Soul Bar & Bistro

My Year of Magical Eating: Auckland’s best restaurants for celebrating any occasion

In this regular column, our Editor-in-Chief embraces her long-held passion for dining, sharing the unexpected, fascinating and delicious experiences from restaurants, bars, pops-up and cheap and cheerful spots all across the country. Here, she details the best city hotspots for summer celebrations.

‘Tis the season, but then again, celebrating life, in general, should always be encouraged. Gather a group of your nearest and dearest and head to one of these tried and true establishments that always deliver a rollicking good time.

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Left: Soul Bar & Bistro. Right: Sìso.

Soul Bar & Bistro
Celebrating 21 years in operation, and arguably the heart and soul of Viaduct Harbour, I can’t think of a time when I have visited Soul without celebration in mind. In fact, it’s the type of place where even if you’re not celebrating, you leave feeling as though you did. The food is always on point, the drinks — thanks to the restaurant’s experienced new Bar Manager, Katie Cramphorn, and exquisite new cocktail menu — are delightfully sassy, but it’s the service, led by one of the most beloved hostesses in town, Liv Carter, that makes every visit here a truly memorable one. No one knows how to throw a fun-filled extravaganza quite like Soul, and I’m always here for it. 

Neighbourhood eateries may not be your usual destination for a celebration, that is until you try Remuera’s Sìso. Since opening in 2020, Sìso has consistently drawn the attention of local crowds for all manner of celebrations. Whether it’s dinner for two, or a booking in the private room, known as ‘The Sauna’, Sìso is the Eastern Suburbs’ answer to a fun night out.

Left: Onslow. Right: Faraday’s Bar.

When dining out, one of the most important aspects of any well-rounded offering (aside from the culinary element) is heart. So when much-loved chef Josh Emett and his wife (and business partner) Helen opened Onslow, that’s just what they brought to this truly elegant space. The food is refined, but not overly complicated or pretentious, and in true Emett form, the menu is dedicated to quality and provenance. But it’s the warm attentive service that makes Onslow feel special and worthy of a celebration any day of the week. 

Faraday’s Bar
Did somebody say Champagne and caviar? If you are anything like me, then this is the ultimate way to celebrate, well, anything really. Ensconce yourself within Faradays’ beautifully-designed bar (conceived by the eternally talented team at Cheshire Architects), and embrace your suitably sumptuous surroundings. Order a bottle or two of vintage Krug or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs along with 50g of Sturia vintage caviar and settle in for a truly elegant afternoon. 

Left: Milenta. Right: Jervois Steak House.

Milenta & The Shy Guy
While the food from the woodfired grill is nothing short of exceptional at Victoria Park’s Milenta, it’s the ability to host the celebration of a lifetime in its semi-outdoor pergola, or move things into sister venue The Shy Guy, that will turn your seated dinner into a night of dancing. Guaranteed to both satiate your hunger and fuel you for a night on the dancefloor, this restaurant-bar duo is your one-stop party shop.

Jervois Steak House
There are steak houses, and then there’s JSH. A stalwart of the Auckland dining scene, this iconic eatery is guaranteed to be filled with people celebrating some sort of occasion pretty much every night of the week. With a private room, and two floors of dining, there’s a myriad of options for small to larger groups, and it is destined to leave every guest entirely satiated with its truly exceptional menu.

The Engine Room.

The Engine Room
I always feel at home at Northcote Point establishment, The Engine Room. With the ever-friendly owner Natalia Schamroth running the front-of-house, and her husband Carl Koppenhagen in the kitchen, there’s a level of familiarity here within its chic yet comforting interior (refreshed by Fearon Hay Architects) that draws my husband and me back time and time again. The menu of crowd-pleasing dishes including the (now infamous in these parts) twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé — which has become an icon in its own right — guarantees a successful celebration every time.


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