Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.
Having lived and worked in New Zealand, it holds a special part of my foodie heart. I moved to Auckland as a Melbourne snob, never imagining the food scene to be anything special, particularly nothing compared to the quality of the food in Melbourne. I left Auckland three years later, with a new found appreciation of not only the New Zealand food scene, but the respect for the produce and the history. I grew to love the Auckland food scene immensely, with my eventual goal being to eat at as many of the Top 50 Auckland Restaurants before I left. I managed a gallant 37 out of 50 before flying home to Melbourne.
Eventually years passed and the time came to cross the ditch again. In January, we went back to New Zealand to eat Auckland, and while we didn’t get to cover absolutely everything on our very long food hitlist, we returned with 10 food reasons to visit Auckland again.
Here were my top 10 food memories from eating Auckland in January 2016. Enjoy!
10. Contemporary Japanese at Ebisu
We ate a gigantic Japanese feast at Ebisu in Britomart. Six of us ploughed through almost half the dinner menu with the beef tataki seared Angus with fried shallots, spring onions and sansho pepper being the highlight. The fish was quality too.
9. The “dessert mecca” – Milse
This is a shining example of what to expect from the Auckland food scene – quality, creativity and decadence. We ordered the nectarine pistachio & rose water tart, peppermint chocolate mousse cake ball and chocolate salted almond & caramel gateaux. If my stomach was bigger (and it is already big!), I could have eaten more. With a large selection of delicious desserts, this is deserving of it’s title “dessert mecca”.
8. European style garden to table eating at Ortolana
It’s amazing to see Britomart come up in the last four years or so. It’s transformed from a drab tired area, into a lively, bustling foodie hotspot. Ortolana was one of the first “new Britomart” restaurants I went to, and years later, it is still going strong. My favourite dish was the Ortolana take on bacon carbonara using house made chitarra (guitar spaghetti), guanciale (cured pork cheek), peas and the star of the show, hay smoked butter. In our food delirium we coined the term “deliciousmess” in tribute of the dish being messy and delicious. You can also order the dessert menu from Milse (above).
7. The easy to miss Chuffed Coffee
I knew the address. I had it starred on my map. But I still couldn’t find the cafe. I ended up having to leech wifi in a nearby cafe and eventually realised I had walked past the narrow entrance multiple times. While there were highs and lows here (eg the batch brew had piles of sediment in it), Chuffed Coffee has one of the best Reuben Sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. The combination of their corned beef, pickles, house made habenero mustard, smoked provolone and sauerkraut was absolutely spectacular. The service was also very friendly.
6. Old school New York with a Kiwi twist at The Federal Delicatessen
Stepping into “The Fed” instantly brought back memories from when I first went to the iconic Katz Deli in New York City. The Federal Delicatessen is the brainchild of legendary local Al Brown of Depot restaurant, and formerly of Logan Brown in Wellington. After spending a couple of weeks in Canada last year, I’m a sucker for Poutine, and the Montreal Poutine from The Federal Delicatessen didn’t disappoint. The fries with cheese curds were good but it was the flavour-packed hot gravy that stole the show.
5. French style Farmers Market – La Cigale French Market
La Cigale was one of my favourite food spots when living in Auckland. It was voted Auckland’s Best Food Market for the last 8 years, and despite being a relatively small market, it is bustling full of locals, and full of character. I loved starting my weekend at La Cigale or meeting mates here for brunch after a big night. Out of the selection of different foods, the one I keep coming back for is the famous croque monsieurs. Having being away from Auckland for three years, this was a highly anticipated item on my food hitlist – and thankfully, the croque monsieurs were still as good as I remember. In fact, they are still the best croque monsieurs I’ve EVER eaten. The scotch egg wrapped in fennel seed pork mince and beef cheek pies were also good.
4. Eastern Mediterranean cuisine at Odettes Eatery
Located in a cool pocket of Auckland city, the City Works Depot, I didn’t anticipate enjoying Odettes as much as I did. The food was refreshingly different, with flavours inspired from the Mediterranean with a blend of Levantine & African Spice. My tastebuds were singing with joy! The jury is still out on which dish was my favourite. The Avocado Hummus with sunflower fattoush (crispy flatbread), pickled shallots, cherry tomatoes and a poached egg was beautiful. I was also super impressed by the Puy lentils, lime labneh, roasted cashews, savoury crepe and a poached egg. Solid foodgasms.
3. The NZ Icecream frontier at Giapo
Three years ago, Giapo was my favourite icecream in Auckland. Today, it is one of my favourite icecreams EVER. Giapo has lifted it’s game to statospheric levels, and I was absolutely blown away! The gelato and sorbet are handmade in small batches every day, with approximately 1200+ different flavours created throughout the year. Over the course of a week in Auckland we tried 14 different flavours. My favourite was the salted caramel Giapo buono in a deluxe caramelized cocao nib and freeze dried plum chocolate cup. It was EPIC!
The New Zealand Peanut Slab, Christchurch Hazelnut and Chocolate Evolution flavours were close second. I LOVED the deluxe chocolate lentil cone. Melbourne needs you Giapo!
2. The outstanding degustation only experience at Merediths
Every time I’ve been to Meredith’s, there’s been a dish that has made me ask “how on earth does he do that!?”. The most memorable dish I ate in a prior visit was a bacon and scampi “risotto”. This turned out to be a bowl of foam with a freeze-dried strip of bacon and pork jelly cubes. The dish had all the flavours of an intense, delicious, risotto but without the heaviness of the rice due to the foam. It was stunningly good.
This time around, the memorable dish was the Cauliflower. It looked harmless but it would turn any carnivore into becoming a vegetarian. It was raw and dried cauli with a chickpea adzuki bean mix, cashew cream and mustard, topped with butternut powder. There were so many deliciously different levels to this dish. Carnivores look out.
The beetroot macarons with chicken pate were pretty, but packed with flavour. While the macaron has fallen from food vogue, with macarons tasting this phenomenal, I tweeted that Chef Michael Meredith should be the poster boy to bring back the macaron in 2016. Remains one of my favourite restaurants in Auckland.
1. A contender for my “last meal” – The French Café
The French Cafe was pretty much number one of my Auckland food hitlist and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There we so many memorable food moments during the night, but it was the Roasted Quail wrapped in bacon, served with wild mushrooms, chestnut, croissant and black truffle that was my favourite dish on my trip. I could smell the flavours leaping out at me when the waiter put the dish on the table. The dish was intense! It had depth, flavour, body and complexity. The quail was beautifully cooked, but it was the quail sauce and Chef Simon’s twist on a classic bread sauce – the croissant puree – that made this dish lick-the-plate-exceptional! This plate was THAT good, I consider eating this dish as “my last meal”. See my full experience at The French Cafe for the other courses!
Until next time, happy eating!
Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.