Best of Auckland 2018: Where to go and what to do

by Metro / 20 December, 2018
By Metro contributors Jo Bates, Julie Hill, Alice Neville, Kate Richards and Susannah Walker.

Charlotte Rust of Babelogue in Beresford Square. Photo/Rebekah Robinson/Metro

Want to discover the city’s choicest (and latest) delights? Let this guide be your passport to pleasure.

Shopping and services

For basics that don’t make you feel basic


While we certainly don’t discourage forking out a few hundy on a beautifully made New Zealand designer piece, when it’s basics you’re after, thank god for H&M. The Swedish fast-fashion giant opened its first New Zealand store at Sylvia Park in 2016, and then in August, H&M Commercial Bay arrived — perfect for the mall-averse and for lunchtime retail therapy. The multilevel store is well laid out, meaning you don’t have to trawl through too many body-con mini dresses to get to that $15 white tee you’re after. It also has a homewares section filled with covetable, affordable goods. If you can get out the door without an $8 fish-shaped bottle opener or one of the stylish sub-$30 glass carafes, you’re stronger than we are. H&M Commercial Bay, 21 Queen St, central city. 

Bookshop for the #metoo era

The Women’s Bookshop

Riding the waves of feminism for nearly three decades, the Women’s Bookshop is as relevant right now as it was when it opened on Dominion Rd back in 1989. As much a community as a shop, customers helped with a move to Ponsonby 10 years later, where the bookshop — and founding owner Carole Beu — remains. The original focus on books by, for and about women has broadened over the years to welcome men, both on the shelves and in the store, but the emphasis on subjects of particular interest to women continues. Our pick of the new releases? Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her — a pitch-perfect examination of the temper of the times. 105 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. 

Breakout label for summer


After the well-received debut of their first collection at Fashion Week in August, followed by a brief concession to bricks and mortar with a pop-up on Ponsonby Rd, Alice Isles and Kiki Judd of new womenswear label Hej-Hej — say “hey hey” — got down to (online-only) business. With Isles based in Auckland and Judd dealing with their suppliers on the ground in Shanghai, Hej-Hej’s affordable linen pieces are selling well via Insta and their website. We like the (slightly wrinkled) style of this thoroughly modern breakout brand. 

Bulk bins, because they’re cool now


This “wholefoods refillery” makes being a better person easy. It’s bulk-bin buying, yes, but that just doesn’t convey the zen-like allure of GoodFor’s four outlets. The sparkling-clean, white-on-white surrounds and smiling staff make you feel like you’ve entered some sort of health retreat, even if you’re just popping in to fill a Tupperware container with muesli. There’s no plastic packaging here — you can BYO, buy one of their glass jars or, if you must, take a paper bag. Alongside the impressive array of bins full of various flours, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and the like, you’ll find liquids on tap — the Ecostore range of cleaning products, plus a variety of high-quality oils, syrups and vinegars. The cosy Mt Eden Village store is the latest to join the family, and rumour has it nationwide expansion is on the horizon. 2 Williamson Ave, Grey Lynn; 79 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell; 360 Lake Rd, Takapuna; 445 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden. 

Curated vintage wares


Also the name of a raucous prose-poem by Patti Smith, Babelogue is a poetic selection of textiles, decor and furniture, mainly from the middle of last century to the 1980s. Owner Charlotte Rust, previously of vintage clothing store Fast and Loose, had traded in retail for the art and costume departments of TV and film, but was seduced into it once more after visiting Morocco and Paris, two places that are honey to the collector’s bee. Rust has an eye for special pieces by local and international artisans, especially scarlet Turkish kilim rugs, glass, chrome, on-fleek cane furniture and lots of really pretty lamps. 4 Beresford Sq, K’ Rd Precinct. 

Detail-obsessed men’s tailor

Doran & Doran

If you’d indulge him, Paul Doran could talk buttonholes for as long as you’d let him. And you’d listen. But while he’s obsessed with detail (you want that in your tailoring), he takes a relaxed approach at his Parnell studio, with interiors by his wife, designer Amelia Holmes. After a decade on Savile Row and a stint zigzagging the globe with Versace, Doran works with experts in Italy and a team of talented locals to craft contemporary made-to-measure and bespoke suits — the difference between the two is a matter of about 150 measurements and a fair bit of coin — with beautiful fabrics from the likes of Gucci, Jil Sander and Escorial, the Canterbury brand that produces luxurious, ultrafine wool from very rare Saxon sheep. He also stocks casualwear and New Zealand brand Standard Issue for the perfect knit (he’s had one of their fine black knits for more than a decade and says it still falls like silk). There’s parking, a free Uber service for clients and a Tuesday-night running club. 7/15 Faraday St, Parnell. 

Eclectic city market

The Cross St Market

St Kevins Arcade alumni Alison Reid and Tony Downing have long been uptown Auckland’s hardest-working retailers, bringing carefully selected vintage threads, furniture and curiosities to the people since ages ago. Their excellent, four-days-a-month market, in what used to be Lim Chhour’s storage shed behind Karangahape Rd, is crammed with sartorial and household treasures made by a revolving crew of talented stall holders. Come for the cheese’n’pickle toasties, stay for the chill tunes, linger out the back at The Coven if you require supernatural assistance. 4 Cross St, K’ Rd Precinct.

Emerging precinct

Faraday St

Original concrete floors, intricate timber ceiling trusses, towering stud heights — it’s just as well it was architects Fearon Hay, rather than a developer, who got their hands on this group of 1940s brick warehouses in Parnell. Faraday St, just off St Georges Bay Rd, in this former area of big industry, is now a little neighbourhood that hums with personality and style across 60 metres of north-facing street frontage and 1500 sqm of floor space. With their own studio in the loft, Fearon Hay have surrounded themselves with everything you could want from a neighbourhood — great coffee (Red Rabbit), a bakery (Daily Bread as a pop-up with Casa Doran homewares), a cool Korean-influenced cafe (Simon & Lee), Barulho (a Latin-Euro bar-eatery from the former owners of Maldito Méndez), a florist (Grace and Flora), Vietnamese street food (Hello Mister), and a tailor (Doran & Doran). And across the road at the old Textile Centre, Philimore Properties (who are behind Imperial Lane) plan a laneway as part of a redevelopment of the historic site. Parnell is becoming interesting again, at last. A special mention, too, of fairy-light festooned Britomart, not only all grown up, but comfortable in its own skin. 1-15 Faraday St, Parnell.

Flowers… and skulls


The rickety roller door and graffiti of her Grey Lynn floristry shop, which opened in March, gifted Georgie Malyon with the name “Greenpoint”. She reckons her little barrio on Great North Rd resonates with the gritty feel of its Brooklyn, New York, namesake. And with blokes drifting through the shop and out the back to his barbershop, her partner, Tim Castelow, gave the name the tick because “it’s not too girly”. The shop is as lush and layered as Malyon’s maximalist floral art and limited-edition photographic prints, which interweave botanical arrangements with the cycle of life and death (there’s smoke and skulls), and reference the 17th-century Dutch still-life practice. “It’s not just about running in and grabbing a bunch of flowers,” says Malyon, who describes herself as an old-school florist. She’s there for a chat and the velvet sofa is there for customers to take a comfy pew and breathe in the floral fragrances. 566 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland.

For a whole lot of minimalism

Everyday Needs

We don’t know how “everyday” our “need” is for a $195 pair of white leather wooden-soled clogs from Finland, or for a $130 beechwood doormat from Sweden, but we really do want them a lot. This serene, eggshell-blue space offers household products chosen by stylist and designer Katie Lockhart. It might be that you “need” a small brass bell from Japan, or a Belgian linen tea towel, or a stool by Martino Gamper. Rep’ing Aotearoa are elegant pink cups by Monmouth Glass Studio, Kirsty Cameron’s divine “Godmother” blankets and artist Kate Newby’s book Incredible Feeling., 270 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. 

Homewares shopping strip

Jervois Rd

Between the everyday shops that service Herne Bay on the Jervois Rd strip which runs between Albany St and the Wallace St lights is a tasteful trinity of desirable design purveyors. In the middle, a “bashed” brass vessel by Tom Dixon might glow in the window at Simon James Concept Store, pinging gold onto the pavement outside. Next door, to the right, Father Rabbit might have something colourful, but never garish, on the window ledge for kids, and at eye level, a few pieces in oatmeal linen for the grown-ups. To the left and presiding over the corner of Albany and Jervois is Tessuti, the neighbourhood’s high priestesses of luxe gifts and goods for 28 years. All stores in this little enclave stock local designers as well as big-name international brands. Simon James Concept Store, Father Rabbit, Tessuti, 230, 232 & 224 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay.

Mini-me bookstore

Little Unity

The new kid on High St, children’s bookshop Little Unity, arrived on the corner of Vulcan Lane in September. Fairy tales, classics, large-format books, new releases from overseas and YA literature are stocked in a space about a quarter the size of the parent store next door. Designed by Sophie Edwards and Tom Dobinson, its forest-green walls and Anglepoise lamps add to the cosy atmos of this new addition to proudly independent Unity. Welcome to the world, Little Unity. We could eat you up we love you so! 31 Vulcan Lane, central city. 

One-stop shopping without the mall vibes


You could do a lot worse of a weekend than heading here to tick off a decent chunk of your Christmas shopping list in one fell swoop, then rewarding yourself with a coffee from the pleasant cafe on level one. The always covetable Città and Father Rabbit occupy the ground floor, with Tim Webber Design and Alex & Corban Home up the stairs on level two, and Danish furniture retailer BoConcept covering the top floor. Keep an eye out for the semi-regular Bloc night markets — special deals from the retailers, pop-up stalls by guest designers and free-flowing wine and beer. 20 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden. 

Outing with your soon-to-be mother-in-law


On an otherwise unassuming corner off Remuera Rd, Maman reads like a love letter to Euro chic. There are marble benchtops, parquet-style changing-room doors and ceiling-hung display racks with clothes by around 30 emerging and established labels from Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York and Los Angeles. Opened by sisters Emma Main and Kate Boyden in 2015, Maman puts individual style into a suburb that’s gradually releasing the twin-set into the wild. 2a Clonbern Rd, Remuera. 

Spot for retail therapy that’s not Ponsonby Rd

Mackelvie St

While Ponsonby Rd is becoming increasingly high-street, Mackelvie St has become an enclave for established New Zealand design. There’s Lonely, Gregory, Ricochet and Deadly Ponies and in the converted warehouse spaces occupied by Workshop and The Shelter are a clutch of local labels (Helen Cherry at Workshop and Jimmy D, Wynn Hamlyn, Lela Jacobs and Taylor at The Shelter), plus a host of high-end international brands. Yu Mei, the leather-goods label from Wellington, is about to open up, there’s The Poi Room for local art and objects, a florist (Brooklyn Flowers), kids’ apparel (Grey and Wild), Il Forno Italian bakery and bars Cuba Libre and The Cork Gin & Whiskey. Take us there. Mackelvie St, Ponsonby.

Place to reinvent yourself after a breakup

Muse Boutique

Olivia Vincent’s Newmarket fashion store has a fancy new sister on the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Tole St, with chic interior design by Rufus Knight. In this era of dizzying online options, Muse does the hard work for its clients by handpicking pieces from international superstars Diane von Furstenberg, Tibi and Self Portrait, up-and-comers Cecilie Copenhagen and Dodo Bar Or and Kiwi designers Georgia Alice and Maggie Marilyn. Vincent, formerly a brand manager for Vivienne Westwood, travels three times a year, to the London, Paris and New York fashion weeks, for inspiration. Someone’s gotta do it, right? 264 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby (also at 11B Teed St, Newmarket).

Special-event glam for the risk-averse

Mecca Auckland

Need to look fancy for that party/awards do/wedding/hot date, but you’ve been burnt in the past by over-priced, overzealous makeovers? Mecca is here to save the day. For $90 you get a 45-minute session with staff who are attitude-free, know their stuff and don’t lay the makeup on with a trowel. Best of all, the price is redeemable on product — and trust us, there will be something you want. The Auckland flagship of the Australian beauty empire opened on the former Topshop site at the corner of Queen and Victoria in September, joining a handful of other locations around the city. While most stores are either a Cosmetica (the higher-end version) or a Maxima (the fun younger sister), the flagship “beauty bazaar” combines the two, meaning there’s a huge array of brands and products on which to redeem your dollars, from cheap and cheerful to ultra-luxe. 203 Queen St, central city. 


Georgie Malyon of Greenpoint florist in Grey Lynn. Photo/Rebekah Robinson/Metro

Health & self

For artfully crafted brows

On Browhouse

On Browhouse has been raising eyebrows since Nicky Shore opened the dedicated wax bar in 2008. A decade on, and with styles more natural than the Linda Evangelista look popular back then, these specialists have mastered the art of eyebrow microblading — the semi-permanent brow tattoo. A job well done will see etched, life-like “hairs” blended seamlessly with your own home-grown ones. The beauty bar has several Auckland outlets, but microblading is only available at 152 Quay St. Lash Noir at City Works Depot also elevates brow shaping to an art form — they’ll share their bespoke design with you before shaping your look, and they’ll equip you with a tutorial so you can DIY at home. On Browhouse, 152 Quay St, central city.; Lash Noir, 90 Wellesley St, central city.

Buzz cut

Boar and Blade

An offshoot of the Wellington originator, Boar and Blade has become a hit, not only for their smooth cuts and beard beautifying, but for the laid-back welcome they lay on. “Guys just like to come in and hang out with us,” says owner Hohepa Rutene, who bought the business off his mate and founder Brendan Blake about 18 months ago. A fixture at Ponsonby Central, next stop is Wynyard Quarter, where a new store is due to open by the end of the year. A cut and style ($40) is the most popular request; other barbering services range from a beard trim and part shave ($30) to a cut, style and part shave ($60). In his spare time, “Hops” runs the new backyard beehive business Ponsonbees ( Ponsonby Central, 136 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby.

Lush lashes

Blink & Cerise

Deciding on thickness, curl, length, the “Classic” or “Russian” look are just a few things to consider when turning up the volume and extending the length of your lashes. If it’s all new to you, the Q&A-style cheat-sheet at Blink’s website will open your eyes. Owner and “master lash stylist” Jessica Laing opened Blink in 2010 and has earned a reputation as one of the best in the business. Sculpting lashes since 2006, Cerise is a dedicated lash boutique and prides itself on being the first specialist on the scene; owner Elisia Webb also runs workshops and creates tailored looks. Blink, 485 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket.; Cerise, 4 Orbit Drive, Albany, and 45 Mt Wellington Highway, Mt Wellington.

Male manny

About Man

An image of a bearded, tattooed, bare-shouldered bloke takes up a window of About Man clinic in Ponsonby. It’s a little at odds with the gilt-mirror look indoors, but this “opulent gentlemen’s lounge” can easily ease newbies to men’s grooming into the game with a whisky or beer from the bar. There’s also years of experience at hand — the men-only clinic is the brother to About Face, which has been looking after women’s skin for more than 30 years. We are putting our hands up for the 45-minute Hand Care manicure ($89), which includes nail and cuticle grooming, a hand scrub, massage and masque treatment. 18 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby.

New way to punish yourself

F45 Training

It’s been around for several years but F45 — F is for functional, 45 refers to the duration of each class — has only taken off here in the past few months. Devised by a couple of particularly masochistic Australians, this hardcore group fitness programme crams circuit, intervals and functional training into one class, and there are 31 workouts on rotation to ensure boredom is never an issue (Surely survival is a bigger concern? – Ed.) There are seven F45 studios in Auckland, with two more set to open any day. Various locations.

Place to get the knots out

KZY Real Massage Treatment & Relaxation

Forget lying around in a fluffy robe sipping complicated tea. The focus at this walk-in, no-frills outfit is firmly on firm Chinese massage, with three therapists expertly ministering to your muscles, either clothes off with essential oils or “traditional basic” (clothes on, no oil). A massage we had recently at an “urban day spa” for nearly twice the price didn’t come close to KZY’s one-hour basic full body ($60). 424 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket.

Salon that’s not Stephen Marr


The craic is good at K’ Rd haircutter Colleen, where Lauren Gunn and her team of cutters are talented and friendly. Haircuts sure don’t come cheap in this town, but in this case your chances of post-snip bliss are higher than most. Plus, the products massaged into your locks are free of sulphates. Best of all is the store itself, a graceful heritage building with a peek of the harbour, beautifully refitted by architect Sue Hillery. As your head tips back at the sink, behold an ornate late 19th-century ceiling the colour of a packet of pink smokers. 466 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct.

Wicked indulgence

Thalgo Polynesia Spa Ritual at Chuan Spa

At around 300 bucks for two hours, it ain’t cheap, but when is true indulgence ever a bargain proposition? This four-stop “journey of the senses” at the Cordis, home of the best day spa in town, takes you to Polynesia without leaving Symonds St, via a body scrub, a soak in an “infinity” bath, a massage and a thorough slathering in “sacred” oil. It’s heavenly, really it is. Tell yourself it’s self-care, if that’s what it takes. 83 Symonds St, Grafton.

cross st market

Tony Downing and Alison Reid of The Cross St Market. Photo/Joe Hockley/Metro

Fun stuff

Bowls with burgers

Royal Oak Bowls

By the time they got together last year, they had 208 years of collective history to share — that’s a lot of bowling and beer at club prices. United and re-formed as Royal Oak Bowls (Onehunga Bowling Club was founded in 1901 and Hillsboro Bowling Club in 1925), fresh ideas are keeping the club cool for newbies. Friday-night “Burger and Bowls” is one of them — $20 gets you a prime beef burger in a brioche bun, plus expert instruction for newcomers on how to avoid a “dead bowl”. There’s also Twilight bowls on Wednesdays, which plays in teams of two for about 90 minutes and costs $15, including food by La Fogata, a neighbourhood Latin American joint. New to the summer schedule is Social Bowls3Five, a punchy, fast-paced format of the game, with a six-week league running from November 1. 146 Selwyn St, Onehunga.

City strollin’

Weona-Westmere Coastal Walkway

If you fancy some fresh air but don’t want to a) over-exert yourself or b) venture too far out of the city, the Weona-Westmere Coastal Walkway will be right up your alley (or boardwalk, as it were). A 1.4km stroll along the edge of the Western Springs creek estuary, it runs between Westmere Park and Lemington Reserve, with a very scenic section of boardwalk that takes you through mangroves and regenerating native bush, much of it planted by volunteers. For an even more central boardwalk option, the Westhaven Promenade wends its way from Westhaven Drive right up to the harbour bridge, and will eventually form part of a 21km cycleway set to run all the way to St Heliers. Entrances off Lemington Reserve, Weona Place and Westmere Park Ave, Westmere.

DIY exhibition spaces

Comet Project Space & Mayonez

When the city’s own gallery is starved of funding, you know it’s tough times for artists. Not-for-profit galleries are popping up to provide artists with a platform for their own work and for fellow emerging artists who struggle to crack commercial spaces and connect with likeminded folk. With donated materials, Bobbie Gray and Alicia Taylor created a “beautiful white cube” in the backyard garage of Gray’s Ponsonby rental. They opened Comet Project Space on a sunny winter’s day with homemade cocktails, a friend’s band and a receptive crowd. It’s run as a pop-up and buyers are put directly in touch with artists. And in Grey Lynn, behind a blue door, and with a disco ball hanging inside, Mayonez is run by two Whitecliff students, who opened the former corner store in August, and have since held five shows and a few gigs. Message them on Instagram (@mayonezltd) or their Facebook page for opening times. Comet Project Space, 249 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby.; Mayonez, 43C Dryden St, Grey Lynn.

For blazing trails

Woodhill Mountain Bike Park

Ten bucks is the cheapest you’ll pay for a day of thrills in Auckland and there are plenty of them — as many as your legs, lungs and padded pants can handle — at Woodhill Mountain Bike Park. The trail crew never rest — they essentially created a new park in 2014, when tree harvesting wiped out Woodhill as we knew it, then there was the rebuild in April of almost every single section of every trail after that horror storm hit Auckland. And despite one of our wettest winters, the crew’s skill ensured mountain bikers enjoyed the best trail conditions ever. This summer sees stage two of the Pump Track and Dirt Jumps upgrades. The team don’t shout out new projects, so you’ve got to get out there regularly to find out what’s new, but we can say you won’t be disappointed this summer. Get out there and make the most of fave tracks like One Night Stand and No Vacancy before the next wave of harvesting hits in 2020. And if you need to cool your wheels for a bit, there’s also Disc Golf — that’s 54 holes of throwing frisbees into baskets. Restall Rd, Woodhill Forest, Woodhill.

weona walkway

The Weona-Westmere Coastal Walkway. Photo/Rebekah Robinson/Metro

Drink and a bit of experimental theatre

The Basement

Stumbling distance from Q, home to some outstanding, innovative theatre, is another stalwart of Auckland’s contemporary stage scene: the Basement. Arriving here feels a bit like going to someone’s flat — if that person was hugely talented and had a great selection of beers. The humble community theatre has served as a launching pad for some of our best creatives — the likes of comedians Rose Matafeo and Last Tapes Theatre Company, whose Edinburgh-acclaimed shows both debuted here — and in its 10th year continues to up the ante with always fresh, always fun programming. The spring season is an anniversary special, with Basement Playlist featuring excerpts from shows from years past, and the premier of Jacinda, the 2017 election-centred work by Sam Brooks (Burn Her). With tickets for most shows hovering around the $18 mark and run times rarely topping an hour, Basement offers low-commitment, high-reward theatre without peer. Lower Greys Ave, central city.

For greening your lunch break

Griffith’s Gardens

Taking your sandwich to sit among the planter boxes of Griffith’s Gardens is a pretty nice way to feel closer to nature without leaving the CBD. The gardens form a central part of For the Love of Bees, a “city bee collaboration” spearheaded by artist Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and funded by Auckland Council. Every Thursday, they play host to free “lunchtime learning” classes covering topics like composting, seed saving and controlling garden pests naturally. For more pockets of nature in the city, check out For The Love of Bees’ newest project, the Organic Market Garden (OMG) on Symonds St, where regular working bees are helping transform it into a second teaching hub; and keep an eye on the social media of Kelmarna Gardens in Herne Bay and Sanctuary Mahi Whenua in Mt Albert for their semi-regular workshops and open days. 42 Wellesley St West, central city.

Fur babies with goo-goo eyes

Cotton-top tamarin babies at Auckland Zoo

When the frankly horrifying state of the world gets you down, nothing calms the mind like watching two critically endangered cotton-top tamarin babies, with their little blond mullets and soulful eyes, repeatedly practise hopping up onto a platform and jumping off it again, supported all the way by their adoring parents. See also the new capybara babies, which look for all the world like extras in a Wes Anderson film, and Levi and Smiley, two newly arrived Tasmanian devils — creatures the zoo insists are “sweet, smart and greatly misunderstood”. 99 Motions Rd, Western Springs.

New reading room

Samoa House

A former art-history professor heralded “the death of fine arts” when, in June, the University of Auckland closed its specialist libraries for Elam Fine Arts, Music and Dance, and Architecture. But a group of Elam students and supporters came up a more productive response. They found a space to fill the gap and filled it with donated books and retro school desks perfectly placed for K’ Rd people-watching. Fine arts masters student Kathryn Aucamp told BFM, “Looking at the continued, accelerated attack on the arts from the university, spaces like this are really, really essential.” Level 2, 283 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct.

simon and lee

Simon & Lee on Faraday St. Photo/Oliver Simon/Metro

Eating & drinking

Bread for toast with jam

Daily Bread pioneer loaf

Tom Hishon and Josh Helm of Orphans Kitchen teamed up with ex-Bread and Butter Bakery head baker Patrick Welzenbach this year to open Daily Bread — a bakery/deli in an old bank building in Pt Chev — and boy, did Aucklanders lose their shit over it. Even now, almost a year on, the lines on weekends are unbelievable. Sure, we’ve been seduced by those sourdough pastries, too, but what we really love is picking up a pioneer loaf to toast at home. It’s a long-fermented sourdough, with a caramelised, crackly crust and is, without a doubt, one of the top three loaves in town right now (the others are Pasture’s sourdough and The Dusty Apron’s white baguette). 1210 Great North Rd, Pt Chevalier (also at 15 Faraday St, Parnell).

Dumplings on Dominion Rd

Mixed seafood and pork at Barilla Dumpling

Move over pork and chive, with your flabby, loveless wrappers; there’s a new hero in town: mixed seafood and pork dumplings, which, despite being made in the same kitchen, feel so much more balanced and delicate than their more popular cousin. Salty-sweet mixed fish and rich pork is an excellent marriage, especially when liberally dunked in vinegar, soy and chilli oil; we particularly like them fried. Hit the 305 Dominion Rd branch of Barilla, where the lighting is still punishing but the BYOW policy helps you forget. 305 Dominion Rd, Balmoral (also at 571 Dominion Rd, Balmoral).

Hangover cure

Peach’s Hot Chicken

We’d happily eat the fried chicken sandwich from bubble-shaped food truck Peach’s Hot Chicken as our last meal — its spicy, crispy fattiness makes it one of the most addictive sangas in town. As a hangover cure it’s near-perfect, the demi-sweetness of the brioche bun in harmony with the chicken grease and Nashville-style cayenne-heavy secret spice blend. A warning: “hot” is hot enough. Hunt them down at @peachs_hot_chicken or

Milkshake as thick as a fast-food multinational’s, but better

Burger Burger

Made with Duck Island ice cream — arguably the best thing ever to come out of Hamilton — a Burger Burger shake never fails to please. We’re very fond of the pecan pie special, blended with pastry and golden syrup, and the nostalgic pineapple lumps flavour with fresh pineapple, and chocolate; but the purity of the vanilla thick shake, where the ice cream shines through, is extremely hard to beat. Ponsonby Central, 4 Brown St, Ponsonby (also at 3B York St, Newmarket; Fortieth and Hurstmere, 40 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna).

madam george

Madame George on K’ Rd. Photo/Josh Griggs/Metro

Non-obvious place for vegans

Madame George

At Madame George, head chef Patrick Schmitt prides himself on a root-to- petal approach to cooking, offering a menu that caters to vegans without shouting about it. Some dishes sound fairly plain, but in Schmitt’s hands simple ingredients are transformed to become pretty on the plate and interesting in the mouth. On our last visit, vegan kimchi puffs were a crunchy pre-dinner snack; blackened jersey benny potatoes were doused with emulsified organic tofu, shaved broccoli and white sesame; and a mandarin and Aperol sorbet was lifted by a liquorice hit of tarragon oil and neatly topped with a sunflower seed cracker. Genius. 490 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct.

No-frills pho

Try It Out

The daughter of Try It Out’s owners, Jenny Ha, is blunt about how they do things at this Ōtāhuhu institution, formerly the local library. “We focus on the food, not the decor,” she says. Good job they do, because it gives them time to simmer the cinnamon and star anise-laced beef stock which forms the base of the restaurant’s pho, for 12 hours. We love the rare beef and gelatinous beef tendon version hiding slippery rice noodles, with a lemon wedge on the side. That said, the chicken with beef stock and beef ball iterations are also worthy contenders. 79 Atkinson Ave, Ōtāhuhu.

Pop-up to drink a funky wine

Rebel Yell nights at Pasture

If the formal restaurant service at Pasture — recently reduced to two sittings of just six people, dégustation only, from Thursday to Sunday — sounds a little intense, you’ll be pleased to know owners Ed and Laura Verner have launched less formal pop-up series Rebel Yell. Billed as underground wine nights, they happen sporadically (but mostly on Wednesdays) so you have to follow their Instagram to be in the know. The idea is that you choose an affordable, hard-to-find bottle of wine from a shelf in the doorway before heading inside to drink it while chowing down on a few snacky share plates. 235 Parnell Rd, Parnell. @rebelyell_akl

Scenester hangout


You’ll find them, beanie-clad, waiting in line outside or at a bar across the road — sometimes for up to two hours. Since transforming from pop-up to full-time restaurant at the end of last year, and then winning Best New Restaurant in the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Awards five months later, Cotto has boomed from little-known hipster joint to good-luck-getting-a-table virtually overnight. The pair behind this loud, fun hangout and its short, good-value, loosely Italian menu, John Pountney and Hayden Phiskie, came from Grey Lynn’s Delicious, where pasta was the hero. It’s also the focus here, so you’d be silly to miss dishes like beef cheek ragu with smoked paprika maltagliati, or beetroot and baked ricotta ravioli. 375 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct.

Slurp-worthy noodle dish

Sarawak laksa at Mamak Malaysian Street Food

This bright, modern Shoreside restaurant — no relation to the downtown place of the same name — is one of the only places in Auckland to slurp a bowl of spicy-sour Sarawak laksa, a favourite dish of the late Anthony Bourdain. Similar in name only to the more commonly found curry laksa, Sarawak laksa is a staple of East Malaysian cuisine and features a pungent mix of spices including ground coriander seeds and chilli belacan (chilli and prawn paste). The noodles differ, too. Unlike the Hokkien-style egg noodles found in most laksa dishes here, this version comes with skinny vermicelli — ideal for those eating gluten-free. Each steaming bowl has tender shredded chicken, crunchy beansprouts, coriander and strips of omelette lurking in its flavoursome depths. 6 Huron St, Takapuna.

Suburban slices


Napoli native Francesco Acri’s passion for the traditions of Napolese pizza making is infectious (he’s religious about his Margherita to the point that it’s D.O.C.-certified); then there’s the takeaway tiramisu, the BYOW policy, and the $15 basic pizzas on Tuesdays. The menu is lengthy but, as with most things, the simpler the better here — Acri’s most coveted pizza, which comes dressed with nothing but peeled tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil, is a hymn to restraint. 3/1 Rata St, New Lynn.

Tasting paddle and toastie

Garage Project Kingsland

Auckland beer nerds rejoiced when the capital’s finest brewing sons opened their first northern outpost in March, with 12 rotating taps, a couple of leaners, two sought-after armchairs and a fridge laden with GP’s finest. It has a tasting licence only, so you can’t settle in for a night on the pints, but it’s easy to while away an hour over a paddle of six weird and wonderful offerings, perhaps supplemented with a cheese and kimchi toastie. Or stop in to fill up a flagon or crowler (a one-litre can filled and sealed in front of your eyes) to take home — the staff are generous with tastings while you wait. 357 New North Rd, Kingsland.

Place to drink now Golden Dawn’s closed

Let us know if you find anywhere.    

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