New Zealand cuisine is often difficult to define. A melting pot of flavours and cultures, there are thousands of places to eat in Auckland. While most focus on traditional dining or a specific ethnicity, my favourites tend to be the unique restaurants in Auckland. Lamb, whitebait, kiwi fruits, and feijoas came to mind when I asked my friends what are “New Zealand foods,” but in reality, the typical kiwi dinner is a meat and two vegetables. Thankfully, dining out is more adventurous and there are several unique restaurants in Auckland. If you have a more eclectic appetite and are wondering where to eat in Auckland, check out this list:
Table of Contents
- 1 Unique Restaurants in Auckland Central
- 2 Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Britomart
- 3 Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Wynyard Quarter
- 4 Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Upper Queen and K-Road
- 5 Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Ponsonby Restaurants
- 6 Where to Eat in Auckland – Outside the City
- 7 Practical Information for dining in Auckland:
Unique Restaurants in Auckland Central
Federal Delicatessen: New Zealand’s version of an old-school New York City Jewish deli. The portions are large, the food outstanding, and it’s the only place we know with coffee refills. If you visit for Sunday brunch and can tear yourself away from a traditional deli favourite, my recommendation is the halloumi salad.
Masu: An elegant Japanese restaurant in Auckland that allows customers to create their own shoju.
Bellota: A Spanish tapas and wine bar, with live entertainment most weekends. The tapas takes us back to our time in Spain, and the chef told us a small world story about our home exchange partner from Catalonia.
Sugar Club or Orbit: Located near the top of the Auckland Sky Tower, the Sugar Club offers an impressive, high-end dinner. One floor below, Orbit is New Zealand’s only rotating restaurant, allowing diners an opportunity to enjoy panoramic views of Auckland while they dine.
Mexican Cafe: Home to what we believe is the best American style Mexican food in Auckland. If you like latin music and dancing, head here on a Wednesday night (beginning about 8.30 pm) for live Brazillian music and dancing, or on a Friday night (beginning at 10 pm) when they convert to a salsa dance club.
Barista Cat’s Cafe: Offering animal lovers a place to enjoy a cafe snack while surrounded by furry friends, the cafe is designed for the cats who live there full time and has more of a “home” feel than a storefront.
Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Britomart
Orleans: The aroma of home-cooked Cajun and Creole flavours wafts out into the street, drawing you into Orleans. It is the lively jazz and blues musicians that will keep you here for hours. Orleans is one of a handful of restaurants in Auckland where you can enjoy live music (Wednesday to Saturday) while you dine.
XuXu Dumpling Bar: Delicious plates of steamed dumplings, wine, or cocktails at a more intimate table setting are perfect to start or end your evening.
Giapo: Possibly the world’s best handmade ice cream creations. Giapo is my favourite culinary destination in Auckland, and if you are looking for something sweet, Giapo is the answer for where to eat in Auckland.
Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Wynyard Quarter
Wynyard Quarter is a buzzing, redeveloped, family-friendly district boasting Auckland waterfront restaurants, a playground, a community garden, the Auckland Fish Market and Seafood School, and giant wooden recliners for relaxing and enjoying the day. Our two favourites are Baduzzi and Sal’s Pizza.
Baduzzi: Italian perfection. With meals made for sharing, you can enjoy traditional flavours as well as new ones. Be sure to try one of their meatball dishes (Baduzzi means meatball in Italian).
Sal’s Pizza: If you are looking for an American style pizza, no one in New Zealand does it better than Sal’s. They now have several locations throughout the city.
Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Upper Queen and K-Road
Palm Court Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel: A 140-year-old tradition fit for a queen, the afternoon tea combines delicate flavours and elegant ambience with five-star service. If you have never experienced a posh afternoon tea, this one will set your standards quite high.
Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret: Dinner and a flamboyant drag queen cabaret show is a complete night out that will keep you entertained and laughing for hours. Or, check out their random Wednesdays, a bit of entertainment and delicious menu options.
Al’s Deli: A Canadian style delicatessen, they provide much of the city with their bagels. One of our favourite menu items is the special doughnuts that come with a syringe, allowing you to add your own filling.
Unique Restaurants in Auckland: Ponsonby Restaurants
Ponsonby Central: The 14 Ponsonby restaurants in this small up-market mall greet you with a bouquet of spices. Undercover, it offers a variety of international options alongside a few specialty retail shops. Therefore, it’s a perfect destination in any weather. My two favourites are the Blue Breeze Inn and El Sizzling Chorizo.
- Blue Breeze Inn: Modern Pacific Chinese with decent sized portions made for sharing.
- El Sizzling Chorizo: An Argentinian barbecue with flavours so authentic a South American friend refers to it as “heaven”.
Mexico: An atmospheric spicy treat with finger food made for sharing. If you are headed to any of the Ponsonby restaurants, Mexico is worth a visit just to see the artwork and decor.
Where to Eat in Auckland – Outside the City
I have a few favourites well outside the city centre, each more of an experience than a meal. I have previously written about:
Practical Information for dining in Auckland:
- In New Zealand, as in many other parts of the world, the meal is the evening’s activity. People linger, enjoying the time with friends and the food without feeling rushed.
- Trendy restaurants reserve tables for those who have booked in advance and will turn away customers rather than start a waiting list even when there appear to be empty tables.
- It’s not uncommon to be given an opportunity to order drinks even before getting the food menu.
- An entrée is an appetizer; the main is your meal.
- When you are ready to leave the restaurant, you will need to ask for a bill. It will not be brought to the table otherwise.
- Tipping in restaurants, (or in hotels, spas, and taxicabs) is not customary in New Zealand. Waitstaff are paid a living wage. Some restaurants add a “tip” line on the bill. Locals ignore it.
- A “cafe” generally serves breakfast and lunch and closes by 4 pm.
- Food tours are a fun way to explore Auckland’s culinary options.
- If you are visiting Auckland, there are hundreds of places to stay.
Are you still wondering where to eat in Auckland? Where will you try next?
Disclaimer: To write a proper review, we need to experience the event. Therefore, we frequently have complimentary entrances, meals, or sample items. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.