By Amira Hashish
As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland has garnered a reputation for delicious food that champions the country’s fresh produce. From a Lebanese tasting menu to yummy yakitori and European inspired dishes, the multi-cultural cuisine is a feast in every sense. Here we choose some of our favourite spots for unearthing the best of Auckland’s restaurant scene…
Under the arches of a nunnery turned hotel (aptly named The Convent), Ada is the kind of buzzy, light-filled restaurant you dream of when planning a long, leisurely lunch. Beautifully designed to make the most of the high ceilings and architectural details, this is a hearty slice of Spanish-Mission in Auckland’s quiet Grey Lynn neighbourhood. The focus is on Italian food with pasta hand-rolled on the dining tables during service. For a taste of some of the most delicious offerings book in for Sunday lunch. Kick off proceedings with a glass of Prosecco before enjoying a five-course shared feast. If you fancy making a night of it, check into one of the thoughtfully styled boutique rooms in what could easily scoop the title of chicest small hotel in Auckland.
In the centre of Auckland’s hip K’ Road lies the Twenties built St Kevin’s Arcade. The original Art Deco facades are now home to shops, restaurants and bars which make for a thriving gathering spot in the evenings. The must-visit is Gemmayze Street, the Lebanese-inspired restaurant owned and operated by chef Samir Allen whose family have lived in New Zealand for over 130 years. Despite living across the other side of the world they have kept their Middle Eastern culture alive through this vibrant eatery with the most delectable menu of food, wine and cocktails. We would recommend sampling a bit of everything with the $90 per person Jeeb (Arabic for “to bring”) menu. From the signature hummus to the falafel and Arnabeet roasted cauliflower, you will not go home hungry.
In the mood for seafood? Make a beeline for kingi which celebrates sustainably caught seafood fresh from New Zealand’s oceans, dunes, river mouths and reefs. On the ground floor of the heritage Masonic House, underneath the strikingly designed Hotel Britomart, the restaurant is open all day but we would recommend dinner for wood fired dishes and a well curated wine menu. The most popular dish comes in the form of Buttermilk Blue Cod Wings, with blue cod caught by a third-generation family of fishers in the Chatham Island.
Part of a collection of acclaimed restaurants under New Zealand’s Savor group, Amano is a big, bustling and warmly designed ode to Italian cuisine. Produce is seasonal, sustainable and local from the country’s growers and farmers. Opposite Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and spanning Britomart’s historic Altrans and Quay buildings, the bakery and restaurant is a staple for anyone seeking wholesome food and a great vibe. Be sure to book in advance as tables get snapped up quickly.
We have a soft spot for the Ponsonby district when it comes to dining, drinking or shopping. Awash with independently owned spots, it is a fabulous place to meander the day away. Despite being spoiled for choice with great restaurants in the area, we were especially taken by Daphnes. Run by husband and wife team Clare and Joost van den Berg, this place was inspired by their travels to Greece and Europe in 2018. The modern taverna captures the Mediterranean spirit with an impressive interior designed by Clare. Dim lighting and dark rich tones of wooden furniture alongside rich burgundy and navy upholstery make for quite the setting. The small but perfectly formed menu lives up to the surroundings with highlights including sourdough flatbreads, brussel sprouts and Agria potatoes.
What started as a humble tapas bar has evolved into a solid Spanish restaurant in the Parnell area. Signature dishes such as paella, empanadas and patatas bravas are accompanied by some more experimental options. The cocktail list is strong too with the Caipirinha proving to be a hit. It is also worth popping into the neighbouring Faradays concept store for a truly luxurious fashion and interiors experience.
Centering on yakitori cooked over binchotan (low-smoke white charcoal), Omni is a small and considered offering in Mount Eden. For the best value, we recommend the “feed me” option, which is priced at $65 and lets you try over half the menu. Just make sure the crunchy prawn toast wings its way to you. Low-intervention wines from small scale producers make excellent pairings.