You have to pause to remember that this is the city. You have to take stock while you’re sitting there at the Mudbrick Vineyard on New Zealand’s Waiheke Island, glass of wine in hand, plate of amazing food in front of you, view of vines and ocean on the horizon, and bear in mind that this is how some people do life in the big smoke.
Downtown Auckland is only a 40-minute ferry ride from here. There’s a bustling, humming city just over the horizon, back on the mainland. And yet here you sit, maybe sampling the confit duck leg with red cabbage and duck liver, or the braised beef cheeks in dark ale, or the lamb loin with dukkah and celeriac, oblivious to all but the scenery, the company, and the deliciousness that awaits.
This is what the Auckland food scene has to offer. Yes, it has the things you would expect of any cosmopolitan city – the small cafes, the fine-dining restaurants, the suburban eateries – but it also has plenty of things you wouldn’t, the likes of craft breweries, waterfront oyster bars, French-style markets, food tours, and meals at places like Mudbrick, so far removed from the city on its own little island, and yet so much a cherished part of the Auckland scene. And the best part of all? Auckland is only a three-hour flight from Australia’s Eastern Seaboard, making it the perfect short-break destination.
This is a city that knows how to eat. There are influences here from around the globe, culinary styles from Europe, the sub-continent, the US, South-East Asia and even the Pacific that have helped shape the Auckland food scene, helped nurture the city’s passion for good produce into a love of dining out. There are so many varied experiences here, so many cuisines, so many styles.
In the centre of the city, busy waterfront hubs such as Britomart, the Wynyard Quarter and the Viaduct have a huge range of options for hungry travellers. Britomart is perhaps the most exciting of all – a formerly gritty docklands area that has been transformed into a hub of some of the city’s best restaurants, bars and cafes. For those who love to eat, this is the place to begin, the place to appreciate the breadth of Auckland’s gastronomic offerings.
Britomart is home to places like Ortolana, an elegant bistro where you can feast on the Euro-inspired likes of braised short ribs with mushrooms, or beetroot gnocchi with goat’s cheese. There’s also the Store, with its chic diner-style food and onsite bakery; the brasserie-esque Ostro; the cosy, laneway Racket Bar; the speakeasy-style Caretaker Bar; and Milse, a dedicated dessert restaurant that will appeal to any sweet tooth.
Call through Britomart on a weekend and you’ll also find La Cigale, an open-air, French-style market which you can’t fail to miss thanks to the scent of fresh-baked pastries and baguettes wafting through the air, as well as the sight of imported French cheeses for sale, and a host of locally farmed fruits and vegetables on offer.
For a deeper look into the Britomart scene, however, it’s time to call on the experts: Unique Tours has guided walks of the area, tours that take in food, cocktails and craft beers, as well as the chance to chat to the people driving the Britomart scene. The Big Foody also runs some fantastic tours of the city’s drinking and dining highlights.
Of Auckland’s other waterfront hubs, the Wynyard Quarter has a host of eateries along the North Wharf, while over at the Viaduct, Dr Rudi’s commands flawless views over the harbour to go with its offering of pizzas, share plates and craft beers, Oyster & Chop dishes up the finest of each of its eponymous proteins, and Soul Bar has plenty of Italian-style seafood.
And then, of course, there’s Ponsonby. This is Auckland’s most cutting edge suburb, the sort of place where restaurateurs can take a few risks, can push the scene forward. Take a walk down Ponsonby Road and you’ll find everything from American-style smokehouses (Miss Moonshine’s) to modern Vietnamese (Mekong Baby), Thai street food (Moochowchow) to classic Italian bistro fare (Prego). This is a suburb for exploring and taking a few chances – and never fear, you won’t go hungry.
Of course, some of Auckland’s finest purveyors of cuisine are based outside of the city itself, though within easy striking distance for travellers. There are three distinct wine regions that surround Auckland, and each has something to offer passionate foodies.
The closest is Kumeu, only a 20-minute drive from downtown Auckland, home to plenty of well-known labels that are open to the public for tastings. Drive a little further and you’ll make it to Matakana, where even more wineries await, as well as a few restaurants that are worth the one-hour drive alone.
Take Brick Bay Winery, set in a truly stunning location among rolling green hills, with views out over the water. The wine here is excellent, but it’s the food at the Glasshouse Kitchen that really draws the crowds, with dishes such as salmon with udon and shitake, and braised lamb shoulder with rice pilaf. Nearby, Mahurangi River Winery also has an excellent selection of food, and a similarly beautiful outlook.
For something a little different, try Sawmill, a working craft brewery in Matakana that also offers excellent, modern New Zealand-style cuisine in its restaurant. Pair the food with an ale of your choice, and you can’t go wrong.
And then, of course, there’s Waiheke Island, so close to downtown Auckland, and yet so far from city life in terms of its attitude. You could take it easy here with a casual lunch, or grab a few takeaway bites and head down to the beach for a picnic. But the true joy is getting down to a winery for a proper feast.
At Cable Bay Vineyards, the dining room commands an incredible view over the water – however, it’s chef Max Larbiose’s French cuisine, the likes of venison tartare, duck breast with parsnip, and fennel risotto, that really catch the eye. Over at Mudbrick, meanwhile, it’s a similar story: beautiful scenery, high-quality wine, and food that showcases everything the Auckland area has to offer. This is city life, done right.
Auckland. One city. Two worlds.
Auckland is a city unlike any other. With incredible natural wonders on the doorstep of a world class city, Auckland is the perfect short break destination. Start planning your trip now at