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The Sugar Club

There's something really pleasant happening high above Auckland. The Sugar Club, Skycity’s showcase for Kiwi cuisine, is benefitting from a prolonged and determined journey to find just the right combo of leadership, head chef and service style to make the dining experience as memorable as the long lift ride to the best view in Auckland.

Hugo’s Bistro

It's just a well that Hugo’s Bistro is open for all-day dining as the chairs here are so soft to sink into that it’s hard to muster up the will to leave. And why would you want to when the house-blend coffee is excellent, the food is good and the service is so warm.

5th Street

Already seduced during a few visits to the bar at 5th Street for drinks before dinner elsewhere, I was greatly anticipating the full food experience at the recently opened restaurant, an offshoot of Hello Sunday cafe across the road.

1154 Pastaria

While everybody has heard of pizzerias, the concept of a dedicated pastaria is fairly novel, to Wellingtonians at least. Formerly Ernesto’s café, 1154 boasts a newly steel-reinforced, fully earthquake-strengthened dining room, its newly laid tiles and mosaics emblematic of the casual style of the place.

Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

Warmth and generosity of spirit, Nonna-inspired cooking and cosiness are always my hope for Italian fare but, sadly, not always my experience. So, on venturing into Francesca’s Italian Kitchen my expectations were uncertain, although the buzz of a nearly full restaurant was promising.

Monte Cervino

There was great despair expressed in Wellington last year when news broke that Matterhorn, the Cuba Quarter stalwart famed as much for its bar as its restaurant, was closing its doors for good. Matterhorn, which opened in the late 1990s, had been operating on borrowed time...

Bastardo

After Bastardo opened in Tory Street in June last year, its first few menus took inspiration from the cooking of Italian migrants struggling to establish a new identity in New York. By offering old American-italian faves like Rigatoni Vodka. Fettucine Scampi, Octopus...

Hunger Monger

There’s an eclectic mix of wooden, laminate and plastic furniture; some tables are covered with plastic tablecloths and some chairs with sheepskin covers. The white expanse of roof and exposed trusses is broken by lots of hanging plants...

Lillius

There is much to like at Lillius. The setting is exquisitely sophisticated, a mix of hard and soft surfaces, elegant in its spareness and simplicity. The gorgeous royal blue booths and banquettes with contrasting mustard chairs are both comfortable and striking.

Giraffe

The viaduct on a sultry Friday evening is booming with baby boomers. Most restaurants and bars are packed. Giraffe, the latest venture by everyone’s favourite Masterchef judge Simon Gault, is no exception.

Rothko

Three gorgeous but completely unexpected golden chandeliers hang in the vestibule of Rothko’s kitchen. Diners seated on the outside deck can spy them; it’s a testament to the eccentricity of this relative newcomer in the rural countryside that nothing is quite as it seems. Rothko is in Matakana, one of Auckland’s newest day-out destinations.

Hayes Common Neighbourhood Eatery

There is scrupulous attention to detail at Hayes Common. It shows in the big things, like food, drinks and service. But also in all the other things that make a restaurant memorable: squeaky-clean premises, smart fit-out, fresh flowers on each table, handmade ceramic water pitchers, and staff who smile as they ferry plates and glasses. It shows that somebody cares.

The Hunting Lodge

It’s good to have The Hunting Lodge open again. Those of us living in the north west of Auckland have been feeling the need for somewhere decent to dine for some time. There is of course the very popular Tasting Shed and a plethora of curry joints nearby but having another local option is welcome.

Cotto

K Road has been home to many a pop-up venture and one of the more recent ones, Cotto, which started up as a three-month fxture in the old 69 premises, has now become a permanent restaurant.

The Grey Robin

Dinky New Regent St shops tend to do the Dr Who Tardis thing, seeming much larger than they should be once you get inside.
The Grey Robin goes the other way. The tiny dining area upstairs is even smaller than you expect, with the darkish, plush decor drawing everything in close.

Pomelo Kitchen & Bar

A few days before I dine at Pomelo Kitchen & Bar, I bump into a Singaporean friend who lives near Oriental Bay. I mention my planned visit to the latest addition to her neighbourhood and she shakes her head. “Oh, that place,” she sighs. “It’s Asian food for white people. And it’s expensive. It may as well still be The White House!”

Terrôir

To understand why Craggy Range winery is so named, you only need to sit out on its restaurant terrace and soak in the sculptural drama of Te Mata peak looming directly above.
With the great vaulted rotunda of Terrôir restaurant reflected in a pond set in an acre of grass and trees, this is surely one of New Zealand’s most dramatic winery restaurant settings.

Nanam

Filipino food has never been a regular on my eating pathway but as it happens, I have visited Nanam before. It lived in Royal Oak then and I recall it being packed, a casual place with an upbeat, family-friendly vibe. At the time there was talk that it had the potential to become the new go-to eating house for those searching for an alternative taste of Asia beyond the more widely available Thai and Vietnamese haunts on offer.

Inti

Inti opened in August in the space formerly held by the short-lived Meat Fish Wine after a quick-fire turnaround. The worst of the opulence has been removed (yes, that dusty wine teardrop has gone) and space has been lightened.