Albert Cho and Jesse Mulligan at Sidart. Photo / Babiche Martens

Auckland's Top 50 Restaurants For 2021

Inimitable food critic Albert Cho and Viva's dining out editor Jesse Mulligan judge this year's best of the best

LETTERS FROM THE JUDGES

Jesse Mulligan

It’s been great fun getting to know Albert Cho, a one-in-a-million, larger-than-life Instagram food review star whose NSFW (not safe for work) captions demand your attention: you might sometimes disapprove, but you never stop reading.

As @Eatlitfood, he is sweary and he is dirty but the more I read his writing, the more I realise that he knows as much about food and restaurants as anyone else in the city. When I decided to celebrate Covid-free New Zealand by creating a new Auckland Top 50, I knew I couldn’t do it without him.

We don’t agree on everything but that’s part of the fun. And, actually, we do agree on most things. This is a list we’re both proud of, a top 10 we’re excited about, and a supreme winner that each of us loves more than any other restaurant in the city.

Here’s some admin stuff you need to know: this is a subjective list, which means that it’s a Top 50 according to Jesse and Albert, not according to God. It’s fine if you disagree with us — in fact, we’d be disappointed if the list didn’t stir up debate.

We’ve visited all of these restaurants, usually more than once, and we’ve given higher rankings to the ones we want to go back to again and again. For this year’s Top 50, Waiheke Island has not been judged. As part of his job, Albert sometimes accepts payment for highlighting certain restaurants, but he’s judged this list as a neutral.

A final word to the restaurants that missed out: it’s not that we don’t love you too. Fifty is a cruel number but, no matter where the cut-off is, there will always be winners and losers. You could argue that it’s the top 200 restaurants that define Auckland as one of the world’s great food cities. But we’ll have to save that list for another time.

Happy eating!

Jesse

WATCH: IN CONVERSATION WITH ALBERT AND JESSE 

Albert Cho

I’ve always wanted to write a Top 50 list with categories that people cared about. Categories like the best restaurant for a first date rather than “best smart restaurant”. Sorry, but what the f*** even is a smart restaurant?

Truth be told, my lack of experience as a chef made me doubt myself. Then I met Jesse. On the surface, you couldn’t get a more juxtaposing duo. He’s a family man with a wife and four kids while I can’t even hold down a man for longer than a month. But after a few dinner dates, I found out that we’re similar in a lot of ways.

Jesse has never been a chef, yet restaurateurs put on their best performance in the hopes of a shining Viva review. Believe me, I’ve seen it. He makes up for his lack of kitchen experience with his passion to dine out and is confident in his opinions, just like me. He claims he’s old-fashioned, and satisfied with eating solo with a book, but I beg to differ.

The few times I’ve been out with him, it’s clear that his opinion on a restaurant largely falls on how much fun he has — you can even read it in his reviews. And rightfully so. Dining out entails far more than what you cut into with your knife and fork. It’s culture, and whether or not Jesse’s aware of it, he shares the same thought.

Two people with no cooking credentials, who simply love to dine out, just like the majority of us, have created a list that sparkles and is fit for any age group. Jesse’s input considers factors that I’m too young to understand while I remind him of a few things he may have forgotten. It’s a list that we’ve both agreed on… and you don’t have to.

xoxo,

Alby

THE TOP 10

A palette of warm woods can be found throughout Mr Morris. The chicken skin parfait. Photos / Babiche Martens

Supreme Winner — Mr Morris

What Jesse Said

It’s the chemistry. Well, it’s the food and the wine and the wonderful service and the decor and the incredible chef. But perhaps that’s just a longer way of saying “chemistry”. I didn’t want my meal here to end: the food tastes better than it has any right to taste, and it just happens to be cooked by Michael Meredith, who would be the ideal poster boy for New Zealand food even if all he cooked was steak and chips.

Michael works with the same ingredients as everybody else but, like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, he just sees connections invisible to the rest of us. Did he conceive his green strawberry and clam dish in a dusty shed with a million pieces of paper taped to the wall and tasting notes scrawled in red Vivid? It’s hard to imagine, because it’s hard to imagine him in any other place than at the kitchen pass, working calmly but quickly, inspecting every perfect item on every perfect dish and then looking up, taking a step back and clapping once to let his floor staff know it’s time to take the plate away.

His brain remembers colours, textures and shapes and translates them — turning a macaron into a “burger”, a pain au chocolat into a “sausage roll” (or perhaps it’s the other way around), and if all of this sounds too experimental to you, it’s never done in the pursuit of art or fashion, only in the pursuit of flavour, more flavour.

Mr Morris feels personal. The smaller size helps, but it’s also the staff, who would be at home in a Michelin-starred restaurant, who know enough about the rules to occasionally break them, and have the quiet confidence that can only come with knowing you’re a master of the game.

This is the restaurant we’ve been waiting for; I’m so excited to name it as our winner.

What Albert Said

To decide on the supreme winner, Jesse and I made our way through the top 10 list to discuss each restaurant. We talked about our personal experiences, the best qualities of each restaurant, and its weak points. As we reached Mr Morris, both Jesse and I only had words of praise.

We agreed it’s one of the rare restaurants where we enjoyed every single dish and there was no such thing as “ordering wrong”. From snacks, entrees, mains, sides to desserts, there was a spark in each category: the innovative pain au black pudding; followed by the quail; the pork collar accompanied by the side of cauliflower with hazelnut; the pani popo to finish — I could go on forever if I didn’t have a word limit.

Small portions could’ve been Mr Morris’ downfall, but when the menu features richness like a parfait smeared on top of fried chicken skin, you don’t need a huge quantity. The only other weakness is its newness. But is that really a weakness? Or does the fact that it has managed to rapidly yet gracefully make its way through the initial teething stage and already rank among Auckland’s best and most established make it that much more impressive?

As corny as it sounds, I fell in love with Mr Morris as soon as I walked through the doors. I’ve had many restaurateurs tell me that their goal is to transport their diners to another city and I understand this appeal — it’s how I felt with Amano. However, Mr Morris does something more. There’s an elegance and chicness that exudes a New York essence while the seasonal menu and friendliness of the staff are undoubtedly Kiwi — trust me, hospitality workers aren’t that nice in any other country with no tipping culture. Mr Morris doesn’t transport you anywhere. You’re most certainly in Auckland and it makes you proud to be here.

Crayfish soup with kumara ravioli. Photo / Babiche Martens

Ahi
Level 2, Commercial Bay, 7 Queen St

The best Ben Bayly has ever been, and that’s saying something. This is a world- class eatery, which seems to retain a lot of personality despite running like a machine. Although it is part of the Commercial Bay development it never feels like a restaurant inside a shopping mall. In fact it feels like nothing else in the city — fine yet relaxed, corporate yet sexy, modern yet rustic. The food too is a tension between very high-end chef work and Kiwiana classics — most importantly, it all tastes incredible. Eat here if you can afford it. – JM

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard people say Ahi is overhyped because of Ben Bayly’s celebrity chef status. I’d also be lying if I told you that I knew who the heck Ben Bayly was before I paid my first visit to his newly opened restaurant in Commercial Bay. Walking into Ahi with a completely neutral lens, I walked out absolutely adoring the living shit out of it. The incorporation of New Zealand nostalgia into modern food is executed in a clever way, while the dimmed lights and velvet seats make for a sultry, naughty ambience. – AC

Book now

"There’s something in the way they either source or train their staff that makes you feel like you’ve walked into a different city." Photo / Babiche Martens

Amano
66 Tyler St, Britomart

I’ve never had anything but a perfect experience here, and it’s my first choice for everything from date night to a large corporate meeting. The staff are a joy — crisply dressed, casually excellent and with a deep knowledge of everything on the menu. And then there is the food — long before handmade pasta became Auckland’s next big thing the busy chefs at Amano were creating a reputation, one raviolo at a time. The restaurant has recently had a change of ownership but the new guys know what they’re doing and there’s nothing to suggest any of the good stuff will change. – JM

Five million dollars spent on the fit-out of Amano is five million dollars well spent. When it comes to the food, personally, I think the menu shows variation with a few standouts that I order every time like the chitarra scampi and smoked kahawai pate. You can disagree though, as I always say, it’s just my opinion. However, talking negatively about the ambience is simply forbidden. It’s not every day we see a restaurant this sexy and of this scale in Auckland. Amano has elevated our city and we must take good care of her. – AC

The beef tostada at Azabu in Ponsonby. Photo / Babiche Martens

Azabu
26 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

Being asked for restaurant recommendations is (happily) part of the job and I’ve sent more people here than to any other restaurant. The food is consistently brilliant but so too is the vibe and, even for a grump like me, sometimes you do want to feel like you’ve come to the right party. When people ask what sort of food it is I squint and say “um, apparently Japanese-Peruvian?” and though that sounds confusingly specific, the two cuisines create a lovely nexus around raw fish, clean spice and seasonal vegetables. Now with locations in Ponsonby and Mission Bay. – JM

As an Asian person, coming out about my love for mayo on sushi was harder than coming out of the closet as gay. Azabu takes the best of Japanese cuisine, like premium quality seafood, and combines it with the sauciness of Peru. It’s finessed with respect, not taking it overboard like piling cream cheese on a maki roll — cream cheese belongs on a bagel, not sushi. The moody lighting and minimalist interior design of the Ponsonby restaurant makes for an ideal date spot, where you can optimise the Roji bar, while its Mission Bay sister is where to go for long lunches. – AC

Book now

Depot restaurant, Federal St, Auckland. Photo / Babiche Martens

Bar Celeste
146 Karangahape Rd, central city

Its arrival marked a big breakthrough for our city — a fun bar where the food was only part of the offering, yet was good enough to compete with any dedicated bistro. It can be hot in summer and tight at peak times but once you’re seated with a glass of pet nat in front of you I’d argue there’s no happier Auckland moment. The food is wonderful and available late into the night — try the carrot salad (I know, but it’s wonderful) or sit at the kitchen bar and ask the chefs what’s good tonight. – JM

If anybody wants to punch me in the face, I know there’s definitely a few of you out there, rock up to Celeste and you’ll probably be in luck. It’s a restaurant I visit frequently — relaxed, friendly, warm (literally), and the food is always bang on. The menu allows you to go light with some oysters and crudo paired with a glass of wine or go full gluttony with a whole flounder, drowning in lemon caper butter and swapping out that glass for a bottle. As you progressively get more and more drunk, Celeste is at your service with the ultimate drunk feed as they churn out the best fish burgers in town. – AC

The octopus on the menu at Bar Celeste. Photo / Babiche Martens

Depot
86 Federal St, central city

It’s still as good as it ever was — beach house eating if your bach happens to have an in-house chef of 30 years’ experience. I can’t think of a restaurant I’d be prouder to take an international to, and yet even with the tourists all gone it remains one of the best places in town to eat a great dinner. So drinking wine on tap out of tumblers isn’t for everybody, but Al Brown has held firm on this one, and it’s become a defining feature of the restaurant. He has become less militant on the no bookings policy lately, which means you can now guarantee before you turn up that you’ll be seated — a great way to turn this into a special occasions restaurant too. – JM

A restaurant that knows the true meaning of modern dining — generosity and simplicity. It’s a place that’s fit for any occasion — first date, family dinner, or birthday lunch. Whatever it is, the staff at Depot will take good care of you with their comfortable yet respectful approach to service. The fish sliders and bone marrow are dishes that I dream about no matter how many times I’ve eaten them, however, the menu has admittedly become a bit stagnant. Chefs Al Brown and Andrew Mackle are too talented to have a restaurant that has “consistency” as its best trait and I have no doubt Depot will bring more edge in the near future. – AC

Paris Butter's duck, old and new. Photo / Babiche Martens

Paris Butter
166 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

We held our final judging meeting here and as we discussed what was in and out, it slowly dawned on us that the food we were eating was as good as anything else on the list. There’s a confidence and cool exuded by the kitchen that belies its crummy location on Jervois Rd. Owner Nick Honeyman travels between here and a restaurant in France but that turns out to be a feature rather than a bug. His chef Zennon Wijlens should be famous in his own right, and he does a great job of creating the light, fresh menu that’s replaced the cream-butter heavy food that dominated the early days. – JM

From the outside, Paris Butter is not the most inviting restaurant. It’s true that the only reason I went was because it comes with the job of making a top 50 list but I was beyond impressed. Despite its roots of fine dining, everything on the plate made perfect sense. No stupid smears or fancy foam, just delicious food. As we were deciding the top 10, the ambience was just as important as the flavours. Although it’s lacking on the vibe front, I wanted to include it in the top 10 to encourage more people to dine here as the food is too good to be enjoyed solely by Boomers. – AC

Book now

Pasture's South Island trumpeter. Photo / Babiche Martens

Pasture
235 Parnell Rd, Parnell

Pasture is the Auckland restaurant most likely to make an international list. Chef Ed Verner’s cooking is flawless, breathtaking, exacting, and while the project of dining out here can sometimes feel intimidating, everyone should eat here once every year or two. Restaurants with this sort of ambition can sometimes feel like laboratories but this only ever feels like Ed’s place, and the open fire where he does much of his cooking reminds you that, while he has a modernist’s touch, he also knows the value of primitive techniques. The drinks menu is its own degustation, with a range of non-alcoholic ferments that make the list as satisfying for teetotallers as for lushes like us. – JM

For obvious reasons, Pasture was the strongest contender for supreme winner. Ed Verner has a talent that we don’t see very often and he has created a restaurant that is undeniably world-class. The wagyu and sourdough with cultured butter are some of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth and everyone should dine at Pasture at least once in their life. If you have the money, perhaps make it an annual occasion. It’s challenging, at times genius, but our criteria for the supreme winner highlights accessibility — an element that Pasture doesn’t fully embody despite its casual dress code. – AC

The jaggery icecream on the ‘Discovery Menu’ at Sidart. Photo / Babiche Martens

Sidart
283 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby

For me Sid Sahrawat’s three restaurants are all top 10 contenders but this is the one I love the most — fine dining Indian, in a beautiful space at the northern end of Ponsonby Rd. This was Sid’s first restaurant after leaving The Grove and remains his flagship, despite some big changes over the years. At Metro we used to argue about whether you could give a supreme award to a tiny room in Three Lamps but now it is twice the size and commands the space, with one of the best skyline views in the city. You don’t often crave fine dining food but I’m always craving a curry — this the best of both, and as a special occasion restaurant it’s unbeatable. – JM

Sid Sahrawat is a man who made me hate fine dining less with his restaurant Sidart. Adding an Indian flair to a heavily European-centric style of dining, for me, Sidart’s dry-aged duck with yakhni is much more interesting than the usual red wine jus pairing. In recent years, Sid has opened his restaurant for Friday lunches, as well as offering an a la carte menu for patrons like myself who aren’t the best at fine and fancy. Located in the Three Lamps end of Ponsonby Rd, Sidart is often forgotten by the masses but with the recent opening of great wine bars nearby, I predict Sidart to have a major come-up. – AC

Soul Bar & Bistro's bar area. Photo / Babiche Martens

Soul Bar
Lower Hobson St, Viaduct

New is all very well but there is something to be said for a restaurant that remains relevant for decades. I feel like if I ate here with Albert I might never make it home but I’m glad to endorse a restaurant where the fashionable set have somewhere to be as big as they want to be. It’s also perfect that Gareth Stewart’s Nourish Group has a restaurant in the top 10 — he’s as famous and as hardworking as anyone but for some reason you don’t get the same kudos for overseeing 10 kitchens as you do for putting all your heart and soul into one. Soul’s kitchen is run by Gavin Doyle, whose menu might be more exciting than you remember if you haven’t visited for a while. – JM

In a society renowned for its tall poppy syndrome, we need restaurants like Soul Bar & Bistro. A place where it’s not only okay, but is encouraged to be extravagant and larger than life. The culture of Soul Bar is more is more. You’ll find the most glitzy dresses, biggest sunglasses and highest, pointiest stilettos. Its bold clientele can sometimes take the spotlight away from the food, which is a shame because executive chef Gavin Doyle has created a decadent menu that is ever-changing while keeping the classics like the raunchiest mac and cheese you’ll ever taste. – AC

Book now

THE REST OF THE BEST

Reconstructed beef short rib at Ada. Photo / Babiche Martens

Ada
The Convent Hotel gives me the chills but I’m willing to suck it up for Ada’s deep-fried pizza breads. Cotto’s former executive chef Hayden Phiskie has teamed up with Wellington’s darling Johnny Price, refining Italian cuisine without taking away its rustic charms. – AC
454 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn

Andiamo
Just like an adolescent child, Andiamo has gone through many phases. However, I feel like it has finally come into its own and is a spot that Herne Bay citizens are proud to call their local. It’s also the only restaurant with a mac and cheese that rivals Soul Bar. – AC
194 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby

Baduzzi
Situated in the tourist trap of Wynyard Quarter, Baduzzi is the only restaurant in the area that levels up to its idyllic location. Famous for its beautiful buttered maltagliati with duck but it’s the tiramisu for me. I might even hero it as the best in Auckland. – AC
10-26 Jellicoe Street, North Wharf
Book now

Bunga Raya
Because why not? Incredible Malaysian food served in the middle of nowhere, Bunga Raya is the sort of Auckland restaurant that always makes people happy but never appears in Best Of lists. Well that changes today, beginning with their life-changing Hainanese Chicken. – JM
2a/3062 Great North Rd, New Lynn

Candela is full of Spanish flavours provided by Aotearoa's produce. Photo / Babiche Martens

Candela
Not only is it one of our only Spanish restaurants, but Candela has nailed it from the fit-out to the menu. The staff are proud of the food being served, so trust their recommendations. Thanks to my server Truls, I was able to eat one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had. – AC
155 Karangahape Rd, central city

Cassia
A massive, wonderful crowd-pleaser, this is a city Indian we deserve, serving dishes that spare no expense or labour. The cocktail list is great too — this is the place to go when you’re in charge of choosing the restaurant and you want to guarantee nobody will complain. – JM
5 Fort Lane, central city

Cazador
There is no other restaurant like this, a hipster paradise with boomer credentials. The food is wild in both senses of the world but if you’re going to push the boat out you couldn’t do it in safer hands than those of chef Dariush Lolaiy and his engaging front-of-house team. – JM
854 Dominion Rd, Mount Eden

Cibo
One of my favourite restaurants to visit when I’m not reviewing, it’s in my shadow top 10 and serves up some of the best food in the city, in a great and unexpected environment, with a long-serving team on the floor who know how to keep their customers happy. – JM
91 Saint Georges Bay Rd, Parnell

Clay
I love this unusual space — a giant table where you sit among people cooler than you eating top notch food and drinking natural wine. A favourite Roman snack of bread with cold butter and anchovies is a great match for a glass of something murky, though if you’re really hungry the tagliarini with olive oil is simple and perfect. – JM
375 Karangahape Rd, central city

Cocoro
Most of Auckland’s Japanese restaurants are great but this is next level, where there is no ceiling to the chef’s ambition and where you’re likely to be shocked and delighted more than once during your meal. The suburban location only adds to the transcendent experience. – JM
56a Brown St, Ponsonby

Cotto
This K Rd pasta joint might have made more Aucklanders happy in the past four years than any other restaurant. The food is perfect, the vibe is fantastic and if you had friends in from out of town it’d be hard to think of a better showcase for Auckland dining. – JM
375 Karangahape Rd, central city

Ebisu
It’s dark, moody and swanky, but most importantly, it’s home to the iconic Ebi Mayo Roll. This melange of prawn, rock melon and avocado is honestly my favourite sushi in the entire world and I even found myself craving it when I was in Japan. – AC
116-118 Quay St, central city
Book now

Empress Garden
Going to Empress Garden is an event in itself. You need to round up a team to be able to optimise your time here as the Peking duck is compulsory and it’s also the only place (that we know of) in Herne Bay that serves xiao long bao. – AC
227 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

Apple tart with vanilla icecream at Esther. Photo / Babiche Martens

Esther
You don’t tend to enter an Auckland hotel restaurant with high hopes but Esther exceeds expectations on every level, offering a surprisingly personal level of service and food that gets better with every mouthful. Easy to overlook but you shouldn’t. – JM
4 Viaduct Harbour Ave, Viaduct

Euro
Prior to its glow-up late last year, I couldn’t have cared less if Euro shut its doors permanently. However, executive chef Gareth Stewart turned things around with an innovative, modern and fun menu that will keep the stalwart going for many years to come. – AC
Shed 22, Princes Wharf
Book now

Gochu
It’s not the first time we’ve come across modern Korean dining. But what makes Gochu unique is how personal the food is to executive chef Jason Kim. He focuses on highlighting nostalgic Korean dining rather than mindlessly piling kimchi and cheese on top of everything. – AC
Commercial Bay, 1 Queen St, central city

Grand Harbour
Being able to swap over from breakfast to dinner service seamlessly is an art Grand Harbour has mastered. In the daytime, it’s considered one of the best yum cha restaurants and in the evening, it’s a Chinese family favourite. – AC
Cnr Customs St West and Pakenham St
Book now

Hello Beasty
One of my favourite openings of the past few years, this is a family restaurant in a very commercial location. There is plenty of good Asian fusion in Auckland but this is better than the rest, with care and thought put into every dish and a kitchen team so close you feel like you’re part of the party. – JM
95-97 Customs St West, Viaduct

Huami
When you go into a Chinese restaurant and see that the clientele is mostly Chinese people, you know it’s legit. Huami takes New Zealand’s luscious produce and ingredients and utilises traditional Chinese cooking techniques, showcasing the cuisine at its most premium. – AC
87 Federal St, central city

Hugo’s
It pains me to think that most of Hugo’s customers on Shortland St would be angry corporate workers who eat to live instead of living to eat. The wagyu bavette topped with anchovies is my kind of surf and turf and everybody must get amongst. – AC
67 Shortland St, central city

Jervois Steak House
This one’s for all the dads out there, specifically my father. What started as a Father’s Day tradition has now become a restaurant we frequently visit. The steak is sensual but it’s the side of creamed spinach and onion rings that keeps me coming back. – AC
70 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby

Kazuya
Kazuya Yamauchi has unimaginable standards of perfection and I’d put this up with Pasture as a restaurant you must visit at least once if you call yourself an Auckland foodie. Europe by way of Japan, the food is rare and exceptional. – JM
193 Symonds St, Eden Terrace

Lilian has taken over the site previously occupied by Siostra. Photo / Babiche Martens

Lilian
This restaurant is a phenomenon. Like Depot when it opened you just don’t seem to be able to get in here, which explains the crowd — a bunch of people who look like they have time to wait two hours for a table. The food is pitch perfect and the owners are rising stars in Auckland’s restaurant scene. – JM
472 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn

Lillius
A fine-dining kitchen opened by a couple who look like they’re 20 years too young for it, Lillius started quietly but has slowly become one of Auckland’s most crucial restaurants. There are some great culinary innovations here, but you always feel like you’re in warm and safe hands. – JM
19 Khyber Pass Rd, Grafton
Book now

Madame George
It’s hard to think of a restaurant more dependent on the personality of its owners, who preside over a wonderful Peruvian menu with pride and pleasure. Don’t eat here without trying the pisco sour. – JM
490 Karangahape Rd, central city

Masu
It’s easy to forget this place but it’s as good as the last time you tried it: better sushi than any other restaurant in town, a wonderful winelist and some iconic hot dishes like the black miso cod, which have justifiably made Masu famous. Great for dinner, even better for an indulgent Sunday brunch. – JM
90 Federal St, central city

Ockhee
It took 2020 years but a Korean restaurant finally opened along Ponsonby Rd. It’s not fusion, I wouldn’t even label it as modern. It’s straight up delicious Korean food, served in an effortlessly cool atmosphere and bringing the lethal soju to the mainstream. – AC
171 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

Omni
If we were solely speaking about food, I would say Omni was the best new opening we’ve had in the last year. The katsu sando reached celebrity status at one point and rightfully so. Just dim down those lights a bit and Omni would find itself in the top 10. – AC
359 Dominion Rd, Mount Eden

Beef scotch topped with finely diced short rib at Onslow. Photo / Babiche Martens

Onslow
A good restaurant doesn’t always need to be pushing the culinary boundaries, it just needs to serve good food. Josh Emett has finally ditched the Malaysian-fusion era and is cooking what he cooks best — white people food. – AC
9 Princes St, central city

Ostro
One of the most reliable rooms in Auckland, Ostro is a great choice for any dinner where you need things to be perfect. Though you might sometimes be in the mood for a more exciting menu it’d be hard to find a lovelier view. – JM
52 Tyler St, Britomart
Book now

Phil’s Kitchen
Kingsland is not my stomping ground but I’ll make the trip for Phil’s Kitchen. Judging by the presentation and refinement, you’d think it’s a fine-dining restaurant, but its laid back ambience and diverse a la carte menu offer the comfort of a casual dining experience. – AC
479 New North Rd, Kingsland
Book now

Pici
Small and wonderful with plenty of K Rd personality, this is Italy-quality Italian with a fun coterie of staff who you wish you’d been friends with when you were in your twenties. You can’t go wrong with the pasta but don’t miss the sides, and take the bartender’s advice on wine. – JM
Shop 22, St Kevin’s Arcade

Ponsonby Road Bistro
Landing just outside the top 10, this is a classic restaurant experience which is impossible to fault. Impervious to trends this is nonetheless fun, with plenty of noise, a blackboard menu and great food served by staff who were born to make you happy. – JM
165 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

Prego
From the food to the service, Prego will never let you down. The staff are like family and only want the best for you. So when your server recommends a Bloody Mary alongside chicken saltimbocca on a Sunday, you need to rein it in next weekend buddy. – AC
226 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

The bang bang chicken (left) and kurryaage spiced chicken on the menu at Satya. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Satya Chai Lounge
With a menu filled with predominantly deep-fried, spicy food, there’s a possibility you’ll spend the rest of your evening on the toilet. Knowing that, I still find myself going back because nothing can hold me back from the dahi puri — a hit of flavour all in one mouthful. – AC
271 Karangahape Rd, central city
Book now

Sid at The French Cafe
Still the best place for a special occasion, especially if the guest of honour has more classic tastes. Every aspect of your meal here has had hours of thought and preparation put into it and it shows. Even more fun with the courtyard open in summer. – JM
210 Symonds St, Eden Terrace

The Blue Breeze Inn
I just love eating here. Atmosphere is a hard thing to create but Blue Breeze always has it, along with food everybody loves. A balcony seat with a view onto Ponsonby Rd makes you feel like you’re inside the beating heart of the city. – JM
146 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Book now

The Engine Room
Al Brown told me this is his favourite restaurant in the country. The menu is short but perfect and after years of flying the flag for North Shore cooking, the owners continue to delight, night after night, visit after visit. – JM
115 Queen St, Northcote Point

The Grove
Renowned as a great dinner spot for a special occasion, for me, it’s during the day The Grove shines its brightest. Located in the sunny St Patrick’s Square, the naturally lit space makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere. – AC
Saint Patricks Square, Wyndham St
Book now

Olive oil cake at The Lodge. Photo / Babiche Martens

The Lodge
This place could easily have been a good but forgettable Commercial Bay eatery… then the pandemic happened and New York star chef Matt Lambert flew home to take the restaurant to the next level. Simply great food: eat here before the crowds discover it. – JM
7 Queen St, Commercial Bay

Share this:
New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

Subscribe to E-Newsletter