ANNA KING SHAHAB SEARCHES AUCKLAND FOR THE BEST SPOTS TO DRINK IN THE WATER VIEWS & EAT YOUR FILL.
As an Isthmus, Tāmaki Makaurau is surrounded by water, but there aren’t actually too many spots blessed with both a view of the sparkling blue as well as fabulous food. Here is a roundup of several eateries that do it right.
Recent urban development Catalina Bay has seen planners repurpose historic airforce buildings to create a mixed-use precinct that’s putting good food to the fore. Ferry connections with both the city and Beachaven add to the attraction. At all-day bistro Fabric (fabriccafebistro.co.nz) you can opt to sit in the plush interior or on the spacious verandah, gazing out over the serene, teal-coloured water to the moody bush-clad hill opposite. The menu is split into day and evening and includes highlights like steamed South Island clams with chorizo, shallot, chives and ciabatta, and a juicy, local-farmed Waimauku beef burger with Swiss cheese, cos lettuce, tomato jam and pickled red onion – with a side of the best crispy potatoes you ever did see.
A bit further up the Waitemata Harbour is one of the oldest waterfront taverns in the country. The Riverhead (theriverhead.co.nz) sits on the banks of Rangitopuni Creek, where, long ago, local Māori would heave their waka out of the water to portage them across land to the Kaipara Harbour. You can still approach The Riverhead by water today on a ferry from the city (it cruises under the Harbour Bridge and past the Chelsea Sugar Factory, with guided commentary). Somehow time moves more slowly once you’ve a settled into a spot here, and there are a few to choose from. There’s The Portage bar and The Landing restaurant, with plenty of seating indoors and on the large deck shaded by old oak trees and perched over the water. Functions space The Boathouse spills out onto the lawn and buzzes with live music sessions on Sunday afternoons. My pick: a languid, music-filled afternoon with an aperitif or two followed by an early evening dinner of whole baked yellow-belly flounder on the deck at The Landing.
Nestled alongside the city’s Westhaven Marina, Swashbucklers (affectionately known as Swashies; swashbucklers.co.nz) humbly upholds high seafood standards, and is a fine choice when you fancy fresh fish treated simply, shellfish, seafood chowder or whitebait fritters. For a casual nibble, the fish bites and fries from the bar go down nicely with an icy draught beer after a saunter along the marina’s scenic boardwalk. If it’s café fare you’re after, then head to the other end of the marina, almost at the foot of the looming Harbour Bridge, to find the bright, breezy oasis that is Buoy (buoycafe.co.nz): try their Coronation chicken on sourdough toast (especially excellent with an accompanying Aperol Spritz).
Photos from top clockwise: Fabric, including their house-smoked salmon tartare, Westhaven, On the deck at Swashbucklers.
New to Waiheke this summer is 372 (threeseventwo.co.nz), right on the squeaky-white-sand beach of Onetangi and named for this Hauraki Gulf island’s telephone prefix. Owners Luke and Helen Carter have been in the hospo trade on the island for years and know that attracting great staff is key, so expect knowledgeable service from their team, with the Carters working the floor, too. Head Chef Bronwen Laight (ex-The Shed at Te Motu) revels in seasonal produce, giving plants hero status, and carefully selecting animal proteins which she handles with a deft touch. Black Devon pork from Houhora comes with a Meyer lemon kosho, and discs of perfectly chargrilled Wagyu tongue sit on top of a light potato whip with salsa verde. Trevally tiradito sees less marination than a ceviche, but a lick of macadamia milk lifts the firm-yet-silky texture of the fish. The drinks list showcases excellent examples from the island as well as a good showing of French wines at friendly prices.
There’s something special about enjoying a scoop by the seaside, especially when the ice cream is as memorable as the view. Queuing for gelato at The Store (takapunabeachcafe.co.nz) at the Takapuna Beach Café is worth your while, and anyway, the view while you wait is more than agreeable, taking in the length of bustling Takapuna beach and the staunch profile of Rangitoto Island. Take your ice cream (I recommend the raspberry sorbet or espresso gelato) for a walk: the path at the edge of the ocean runs north from here and a walk up to Milford beach and back takes in a glorious variety of scenery, from the gardens of waterfront mansions to rock pools and sandy slips of beach. At the bustling ferry building on Princes Wharf, Island Gelato (islandgelato.co.nz) brings a bit of Waiheke to the city, with around two dozen flavours including those made with Waiheke fruit such as plums, guavas and feijoas. Owner and chef Ana Schwarz says using only A2 organic Jersey milk lifts their gelato game, but equally popular are their nut-milk vegan gelato and sorbets. Ana can’t pick a favourite but reckons the gin and yuzu sorbet is extra special; not only do they infuse the ingredients with gin, they also add the gin’s same botanicals which creates what Ana describes as “a real journey of flavour for the palate.”
Next door, Ana’s The Shucker Brothers (shuckerbrothers.co.nz) oyster bar might seem an unlikely shop sibling, but as Ana says, “Somehow, almost by accident, we’ve managed to combine two passions people have, for gelato and for oysters – they are complementary in an odd way!” And no one will judge you for deciding on gelato as a main, and live Te Matuku oysters for dessert.
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