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Auckland Restaurants


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hello will be over in nz in march for the world chef conference and competition. i was wondering who the movers and shakers are now. i worked in auckland in 96,97 for michael james at essence and previously at the regent. and the restaurants that were good then were vinnies, kermadec, and one at the hyatt. whats new and where should i eat when i come. does anyone know where michael james is now last i heard he was at his own place mjs then at euro. not sure now. any help would be great. and if any chefs fancy a beer in march see you there i can already taste the mac black. simon :biggrin:

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French Cafe in Symonds street is always excellent. Or try "White" in the Auckland Hilton

Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd say Euro is your best bet for fine dining, although Shane Yardly is head chef now under Simon Gault. I've heard good things about O'Connell Street Bistro (chef is Stephen Ward who worked under Conran at Bluebird). For the best and freshest seafood in town, go to Salt in Grey Lynn. Very limited seating (mostly takeaway business) but it's so worth it. You should definitely get over to Galbraith's Alehouse while you're here, their Grafton Porter is fantastic (they have Mac's too).

Erin
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I'd say Euro is your best bet for fine dining, although Shane Yardly is head chef now under Simon Gault.  I've heard good things about O'Connell Street Bistro (chef is Stephen Ward who worked under Conran at Bluebird).  For the best and freshest seafood in town, go to Salt in Grey Lynn.  Very limited seating (mostly takeaway business) but it's so worth it.  You should definitely get over to Galbraith's Alehouse while you're here, their Grafton Porter is fantastic (they have Mac's too).

Do you know Zest?. Is not a franchise from the Australian one is it?

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Do you mean the one in Melbourne? It looks doubtful. Our Zest adjoins CityLife Hotel, part of the Heritage Hotel 4-star-plus chain in NZ, and serves as its bar/restaurant with cafe-style fare, more lowbrow than I'd expect from a hotel at that level and not as upscale as Zest's in Melbourne from what I can tell. Hope this helps.

Erin
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Do you mean the one in Melbourne?  It looks doubtful.  Our Zest adjoins CityLife Hotel, part of the Heritage Hotel 4-star-plus chain in NZ, and serves as its bar/restaurant with cafe-style fare, more lowbrow than I'd expect from a hotel at that level and not as upscale as Zest's in Melbourne from what I can tell.  Hope this helps.

Great... I think we'll book for the French Café and probably the O'Connell Street Bistro... Zest was highlighted in a Visual Guide as one of the best restaurants in AKL :unsure:

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  • 5 months later...

Hey all,

I've arrived in Auckland for a culinary voyage. I've been here before but I hope to update the situation here so that anyone travelling in the near future, or lives here anyway, gets a peak at whats on.

We have four nights. The short list is as follows:

- O'connel St bistro

- Molten

- Totos

- The french cafe.

I'll post all the reviews seperately.

I'll keep you all up to taste.

Cheers,

J

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The first plate: O'Connel St. Bistro

Situated at the bottom end of O'connel St. just down the hill from the chancellery, The O'Connel st bistro is akin to many of the premises on the street. It is dark, enchanted with an old world feel. The restraraunt itself is somwehat small, seating about 30-45 people. The earthy tones of the interior and the hardwood floors are well complemented by the dimmed lights and candle lit tables to provide a truly authentic chateau chateau experience. (even if the candles themselves feel a bit tacky). One might query whether or not the environment is too subdued to be considered a bistro. (I'll clarfiy that in my next post "all things pedantic"). It feels homely. Thats good!

The menu itself is a strange mix. It is hardly the snails and onion soup bistro that I had imagined. It encroached on that with dishes such as: "Crispy fried Squid w wild Rocket & roast Garlic Saffron aioli" (entree) "Oven roasted Lamb loin w Escargot & confit Garlic farce, roasted baby golden Kumara & Watercress salad & Cabernet Verjus syrup" (main). However, there was a definite italian inlfuence, if not dominance with meals such as: "Roasted Roma Tomato & Tomme de Chevre tartin w Prosciutto di Parma, aged Balsamic & micro Basil" (entree) and "

Pappardelle of braised Rabbit, rimu smoked Bacon, Walnut Watercress pesto & Parmigiano" (main). Whilst, this was a pleasant surprise to me, I could see how some would be disappointed if Steak Frite had been imprinted on thier mind for days prior. This is a caution for those of you who like your holidays dripping with bernaise.

When you read these reviews, keep in mind that I would swim four lengths of the Arno before I even tested the water in the Seine. :wink:

ENTREE:

For Entree I sought to captilise on the psychitzophrenic nature of the menu, I ordered the "Salmon gravlax, cured in Vanilla & Mustard seed w poached Shiitake Mushrooms, micro soft Herbs & Citrus creme fraiche" and sought to barter with my mother who ordered the "Roasted Roma Tomato & Tomme de Chevre tartin w Prosciutto di Parma, aged Balsamic & micro Basil". The Salmon was very delicate. The slices were not that thin, but that simply elucidated how tender it was. And that was melting tender, Very fresh. and the shitake that came with it also shone. I was truly satisfied. The creme fraiche was scattered scarcely, a wise move considering the quality of the salmon. In france, O'connel shines.

The tartin also evidenced a commitment to excellent produce. Whilst, the prosciutto seemed a little soft (perhaps could have been cured longer), the tomatos and the mozzarello were very good. This dish perhaps presented the one weakness in O'Connel's armour. The pastry on the tartin, was very french, perhaps more suited to egg based ingredients. It did not do justice to the delicacy of its contents. It was beautiful pastry, but it would certainly be foreign to any Nonna. This dish was west meets west and as a result, it seemed far from centre. Nice try, wouldn't get it again.

Main:

Again, my mother and I would venture to Italy. my mother ordered the ""Pappardelle of braised Rabbit, rimu smoked Bacon, Walnut Watercress pesto & Parmigiano Reggiano

29.5". I ordered "Ossu Bucco with polenta (w/parmesan) and fennel (31 I think)"

(it was the roasted polenta, not the soft). The dishes were great, they accentuated the flavour of the meat. My Ossu Bucco was slow cooked, but remained in tact and was a fresh take on the sloppy stew usually associated ossu bucco. The fennel was tender, and the polenta tasted like polenta, perhaps it needed more cheese :biggrin: . I write it as it tasted, unimbelished and fresh. Strange to say for this cut of meat, but it was a well executed dish. The Parpadelle was similarly executed. The little strips of rabbit was delicate but hearty at the same time. The pesto was not prominent and it amounted to a solid dish.

This restaraunt was a real food and wine restaraunt. The food was not overpowering and lended itself very well to complement a solid wine. Personally, I'm not a big drinker. We had a merlot from hawkes bay or something. It was strong bodied wine, and I really enjoyed it with the meal. Its no surprise that O'Connel's had won awards for thier wine lists four or five years running.

Personally, I'm more about the food. But, those who have the pallet for berries and oak, will really enjoy this restaraunt.

Dessert:

Again a share. Myself, a Honeycomb semifreddo with poached tamarillo, my mum, a valrhona brownie with almond and macadamia ice-cream/gelati, I guess Kulfi. The Tomarillo was tart, full of flavour and well complemented by the extremely rich semifreddo. It had little chunks of honeycomb throughout, that were well appreciated by all who tried it. The balance of tart and sweet worked very well, However, the double, (tripple or quadrupple creme) in the semi freddo was a little too rich. The brownie was tremendous. It was moist, well packed, but light and airy to eat. the kulfi was solid as well, quite nutty, but i little too icy. A honey, almond and macadamia ice-cream would have been just right! :raz:

In the desserts, there was true french execution. It was well appreciated.

Btw: for those concerned with presentation, no problem there.

Conc:

An excellent restaraunt where produce shined. The dishes did not claim to be anything that they were not. It was simple faire, matched well with simple wines, and a great time was had. I would definately go back, but would be looking to order the frencher meals, if thats possible.

To Molten tomorrow,

Cheers All,

J

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(not so) Sloppy Seconds

Molten (422 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden)

It tooks us about 10-15 mins by cab to get to from the heart of the CBD.

The restaraunt itself held around 25 seats, with an additional back bar running along the rear of the premises. There is also a function room upstairs. The interior is very modern, simple and honest. Dark wood tables sitting parallel to a long bench seat running along the right hand wall of the room.

To start we had "n-house baked bread selection with 05 Te Arai Estate

olive oil and avocado aioli.". The bread itself was interesting. Two slices plain and two slices were rippled escargot style with roasted onion. The onion version was nice, but its counterpart seemed a little too processed for our liking. But we needed something to dip in the wonderfully fruity olive oil and and creamy aioli. They hit the spot.

Entree:

"Fired duck livers. Portobello mushrooms, crispy onion bread and masala cream. $16.50" and "Sesame salt and pepper squid with cucumber, peanut relish and chilli manuka honey. $16.50"

The livers were very well cooked, just a touch of pink. The dish featured the same onion bread as the starter so that was a bit of a bummer. However, it certainly suited the dish, so you can't really fault em. The marsala cream was very subtle and added a suberb depth to that distinct liver power. The bread was also charred slightly and that was appreciated. The jus fromt he livers and the marsala cream was layered with intricacy of an eroded coastline at the base of the bread (very cool). The squid was heavilly crumbed with the salt, pepper and peanut. The chilli and manuka honey provided a night play on sweet chilli sauce. The dish had a slight edge from the chilli and the crust was well seasoned. The only possible criticism was that perhaps the squid could have been cooked a little less. It was not tough, but it was definately bordering it. On the whole it was a safe combination, with a safe result. We were pleased.

Main:

"Confit of free range pork scotch. Minikin dumpling cassoulet and black nectarine relish.$29.00" and "Grilled King Fish Fillet with prawn and pancetta ristto and a few slices of cabbage(I think, as it was the special)" with a side of "broccoli and brussel sprouts with a nutty walnut butter".

The Pork was a meal of two halves. The pork itself was fabulous. The fillet was tender as anything and the skin was crispy and sweet. It was well complemented by the nectarine relish that was not tooo sweet, and worked impeccably with the pork. The Cassoulet jus itself was like a veal stock, quite rich but intertwined well with the relish. On the other half, the minkin dumplings (effectively french goat cheese gnocci), were heavy and gluggy. The flavour was ok, but it was badly overridden by the dense and heavy texture. It was not a gnocci and it was not a dumpling. If they were going to go towards a dumpling, it should have had more flavour then it did. Because of the lack of flavour, it was stranded in gnocci village, and heavy gnocci is about as good as lumpy polenta. Not very. Needless to say, they were omitted from items of consumption.

The fish was grilled. Char marks on the outside added a nice complexity to the unsauced/unmarinated fish. This was very smart, when considered in the scheme of risotto. The risotto itself was incredibly flavourful and not heavy at all. The pieces of prawn embedded within it were very tender and were a pleasant surprise. No complaints about this dish. The fish was of excellent quality, it was well thought out and well executed.

The veges were crunchy and the walnut butter came in a tablet on top. The veges were great, cause they tasted like veges. (a problem most restaraunts usually struggle with).

Dessert: This was a hazlenut and chocolate truffle. It was perfectly sculpted and was very smooth inside. The hazelnut provided a strong flavour and would not have left any nutella fan disappointed.

This dinner was as expected. All aspects of the restaraunt were modest, from interior to ingredients. The meals were all recognised combinations and were well executed. The restaraunt seems to offer auckland diners that in betweener. The food is easy to produce consistently and tastes great. It is a very hard menu to choose from because all of the dishes are easy to like. If I lived in Auckland, I would be hoping for more restaraunts like Molten. However, adventurous travellers would not necessarily make this there first stop. On the balance, I think Molten has a lot to offer. It provides a lesson to a lot of other Auckland restaraunts in a similar price range.

A consistent peformer.

Tomorrow to Toto.

Regards

J

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Can day old bread still taste good?

Toto's: 53 Nelson St. in the CBD.

The room itself is lovely and authentic. Two wood lit fires, bay windows and marble tables. The bar in front of the kitchen has the antipasto on display and look akin to any of those in Italy. We have heard there are massive rooms downstairs etc, but didn't bother to look. The important thing was that the restaraunt itself was fine.

We had been to the head chefs former restaraunt, Non Solo Pizza, on our last trip. We refused to eat our mains and walked out. On our first trip to NZ we came to this establishment, before the current head chef had taken over and had a dreadful meal. The room was old, so was the chef. However, the combination of the two together was a new one. The current head chef took over earlier this year and there has been much talk of totos since. Talk is good. food is better.

We perused the menu with much trepadation. Given our icy relationship with the past, the menu appeared to have large margin for failure. As believers in traditional italian cuisine, we were looking for the staples. However, not many could be found. The menu is a mixture of the old with the new, and whilst not being revolutionary, it is certainly not your bistecca fiorentina or ribolita menu. Nevertheless, it had its glimpses.

Appetizer: Bruschetta of the day: tomato, basil and garlic.

What was a special of the day, was in fact a classic for the ages. Therefore, a good starting point to try and eradicate many a sleepless night and cold sweat. The chef decided to use cherry tomatos. It worked well. The bread was that night mix of crunchy and sloppy at the same time. Whilst basil was not an actual ingredient, it was present as an infused oil. The garlic was salient and helped to form a great culmination.

Entrees:

"Linguine Ai Legumi Freschi Linguine with a saute of broadbeans, peas, olives, string beans and fresh chilli" and "Gamberi su puree di Cavolfiore Prawns wrapped in speck, with cauliflower and truffle puree, fennel crunch".

After easing past the appetizer, we were a little more confident. These two dishes, dispelled out fear. The prawn were perfectly cooked. They were crunchy, tender and conveyed the freshed seafood flavour. They were wrapped delicately in the speck which provided a great depth of flavour. The cauliflower puree was creamy and not over seasoned. Together, the prawns and the puree worked very well. Sitting atop this combination was a some deep fried fennel. The batter was akin to tempura and when eaten with the prawns, one could see how this dish was modern italian fare. The execution was flawless. And even the presentation, with the head of the prawns superimposed onto thier perfectly peeled bodies was appreciated.

Whilst points were won with the gamberi, the linguine sealed the deal. The sauce was very light and seemed to resemble more of a summer dish than a winter dish. Nevertheless, when broad beans are in season, there is no reason not to use them. The first bite revealed what we had hoped for, but been let down on the two prior occasions. THE LINGUINE WAS AL DENTE. About bloody time too. Though there was a little too much crunch in the dish (A pip left in an olive), we were more than willing to excuse this blunder in return for a linguine that nonna would have been proud of. The piquant of the chilli added depth. It was great.

Main: Braised beef cheeks with soft polenta (made w/a hint of truffle oil) and "aromatic" vegetables. (Special)

The waiter emphasised that these vegetables were particularly aromatic. Given that it was part of stew, you would have to wonder why. Then again, his insistance that the salad of the day would be "Radi CH eo" with Tal EE Gio" perhaps clarified this phenomena. Nevertheless, he insisted that the dish was being entered into an Auckland wide competition for signature dishes, so we decided to trust his recomendation, if not his pronounciation.

The serving was huge. There was a beach of polenta, topped by a mountain of beef, engraved by with river of rich stock/juices floating with diced vegetables. The polenta itself was buttery and had the barest hint ot truffle. But very plain. Which we were to be thankful of, given the richness of the beef. The dimmed lights hid an eye fillet sized wad of fat that lay embeddered in our beef, but thanfully, was removable from the rest. Despite the removal of the lard, the beef was incredibly well marbled and was certainly did not require a knife. Perhaps a spoon, would have been more suitable than a fork. It was really that tender. The vegetables were tasted like the sauce, but the dish was complemented by four or so deep fried sage leaves that were scattered around the plate. I could only finish about 90% of the dish, and I was incredibly hungry before we got there. If anyone manages to finish that meal, please post. I would love to hear about the horrific after affects.

The side of brainsed spinanch with sultanas and pinenuts were also cooked to the required texture. Very plain, but the olives added depth. After all that polenta and meat, the spinach added another colour to the table.

The main was excellent. It was a massive homecooked meal that complemented the environment impeccably. The difficulty in making a recomendation for the future is that this was the special, and supposedly "award worthy" meal. So, would the regular mains on the menu be as accomplished. In my opinion, there was nothing to suggest otherwise. I would highly recommend Toto's to other diners looking for a hit of italy. And I would be very interested to try the pizza.

Dessert:

Following the battle, the dessert was somewhat peacefull. We shared Ricotta and candied peel stuffed, chocolate covered cannoli. It was as expected. Nice, But I wouldn't order it again. It was traditional, but there was nothing to suggest you couldn't obtain a similar combination from a christmas left overs. It was not particularly fresh, and thus, maybe Toto's had seized this idea. We were just thankful that it was small.

In conclusion the meal was very good. Every dish was well executed and truly italian. From the pasta to the polenta. It was what everyone loves about Italian food, a good feed. But be warned, do not order nearly as we did, if you are not accustomed to the occasional if not regurlar avalanche of food.

Tomorrow, will be a more dainty meal. I think my heart needs it. :wacko:

Kind Regards,

J

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The French Frontier:

Well, its been a long pleasing and filling last couple of days. And what better way to complete the trip, than with a voyage to Auckland’s pearl, The French Café. As far as reputation goes, its hard to find a restaurant as well renowned as the French Café. Within NZ it is well accepted that the French Café hold the heavyweight crown. This was our second visit to the restaurant. We decided to go the tasting menu this time. We though it was best for them to show us what they do best.

“Green Pea Cappuccino with Porcini Powder

Foie Gras Parfait with Apple Caramel and Pear Relish

Marinated Tuna, Escabeche of Fresh Crab, Coriander, Tomato Jelly and Ginger Oil ?

Snail, Chicken and Foie Gras Tortellini with Baked Snail, Parsley Butter and Garli

Caramelised Onion, Fig and Beetroot Tart with French Goats Cheese and Red Wine Syrup?

Crispy Roast Duckling with Mandarin Puree, Kumara Mash, Steamed Bok Choy and Jus of Oranges

or

Roasted Crayfish Tail with Sweet Carrot Puree, Almond Foam, Baby Cress and Mandarin Oil

Passionfruit Jelly with Iced Nougat, Pineapple Confit and Banana Passionfruit Sorbet

Warm Bitter Chocolate Souffle with Hot Chocolate Sauce, Orange Puree and Butterscotch Ice Cream

$95.00 w/the option of matching wines for an additional $65.00.”

The meal was great. Every dish had its own balances and textural devices and was excellently crafted in its own right. Together they combined for one of the superior dining experiences. I am not nearly going to describe every dish, just a few small notes/gripes.

-The tomato Jelly/Gelato, in the marinated tuna dish was way too sweet. Couldn’t eat it. I restaurants should steer clear of this concept. After having a tomato shot at vue de monde which was equally repulsive, I just don’t get it.

- The Almond foam with the crayfish tasted like almond essence. It tasted like a cheap candy store sought of almond. Though the crayfish was cooked so nicely that the dish was still edible with the sweet carrot mash, the foam was not a brighter note. Maybe if the foam was made with less intensity it would complement the crayfish better. For that reason, I would strongly recommend choosing the duck if you were ordering from this menu.

- The deserts were fantastic!

If you are coming to Auckland, or simply wanting a great night out, look no further than The French Café. Its a glitzy and incredibly well run operation. You will have to make an evening out of it, especially if you do the tasting menu, but its well worth it.

Regards,

J

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Now that I’ve done the French, I’ve completed my eating itinerary. In terms of recommending restaurants in the future, following my now enhanced knowledge, I would make the following comments:

1)-The French Café: Wham, Bam full of glam. Big night out, no doubt, this is where its at. Book well in advance, as we were very lucky to scrape in with only three days notice.

2)-The O’Connel St. Bistro: Wine and simple grub. Well executed food, that sits in halfway house between france and italy, but is certainly full of modern takes to traditional dishes. A sure stop for those who like their wine, and I guess, there food too. Simple, but incredibly effective.

2)- Toto’s: Traditional Italian. Authentic modern Italian with a few traditional takes, but don’t expect to enter without the prospect of being stuffed full of food.

3)-Molten: Modern International dishes. Well executed with minimal, (but some) fuss. The menu is wide, safe and makes this restaurant an easy place to eat. Not unbelievable, but seemingly consistent.

Note: The ranking is somewhat arbitrary. The French Café is clearly one. O’Connel and toto’s I’ve put next to each other simply because they are in a somewhat similar category and which one you go to depends on whether you want a quieter household experience, or a larger room, open fire, Italian experience. Molten is last, not because it is the worst restaurant, but because it fights in a lower category. Indeed, if I live in Auckland, I might even travel to Molten the most often. This guide is based for travellers. So if you’ve just had a long day, and want no fuss, maybe molten is your go.

“Special delivery for Hoops McCann”

- The Engine Room: This one was next off the bat, but just missed the cut. I’ve heard some very interesting things about this restaurant. Supposed to be innovative, and the chef is supposed to have creative twists on bistro fare. Its in a great position.

- The Grove. Had one of our best meals at this joint last time in Auckland, But decided not to make our way around. It is a great place and would strongly recommend for those on longer stays.

- Vinnies: Ex-Head chef at White has taken over here. We were tempted, at first, until we saw the menu. Some very strange combinations indeed. As much as I like the new, there were quite a few combinations that were perhaps best left to the kitchen hand. If inventive cuisine rocks your boat, then try it out. But I recommend a squiz at the menu beforehand.

- Rocco: Another, should’ve, could’ve would’ve didn’t. Looked interesting, modern Italian, from what I can recall. Worth a try.

“Bodacious Cowboys, such as your friends, will never be welcome here”

- The White: I think time has past this old dame by. Some would claim she never had it, but from what I’ve heard, things have gone down hill badly over the last couple of years. Unless you're the type of person who likes seeing Keith Richards fall out of his hammock, perhaps a steer clear zone.

- Non-solo Pizza, Gina’s and Red. All terrible concierge crap recommended on our first trip. On our fourth trip now, I still wake up in a cold sweat. But by all means, if there is someone you don’t like, perhaps reel off one of these names to them.

I’d like to thank those of you who guided me to some of these. Hope this aids those travelling to Auckland in the future. Any updates, suggestions or questions. Feel free to post.

Its been a pleasure.

J.

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Thanks for your great reviews :smile: I really enjoyed reading each days restaurant review and will keep them in mind on my next visit to the land on the long white cloud.

Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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  • 1 month later...

We went to the French Cafe during the week and had another wonderful meal there. The last time I was there was for a large work dinner, and I would have to say that it was the only work dinner I have ever been to where the food was actually the same as you would get if you were eating in a group of four, rather than a room of 100. The French Cafe just gets everything so right, their service is attentive without being obsequious, their cutlery and glasses are good quality and sparkling, and the food is super good. I had the duck for a main, crisp - yet moist inside, served with kumara puree - excellent, Olivia had the steak - perfectly cooked, and with a side of big fat chips - so yum! Try the dessert tasting plate - choc molten pudding, pannacotta and a delicious passionfruit frozen biscuity thing. Good wine by the glass. Very impressed with our evening. Didn't even think it was so expensive, mains $34, but most places are hitting $30, without being in the same league. Recommended.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Folks,

I have a couple of days in Auckland next week, and I am looking to do either dinner on Good Friday or lunch on Saturday.

In particular, I am looking for somewhere at the top end that would be open and recommended. I don't have a particular preference on the type of food.

Many thanks, Howard (London, UK)

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Hi Howard,

Here's a few to choose from

The French Cafe

Don't let the name put you off. This is a fine dining restaurant :smile:

White @ the Hilton

Fnatastic location overlooking the harbour.

Enjoy

Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Folks,

I have a couple of days in Auckland next week, and I am looking to do either dinner on Good Friday or lunch on Saturday.

In particular, I am looking for somewhere at the top end that would be open and recommended. I don't have a particular preference on the type of food.

Many thanks, Howard (London, UK)

Many thanks - coincidentally I am staying at the Hilton.

Cheers, Howard

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  • 1 year later...

Any new recommendations?

Is this thread limited to fine dining, or

are there places worth seeking out, but suitable for a well behaved sub-teen ?

We're headed out in the cold months. While most of the trip will be fueled by bakeries and picnics, there's a day or two when a good meal will be in order.

thanks in advance.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Did you just want Auckland restaurants?

I just got back from Auckland, where I had 3 15-year-old boys in tow. I had planned to take them to a "good" restaurant while we were there, but a closer look at their wardrobes made me think again. Yes, we have the jeans, or the grubby jeans, or the cargo pants, or...

Coming from Japan, the boys enjoyed Tony's in Wellesley St. It's a venerable steak house, has a branch in Lorne St. with a similar menu. They enjoyed a good meal in pleasant but not starched surroundings, and while service is generally not a strong point of NZ restaurants, I thought the service here was better than at some other restaurants we ate at.

We've previously enjoyed the Japanese restaurant Rika in Newmarket.

Another relaxed eating place we enjoyed was the Malaysian Nyonya Restaurant in Howick village (out of the way unless you have a reason to be in the eastern suburbs). The service was accurate and willing, but somewhat unskilled, but the three boys REALLY enjoyed their meal. They ordered so much that the waitress suggested they might like to reduce their order (!), but they polished off every bit of it, even though my son's two friends are mostly known as light eaters. In other words, it was very approachable. The steamed snapper was extremely good, though again, needed just another push on the last details - beautifully cooked, but one or two scales still in evidence.

As far as "relaxed but good" goes, I would have liked to try a winery lunch or brunch, thinking that seeing a vineyard and/or winery as well as having lunch would be interesting for the boys. There are cheaper options, but I had my eye on the Sunday lunch at Vin Alto in Clevedon (South Auckland) -- just couldn't find time.

Outside Auckland (and not even very far out of Auckland), you might consider a farmstay or homestay with somebody interested in cooking. Kids can do things like ride horses or bikes, or feed animals, while you talk food or cook with your hostess.

I'll talk about picnics and bakeries in the other subforum!

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