Ollies Burgers & Ice CreamRoyal OakI need not say much about Ollie’s. It opened on Valentines Day in 1973 and the same local legend is still running the show. If you think you’ve tried a top notch milkshake, wait ‘til you’ve had one from the people that’ve been doing it for more than 40 years! Their chips are also classic as Kiwi fare - they even come in the old skool carton. Great job, Ollies!
Dante's Pizzeria NapoletanaPonsonbyThere’s alot to take into account when choosing the best pizzeria in the city - but it has to be said, Dante’s have reached a standard in New Zealand nobody yet has. They’re the first pizzeria in the country (joining 472 others wordwide) to receive membership into the prestigious culinary institute ‘Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’ - let’s just say the certification process for a pizzeria to join the club is…’rigorous’…you can’t just buy a membership online! Beautifully fresh, handmade thin bases are the perfect amount of crispiness in the all the right places, and soft but never doughy in those other places (you’re a pizza fan - so you know what I mean!) And the bases are topped with just the right amount (traditionally speaking) of toppings. They’re THE ONE in the city at the moment, and good luck to them at the World Finals in 2015.
Epolito's PizzeriaOnehungaI simply LOVE Epolito’s - but, I’ll let another Localist lover and true Epolitos fan, ‘Marni P.’, do the talking this time: “If you have not tried Epolito’s pizzas than you have not lived! If you are a true pizza lover then this is were you want to be. If you want a pizza that is as big as your table then I suggest trying the large size. Epolitos is an authentic New York-Italian styled pizzeria - the bases are made fresh everyday by the pizza chef who is originally from New York and has the accent to go with it. If you are someone who loves classic Italian pizzas then try the margherita, if not there are a lot more to choose from on the menu. If you are a ‘more modern’ or ‘something different’ kind of person I suggest trying the artichoke heart, anchovy and lemon pizza - it will blow your mind and give you a whole new look at how pizza should taste and look.” ...AND TAKE NOTE: As of today (18th November, 2014), Epolito’s have a new location on Richmond Road in Grey Lynn, but are in the process of renovating - keep an eye on their Facebook page for an opening date!
Al Volo PizzeriaMount EdenIt is TOUGH to put Al Volo’s in at third considering how equally fond I am of their slices. Everything about this place screams authentic Italian - the flag hanging under the menu, their accents, the pure (and strictly) Italian only ingredients used, the wood fired oven, the Peroni and San Pelligrina-stocked fridge…it’s absolutely one of those “oh my gosh, you haven’t been?!?!” types of places. All pizza lovers must try a slice or three of these Neopolitan treats because their creators know what they are doing.
Prego RestaurantPonsonbyThe pizza chef at Prego has been there since the restaurant’s first day in 1986…NINETEEN EIGHTY SIX! He’s one of the sole reasons why Prego is an absolute institution, keeping a never-ending flow of diners coming back for his scrumptious slices. In the hospitality industry it’s consistency that creates longevity for an establishment - and Prego have proved worthy of both of these feats. On the pizza front it’s choices like the classic margherita, pollo arrosto, or marinara that have been on the menu for literally decades, never experiencing a slump in popularity. All I can say is get there, try them, and see why for yourself.
TSG - Tyler Street GarageAuckland CentralOut of all the spots to head to on a Vector show day, the Tyler St team come to the party the most! The capacity is huge and their super-sized kitchen means punters won’t be waiting long for their pre-show bite. They have a tasty new menu, all pizzas are $20 from 4pm, they take bookings for both downstairs and their sun drenched rooftop - and that’s not even the coolest part - the bar staff design a punch (the alcoholic kind) inspired completely by the artist playing at Vector for maximum pre-show good times (served in a 500ml carafe, available from 4pm, also).
Tanpopo Ramen (Auckland Central)Auckland CentralThe best ramen in the entire city is literally two minutes walk from Vector Arena. This list tries to cover some cheap and cheerful options too and Tanpopo well and truly ticks that box - because hey, the ticket to the show you’re seeing probably cost you an arm and a leg anyway, am I right? This spot is great if you’re looking to escape the sometimes hectic numbers drawn to Britomart before Vector Arena shows, as it’s just at the corner of Anzac Ave and Beach Road (it’s the closest restaurant to Vector in this list!) It’s BYO wine and there’s a bottle store pretty much next door. A+ !!!
Brew On QuayAuckland CentralTicking off the ‘pub grub’ box on this list is Brew On Quay. One of the best things about this spot is the sheer capacity of it - there’s awesome long tables outside (perfect for those sunny evenings), plenty of tables inside, and a rooftop bar also. They’ve got a dedicated ‘Vector Menu’ to whip out on show days, 102 beers from around the world and NZ, and a rotating beverage list also.
The Beach HouseKawau IslandIf you’re looking for an unforgettable lunch experience that you have to ‘put in a little work’ to get to, then The Beach House on Kawau Island is the spot. You will be flabbergasted once you arrive at the location…so secluded..so tranquil…with ocean views from every window making it well worth the boat ride from either Sandspit or Auckland. As for the restaurant, they say their “chefs are enthusiastic about quality free range food, presented in a style which is simple and real”…basically, they’re all about good food and good wine. Note: Definitely book ahead - these guys can get busy with weddings etc over summer (you’ll see why once you get there!)
Mahurangi River Winery & CafeWarkworthThis is simply a stunning location. Not only that, it’s a little ‘off the beaten track’ so it’s generally not over-flowing with patrons, leaving you to soak up the serenity with your buddies. As for the long lunch thing, it’s open ‘til 4pm on the weekends which is plenty enough time for a nice session, but they never make you feel like you should leave because they’re lovely people. The chef is amazing, a lot of the produce is grown on site…and you should order their 2013 Albarino #idyllic. Note: When making a booking, ask if the ‘small deck out the front’ is available…trust me.
John Hill EstateHunuaThe perfect lunch destination with a boutique, family friendly atmosphere that’s a nice and easy mini road trip (40 minutes) from Auckland Central. A contemporary a la carte menu with something for all (kids platters too) and plenty of wine styles to back up each of the chef’s creations. It feels like you’re a world away from the city amongst their vines, which is exactly what you want with a weekend lunch outing. And if you’re up for a little activity while you’re there, give the claybird shooting, archery or pentanque a go. Note: The vineyard platter with anyone of their wines is highly recommended!
Te Whau Vineyard & RestaurantWaiheke IslandI feel like not much more needs to be said, as the photo of Te Whau’s view is doing a whole lot of talking (click to view). I will say though that they have consistently won awards for their food and wine through their years on the island - and that they have OYSTERS FROM WAIHEKE to go with your champagne. Note: The restaurant is open for lunch and wine tastings on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with dinner on Saturday nights also. From November 1st they’ll be open for lunch and wine tasting six days a week (closed Tuesdays) from 11am-5pm. You must book!
Leigh Sawmill CafeLeighA comfortable, welcoming place famous for its good vibes, good times and even better beers, Leigh Sawmill is simply awesome, no matter which season you visit. Their wine and food list supports local producers where possible and their signature pizzas have been the talk of the town for an impressive amount of time. Note: If you’ve had one too many of their brewed-on-site beers then there’s accommodation availble too - book ahead!
Brothers BeerAuckland CentralIt’s fair to say Brothers Beer are smashing it at the moment with their craft beer offerings and that's why I love this place. Come here and you can try a wide range of locally brewed beer and so much more. Brothers has 18 beers on tap and eight of those change weekly with the Brothers Beer varieties being brewed in front of you. When I visited they also had 310 bottled varieties. At the moment I’m told the Bach Brewing ‘Kingtide Pacific IPA’ is a must taste, along with anything by Panhead or Liberty breweries. The taps change so often because usually only one keg of each craft beer is ordered - but they’ve come up with a genius solution so you can monitor every drop of your favourite brew - an up-to-the-minute keg volume reader you can view on their website.
Vulture's LaneAuckland CentralVulture’s Lane is another brilliant freehouse showcasing an impressive range of Kiwi and international craft beer. The bar has moved away from its infamous Irish pub atmosphere (formerly known as O’Carroll’s) to stock around 100 beers, with around 20 of those on tap. For true fans of the Vulture’s beverage list, every visit is as exciting as the last with a new beer taking over a guest tap every day. Three things are consistent there however - the three managers complete passion for craft beer; the Leigh Sawmill Pilsner always on tap; and the most unbelievably cheap daily meal deals I’ve ever seen (e.g. quality hot dogs on Mondays for $1 and free hot wings on Fridays, to name a few!) Again, keep an eye on their World Wide Web pages for events, such as their IPA night this Friday (October 17th).
- 368Hallertau have been making waves out west in the brewery scene for some time now. Whether you’re there as a loyal fan of one (or all) of their four all-year-round- beers, one-off special brews, or bi-monthly seasonal releases, the establishment always offers sud-lovers pure satisfaction. Recently it’s been the last seasonal release, the ‘Ordained Red IPA’, that’s been bringing in the punters, as well as their one-off Belgian Witbier with grapefruit made for Masu Japanese Restaurant. Stay in the loop with these guys for their spring release next month in the form of a crisp New Zealand Pilsner. The team run brewery tours every Saturday at 11am and 3:30pm, or if you’ve got the kids and you’re hungry, the staff are all well clued-up and can assist as you taste your way through the selection in their family friendly restaurant. Take note: Hallertau’s spring menu is being released today (15/10/14)!
Cafe SandspitSandspitSo you want a refreshing beverage by the water? It doesn’t get any better than Cafe Sandspit. Comfort food, a classic Kiwi wine and beer list, pure peace and quiet - a no frills cafe, just the simple things done well. Let's be honest, everyone feels at peace next to the ocean, so why spoil it with too much ‘city’ atmosphere?! The combination of the location and scenery easily earns this cafe its top ranking, just head to the gallery on their website for jaw-dropping proof. Note: Cafe Sandspit is pretty tiny so book ahead. And don’t ask for an espresso martini, it’s not that kind of place!
The RiverheadRiverheadIt’s never a long time between drinks for me when it comes to my love affair with this gem of a tavern. The last time I was here was for a family birthday and we drove by car. But because it is situated right on the water’s edge and in order to get the full experience of a great Kiwi day out, you need to jump on a boat and head up the inlet to the moorings outside The Riverhead. As New Zealand’s oldest riverside tavern, it’s steeped in history, but when it comes to the menu and craft brews, this place is as modern as it gets. A gastro-pub on steroids, each dish bursts with fresh, seasonal flavours and local produce and meat cuts are at the forefront. Plus, as a regular, I love the fact that new dishes are added often. Their dessert is also an absolute must and I recommend that everyone at the table orders something different so you can enjoy a real taste test. I’m not sure anywhere else in Auckland does such a lip-smackingly-good, sweet finish to end what always is the perfect pub meal. Plus the cold tap beer slides down so nicely on a hot summer’s day that it’s worth taking a sober skipper so you can have a rollicking good country day out. If you’re an Aucklander and haven’t experienced The Riverhead yet then you haven’t lived. It really is that good.
Deep Creek Brewing CompanyBrowns BayQuality beer and food in a quaint part of Auckland is why Deep Creek earns its spot on the list. The team pride themselves on delivering ‘small batch, hand crafted, flavour fueled’ beer to their patrons, which has made them quite the popular kid on the block - that and their seaside (Browns Bay) outdoor courtyard, of course. Check any one of their World Wide Web pages for updates on events, feasts and tastings, it’s well worth a look if you’re not a fan already.
Harbourside Ocean Bar GrillAuckland CentralThe Harbourside in the ferry building downtown has an amazing deck looking out over the harbour. If you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of central city life then this one might not be for you, but once you get on that deck with a beverage in your hand I can guarantee everything will be A-O.K.! It’s surprisingly relaxing watching Auckland’s commuters doing their thing as you do exactly the opposite. If you’re a seafood lover, then prepare your tastebuds for an experience too.