If pōhutukawa-woodfired roasted courgette with buckweat miso and peach chutney sounds delicious then you might be one of a growing number of New Zealanders predicted to eat more vegan and vegetarian meals this year.

The entree on offer at Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby, Auckland, is a vegan, dairy and gluten-free dish dreamed up by owner and chef Tom Hishon.

And it's one of about half of the meals on the menu that are made from meat-free ingredients.

Hishon's focus on vegetables in cooking is borne out in survey results by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand, which shows vegan and vegetarianism are key trends expected to make an impact on the New Zealand food scene this year.

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An increased use of technology, including being able to order and pay for your meal without wait staff, and more emphasis on exceptional experiences for diners, are among other trends identified in the survey of 100 hospitality businesses.

Another of Hishon's creations includes semolina-based pasta, roasted capsicums with capsicum sauce and buffalo curd.

"When we have amazing access to beautiful produce we really want to highlight these organic ingredients," Hishon said.

"We just explore lots of different ways of making vegetables delicious. You can have the same sort of meaty texture and satisfaction from eating vegetables cooked in a certain way, as you would meat or fish."

Hishon believes using seasonal vegetables for maximum flavour and not just adding them as a garnish is want diners want.

"There's no real purpose to that."

He uses organic produce from Kelmarna Gardens as well as five other organic vegetable farmers, including in Waiwera and Thames.

An entree made from vegetables at Orphans Kitchen. Plant-based meals are predicted to make a big come back this year. Photo / Supplied
An entree made from vegetables at Orphans Kitchen. Plant-based meals are predicted to make a big come back this year. Photo / Supplied

Hishon said New Zealanders first began waking up to the benefits of veganism and vegetarianism in the 1970s and '80s but those who opted not to eat meat were "tarred with the hippy brush".

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Nowadays Hishon believes there's no stigma against those who choose to eat less meat.

"People are more aware of what they're eating now. All the research is there, that high meat diets aren't necessarily good for your body, and the way that a lot of meat is farmed is unethical."

He said gone are the days of loading up at the buffet in an all you can eat race - diners want tasty, healthy, smaller-portioned alternatives.

"We choose dishes that have got punchier flavours. I know if I overeat I feel pretty rubbish and I think as a whole people are a lot more aware of what they're eating, where it's come from and the effects it's going to have on themselves."

Hishon said even children were lapping up meal times at his restaurant, which has been open almost six years.

"I think the more vegetables we can eat and the more we can grow in our own homes the better."

The survey, conducted in January, asked respondents to share what they thought would be the biggest hospitality business, and food and beverage trends for the year ahead.

The move to plant-based food came through as the single biggest trend with one third of respondents forecasting its growth.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the global trend toward wellness coupled with a focus on environmental concerns and animal welfare was having an impact on consumer interest in more plant-based menu items.

"Many of our members have already adjusted their menus accordingly and offer either vegan or vegetarian food options, and/or have a focus on using local and sustainable produce."

Key findings of Restuarant Association survey

• One third forecast an increase in vegan/vegetarian and plant-based offerings
• 22 per cent forecast a need to deliver exceptional and bespoke hospitality experiences to diners
• 20 per cent mentioned a move toward greater use of technology