Nestled between two oceans and home to some fantastic produce, there is much to savour in Auckland. The seafood is incredible, the fruits and vegetables are flavourful, and the wine is excellent. Indeed, New Zealand’s largest city has a thriving culinary scene thanks to its collection of award-winning restaurants and cafes. Here are some of the best restaurants in Auckland.
A meal with a view
If you have just one splurge meal on your Auckland itinerary, head to The Sugar Club. Chef Peter Gordon’s acclaimed restaurant is on Level 53 of the city’s iconic Sky Tower. Get a bird’s eye view of Auckland, its harbour, and many of the volcanic islands that surround it.
As the sun sets and the city lights come on, Auckland takes on a magical quality. The food matches the ambience of 1930s Art Deco glamour. Locally sourced, fresh New Zealand produce gets an international treatment, not to mention some distinct Asian influences. There’s sashimi paired with turmeric daikon and crispy wakame, sesame-miso baked aubergine, and octopus carpaccio with miso egg yolk. There’s even a duck breast with Mughlai korma, a combination that worked much to my surprise.
Don’t miss the addictively delicious creamed paua (abalone) served with kiwi dip and a traditional Māori fry-bread (above pic). The Hawke’s Bay lamb rump served with smoked kumara (sweet potato) mash is another winner. The restaurant has an extensive and excellent wine list.
Back to roots
Husband and wife duo, Ed & Laura Verner opened Pasture in late 2016 in Parnell, Auckland’s upmarket suburb. The tiny, minimalist restaurant is already one of the best restaurants in Auckland. Also, Ed Verner won the ‘Chef of the Year’ award last year.
Most dishes are cooked over open fire and techniques such as fermentation, pickling, and preserving are liberally used.
What could easily devolve into a pretentious meal is elevated to an experience. Over three hours, the chef themselves prepare and serve a multi-course set menu. Drinks include biodynamic wines and ciders or natural fermented drinks and juices.
Sit at the bar where you can watch the chefs in action, meticulously chopping, cooking, and plating. Menus change seasonally and sometimes daily depending on what’s available in the market. I visited in early November when the Spring menu was on offer. This included avocado & nasturtium, spring peas and goat’s curd, aged beef, etc. On the side was housemade wheat and rye sourdough accompanied by aged butter.
If you’re adventurous, ask for the muttonbird (pic above). Pasture is one of the few restaurants in the city that serve this Māori delicacy. It’s a meaty bird, cooked over an open fire with hardly any seasoning. A word of warning – not everyone enjoys its gamey flavours.
An ice cream is an ice cream, right? Not if Gianpaolo Grazioli has anything to do with it. Along with his wife, Annarosa, Grazioli started Giapo in 2007 and became an instant hit with his quirky flavour combination and over-the-top ice cream creations. Last year, the Italian immigrant couple moved into larger premises on Gore Street in downtown Auckland, giving them the space to create an R&D Kitchen. Here, they not only let their creative energies lose but also host 16-course degustation experiences.
My favourite was Hot Chips in a Cone (pic above) – a nod to the ultimate comfort food, a paper cone filled with French fries. Giapo created a waffle cone to mimic the flat French fries cone and then stuffed it with moreish French fries and finished it off with a scoop of coffee ice cream. The result is a sweet and salty treat that takes you back to your childhood while giving you a glimpse of the ice cream of the future.
Taking a cue from the Italian gelato stuffed brioche, Giapo has created the Fried Māori Bread (pic above) – crispy, doughnut-like traditional Māori bread stuffed with ice cream.
Try the mind-bendingly weird kiwi and coriander ice cream (above), which somehow works or the elaborately shaped squid ice cream.
And don’t miss the Pani Puri ice cream (Gianpaolo & Annarosa posing with it above) – crispy puris filled with ice cream and finished with a variety of toppings.
Take a detour
A short 40-minute ferry from Auckland brings you to Waiheke Island, one of the many islands in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. It’s a favourite weekend and holiday getaway for Aucklanders, many of who own vacation homes on the island.
The picturesque island is home to gloriously sandy beaches, with Oneroa and Onetangi being very popular.
But what’s it’s most famous for is its wine. Indeed, it has come to be known as New Zealand’s ‘island of wine’, thanks to the dedicated group of winegrowers who have set up small, boutique wineries.
Take Kennedy Point, for example, the only certified organic winery on the island.
Their 2007 Syrah won the ‘best Syrah in the world’ award. The winery is perched on a hillside with sweeping views of the bay. Apart from the wine, ask for a tasting of their special honey made by bees that pollinate the native manuka and pohutukawa trees, producing an earthy, viscous honey. Other vineyards worth checking out are Mudbrick, Cable Bay, and Stonyridge. Don’t miss the charming Veranda Café at Stonyridge where you can sit down to a delectable lunch.
Apart from wines, Waiheke Island is also known for its olive oil. Drop in at Rangihoua Estate where you can explore the olive grove and sample a range of extra virgin olive oils. To get the best of what Waiheke has to offer, book the Gourmet’s Food and Wine Tour with Ananda Tours. This includes food & wine tastings at several wineries followed by lunch.
A Gourmet Trail
If you have limited time in Auckland, get a taste of the city on a food tour with The Big Foody.
On the ‘Tastebud Tour’, you will sample locally produced cheese and meet the ‘Curd Nerd’ Calum Hodgson (pic above) at Sabato, a fine foods store in suburban Auckland. Here, you will also get a taste of local olive oil, artisanal foods, as well as craft beer and wine.
You’ll get a peek inside the Auckland Fish Market, and finally, have lunch at one of the many waterside restaurants in the city.
We had a fabulous Italian meal at Baduzzi – absolutely loved their beetroot pappardelle with paua (pic above).
So, make your trip to Auckland a delicious one! Read my guide to Auckland for more tips on what to see and do in the city.
This article was commissioned by Eat Stay Love and was published in their Apr-Jun 2018 issue. Read it here.