From convivial bars to rooftop restaurants these are the best openings of the year so far

We’re well past the halfway mark of 2022, and as we hurtle towards the finish line (and the promise of a glorious summer) we thought it high time we reflected on some of the incredible new restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries that have already made a significant impact on Auckland’s ever-growing culinary landscape (despite only having opened this year). So if you’re wondering what to eat this weekend, or where to go, consider this a timely reminder to try something new. We promise it will be worth your while.

Alpha


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Left: Crushed peas & burrata on sourdough. Right: Kanelbullars. Both from Alpha

From the clever, culinary minds behind Pasture, Alpha initially opened as an innovative test kitchen, bakery and bistro, which eventually expanded to become a ‘neo-bistro,’ serving dine-in breakfast and delectable lunches. Offering freshly-baked pastries and bread (its duck-fat pretzels are a particular highlight) alongside indulgent sandwiches (don’t go past the Nashville-style hot fish sando), pizzas, smoked salmon, sweet treats and ever-changing specials, Alpha is a must-visit for any foodie. Recently, the team has announced yet another expansion, as they prepare to open evenings with a dinner and drinks service — watch this space.

Barcita

Barcita

Located out the back of popular K’ Road restaurant, Candela (in a space previously used for private events and exclusive evenings), Barcita is a sleek, intimate venue. And thanks to its delicious menu of Spanish-inspired bites as well as its superb by-the-glass wines and inspired cocktail list (trust us, these are some of the best high balls in the city) it is the perfect place to pop into for an after-work aperitif, or a late-night drink.

Carmel

Carmel’s filled pita

Originally founded in 2017 by New Zealand-born, Israel-raised Carmel Davidovitch and her partner Tom, Carmel started life as a pop-up that found fans at every market it frequented. But earlier this year, the beloved outpost put down permanent roots in Eden Terrace, and we couldn’t have been happier about it. Serving handmade, fantastically fluffy pita bread with fresh fillings, Carmel’s moreish creations are of exceptional quality and full of flavour. The business is also popular for its catering services, including weddings, corporate events and private functions. Only open from Thursday to Saturday, 9am until 2:30pm (although keep your eyes on Carmel’s Instagram for any opening-hour updates) we recommend getting in early to avoid the crowds. Although if you have to wait, we promise it’s more than worth it.

DELI di BOSSI

Right: Mortadella sandwich from DELI di BOSSI

Located in The Pacifica laneway, DELI di BOSSI delivers an authentic taste of Italy to punters in the CBD, offering a selection of fine sliced meats and cheeses, freshly-made pasta and breads, aromatic coffee and specialised Italian street food. Think prosciutto pizza fritta and calzone stuffed with passatta, mozzarella and basil; sandwiches with mortadella or salami di Milano; indulgent ricotta-filled cannoli with chocolate or pistachio; fresh caprese and panzanella salads and a selection of salumi boards. Alongside the deli, the Bossi brand will eventually include a fine-dining Italian restaurant as well as a bar and private function space — set to open in October this year.

De Nada

Left: Margarita from De Nada

De Nada is a Mexican eatery and taco joint — aptly named after the common Spanish phrase for ‘you’re welcome’ — that has fast become a place where you can truly leave your worries at the door. From its funky fit-out to its joyous drinks menu that puts a creative take on traditional Mexican cocktails, De Nada offers a convivial atmosphere that promises to set the perfect tone every time. 

Duo

Duo

Duo is the first solo venture from husband and wife team Jordan and Sarah Macdonald (Jordan, you may recognise, is a former Denizen Hospo Hero who previously opened and owned Lowbrow, Culprit, Little Culprit, Nook and Double Double). And together they created the perfect little neighbourhood spot. In the kitchen, Jordan whips up classic café dishes like the Bene, which can include house citrus cured Mt Cook salmon with its poached eggs and sourdough, and the Tomatoes on Toast, which includes confit Curious Croppers, as well as some not-so-classics, including the Raw Fish on Toast and Bruleed Custard Loaf. This unique menu alongside perfectly-brewed coffee and a cute, enticing fit-out has made Duo a lovely place for breakfast and lunch, and soon, for dinner too, with Jordan telling us that Duo will be opening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from the 24th of August. Watch this space.

Faraday’s Bar

Left: Heirloom tomato salad with burrata. Right: Faraday’s Bar interior by Cheshire Architects.

Should you have worked up an appetite or a thirst while perusing the likes of Givenchy and Alaïa, Christian Louboutin, Loewe and more in Faradays’ stunning retail space, the store’s in-house bar is the ultimate destination for delicious relaxation. Designed, like the rest of the store has been, by Cheshire Architects, all-natural materials make for tactile comfort. Sit back on custom Italian Henge leather seating, and be surrounded by silk, wool and canvas cloth textures, brass fixtures, tables made of Patagonian and Norwegian marble, and Te Kuiti limestone. Here, the drinks selection champions French wines from Maison Vauron, such as the heady Château Margaux (Premier Grand Cru Classé) and the buttery, complex Etienne Sauzet Les Combettes. While the ever-changing, seasonal menu offers the perfect snacks and bites to refill your cup after a day on your feet.

Inca

Left: EMBER ROASTED BLACK COD, ANTICHUCHO MISO, PICKLED ROOT VEGETABLES. Right: INCA OF THE BEES COCKTAIL.

Back in 2019, Nic Watt opened his first Nikkei-style restaurant, Inca (to the delight of local diners) on the Westfield Newmarket rooftop. This year, the brand expanded into a sprawling restaurant space in Ponsonby, opening its second outpost to much acclaim. Inca Ponsonby is the fourth establishment in Watt’s stable, which includes Masu by Nic Watt and Akarana Eatery in Orakei. Drawing on Watt’s travels to Peru and his love of its bright and powerful flavours Inca is a beautiful collision of  South American flavours and the careful techniques of Japanese cooking.

Luna Bakehouse

Luna Bakehouse

Owner and chef at the popular Luna Cafe, Malisa Nguyen, wanted to open a spot in which she could focus all her attention on her love for French patisserie. And so, Luna Bakehouse was conceived as a unique bakery in which Nguyen put her own distinct twist on traditional French pastries (reimagining the classics with Asian flavours). From hand-laminated matcha almond croissants to double ube halaya cruffins and summer passionfruit danishes, this bakehouse offers a delicious array of treats that are unlike anything we’ve ever tried.

Milenta

Left: Milenta Courtyard by Izzard Design. Right: Fresh oysters.

Nestled under the historical Pōhutukawa trees in Victoria Park Market, Milenta draws on the elements of land and sea within what feels like an outdoor space (able to be transitioned to indoor should the situation require it). Under the deft design eye of Izzard Design, Milenta emits an authentically cool South American air with hardwood floors and organic woven chairs softened by floor rugs and hanging plants — there’s definitely a sense of being in foreign lands when you’re here. Executive Chef Elie Assaf is at the helm in the kitchen, where many of the dishes are cooked traditionally over wood coal fires, emitting a comforting and delicious waft into the dining area. Influenced by the flavours and traditional South American cuisine, and incorporating only the best local, seasonal produce, Milenta’s ever-changing menu is intuitive and utterly delicious. And, having recently launched a new menu, there’s no excuse not to book a table at this exceptional spot.

Mumbaiwala

Left: Mumbai chicken. Right: Cardamom and coconut kulfi. Both from Mumbaiwala

Aneri Nathu opened Mumbaiwala in Ponsonby to mix up the local Indian cuisine scene. Her parents, Anup and Sadhana Nathu, have been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years, founding the Tandoori Palace in 1990 before it swept the South Island with the success of its restaurants and sauces. Off the back of a successful Mumbaiwala restaurant in Christchurch, Aneri opened the Auckland outpost this year with a goal to showcase the lighter side of traditional, Indian cuisine to local, discerning diners. As such, the menu offers a raft of authentic street food and sharing plates in a casual, all-day eatery setting. The Dahi Puri is a particular favourite, seeing mini puffed puris with delicately soft mashed potatoes, chickpeas and a spicy yoghurt on the inside, as well as the fried Mumbai Chicken (which has its own secret spices) and Cauliflower Manchurian, which could be mistaken for meat with its pastry-free dumplings covered in chilli and garlic sauce.

Mibo Bakery

Left: Mibo Croissants. Right: Cinnamon Cruffin.

Tucked cosily on Enfield Road in Mount Eden, Mibo Bakery is a stylishly sweet spot that offers melt-in-your-mouth pastries and the perfect space in which to sit back and enjoy a coffee. Started by the co-owner of Benedict’s (a nearby cafe that focuses on cabinet delights and a full brunch menu) Emma Zhao wanted a space solely dedicated to her passion for viennoiserie. As such, Mibo offers a unique take on the French pastries we know and love, with Zhao reimagining the traditional recipes with tantalising, Chinese flavours; think matcha red bean Danishes and maple-glazed monkey bread.

Ooh-Fa

Cavolo Nero & Marinara with Stracciatella Pizzas from Ooh-Fa.

From the pasta maestros behind cult-favourite K’Road restaurant, Pici, Ooh-Fa is a recently-opened neighbourhood pizzeria specialising in delicious, fermented sourdough pizzas and exquisite wines. Bringing in the essence of traditional flavours, Ooh-Fa’s offerings are far from the norm and the focus on fermentation also goes beyond its dough alone, with small snacks available like pickled cauliflower, carrots, beetroot and onion served with bagna gauda. Hero pizzas include the marinara (with tomato, garlic, and oregano plus added stracciatella) as well as a seasonally-inspired cavolo nero with Italian sausage, mozzarella and oregano. An unlikely crowd favourite dish? The woodfired carrots with whipped ricotta and pistachios — a simple side that everyone needs to try.

Palmer

Palmer

This new downtown, rooftop restaurant and bar is the final step in the reimagining of a historic site (once West Plaza), which has undergone an impressive transformation over the last few years with help from the original architect, Neville Price. Palmer is a sleek, contemporary spot that was inspired by the aesthetic of Fred’s in Sydney and The Aviary in New York, with a fit-out conceived by renowned Australian studio, ACME (its first project in New Zealand). With a drinks list that harnesses some of the region’s best produce and seasonal flavours and a food menu that speaks to a more casual, contemporary approach, Palmer’s elemental, hand-made, seasonal offering makes for a distinctly delicious experience. Made all the more special thanks to its elevated aspect, sprawling terrace and views across downtown Auckland.

Pōni

Pōni

Earlier this year, renowned chef David Lee (the co-founder, owner and managing director of Camper Coffee & Roasters, Gochu, The Candyshop, Good Dog Bad Dog and Green Door Pizza) took the reins at an existing eatery and relaunched it as an even better version of itself. Pōni, previously known as The Poni Room, is situated in a prime corner spot in Commercial Bay, overlooking the Waitematā Harbour and since its opening initially in 2020, has been popular for its Asian fusion fare and beautiful setting. Now, Lee has turned what it was into an exceptional all-day eatery, retaining the mix of Japanese and Chinese flavours on the menu, and presenting familiar dishes in a completely fresh way. From the ‘Hong Kong Vongole’ with Cloudy Bay clams, a crayfish bisque and ‘Fred’s special’ XO sauce to the moreish sliders with cuttlefish marinated in a teriyaki glaze and served with lime mayo and apple slaw, the new Pōni is an absolute must-try, and has (we must say) one of the best wine lists in town.

Rumours Coffee

Left: Rumours Coffee by We Are Young. Right: Daily pastries from The Real Bread Project. 

Tucked down O’Connell Street, Rumours Coffee feels like the kind of place you feel lucky to have stumbled upon. And its name is hardly a coincidence. This sense of a private, quiet sanctuary, a place in which to enjoy your morning coffee that feels like your very own spot, is the exact feeling owner Danny Lee was hoping to evoke when he opened. Built on a minimalist vision and a focus on excellent coffee, Rumours offers single-origin coffee alongside delicious pastries, all served within a sleek, sophisticated fit-out that feels like a calm escape in the heart of the city.

Schapiro’s

Schapiro’s

It’s hardly surprising how popular Schapiro’s has been since opening in Eden Terrace as Auckland’s new dedicated sports bar earlier this year. Opened by Otis Schapiro (co-owner of and head chef at Lilian) Schapiro’s filled a gap in the local hospitality scene by offering a classic, American-style sports bar experience — complete with sports memorabilia, large screens that play all the most important games and fights as they happen and a delicious, diner-style menu, suited to every taste. On the menu (designed by Schapiro himself) delicious burger-joint-style food is done with an elevated, gastro-pub feel, and plenty of lighter options. Think classic burgers, fried chicken and St. Louis pork ribs alongside radicchio salad, whole flat fish and steamed mussels. There are also 12 regularly-rotating beers on tap as well as a comprehensive wine and cocktail list to boot.

Sunset Bar

Left: Sunset Bar interiors by CTRL Space. Right: Gavi Berry Gimlet.

A sleek, elegant space nestled on the top floor of the Sudima Hotel, Sunset is the latest in a raft of rooftop hospitality taking happy hour to new heights. Inspired by rooftop bars around the world and created with a desire to celebrate the unique beauty of Auckland’s metropolis, Sunset was designed as a place to which city-dwellers could escape after a long day. Here, satiating drinks and tasty food collide in a sumptuous setting that offers unobstructed views across Westhaven and the Waitematā to Ponsonby and the Waitākere ranges. Conceived by a team of experts, Sunset’s food and drinks are a delicious and perfectly-curated affair, and its vibe is heightened by a rotating roster of live music and DJ sets. Trust us, this is the perfect place to park up for an after-work drink or a weekend jaunt.

Swings

Sweet chilli rice cake skewers, Korean toasties and cheese-filled potato balls all from Swings.

Located opposite Albert Park (just a short walk from the Auckland Art Gallery) Swings is a decidedly cool drop-in where punters can find perfectly-brewed coffee, natural wines and a menu of delicious Korean toasties and flavoursome, indulgent bites from the team that brought you Ockhee. Sitting in the light-filled space, designed by the owners’ friend Young Do from Studio We Are Young, you feel distinctly removed from the city, despite being in its heart. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a coffee made from Swings in-house beans, a Korean soft drink or even a wine as you look out to the greenery opposite or browse through Swings’ shelves of branded merch and listen to music that has been meticulously curated for the space.

The Shy Guy

The Shy Guy by Izzard Design.

Designed for indulgence to the highest degree, Victoria Park’s sophisticated, after-dark destination (and Milenta’s neighbouring venue) The Shy Guy, is the ultimate place to partake in a drink (or two) and a boogie. Boasting a stunning interior — thanks to Izzard Design— which includes velvet booths, graphic tiling and a custom light display over the dance floor, The Shy Guy offers the perfect, convivial vibe, every time.

Vic Road Wine Bar & Cellar

Vic Road Wine Bar & Cellar.

As the sister venue to the always-popular Vic Road Kitchen, this wine bar iteration offers great wines, simple snacks and convivial company. With an extensive and exceptional wine list, serving an ever-changing array of interesting and inspired drops alongside an impressive retail range, Vic Road Wine Bar & Cellar has varietals to suit any taste and a menu of delicious bar snacks to boot.

Waku Waku

Waku Waku’s sashimi selection.

Waku Waku is a visionary restaurant from Makoto Tokuyama and Jason Lee, offering an approachable (but inspired) dining experience perfect for the whole family. Located in Remuera, it treats traditional Japanese fare to some delightfully modern twists, with a flavoursome menu that saw Tokuyama pull from his experience at the likes of Cocoro to make some seriously special dishes. In the kitchen, these dishes are perfectly executed by Chef Lucas Lee (ex Clooney, The French Cafe & Cocoro). Offering a curated selection of Japanese specialties, entrees feel both authentic and modern, with one of our favourites is the Kara-age chicken with tapioca and smoked yuzu mayonnaise. Mains offer a similar take, like market-fresh fish with yuzukosho dashi, choy sum and daikon puree. Waku Waku’s drinks are no less inspired, where cocktails are served with Asian twists, and a number of iterations of refreshing sake.

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