Farm to table, sustainable, seasonal, free-range — the trendy buzzwords slathered like jam on menus the world over these days have been New Zealand’s standard practice from the beginning. The cuisine is similar to that of Australia, largely influenced by its British roots but evolving in recent years with a cosmopolitan influx of Pacific Rim, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern nuances.
I did little research on where to eat before arriving in Auckland, referring to sites like The Urban List and Metro Eats to plot out my meals. I also relied heavily on the recommendations of servers at cafes and restaurants, figuring that the best intel comes from within the industry.
Kiwis are serious about two beverages — coffee and wine — so if you’re into espresso drinks, Auckland is your town. Flat whites are the go-to in this corner of the globe and to be honest, there wasn’t one I didn’t like. From the Paneton Bakery near my first Airbnb to Mary’s in the Ponsonby district, these frothy lattes are the ideal way to enjoy espresso, especially with the local dairy.
Best Ugly Bagels
Can you tell the difference between Montreal- and New York-style bagels? After multiple visits to Best Ugly Bagels, I have seen the light: Montreal bagels are the superior ring-shaped bread. Hand-rolled, simmered in honey water and wood-fired daily (with Manuka hardwood no less), these bagels have an airy texture with a crisp edge that stands up well to a second toasting to the point of achieving a slight char. Best enjoyed as a sandwich, but you can’t go wrong with a Best Ugly Bagel.
3A York St ・ Newmarket ・ +64 (09) 529 5993
Corner of Wellesley & Nelson St ・ CBD ・ +64 (09) 366 3926 ・ www.bestugly.co.nz
Housed in a former fire station, Mary’s has become a new mainstay in the Ponsonby neighborhood. Headed by iconic Kiwi restaurateur Tim Tohill and his team, this cafe brings a sophistication to bistro fare that is simply divine. The classic menu ranges from simple toast to shakshuka and lambs fry, with slabs of halloumi cheese and avocado finding their way onto most dishes.
13 St Marys Road ・ Ponsonby / St. Mary’s Bay ・ +64 (09) 360 7260
To be honest, Macca’s outside of the States is one of the best things to experience. I know it’s fast food and I know it’s not the healthiest option, but going to McDonald’s in another country is like going to the U.S. embassy of food: You should go and check in to just to make sure you’re out of harm’s way. The way I see it, you get to try foods you wouldn’t normally see at your corner drive-thru, like the Georgie Pie.
16 Customs St E ・ Britomart ・ +64 (09) 377 4380 ・ www.mcdonalds.co.nz
Paneton French Bakery
Strolling around the Wynard Quarter/Victoria Park area, the first cafe I stumbled across was Paneton. For what it offered it was a good find! Cheap coffee and delicious pastries were just what this weary traveler needed after arriving in Auckland near midnight. Service is quick and friendly and you’ll find something to sink your teeth into.
21 Halsey St ・ CBD ・ +64 (09) 309 5338 ・ www.panetonbakery.co.nz
You’re probably thinking, Thomas, why on earth would you visit a New York-style deli in a city two and a half worlds away? Well because good food is good food, OK? I sniffed Federal Delicatessen out from Cat Toth-Fox’s blog recounting her trip to New Zealand and lamenting that she didn’t have time to pay it a visit. I figured I’d take a stab at it and wow, it’s no wonder it’s one of Metro Peugeot’s Top 50 Restaurants in Auckland right now.
86 Federal Street・ CBD ・ +64 (09) 363 7184 ・ www.thefed.co.nz
Orphans Kitchen came recommended by my server at Mary’s who waxed poetic about the food she had at their company Christmas party. These Kiwi sure now how to dine! Qwner-chef Tom Hinson is unabashedly sincere in his approach to the ingredients, with a menu that changes at least seasonally and almost daily, since he forages, sources and harvests much of what is served that night. Partner/owner-manager Josh Helm creates an atmosphere that is unpretentious and warm; the knowledgeable staff cares as much about the experience as he does. There’s nothing “OK” about OK — it too is one of Metro Peugeot’s Top 50 Restaurants in Auckland this year.
118 Ponsonby Rd・ Ponsonby ・ +64 (09) 378 7979 ・ www.orphanskitchen.co.nz
I have been dying to have authentic Malaysian food. I am obsessed with sambal and while I had a taste of Indonesian fare in LA, I never had good Malay eats. Tucked away in the middle of K’ Road, Uncle Man’s was just a short walk from my second Airbnb and after hiking all day, I wanted something comforting and close to home. Malay food is a supreme mashup of Southeast Asian, Chinese, Indian and the Middle Eastern flavors and techniques.
277 Karangahape Road ・ K’ Road ・ +64 (09) 377 1799
If you know about the Halal Guys in New York, then you’ll be very familiar with the type of food served at Betsia. The name caught my eye because it looked like Bestia, one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles. Betsia is a local restaurant chain in Auckland that serves Halal food like beef, lamb and chicken plates, falafel and strangely enough, burgers. Halal most commonly refers to food and drink that’s permissible for Muslims under Islamic Shariʻah law. I found it to be a great option for takeaway when you just don’t want to deal with dining out because thank goodness for online ordering!
199 Symonds Street ・ Eden Terrace ・ +64 (09) 307 0107 ・ http://www.betsia.co.nz/
9 City Road ・ CBD ・ +64 (09) 366 7691
Ranked as one of the top restaurants in the Auckland area, this little shop has lines out the door nightly and even sold out of noodles by the time I arrived at 6:15 p.m.. If the soft, supple dumplings (made to order) are any indication of the rest of the menu, then Eden Noodles is worth the trip into the suburbs. It’s located along a major bus route next to what is probably the only Target store in New Zealand. Although they have seating, it’s very limited and being a solo diner, I decided to take away…on the bus. At least the bump ride home agitated the sauce, coating every last centimeter of dumpling!
105 Dominion Rd・ Mount Eden ・ +64 (09) 630 1899