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Apr 26, 2009 06:10 PM

Auckland essentials?

I'll be in Auckland playing on a big music tour for the first time a few days in June. What must I not miss there? I'm particularly fond of seafood but I enjoy everything...I'm searching for local things that I can't get in NYC where I live... Thanks in advance!

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  1. Havent been there myself but just keep hearing raves about Swashbucklers for seafood
    also go to the fishmarkets at the bottom of town and pick up some stuff to try. local essentials if you are a seafood fan are: kina (sea urchin), oysters (Bluff are particularly good and you will be here about the right time:

    green lipped mussels (the best seafood bargain buy - very cheap and great! - a good place to have a feed of these is a pub called the Occidental:

    the mussel pots are great value and really show off this great NZ (I would say King of NZ!) seafood - plus you can get great belgian beer to go with (NZ beer - apart from a few notable exceptions- is not that great so believe me you wouldnt be missing out to stick with Belgian!


    there is also great fish - snapper is probably my fave

    i would imagine it will be hard to find things you cant get in NYC here - you guys pretty much have it all! but again local wise if you have access to cooking facilities then would suggest the following:

    - go to local supermarket and buy: silverbeet (swiss chard to you i imagine), kumara (a type of sweet potato grown here traditionally by the Maori - go for the purple one its the best, some kiwi lamb, agria potatoes, pumpkin (the silver skinned one is best). roast the lamb with the root veges and then steam or lightly boil the silverbeet - voila! this is a real kiwi meal. finish with some hokey pokey icecream (about as kiwi as it gets - you can get i at local supermarket) and wash it down with some L&P (a soft drink) or a feijoa frenzy (feijoas and tamarillos are in season - two very typically nz fruits which you may not get in NYC.

    if you want to eat well and forget about the whole "kiwi" thing then the following are great places (of course you could get these cuisines in NYC but in case you are desperate for some good food.....

    - Tom Yum Eden - a really really great and cheap Thai place - very authentic food, down to earth "mammas" thai home cooking:

    - Tanpopo - great ramen:

    - KK Malaysian

    (basically auckland has great south east asian food - we have many immigrants from that part of the world so you wont struggle to find good thai, korean, chinese, malaysian etc food - what we sorely lack is good italian, french, spanish, latin american, african, middle eastern places - there are a couple but not much of note - so save that until you get home!!


    a few random final things:
    - have a good burger while you are here - Murder Burgers rocks!!
    by far the best (and coolest) burger place in town - go for beetroot and pineapple on your burger for real kiwi twist

    - pavlova is a classic kiwi dessert - you can buy ok ones at the supermarket - top them with cream and fruit

    - finally if you drink then dont go past some nz wines while you are here - esp central otago pinor noir, marlborough sauvignon blancs or hawkes bay chardonnay -for a splash out meal which wont disappoint and a great wine list to boot try getting a booking at the French cafe - its bascially tops the best of lists most years - great food, atmos and would showcase great ingredients too:

    hope you get some good bites out of all that and enjoy your trip!!!

    3 Replies
    1. re: food fascist

      Thanks so much for your most informative reply!

      1. re: food fascist

        Where is a good restaurant for kina?

        1. re: rschwim

          doesnt feature highly (unfortunately) in restaurant dishes here - personally I LOVE the stuff - a recommendation would be to go to the Fish Market (mentioned in my previous reply above) and buy a tub of the stuff (usually around $20 for a small pot of kina meat - its very rich), buy some great bread and butter, find a seat overlooking the sea and just dig in "as is".

          The other option is to search a few menus of restaurants (e.g french cafe, kermadec etc) and see if they happen to have it on the menu - but if you do it this way you are likely to have it presented as part of a dish and if I was you I would treat yourself to trying this delicacy on its own
          happy eating!

      2. Beautifully situated in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, Kermadec specialises in premium fresh seafood, selected daily from the local fresh fish market. This restaurant came highly recommended to me by a local chef , who had just retuned home after working at the River Cafe in London for 3 years. It was a very good experience on all levels

        1. Beautifully situated in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, Kermadec specialises in premium fresh seafood, selected daily from the local fresh fish market. This restaurant was recommended to me by a local chef who had just returned home after working at the River Cafe in London for 3 years. Needless to say I was not disappointed. A very good experience on all levels!

          1 Reply
          1. re: saucysource

            I'd second Kermadec - I was there in January and had a superb meal, fantastic cooking, great service and a showcase of local produce. Amazing views as well (I'm feeling homesick now - have been living in London for too long!)

          2. I will also add a strong recommendation for Kermadec. I ate this past January and had a very fine meal on all levels. I've been there about 5 times over the past 8 years and I've always been very pleased. I also second the recommendation by food fascist for green lipped mussels and the Occidental. They are ridiculously cheap in the grocery store (~1 USD/pound) if you have kitched facilities. I have never been to Murder Burger and I'll have to try it next January when I'm in Auckland. I've always enjoyed Burger Fuel (there's one on mid Queen Street next to Borders). Order any of the burgers or a chicken burger. Be sure to get the kumara (similar to a sweet potato) fries with aioli sauce. A good place to sample a variety of southeast asian cuisines and reasonable prices is the Food Alley on Albert St. You should also note that many NZ restaurants have very reasonable corkage fees--often a few dollars per glass. Most of the higher end restaurants will have higher fees, but I almost never go to a mid-range restaurant without bringing a bottle of wine. Most will post BYOB. The Marlborough region is my go-to region for Sauvignon Blanc.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChemWork

              Thanks for all the tips. I'll be in Auckland in a couple weeks and I had a lot of trouble finding a good dining guide online (dineout was ok, but the search capabilities were very limited, and most restaurants had fewer than 15 reviews).

              So far we're planning on hitting the Fridge for meat pies, the fish market (kina spread on frresh bread sounds like a winner), and Otara Market for lunches. Is there a good deli near the city center?

              For dinner we're planning on going to Occidental for mussels, Burger Fuel for burgers, and Kermadec for a beautiful view of the viaduct basin. We have one more dinner in town and I was thinking about a gastropub though we'd be up for suggestions in the 20-30NZD main plate range. One that I read about is Galbraith's Ale House. Any suggestions?

              I appreciate any feed back.

              1. re: turkob

                HI Turkob pleased to see you are reading my suggestions! I went to Galbraiths about a year ago - food is nothing special - ambience is nice (open fire etc) and beer is definitely authentic style British ales/bitters - but dont expect a lot from food - very basic pub food. To be honest dont know of any good gastropubs around the place - i tend to dine either at "ethnic" places or cafes or fine dining occasionally. For that price point for something "european" GPK is always reliable choice - they have variety of branches

                if you can push the boat out for a realy memorable meal then would totally recommend the French Cafe
                always tops the ratings and wins the awards - more like 40nzd mains

                in terms of delis, the best ones are not right in town - would recommend Zarbos
                or sabato
                orsat morning market at la cigalle

                if you have to be in central city then the fish market has a reasonable deli section

                also PLEASE reconsider Burger Fuel and go with Murder Burger - honestly its such a better place for burgers!!!


                1. re: food fascist

                  Our first night we went to the Occidental on Vulcan lane. It was pretty busy for a Wednesday night so I’m guessing it gets packed on the weekends. The beer list was lack luster featuring Belgian macrobrews like Leffe and Hoegaarden, but the reason you go is for the green-lipped mussels. We ordered one pot of steamed mussles and an order of baked mussels topped with cheese and spinach. The preparations were mediocre but the mussels were terrific. The mussels were big, meaty, and soft, much larger than mussels I’ve eaten in North America. The sauce on the steamed mussels had very little flavor and didn’t come with bread for dipping, and the baked mussels were covered in melted cheese that was heavy handed but actually didn’t over power the incredibly flavorful mussels. The fries were totally forgettable (the homemade mayo tasted hardly homemade) but they did have an oyster special for a dollar an oyster, and the oysters were fresh and meaty like the mussels. Overall I’d recommend Occidental to someone who is looking for a big plate of mussels for a decent price.

                  The next day we visited the Auckland Fish Market which was pretty disappointing. We got to see the room where the “Dutch Auction” occurs but since we didn’t show up at 6AM, we missed the festivities. The market itself had only a couple stores and a limited selection, but what they did have was fresh (lots of oysters!). We looked around and finally found a pot of ready-to-eat kina (sea urchin) which was delicious. Overall I wouldn’t go out of my way to see the fish market again, but the kina was a nice takeaway experience.

                  After the fish market we walked around Ponsonby and had Burger Fuel for lunch. There are a bunch of burger joints near each other in Ponsonby, and I remember reading that we should avoid Burger Fuel, but we wanted kumara fries and beetroot on our burgers, so Burger Fuel was the choice. The kumara (sweet potato) fries were very good but the burger tasted pre-frozen and soggy. The beets actually were the highlight of an otherwise very disappointing burger. Even the bun was stale. We weren’t interested in eating a burger from the other joints because they seemed like typical burgers topped with cheese or mushrooms or grilled onions, something we can easily get at home. But if we had to do it again, we’d get an order of kumara fries from Burger Fuel and find something else.

                  For dinner that night we were in Parnell so we thought we’d eat at one of the many restaurants on the street. We looked at every menu on the street twice, but simply couldn’t find a place that excited us (we considered Iguacu but it was just more expensive than what we were looking for) so we landed on Non-Solo Pizza because they appeared to be cooking their pizza in a wood-fire oven. I don’t have much to say other than it was pretty middle of the road. Nothing was great, nothing was terrible. I’d recommend going to Parnell with a specific restaurant in mind, because nothing stuck out.

                  The next night we went to Kermadec (the brasserie upstairs not the restaurant) for dinner. They have a beautiful view of the Viaduct Basin and a nice seafood-centric menu. We opted for the seafood platter that featured a wide variety of cold seafood served with a couple different sauces. The plate included oysters, clams, crab, lobster, mussels, and prawns. The menu seems to be geared towards simple preparations of fresh seafood, and from that perspective our dish was very good. It’s a nice dining room, the service is good, and all the fish was very fresh. However, the overall experience seemed kind of standard, nothing distinctive about it. This may be one of Auckland’s best seafood restaurants, but we just didn’t leave feeling like we had experienced anything special.

                  On the last day of our trip we were itching to have one last great meat pie, so we trekked all the way down to the Fridge. It was totally worth it! It was a Saturday morning and the small space was crowded with kids in soccer uniforms and people picking up a bunch of pies to take home, definitely where the locals eat. The pies were the best we had on the whole trip. We had mince meat with cheese, curry chicken, and a Guinness stew pie, and all were terrific. The crust was perfectly flaky and crisp and the insides were piping hot and gooey. The Fridge was definitely a departure from the beaten path for tourists, and we even got pretty lost on our way down there, but if you’re looking for the authentic meat pie experience, I can’t imagine there are too many better places.

                  That night we decided to have one more Malaysian meal before we return. We had walked by a small restaurant in Ponsonby called Mutiara earlier in the trip and the menu looked pretty good so we gave it a shot. The highlight was the sweet and spicy curry laksa. The bowl was filled with flavorful broth, chewy noodles, and large prawns. We also ordered the Ikan Bakar which was a tilapia grilled in a banana leaf topped with a spicy curry sauce. The meal was excellent all around, and we definitely felt like we got a good sampling of Malaysian cuisine on our trip.

                  The next morning we had time to get some breakfast before heading to the airport so we decided to get yum char at Grand Harbour Chinese. The carts were a little slow going by and some items only came around once, but everything we had was great. The congee was piping hot and served with crunchy bread pieces, the shrimp rice noodles were moist, and the ice cream stuffed buns (not sure what to call them) were truly exquisite. It was a great way to end our visit to Auckland.

            2. I thought I'd revive this question! We've got a 6 hour layover in Auckland Airport-was thinking of venturing out for dinner. We looked around Papatoetoe? And Mangere? For Asian food. Any suggestions?

              How's Vietnamese Gourmet?

              many thanks!

              2 Replies
              1. re: juicefriend

                It's not the greatest of places for dinner! If you've got 6 hours, I would head towards Dominion Road or Onehunga for good food. Dominion Road is the golden Mile of food. Great Asian and easy to get to from the airport

                1. re: juicefriend

                  You're in luck! the best Vietnamese food in auckland is in that area. Just beware its not very flash or fancy but once you get past that and go their simply for the food I have two recommendations. Try It Out or Samwoo, both in a suburb 5-10 minutes away from the airport called Otahuhu. Both excellent.