their delectable sweet treats (think raw tarts, cheesecakes and slices), it took about five minutes of staring at the offerings to decide what to have. Alas, it was tart time; I settled on the rich chocolate and hazelnut option while my friend had the raspberry and ginger variety. Ermahgerd. Cue serious foodgasm.
I can’t even begin to put into words how incredible this slice of heaven was. I don’t even know how something this delicious could be good for you. Dairy-free, gluten free and, of course, refined sugar free, it’s the perfect guilt free treat and the very best nightcap. The raspberry and ginger one was good too, but mine was better, plus I’d never cheat on chocolate. What can I say? I’m loyal.
Satisfied, but not stuffed, this was the ideal amount for a light and healthy dinner, and a welcome change from my usual over-indulgent Friday feasts.
It’s kind of funny, step inside Little Bird and all of a sudden you become some clean-eating, meat-opposing, wholesome ideal of your former self; a notion my friends and I discussed while enjoying our raw vegan breakfasts there last week. Could I adopt this lifestyle everyday? Absolutely not; not because I couldn’t live without meat, that part would be easy, but a. because I can’t quite say no to organic milk in my coffees and b. I’m a terrible cook and this kind of dining requires some serious culinary expertise (and some pretty pricey equipment in the form of an industrial strength blender, juicer and a dehydrator at minimum). For now I’ll leave it to the professionals.
Little Bird lovingly cultivates this wonderfully soulful dining experience. It’s a microcosm of goodness and a world away from the local lineup. It’s the kind of place you should go if you want to unwind and forget the stressful week. Instead of indulging in too many cocktails and some overpriced food, take the saintly alternative and treat yourself with some nourishing whole foods. Skip the hangover and wake up feeling light and fresh. You’re body will love you for it and you’ll even make that 8am yoga class. Namaste.
Note: Little Bird Unbakery in Summer Street is open for dinners Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 6pm-10pm. To make a booking email firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ve just released their cookbook too if you feel like trying your hand as a raw vegan chef.