Whenever we head back to New Zealand, we’ve got some tough choices to make on where to dine – the gastronomic scene has such a depth of quality that we’re always torn between checking out popular new openings and revisiting old favourites. Here are our picks for our tried and tested restaurants in Auckland that you simply don’t want to miss.
We’ve lost count at how many awards this shrine to modern Indian cuisine has won (or perhaps we’re just too lazy to look them all up), but let us tell you – it’s a lot. A dark, industrial basement tucked away on Fort Lane, this cave-like central city hideout is one you want to seek out. From the stable of much-lauded NZ chef Sid Sahrawat, Cassia delivers the goods one expects from such a gastronomic genius in the most casual format of the three of his restaurants (more on the others below). It’s modern Indian done oh so well – all your favourite Indian dishes are there, of course with a twist, and there are plenty of creative takes on Indian flavours too. This is absolutely tastebud-blowing Indian food that lovers of the cuisine will be craving long after their visit. Read our full review here.
We’re not usually one for hyperbole, but Parnell’s Woodpecker Hill serves up our favourite Asian food on the planet. In fact, we love the food at all of master-of-Asian-cuisine Che Barrington’s many Auckland restaurants (Blue Breeze Inn, Go Go Daddy and Chop Chop also are under his expert guidance). For us, it’s just not a trip to Auckland without visiting this unique fusion establishment (yes, it’s got a little fusion in there but hear us out) that takes American Smokehouse BBQ meats and dresses them up in fiery Thai flavours (there’s plenty of seafood for those of you who are into that too, never fear). This is serious Thai cooking, bursting with flavour and heat. We crave this year round.
Just across the road from Woodpecker Hill is our 2018 restaurant of the year, Pasture. It’s recently shrunk from 14 seats to a mere six, and only opens Weds-Sun for two seatings a night (5:45pm and 8:15pm) – that means there are only 60 seats per week available at this very special chef’s counter. Pasture focusses on New Zealand ingredients, bringing out the best in them through wood fire, fermentation and a whole lotta heart. This is New Zealand’s most boutique and intimate dining experience – don’t miss the pairing, both the non-alcoholic and alcoholic pairings are killer.
if we were writing this in 2017, there is no way you would have seen these two words on this list. What a difference a year makes, and that difference is thanks to the Sugar Club’s new head chef, Josh Barlow. Josh is the latest in line of super talented chefs to come out of The Grove – Sid Sahrawat (Cassia, Sidart, Sid at The French Cafe), Ben Bayly (watch this space for his new project coming soon), Michael Meredith (of the late Meredith’s) and more hail from this Auckland institution – there really must be something in the water there. Since it’s inception many years back, the Sugar Club has delivered exactly what one might expect from a restaurant perched at the pointy end of New Zealand’s tallest building, the Sky Tower – a tourist trap that was overpriced and under delivered. Josh has turned the venue around, going from zero to two hats in record time (we’re talking months) and we’re proud to say Auckland’s most iconic building now has a restaurant delivering equally iconic fine dining with a kiwi twist. You’ll be forgiven for forgetting all about the views once you see what’s on the plate.
Housed in an industrial inner-city warehouse space that is hands down one of our favourite restaurant fit outs globally, Clooney is leading the charge when it comes to pushing the boundaries of modern kiwi cuisine. The food is as dark, moody and sexy as the surroundings and the service, lead by charismatic owner Tony Stewart, is as friendly as it is knowledgeable. Clooney’s dedication to using kiwi ingredients to tell the New Zealand story through an immersive tasting menu experience is second to none in this city.
Sid at The French Cafe
What do you get when you take Auckland’s most famous fine dining institution (The French Cafe) and insert Auckland’s most lauded chef? You get another excuse to feast on Sid Sahrawat’s food, and that’s something we’re more than ok with. Sahrawat and his boss restauranteur wife Chand are gradually transitioning the classic French establishment into a showcase for their finest cuisine, while still paying homage to the long-standing history of the venue. It’s not an easy task to take a restaurant that’s had regulars for over a decade and write a new chapter in its story – but we’re loving the way this tale is unfolding so far.
Nestled in the heart of Kumeu wine country, The Tasting Shed is a world away from most of the other inner city establishments on this list. It’s home to good vibes, good wine and good food – ok, by good we mean great. Really great. It’s modern-rustic-backyard-shed-chic, and oh-so kiwi. We just wish it was a little closer to town, but it’s definitely worth the trip – make a day of it, bribe a designated driver and explore the nearby vineyards while you’re at it (the Cooper’s Creek tasting room shares a driveway with the restaurant – too easy!). Read our full review here.
Culprit are the cool kids on the inner-city block, drawing a steady stream of hungry foodies to their first floor Wyndham Street location like no dining establishment has before them. Their modern kiwi take on yum cha is a delight for diners who love tapas style eating (us) but there’s larger plates too. Read our full review here.