Since moving to New Zealand, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends about what to do and where to eat in Auckland, which are inadvertently tricky questions to answer; what do you like and dislike? What’s your budget? Are you willing to travel far? These are just some of the many variables – especially if we’re talking about food in a sprawling city like Auckland, where we’re absolutely spoilt for choice.
But bearing in mind that most people who’ve been asking about food are coming in as tourists and only spending a few days (if that) in Auckland, here’s a quick list of eateries of all sorts that are easy to get to for tourists and would almost certainly please your palate.
1. Giapo Ice Cream
Credit: Giapo Ice Cream
This is a fairly small but always busy ice cream shop on Queen Street, Auckland’s main stretch (at least, for tourists). The shop’s so small it would’ve been easy to miss – if not for the queue. Often marketing themselves as “New Zealand’s best ice cream”, they’re actually not far off the mark. I, for one, have yet to try something better in this country.
Giapo’s ice cream is freshly made every day; flavours change on a daily basis and include intriguing choices like sangria sorbet and hokey pokey & bacon. Hokey pokey, by the way, is a classic Kiwi flavour so give it a go while here! Overall, Giapo ice cream isn’t cheap but I consider them worthwhile as an indulgence once in a blue moon. Giapo’s location also makes it a pretty convenient pit stop after a busy day of walking around town.
Address: 267-287 Queen Street, Auckland
2. The Langham Hotel seafood buffet
Credit: Langham Hotel Auckland
New Zealand is famous for its seafood and its variety and quality is on full display here at the Langham for a great price. If you’re used to forking out $150 per person in Singapore for a seafood buffet at a 5-star hotel, this is your chance to go crazy. Langham’s seafood buffet lunch is $50 nett and has everything a big appetite could hope for: freshly shucked oysters that are constantly restocked, lobsters, crabs, a speciality sashimi counter, and all sorts of fish cooked à la minute.
The dessert section has quite the spread as well so pace yourself. These two points, coupled with the good service, mean you can hardly go wrong. It helps that it’s still within walking distance from the touristy stretch but is just far enough that you can walk off your lunch afterwards. They do a dinner buffet as well. Though priced slightly higher than lunch, it’s still well worth it.
Address: Eight Restaurant, Langham Hotel, 83 Symonds Street, Auckland
3. Depot Eatery
Credit: Depot Eatery
Another spot just a stone’s throw away from Queen Street, Depot Eatery is practically an institution amongst Aucklanders. Known for their fantastic renditions of local Kiwi food, this place seems to be busy at all hours.
Don’t miss out on their crispy tobacco onions, which I find insanely addictive. Like many of the favourite local hangouts, Depot Eatery has a terrific buzz that really add to the experience. Go early to avoid dinner queues. Out of all the recommended spots, this one is probably the easiest to find since it’s just across from the Sky Tower.
Address: 86 Federal Street, Auckland
Contrary to its “New Zealand is all sheep and no people” reputation, Auckland has more than a few spots that remind me of the Manhattan dining scene (minus the pompous New Yorker attitude). This is one such spot.
I’d highly recommend it for its unique setting, buzz, and innovative renditions of some time-honoured dishes. As is the case with every recommendation here, this restaurant is easy to find if you’re in the vicinity of Queen Street.
Address: 7 Fort Lane, Auckland
5. Mezze Bar
This is a perennial favourite for some seriously good Turkish and Mediterranean tapas. As a departure from the other recommendations, Mezze Bar has a really relaxed vibe and functions well as a cafe, restaurant, and bar. They’ve got an extensive food menu and I’ve been meaning to try more dishes here but every time I go I end up opting for the grilled lamb kebabs because it’s just that good. Mezze Bar also has an extensive vegetarian & vegan menu as well as a gluten-free menu.
Address: 9 Durham Street East, Auckland
1. Live Music With Food? Don’t Mind If I Do.
If you’re in town on a Wednesday night, consider going to Elliott Stables for dinner. This space is a bit like a classy food court in that it’s basically a cluster of eateries offering a wide variety of cuisines. You order at their respective counters and the food delivered to you. Why visit on a Wednesday evening? That’s when there’s a band playing jazz for you. Food-wise, the options are probably not quite at the level of those recommended above. But seriously, it’s a food court with live jazz. Don’t mind if I do.
2. Cantonese Food!!
This one’s for all my friends coming in from Singapore: if you like Cantonese food (char siew, roast duck/goose, dim sum, etc.) you’re in for a treat. The Cantonese food here is hands down better than the Cantonese food in Singapore. I’d say check out BBQ King, which is just off Queen Street, but frankly that’s only one of the many, many restaurants here that serve up delicious Cantonese fare. The basic rule of thumb is: if the restaurant has a roast meat counter, they would’ve likely hired a chef who specialises in Cantonese roast meat, and the food will be good. (Though come to think of it, I haven’t yet had outright bad Asian food here…)
For dim sum, Harbour Grand Restaurant over in the Viaduct – again, within walking distance from Queen Street – is the best in terms of authenticity and variety. You’ll even get the whole push cart experience. If going on the weekends, make sure you reach before 11:15am in order to beat the crowds. Nothing worse than seeing row after row of push carts going past you while all you can do is wait.
3. Only For The Brave
If you happen to be a durian lover and are feeling up for a challenge, head over to the dessert shop adjacent to BBQ King. This is the home of the durian pizza, a concoction so grotesque it’s surely something they should pay you to eat?! It’s exactly what it sounds: melted cheese drizzled over some durian mixture spread over dough. If you do try it, let me know how it went. But don’t come reporting to me in person right after eating it.
This about sums up my recommendations in terms of food within the very constrictive category “what should tourists visit”. We haven’t even strayed a mile from Queen Street yet, but if I went on about the other great finds in the rest of the city, this article will become untenably long.
If you want to see a list of things to do in Auckland, let me know; if it turns into an FAQ I suppose I’ll slap another article together.