Two days in Auckland, we thought, would be enough. I had a list of the must-try places, plotted out and planned for each meal. However, Auckland has an absolutely buzzing food scene.
It was impossible not to sidetrack to the famous ice cream shop that had somehow eluded my culinary research, or stock up on chocolate filled taiyaki, hot from the press at the City Farmers Market at Britomart. There was nothing we could do – we just kept eating and aimed to hit the gym when we got back.
For breakfast in the heart of the city, we couldn’t miss coffee and pastries at Imperial Lane, a thoroughfare between Fort Lane and Queen st with a distinct warehouse feel. By day, it is a patisserie serving pastries from a Michelin starred pastry chef – while at night the space seamlessly transforms into a relaxed drinking space serving gourmet hot dogs. Along with most Melbourne coffee lovers I have trouble finding coffee I like outside of Melbourne, but Imperial Lane hits the spot. We tried some of their jam donuts and an amazing savoury scrolls, filled with soft cheese, pumpkin and poppyseed.
For lunch we hit up Elliot Stables ‘epicurean village’ – a remodeled 1910 warehouse, filled with dozens of mini-cafes and restaurants. It was a long running joke that every time I said epicurean village, the group would say ‘the food court’. I shouldn’t get wound up so easily – people have too much fun. Pick a table anywhere in the warehouse, and then order from any of the restaurants. Perfect for a large group of people who all like different foods but want to eat in a nice environment.
I went for a surprisingly authentic Jambalaya with homemade andouille sausage, chicken and prawns (side NZ$8, main NZ$16), with a side of crispy hushpuppies (NZ$6) from Bonz Kajun Kitchen. Afterwards, make sure the check out The Whisky Store, where you can sample a dram of fine and rare whiskies.
Remembering New Zealand is world famous for excellent dairy products, we had almost gotten to the end of the journey without having our ice cream fix. Namita found Giapo on a list of food blogs, and found out it was touted as New Zealand’s best ice creamery. For some excellent flavour combinations, how about: hokey pokey and bacon? banoffee pie? caramel popcorn? Giapo tops off their excellent ice cream with flavour specific toppings: the caramel popcorn is topped with popcorn pieces, toffee, caramel sauce and white chocolate hearts. They also have an organic dark chocolate pinot noir milkshake (NZ$8), for those who like their liquor sweet.
Namita was pretty impressed with the flavours.
We had been eating all day. But I had to head up to the new ‘it’ spot around the Victoria Park Market area on Drake St for dinner and drinks. Libertine is based in a century old former power station – hanging lightbulbs and indoor trees make this split-level bar and eatery worth a visit. The drinks menu is filled with interesting cocktails such as the ginger and chilli mojito with just a hint of bite (NZ$18), and the sweet champagne cocktail with pear, peach and elderflower (NZ$18).
The food menu has just a hint of South American and a number of good vegetarian options. The absolute highlight dish was the Mushroom and Almond Pastels, topped with lemon and chive creme fraiche, wild rocket and parmesan (NZ$23.50). Whilst not particularly ‘authentic’, the Jerk Chicken Bites and Jamaican Jam (NZ$13.50) were a good combination of salty and sweet, the charred lamb ribs, while not particularly meaty, were expertly cooked and covered in a harissa glaze (NZ$18.50). Finishing up, you can’t go past the caramel and coffee crème brûlée (NZ$12.50) served with a thin shortbread crisp that complements the smooth creamy texture perfectly.
We tried to head back to Britomart to Milse, a little dessert restaurant and patisserie touted as a ‘sugar temple’. We just couldn’t do it though – we had to move it to the next day. Too. much. food. Complete with smart decor and laser cut wooden panelling, it made stepping inside feel like you are quite literally entering a temple. They offer dessert degustations, a la carte, and take away items. Seated in the restaurant you can watch the pastry chefs at work while nibbling on dessert pots of prune, armagnac, chocolate and pecan; raspberry, rose, chocolate and vanilla; or lemon, blueberry and thyme mini-gâteaux (all NZ$7). Namita isn’t looking at Peter with such a loving expression – it was due to the deliciousness she had just put in her mouth.
Did we do anything else besides eat? In Auckland, not really.