A tour of Suva’s plant-based dining scene

Niu Grillz chef Sikipio Fihaki

By Vittoria Pasca

The plant-based dining scene has been steadily growing in Suva in the last few years, thanks to the opening of new vegetarian restaurants and eateries, and an increasing number of traditional restaurants adding tasty vegan-friendly dishes to their menu.

Here are some options to check out.

Health Veggie Restaurant 

Equally popular among vegetarians and meat-eaters, Veggie Restaurant has become a must stop for those looking for creative vegetarian cuisine in Fiji’s capital. Ranging from Chinese and Italian flavours to burgers and fancy desserts, their menu has an option for everyone. 

The home-made dumplings, the vegan calzone and the sizzling tofu deserve a special mention. Veggie restaurant is also the only restaurant in Fiji serving tempeh (try the Japanese tempeh rice or the tempeh burger), which they produce themselves and sell on the side too.    

The peaceful atmosphere, the consistent quality of the food and the friendliness of the “Veggie family” have contributed over the years to the success of this tiny restaurant in Flagstaff. 

If you’re vegan, you’ll be happy to know that most of the dishes (and cakes) are, or can be made vegan, so just make sure to let the owners know when placing your order.

Veggie Rest. Mushroom and sprout rolls
Veggie Rest. Mushroom and sprout rolls
Veggie Rest. Vegan calzone
Veggie Rest. Vegan calzone

Sun Smiles Café 

Sun Smiles café at the Hope Clinic is the go to place if you’re looking for a healthy and nutritious bite at lunchtime. In addition to their pita sandwich and burgers, they serve four different dishes that change daily. These generally include a starchy crop, a couple of local vegetables and a protein option such as legumes or soy-based meatless balls. This is also a good spot for a healthy snack as they sell low-sugar desserts and fruit smoothies. 

The clinic next-door promotes lifestyle (and diet) change as a major component of disease prevention and treatment. And the café is there to show how easy, satisfying and affordable switching to a balanced plant-rich diet can be. 

All the dishes are vegan but some of the sweets might occasionally contain honey, so make sure to double-check if you don’t eat this ingredient.  

The café is inside the FNPF Downtown Boulevard mall, close to some popular bula fashion outlets.  

Indian eateries 

If you’re in the mood for Indian food, you’ll find several vegetarian eateries around Suva serving Fiji-Indian classics. The options change daily but generally include a variety of dhal, chickpea or bean curries, as well as several vegetable curries made from Fijian produce. Govinda and the Hare Krishna restaurants – both have several outlets around town – or Bollywood in the Tappoo food court are some of the more popular spots. 

These restaurants are generally lacto-vegetarian (they include dairy end exclude eggs), so if you’re vegan make sure to confirm which dishes are free from dairy cream, paneer, butter and ghee.   

Govinda thali

Vegan options in omnivore restaurants

If you are keen to eat Fiji’s traditional vegetables, you’ll be happy to know that some popular local restaurants are now adding vegan options to their menus. Head to the Bar Belle, Niu Grillz or Kanalevu Kitchen to try their delicious Pacific flavours. 

The Bar Belle at the National Fitness centre (still known as “Rabuka gym” to locals) along Queen Elizabeth Drive serves local food and several delicious vegetable dishes. You can taste them all in the Vegan Platter or order them separately as sides, such as the rourou (taro leaves), crispy eggplant, ota (edible fern) or the nama (local sea grapes) salad. Their specials change daily, so don’t hesitate to ask on the day if they have any other vegetarian or vegan options. Don’t miss the Thai noodle salad if they have it on the specials board!

Niu Grillz used to be known mostly for its smoked meat dishes, but is now increasingly exploring plant-based cuisine too. Its menu generally has at least one vegan dish showcasing local vegetables, like the palusami (coconut cream parcels wrapped in taro leaves) or their signature veggie bake (seasonal vegetables cooked in coconut milk). They can be ordered as sides or as mains, in which case they’re served together with salad and cassava fries. 

Niu Grillz Veggie bake with ota
Veggie bake with ota at Niu Grillz

All their dishes are cooked daily based on market availability, so if you’re vegan, it’s a good idea to call them to check the options on the day, and order in advance.  

Another local favourite, Kanalevu Kitchen, has a dish called the Vegan Delight showcasing seasonal local vegetables and island fries which you can enjoy on their lovely deck next to the FMF Gymnasium. 

An Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Garden City complex also has a few vegetarian options on the menu. These include salads, tofu dishes as well as Vietnamese rolls. Most of the vegetarian options can be made vegan, so make sure to check which ones can be prepared without eggs, dairy and fish sauce.  

And if you’re heading to the Fiji Museum, don’t forget to stop at Ginger Kitchen for coffee, lunch or a smoothie. The vegetarian options generally include a burger, a salad and a pasta dish. 

Since 2018, Suva has also had its local plant-based festival, VegFest Fiji. Check their Facebook page for upcoming events.

This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, July-September 2023.

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