Looking for the latest and coolest restaurants in our near neighbour? Here’s an insider’s guide to best places to eat and drink in NZ’s biggest city.

1. Amano
Huge bunches of dried flowers hang from the ceiling of this large, exposed brick Italian bistro and aperitivo bar in the city’s pretty Britomart precinct. Banish thoughts of 1970s country décor, the reality is anything but. A travertine marble bar, terrazzo flooring and mother of pearl benchtops (made from recycled oyster shells) see to that. The food, breakfast to dinner, changes daily and comes from the group behind some of the city’s most popular cafes and restaurants. Sure, it sounds like a cliche but what’s on offer here is very fresh and very seasonal, much coming from their own farm. Amano’s bakery next door mills its own flour for breads, pastries and pasta. Reservations are taken for half of the restaurant; the remaining tables are walk-in only. Book if you can. It gets busy here. 

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Time for a drink nearby? Try an aromatic wine at Vietnamese bar Xuxu or enjoy the view over the water at Harbourside, across the road above the ferry terminal

2. Cassia
Cassia was named the supreme winner in this year’s prestigious Metro magazine restaurant awards. It’s the baby of Sid Sahrawat who also owns French molecular restaurant Sidhart a few kilometres away in Ponsonby (you wouldn’t go wrong paying Sidhart a visit too). Cassia is modern Indian, as is Sid. There’s no butter chicken overladen with cream or any of the usual takeaway suspects and so you will leave this small city Fort Lane space feeling refreshed rather than weighed down.

3. The French Café
This is the place to go if you want a special night out in Auckland. It’s fine dining without the stuffiness, a modern but comfortable setting with professional yet friendly service. Internationally recognised, it was awarded three hats from Cuisine magazine and named its restaurant of the year for 2016. The awards are deserved; this place gets it right every time. You’ll need to book at least a couple of weeks in advance. It’s located on Symonds Street a little way from the CBD so grab an Uber. 

4. Masu
Sit at the counter at this informal, but much-awarded, robata-style Japanese restaurant and watch the chefs sweating it out at the charcoal grill.

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Cooking over an open charcoal grill, Masu brings a contemporary twist to traditional robata

Everything’s good, but try to include the signature Antarctic cod with saikyo yuzu miso. If you’ve arrived late, there’s a small snacky menu served after 10pm and on Sundays there’s brunch (a continuous selection of sashimi, maki rolls and small plates plus one dish you order from the menu).

Located in the city centre, Masu is one of a strip of great eateries owned by SkyCity. The Fed deli next door does great NY-style eats (try the popular chicken, crispy skin and hot dipping gravy sarnie) and upbeat Depot beside that offers instant gratification – gutsy dishes cooked over charcoal or hardwood, plus freshly shucked seafood.

While you’re in the neighbourhood, there’s Peter Gordon’s Spanish tapas bar Bellota directly across the road and, should you have booked ahead, you can go up the Skytower to either dine or enjoy drinks and nibbles against a panoramic view of the city. It’s a classy operation, no chicken in a basket here … well, not unless it’s been given a fusion overhaul first.

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The stylish food at Bellota tapas

5. The Engine Room
Okay, so you want steak and pommes frites; it’s that kind of night. Try the Engine Room at Northcote Point, just over the harbour bridge on the city’s North Shore (five minutes offpeak in a cab from the CBD). They’ve been pumping out steak frites since 2006 when they opened, along with their famous twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé. Expect a a lively atmosphere but flavoursome, well executed fare. Bookings are a good idea.

Where are your go-to places to visit in Auckland? 

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