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 more unique restaurants in Auckland.
While the typical kiwi dinner is a meat and two vegetables, dining out is more adventurous. Here, you will find the best, quirkiest, coolest, and most fun and funky restaurants in Auckland, updated for 2020.
To simplify your selection, we have included addresses and phone numbers and identified which are also our favourite gluten-free restaurants in Auckland.
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Can we start by tempting you with a video of our favourite meals:
Unique restaurants in Auckland: CBD (central business district)
86 Federal Street, Auckland CBD
New Zealand’s version of an old-school New York City Jewish deli, with a Canadian Deli twist (as evident by the poutine on the menu). It’s a great choice for lunch or dinner with classic meals, sandwiches, soups, milkshakes, and desserts.
The portions are large, the food outstanding, and it’s the only place in Auckland CBD that we know of 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.
If you have dietary restrictions, notify the hostess when you are seated and they will give you a special menu that identifies which items are coeliac safe, and which are gluten-free but may contain traces.
90 Federal Street, Auckland CBD
An elegant Japanese restaurant in Auckland with meals made for sharing. There are a few sushi items on the menu and even a sushi bar that you can sit at, but my recommendation is to try a little bit of everything. With meals made for sharing, this is easy. One of the most unique things at Masu is the ability for customers to create their own shoju.
Masu caters to a coeliac diet and even has a separate gluten-free menu. Although the food is shared, we found that the wait staff clearly identifies which plates contained gluten.
9 Durham Street East, Auckland CBD
A new favourite for our family, Mezze bar is espresso, tapas, and wine in a casual setting. Mediterranean food served in shared plates, the authentic flavours take us overseas in our minds. Generous portions and so many wonderful options, it’s often difficult to choose. Separate gluten-free or vegetarian/vegan menus are available.
67 Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD
Home to what we believe is the best American style Mexican food in Auckland. This is the place to get your burrito or chimichanga fix. If you like Latin music and dancing, head here on a Friday night (beginning at 10.30 pm) when they convert to a salsa dance club.
91 Federal Street, Auckland CBD
A Spanish tapas and wine bar, with live entertainment most weekends. With a head chef from Costa Brava Spain, the flavours are exactly what you would expect. The tapas takes us back to our time in Spain. Gluten-free, vegetarian, and plant-based items are identified on the menu.
The word “bellota” is Spanish for acorn. When you visit, read the menu to learn why. Bellota is a Peter Gordon restaurant.
XuXu Dumpling Bar
Galway Street & Commerce Street, Britomart
Delicious plates of steamed dumplings, wine, or cocktails at a more intimate table setting are perfect to start or end your evening. Be warned, the atmosphere is lively, and the music is often loud, but not too loud to enjoy a conversation.
Auckland harbour dinner cruise
Auckland Viaduct Harbour
If you ask me, there is nothing better than dinner and sailing on the Waitematā Harbour. The Explore group makes this possible with a 2.5-hour Auckland harbour dinner cruise. Welcome drinks, canapés, and your choice (in advance) of a main including gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options. Remember to bring a jacket, flat shoes, and to dress for the weather conditions. Bookings are essential and often available at a discount with this link*.
*This is an affiliate partnership. We receive a small compensation when you make a purchase using this link; however, depending on the day chosen, it can save you up to 70%.
Sugar Club or Orbit
72 Victoria Street West, Sky Tower, Auckland CBD
Sugar Club: 09-363 6365
Orbit: 09-363 6000
Located on level 53, 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.
Both restaurants have gluten-free and vegan options available.
Unique restaurants in Auckland: Desserts
12 Gore Street, Auckland CBD
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.
To many people’s surprise, everything at Giapo is gluten-free, and there are also dairy-free and vegan options available. The staff is super attentive to allergies and can cater to just about anybody.
Mellow Coffee and Dessert
42B High Street, Auckland CBD
If you are dreaming of cheesecake, macaroons, or a giant flavoured shaved ice, then head to Mellow. You will be drawn in by the relaxed, mellow atmosphere, but the desserts and coffee are what will keep you coming back. As big as they look in the photo, you will want to arrive hungry to Mellow, but you won’t leave that way!
Unique restaurants in Auckland: Upper Queen to K-Road
Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret
461 Karangahape Road, Auckland CBD
Dinner and a flamboyant drag queen cabaret show is a complete night out that will keep you entertained and laughing for hours. Caluzzi is the most colourful of the things to do in Auckland at night.
While Caluzzi can cater to gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or other dietary requirements, they request that you inform them when you make your booking.
1/492 Queen Street, Auckland CBD
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. They even have gluten-free bagels.
Unique restaurants in Auckland: Ponsonby
El Sizzling Chorizo
136/138 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby Central
An Argentinian barbecue with flavours so authentic a South American friend refers to it as “heaven”. Called Asado, the style of slow-cooked barbecue produces meat so tender and delicious, it is no surprise that El Sizzling Chorizo is often crowded.
Located inside Ponsonby Central, it sits alongside 14 restaurants in this small up-market mall. Undercover, it offers a variety of international options alongside a few specialty retail shops. Therefore, it’s a perfect destination for any weather, and one that does gluten-free well.
Blue Breeze Inn
146 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby
Modern Pacific Thai food with surprisingly large portions made for sharing. The mix of delicate flavours and spices have resulted in Blue Breeze Inn moving up my list as one of my favourite Auckland restaurants. The menu identifies spicy, hot spicy, gluten-free, and longer prep time.
Located at a corner of Ponsonby Central, it has an exterior entrance.
164 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland 1011
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.
Other Mexico locations:
Britomart: 23 Britomart Place, Auckland CBD
Takapuna: 4 The Strand, Takapuna
Sylvia Park: shop 67/286 Mount Wellington Highway, Mount Wellington
Ellerslie: Corner Ladies Mile &, Main Highway, Ellerslie
Vegan and gluten-free options are identified on the menu.
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.
12 Jellicoe Street, Wynyard Quarter
If you are looking for an American style pizza, no one in New Zealand does it better than Sal’s. This is New York-style pizza outside of the US at its best. Even the large pizza size reminds us more of American pizza than what we typically find in New Zealand. They now have several locations throughout the city:
2 in Auckland CBD: 49 Fort Street OR 265 Queen Street
Upper Queen: 183 Karangahape Road
Parnell: 2 Heather Street
Mission Bay: 99B Tamaki Drive
Mount Eden: 412 Mount Street
Birkenhead: 50 Birkenhead Avenue
Takapuna: 1-7 The Strand
10-26 Jellicoe Street, North Wharf
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), and they can help you pair it with the right wine if that is your desire. And, save room for dessert; the non-traditional tiramisu (seen in the image) is a real treat.
There are lots of vegetarian options on the main menu, plus, there is a gluten-free menu that we have not yet tried.
Places to eat in Auckland – outside of 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:
Gluten-free restaurants in Auckland
With one member of our family having coeliac disease, and myself who is strictly gluten and dairy-free, knowing where we can eat safely is essential. It seems that the majority of restaurants in Auckland can offer at least one gluten-free option, but there are plenty that also feature coeliac safe dining.
We identified several significantly gluten-free restaurants in Auckland above. These include:
- Federal Street Deli
- Mezze Bar
- Sugar Club or Orbit
- Al’s Deli
- El Sizzling Chorizo
- Blue Breeze Inn
More gluten-free restaurants, Auckland
- Cafe Hanoi, corner of Galway &, Commerce Street, Britomart: Serving street-inspired Vietnamese dishes with gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan options.
- Casablanca, 65 Dining Lane, Mount Wellington, featuring Mediterranean, Moroccan, Turkish and Middle Eastern fare with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
- Cin Cin On Quay, 99 Quay Street, Auckland City, a steakhouse featuring contemporary European food including vegetarian and gluten-free.
- Dear Jervois, 234 Jervois Road, Herne Bay, caters for all diets and preferences in a way that promotes health and well being with many vegetarian and gluten-free options.
- Doolan Brothers 424 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket, 3 Roberts St., Ellerslie: serves a mix of traditional Irish cuisine and local New Zealand fare including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
- Tony’s Original Steak and Seafood Restaurant, 27 Wellesley Street West, Auckland City, serving steak and seafood with a European flair plus gluten-free options.
- Wagamama, 286 Mount Wellington Highway, Mount Wellington, Asian fusion including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.
Gluten-free takeaway options with multiple locations
- St. Pierre’s Sushi. Note: only some locations offer coeliac safe gluten-free food
- Burger Fuel
- Hell’s Pizza
- Pita Pit
Also, the Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise offers a gluten-free option.
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.
- Auckland’s trendy restaurants will often 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 in Auckland (2 pm in much of the rest of the country).
Planning tips for Auckland
First-time visitors start here: New Zealand travel guide.
Rental Vehicles: For cars, we always use RentalCars.com, a rental car search engine with no hidden costs. However, we recommend Spaceships Rentals NZ for campervans.
Accommodations: We typically stay in 4-star accommodations. We live in Auckland and recommend either Hotel DeBrett or SkyCity Grand Hotel (if you’re on a tight budget, check out the backpacker options on Booking.com)
Activity Discounts: We use Bookme.co.nz to find discounts on entry tickets and tours in New Zealand.
Travel Insurance: We always start with World Nomads.
What to bring: Get a free copy of our New Zealand packing list when you sign up for our mailing list.
**Find more money-saving resources on our Travel Resources page.
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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.