Auckland’s hospitality industry has had a stand-out year. We’ve seen a raft of inventive, innovative and incredibly delicious newcomers — from elevated restaurants offering a new take entirely, to cosy, casual wine bars aplenty, European-inspired eateries, spots experimenting with unlikely cultural fusions, captivating pop-ups and more. It certainly has been a year of raising the culinary bar, and here, we’ve rounded up our definitive guide of the very best new restaurants and wine bars in 2023. We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.
Drawing on refined restaurant culture from around the world, celebrated restaurateurs Josh and Helen Emett (of Onslow and The Oyster Inn) have created something unique and decidedly international in Gilt. Already solidifying itself as the place to be for city-dwellers, the new eatery delivers on all fronts — from the menu, featuring contemporary takes on classic dishes you’d find at a European brasserie, to world-class wines, timeless cocktails and more. There’s no better spot to park up for lunch, dinner, or anything in between. We know a future icon when we see one.
Location: SkyCity, CBD
Bringing an elevated take on Pacific cuisine to the SkyCity precinct, Michael Meredith’s impeccable new restaurant Metita is a comment on the richness of Polynesian culture — the first eatery of its kind in New Zealand. Here, you’ll find inspired renditions of traditional South Pacific dishes (pork hock, paua and taro all feature, but not as you’ve seen them prepared before), alongside an impressive list of cocktails with a focus on the fragrant rums of the South Pacific, served in an immersive space that pays homage to Meredith’s native Samoa.
Location: Princess Warf, CBD
2023 was the year that Auckland finally welcomed its first urban cellar door and wine bar — and the wait was well worth it. For wine and food lovers alike, paradise is found at Princes Wharf’s Somm, which offers a stellar lineup of iconic wines and a food menu that is both regional and seasonal. From the clever culinary minds behind some of Auckland’s favourite restaurants, Somm represents some of New Zealand’s best wineries, like Church Road, Martinborough Vineyard, Te Kairanga, Vavasour and Mt Difficulty, and delivers a sophisticated and utterly chic gastronomic experience.
Everyday Wine’s Dan Gillet saw a gap in the market for a dedicated wine bar, where wines were truly the focus, and so, he swiftly filled it with Flor — an intimate, atmospheric spot on K’ Rd. Here, there are over 150 different varieties on offer, with a rotating selection of by-the-glass pours. Carefully selected, the wines pair perfectly with the delicious bites on Flor’s interesting menu, created by Head Chef Tushar Grover and Sous Chef Josh Letele, both formerly of Parnell fine-dining institute, Pasture. Flor has fast-become a go-to for after-work drinks and a delectable bite — and one that should definitely be on your radar.
Birkenhead residents delighted in the opening of Osteria Uno this October — an elevated but approachable new Italian spot from hospitality maestros Sarah and Jordan Macdonald (the duo also behind another lauded Birkenhead eatery, Duo). Here, diners are met with simple, seasonal fare where fresh, handcrafted pasta is the star of the show (the casarecce with asparagus and cavalo nero pesto and the bucatini with mussels and fermented chilli butter is a must), served alongside Italian-inspired cocktails and an extensive wine list. The fit-out is sophisticated but unpretentious, making for a relaxed setting where you can easily imagine yourself spending a leisurely Saturday evening.
Adding to the vibrant culinary landscape of Auckland is a delectable new restaurant serving the unusual but undeniably tasty fusion of Korean and Spanish flavours. Bonita, the brainchild of enterprising hospitality duo, Shanay and Isaac Yu, (known for establishments like SlowLane Cafe and The Breakfast Club), boasts an ingenious marriage of Spanish and Korean cuisine, blending the savoury, bold tones of Korean cuisine with the breezy, made-to-share charm of Spanish tapas. The bar offers a similarly innovative take, with a list of unique cocktails and sangrias, while the venue itself promises a cosy, inviting vibe. The perfect spot to settle in for an evening and experience something entirely new.
Location: Dominion Road
Midway through the year, Plabita Florence opened the doors to the newest iteration of her intriguing, plant-based restaurant Forest, taking up residence in a charming space on Dominion Road. Here, you’ll find an array of innovative, plant-based cuisine that uses unexpected flavours and unique ingredients to harness the potential of vegetarian food in a way that is entirely her own. Florence maintains her seasonal focus, with an emphasis on sustainable, waste-conscious dining, and as such, you can expect the likes of whole, ‘upside-down broccoli’ or bakery sourdough served warm with ‘old wine butter’. The space itself is fun, whimsical, and unpretentious — a more-than-perfect spot for a delicious midweek meal with friends.
Husband and wife duo Henry and Debby Onememo tested the waters for Tala’s concept at a pop-up within modern Filipino favourite, Bar Magda, before committing to a space of their own. As it happens, the desire for elevated Samoan fare is very much there, and the resulting eatery is an innovative concept that showcases the very best of Samoan cuisine. Outside of the elevated fare (the sapasui and spatchcook chicken aren’t to be missed), what sets Tala apart is the dining experience itself. Food is cooked for all to see in a traditional umu (open fire) bringing a communal feel to the intimate dining space — while traditional ceremonies and traditions are woven into the experience.
Location: St. Kevins Arcade, K’Rd
The team behind beloved spots Pici and Ooh-Fa have worked their magic yet again, with their new wine bar and bottle shop Tappo. Conveniently located in St. Kevins Arcade, next door to Pici, the focus here is on showcasing wines from small, biodynamic and organic producers from around New Zealand and Italy, with approachability and simplicity in mind — no stuffy wine speak in sight. Park up for a bite and bottle, a nightcap or a pre-dinner glass, and discover something entirely new, or call in on your way past and grab a bottle to enjoy at home. Salute!
Paname Social is the chic Parisian-inspired restaurant and wine bar that opened in the CBD earlier this year, serving decidedly European fare all day long. The menu has a strong French influence, with many dishes grounded in authentic recipes with ingredients sourced from local French suppliers. It ebbs and flows between day and night seamlessly, offering a unique spin on brunch favourites before transitioning to a bistro-style menu at night, where delicate market fish topped with clams and drowned in beurre blanc is served alongside lobster tail mac and cheese and duck liver crème brûlée. Food is served from dusk until dawn, the wine list is extensive, the cocktails are inventive and coffee is served around the clock, bringing a true taste of the European mode de vie to Auckland’s dining scene.
With Albert Cho at the helm, Namu Group recently opened the doors to Tobi, a convivial new restaurant on Ponsonby Road. Here, European classics are paired with nostalgic, Kiwi elements — each dish presented with a unique twist. On the menu, you’ll find the likes of French bistro-style steak frites served with salsa verde and a pile of shoestring fries, a fresh take on a prawn cocktail, and deboned and fried half-chicken with crispy skin served with gravy and warm dinner rolls. Cho and the Namu team set out to offer an eatery at which you can while away the evening in good company enjoying good food and drink in an entirely relaxed setting, and so far, Tobi is delivering on all fronts.
Location: City Works Depot, CBD
If it’s an entirely reimagined bar experience that you seek, look no further than Luke Jones and Dave Lincoln of Honest Rum’s collaboration with Dan Pinto of Passa Passa — Norma Taps. The result of the trio’s pooled skills and experience is a captivating pop-up in City Works Depot, open from lunch to dinner, serving mouthwatering bites, satiating seasonal drinks (all served on tap), live music and more, in a relaxed but sophisticated and very welcoming space.
With an adventurous menu that shines a spotlight on local, organic produce, renowned chef and hospitality consultant Lucas Parkinson’s new Piha venture is well worthy of your attention this summer. Taking over the former site of The Piha Cafe, Aryeh brings an exceptional fine dining experience to the iconic coastal spot. Here, nature dictates what’s on the menu and when — dishes are guided entirely by Aotearoa’s produce and, as such, change with and throughout the seasons. Wild proteins, sustainably sourced kaimoana, and cultivated goods that are procured with consideration for the environment and the welfare of animals are on offer, and the menu acts as an exploration of our local landscape.
Tempero, the chic K’ Road restaurant serving Pan-Latin food in an elevated way, opened its doors mid-year and has since solidified itself as a firm favourite on Auckland’s dining scene. Pared-back, bistronomy-style dining is the focus here; the menu bringing together diverse flavours and influences from Latin countries. This same theme continues in the fit-out, where playful colours, modernist art, and high ceilings reminiscent of those you’d expect of a typical Brazilian eatery all feature. With esteemed Chef Fabio Bernardini at the helm, the dishes are unsurprisingly packed with new and intricate flavours and are served in such a way that could be seen at some of the world’s best restaurants, but also remain inherently simple, staying true to the cuisine’s traditional roots. A special spot indeed.
Location: SkyCity, CBD
Set on the 50th floor of Auckland’s most iconic landmark, SkyBar is taking after-work drinks to a whole new level. Found 182 metres above Auckland, SkyCity’s new bar boasts more than just an exceptional drinks list; the luxurious hideaway promises an exceptional culinary offering and a multi-sensory experience. Here, the beverage menu has been crafted to reflect the natural elements of Auckland’s geography, and, in partnership with Moët & Chandon, the offering is truly unrivalled. As for the food, the day begins with elegant treats by the talented master pâtissiers at Sucré and ends with a refined menu of grazing plates and late-night bites sure to satisfy.
Location: SkyCity, CBD
2023 saw iconic modern Indian eatery Cassia open the doors to a new and improved space within the SkyCity precinct, much to the delight of Sid and Chand Sahrawat’s loyal legions of fans. The new iteration is Cassia at its very best, boasting an exceptional, inventive menu featuring the likes of tandoori chicken tacos, and the much-loved charred eggplant topped with buffalo curd and sweetened with tamarind, all served within a relaxed, elevated setting perfect for a leisurely long lunch with friends or a special occasion with loved ones.
Location: Viaduct Harbour, CBD
Earlier this year an intimate, exquisitely-appointed new oyster bar and restaurant opened in the space alongside Viaduct Harbour’s Oyster & Chop, quickly establishing itself as the perfect spot for an easy drink or a bite with friends. Versatile and atmospheric, The Terrace was designed to complement the existing Oyster & Chop offering (although with a more approachable feel), mixing delicious drinks, a seafood-centric menu that showcases the oyster in all its glory, and a vibe that is both elevated and welcoming.