New Zealand Food Exploration: North Island Recommendations

To follow on from my South Island recommendations, now it’s the turn of the North Island.

As with the other post, I have not created a map as the places are so spread out it would be a real fiddle to use. Plus I’m lazy…

Option 1
Auckland Food Courts (various)

Please see my separate post on this.

Option 2
Mexicali Fresh, Auckland

Our first meal in New Zealand was here, where we chomped our way through massive burritos crammed with carnitas, rice, beans, salad and what seemed like a million other ingredients. On completion, we staggered back to our hotel and valiantly failed to stay awake beyond 8pm, setting our jet-lag banishment back a day or two.

When we returned to Auckland at the end of our trip, we came here once more. The fresh and tasty food (which brought back fond memories of The Mission in Oxford, UK), was in-budget and this time, I chose something a bit lighter and had a margarita alongside.

Option 3
Auckland Fish Market, Auckland

I should probably ‘fess up that I didn’t actually eat anything here. We stupidly went quite soon after breakfast, and although the various food joints looked delicious we had neither room nor much inclination for early-morning fish.

I did buy (after much deliberation) a slab of hot-smoked salmon from the Market Seafood Deli, which we took to a park and pulled to pieces with our fingers. Fatty and delicious, it was a wonderful piece of fish. The main deli in the market was also a brilliant foodie shop, with some fascinating treats on offer.

Option 4
La Couronne Cake Boutique, Auckland

I had just finished this post and contentedly dusted my hands when I remembered this colourful cake shop in Auckland. Offering Taiwanese and French patisserie, we had some wonderful honey cake with an unusual strand-like crumb, and a cuboid of custardy sponge cake which I swear was called something odd like “Foggy Paris”. My memory is probably at fault here though!

Option 5
Martha’s Pantry, Wellington (276 Cuba Street)

I covered this cute tea-shop pretty well in the post on custard squares/slices, but have included a picture of a fluffy below, so you can see how adorable it is.


Option 6
Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, Wellington

Touting itself as a combination of Cajun-, Creole- and Mexican-inspired food, the menu had me salivating.

On a trip to the US a few years ago, H and I had eaten some amazing Southern/Soul  food in the tiny J’s Place in Bakersfield, California (5141 Ming Avenue). The fried chicken I had at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen did not reach the same dizzy heights, but was very good indeed, as was the special of Creole corn topped with feta and a chipotle mayo.

chicken dinners

Option 7
Rasa, Wellington (200 Cuba Street)

We had a nice cheap lunch at this Malaysian and South Indian restaurant. I opted for the set meal of curry (dahl for me, but there were meaty ones on offer too), rice, roti and a mango lassi. H had a mighty dosa, that I got to nibble when he could’nt finish it.

Option 8
Flying Burrito Brothers, Wellington

We went here with a friend (he had heard good things and never tried it). I think I had the Borrego Al Pastor (a fried tortilla topped with a slew of Tex-Mex staples and some shredded lamb), but the dish was such a melange of items that reading the menu back, it’s hard to be sure. Dishes incorporating similar ingredients makes up a large part of the menu, still, all very pleasant and no-one went home hungry.

Option 9
Silky Oaks Chocolates Café, Napier

This was a chance find, as we drove past it on our way in from Wellington. It was fortuitous, as the café served great food and there was a chocolate shop to drool in afterwards.

I had a smoked chicken and apricot filo pie, feeling a bit mortified as before they carted it off, I clarified whether or not they would be heating it up in the microwave. Earlier in the holiday a perfect little pigeon pie was ruined when the café (which shall remain nameless and unrecommended) warmed it in the micro, and the sagging soggy pastry made me very suspicious from then on.

This pie was not treated so shabbily, and was served with a wonderfully diverse side salad. For a chaser we shared a chocolate and ginger slice (pictured below). Pro tip: if they ask you if you want it with chocolate and cream, scream “yes!”, as the chocolate was a beautiful warm ganache and the cream the real deal. The slice itself was unexpected as it was more biscuitty than moist cake, but the accompaniments helped to moisten it.

chocolate and ginger slice

Option 10
, Napier

Another fine example of international cuisine, this Turkish café was fresh, fast and open in the evenings (so many decent little places shut at 4pm or so).

I got my cheese on with grilled halloumi, served with hummus, falafel and Turkish bread, whereas H had the Adana Iskender; spicy minced meat served with lots of goodies (pictured below).

adana iskender

Option 11
Adam and Eva’s, Havelock North

We brunched ourself to the max here. H devoured fried potatoes with bacon, poached egg and black pudding, whereas I kept it vegetarian with mushroom brioche toasts with poached eggs and béarnaise (pictured below).

I’m a little “meh” about hollandaise and béarnaise. I find them incredibly rich and they seem an odd thing to serve with poached eggs, with their glutinous molten yolk. However this one was a good example as they go, and H was in rhapsodies over his heap of fried delights.

mushroom brunch

Option 12
L’Arté, Taupo

Finally, finally, I got to eat sweetcorn fritters. I had seen them on many a chalkboard menu during our trip, but we’d always been on a budget nadir or just stopping for a drink.

In this unusually aesthetic café, I contentedly ate my way through the crispy bacon, guacamole, mango salsa, sour cream and sweetcorn fritter plateful (pictured below). I found the 3 moistening elements a slightly odd combination, but the whole dish was a wonderful way to fulfil my longing.

The place is a little out of town, but well worth the detour.

sweetcorn fritter stack

Option 13
Capers Epicurean, Rotorua

Another twice-visited venue, where cost and taste proved a winner.

There was something brilliantly “real” about the food here. We ordered off the counter (there was also proper menu), which meant sometimes things were reheated, but it all tasted home-made (maybe not my home – we’re talking someone who was a great cook’s home).

On my first visit I enjoyed lamb and couscous, and H had spicy pork cannelloni. On our return trip (for lunch this time), I had 3 of their salads (chicken caesar, roasted vegetables, penne carbonara) with some chocolate cake to go. The latter proved unbelievably moist, so much so I suspect they added something to it post-baking.

Option 14
Weilin Noodle House, Rotorua (1148 Tutanekai Street)

We had a few dishes to takeaway from here, but the reason it makes the list is for the dumplings. For about £5 we had a portion of around 15 dumplings, with just my preferred thickness of skin and ratio of filling.

Option 15
Shima, Tauranga (15 Wharf Street)

Another good value stop, this time Japanese. My beef bento box included ultra-crispy tempura as well as the beef dish and all the other little extras. H had tempura and some noodle soup, and was very happy slurping and crunching away.

Option 16
Alimento, Tauranga

We both had toasted pides at Alimento (mine salami, cheese and tapenade, H’s chicken). Pide is a Turkish bread, and makes excellent toasties, mine being the best I think (but then I do love salami and cheese; my favourite sandwich ever is a spicy salami and mozarella foccacia from Maletti in Noel Street, London).

Option 17
Café Viva,  Katikati (Talisman Drive)

We ran into the bacon-banana brunch combo again in this great little daytime café, this time with pancakes instead of french toast (pictured below). After carefully separating out my bananas, I enjoyed the various parts as before.

The pancakes were well-aerated and soaked up the ample serving of syrup like a sponge. I was unable to finish my portion, but would know to save room next time.

bacon and banana pancakes

Option 18
Matakana Patisserie, Matakana

Not just a patisserie but also a café, we came for the cakes but stayed for the big breakfast (pictured below). Moist scrambles, a meaty fennel-tinged sausage, crunchy little potato cakes… there was so much to eat I was unable to finish my toast, nice as it was.

I couldn’t resist a piece of chocolate caramel tart to go and we ate it later, huddled in our motel room while the rain poured down. The innards were sweet and unctuous, but I swear I could taste coconut in the casing, which tempered my enjoyment somewhat (I have nothing against coconut, but whatever I could taste was overriding the more delicately-flavoured filling.)
big breakfast

Option 19
Matakana Farmers Market, Matakana

Slightly depressing in the grey rain, the stalls did have some cover close-up which led to one having to stand very close to avoid getting wet. I am quite a shy shopper, so found the obligatory chats and subsequent demurrals (we didn’t have the funds to buy much) a bit awkward.

That said, there was some wonderful produce on offer, so I suggest booking a motel room with a fridge and cooking facilities for two nights (Friday and Saturday), turning up at the market early on Saturday morning with wodges of cash, and buying everything in sight to feast on for the remainder of the day.

We did buy some chocolate as gifts for relatives, and I lingered for a long while by a peanut-butter stall.

Option 20
Schooner Café and Restaurant, Omapere (on main road through town)

Home to friendly staff and another great fish and chip dinner (please see this post for more).


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