Auckland offers a huge choice when it comes to discerning palates and, with four downtown food precincts offering an eclectic range of restaurants within strolling distance, a great night out can easily stretch to several establishments.
While progressive dinner parties may not be a new concept, they are even more fun when all the work is left to others.
Besides, a tour of Auckland’s dining precincts reveals a tempting menu of culinary discoveries from entrée to main and dessert - complete with a late-night boogie to burn it all off afterwards.
On Auckland's Viaduct
Auckland lies on the shores of twin harbours and between two oceans with an abundance of marine life, so ocean fresh sea food is a definitive local experience.
Sea food lovers usually head down to the Viaduct Harbour precinct to taste their catch of the day in style.
New kid on the block Oyster and Chop opened in October 2015 and specialises in premiums steaks, and as the name suggests, oysters. Sourcing the best and freshest from around the country Oyster and Chop’s oyster bar serves the delicacy up raw, cooked, in shots, chowder and even a po’ boy (traditional submarine sandwich). During March Oyster and Chop will celebrate Bluff Oyster season with $2 Oyster Hour, champagne & oyster tastings, wine & oyster matches, the best beer to drink with your ‘Bluffies’ and even oyster shucking lessons.
For mains, The Culpeper is the perfect spot focusing on seafood and the trending ‘low n slow’ style of BBQ. Their signature BBQ beef brisket is expertly done at The Culpeper with modern twists. Twelve-hour smoked Hawke’s Bay lamb shoulder, smoked Boston pork butt, and smoky lamb ribs all feature but if you can’t decide the Culpeper tasting board makes sure you get to taste all of celebrity chef Gareth Stewart’s creations.
To cap it all off Soul’s seaside garden does fruity dessert treats, and guests who want to linger can stay on when Soul switches to party mode as Viaduct Harbour’s daytime restaurants transform into clubs by night.
Industrial chic at Britomart
For an urban Auckland experience, the downtown Britomart Precinct offers contemporary dining in a unique industrial setting where restored 19th century warehouses have become chic establishments.
Café Hanoi’s flavourful Vietnamese tapas are a good starting point at Britomart. Inspired by Hanoi’s old Quarter, Café Hanoi - with its semi-stripped brick walls, white paper lanterns and edgy yet rustic style - is a bustling Britomart favourite. Look out for the discreet red door tucked into a brick wall.
Ostro is a New Zealand take on an international-style brasserie with Michelin-starred New Zealand chef Josh Emett at the helm. Located on the second floor of the iconic Seafarers Building, Ostro offers succulent all-day dining, fresh seafood from the raw bar and scrumptious cocktails complete with sweeping views of the Waitemata Harbour.
Ortolana showcases fresh produce grown on their farm in Kumeu, 30 minutes north of downtown Auckland. Executive chef Jo Pearson’s menu is described as ‘European with a local feel’ and the focus is on exceptionally ‘light, seasonal fare’. Diners can have Milse desserts - from the next-door dessert bar - served to their table after a delicious healthy meal.
A few steps across Britomart’s Takutai Square reveals a choice of either contemporary Japanese at Ebisu or casual bistro fare at Tyler Street Garage. Housed in stylishly re-appropriated heritage buildings, both establishments serve up lashings of ambiance along with good food. The old garage still has the old car park markings, and the upstairs balcony offers harbour views.
Orleans is a Southern American-inspired 'music and liquor kitchen' serving up traditional Creole cuisine with a modern twist. Diners can tuck into po' boys, cornbread, fried chicken and wash it all down with one of their many cocktails that naturally has a focus on the Southern states' favourite beverage, Bourbon.
Just across the road on Fort St is dessert restaurant Miann, opened in 2015 this establishment has quickly become known as must-do for delectable desserts. Pastry chef and owner Brian Campbell’s well thought out menu is very seasonal and he will only work with the best produce he can get. Miann translates from Gaelic into ‘to desire’ or ‘to crave’ which suits the offering of high end desserts, chocolates, petit gateaux, macarons and much more.
A variety of cocktails can be sampled, as can Britomart’s vibrant bar scene at nearby Fukuko, Northern Steamship Co, Racket, and Britomart Country Club.
Federal Street - Avenue of Stars
Federal Street - at the base of Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower - is where some of New Zealand’s most acclaimed chefs have gathered to set up shop.
A five-star culinary experience in Federal Street is likely to start with casual tapas or ‘shared plates’ at Bellota by Peter Gordon or Depot by Al Brown, two top names in New Zealand cuisine.
New Zealand's Peter Gordon has worked with many acclaimed restaurants around the world including the famed The Providores and Tapa Room in London. Bellota offers what Gordon describes as the most "authentic Spanish tapas in the city".
Celebrity chef and TV presenter Al Brown is a Kiwi chef on a mission to promote fresh local fare and his passion for the outdoors. Renowned for using seasonal ingredients - often found by hunting and gathering - Depot reflects Brown’s passions with seasonal food served with no pretence in ‘shared plates’ to be enjoyed with friends. Depot's raw bar shucks and serves the freshest of oysters as well as melt in your mouth sashimi. Recently the popular establishment was named the Metro 2015 Restaurant of the Year.
Right next to Depot is another Al Brown dining experience. The Federal Delicatessen offers bagels, and sandwiches inspired by the New York delis of old. The diner-style interior is filled with the aroma of house-smoked pastrami and spit roasted chicken while the line cooks work together like a well-oiled machine for all to see. Don't leave without sampling one of their delicious American-style sweet pies.
In contrast, Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club - located 53 floors above the city of Auckland in the towering Sky Tower - is one of Auckland newest fine dining experiences while The Grill by Sean Connolly is perfect for those looking for meatier fare.
Peter Gordon is known as ‘the father of fusion cuisine’ after pioneering the movement in the eighties. Gordon is now pushing the culinary boundaries with The Sugar Club. The Sugar Club, inspired by an earlier era, showcases the best and freshest New Zealand produce combined with some of the most exciting ingredients to be found around the globe.
Inspired by a reality TV show, The Grill by Sydney chef Sean Connolly is another star dining experience. Challenged to create an award-winning restaurant from scratch - to budget and in just three months - Connolly served up a trendy but understated steak house with a menu designed to impress serious meat eaters.
City Works Depot
City Works Depot features the familiar name Al Brown with his celebrated Best Ugly Bagels. The handmade dough is punched, rolled, boiled and fired on-site in true Montreal style. Delicious toppings like pastrami, lox, smoked fish and the classic tomato, basil and avocado have made these bagels a favourite lunch stop in Auckland.
The Food Truck Garage is the home of a mobile food truck and subject of a TV show. The 'garage' takes classic ‘fast food’ that is traditionally high in fat, salt and sugar and makes their own delicious, healthier alternatives using fresh local ingredients. Their famous 'Beefroot Burger' features a beetroot and beef pattie, and all the usual burger ingredients served on a gluten-free bun.
For a more intimate dining option Odette's Eatery provides the perfect atmosphere for a fine-dining experience. Odette's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has quickly earned a stellar reputation since opening in 2014. Just downstairs, The Botanist is another quirky café stop with a great little menu of healthy lunch options.
Brothers Brewery is the perfect place to wet your whistle before or after a meal. With a huge array of craft beers on tap or by the bottle, there will be something to satisfy the most discerning beer drinker. Try one of the Brothers' ales brewed on site or sample some of New Zealand's best craft beers on their taps that are on a regular rotation. Don't worry if you don't want to leave, the team at Brothers Brewery throw together a great pizza or a classic New Zealand style toasted sandwich.