Progressive dining fuels tasty Auckland nights
Auckland offers a huge choice when it comes to discerning palates and, with three food precincts offering an eclectic range of restaurants within strolling distance, a great night 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.
Harbourside at The 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 swanky Viaduct Harbour precinct to taste their catch of the day in style.
As an entrée, Foodstore serves up a seasonal menu with ingredients sourced exclusively from New Zealand and whipped up into fresh dishes with a dash of entertainment from the chefs in the open kitchen. TV screens broadcast live footage from the kitchen to ensure diners see all the action.
For mains, Kermadec - a 30-metre stroll down to portside - specialises in premium seafood selected daily from the local fresh fish market. Kermadec’s iconic multi-story seafood platter is even better with a glass of premium Marlborough sauvignon blanc while watching the sunset on the sails of Westhaven Marina.
Next door 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 discrete red door tucked into a brick wall.
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.
Back towards town, District Dining has traditional desserts with a twist - like espresso brulée or chocolate brownie with Cointreau - to complete the dining experience. And, a sweet tooth can always be satisfied over cocktails while discovering Britomart’s vibrant bar scene at nearby Smith, Agents & Merchants, Racket, or 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 and UK-based 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.
The Federal Street journey continues with Peter Gordon at dine, or with The Grill by Sean Connolly for meatier fare.
Peter Gordon is also known as ‘the father of fusion cuisine’ after pioneering it in the eighties. The menu at dine by Peter Gordon, exhibits his signature style that blends Eastern and Western cuisine by fusing bold Asian flavours with traditional Western dishes.
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.
It may be difficult to find space for dessert after all that but, for those with an unrelenting sweet tooth, there’s always Red Hummingbird - conveniently located at the end of Federal Street and offering an indulgent cocktail menu.
Outside of Auckland’s inner city, there are still plenty more options for a tasty time out in the city-fringe in the gourmet villages of Parnell, Ponsonby and Mount Eden.
New Zealand cuisine - creating fine food art
New Zealand chef: Al Brown
New Zealand chef: Peter Gordon
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