With delicious food, a sprawling terrace and some of the best cocktails in town, Darling on Drake is the new restaurant and bar to have on your radar

In the vast and varied culinary landscape of Auckland, where every new opening vies for attention, Darling on Drake has quickly risen to the top. Set on a sprawling site on the edge of Victoria Park, this latest venture is the brainchild of Fraser Kirby, who has harnessed his background in advertising, large-scale events and hospitality to create something truly unique to this city.

From the moment you step through the doors of Darling on Drake, it’s clear that this is not just another restaurant, nor is it a typical bar. Meticulously curated, the space was inspired by Kirby’s desire to bring something of an international calibre to Auckland, the founder drawing on his time working in cities like New York, Chicago and Melbourne to cultivate a venue that would seamlessly blend romance and elegance with a touch of whimsy and a convivial vibe.


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Left: Darling’s dining room. Right: Short Rib and Mozzarella Nuggets with English mustard

From its sleek dining room finished in tones of crimson, black and cream and boasting views out to Darling’s terrace and Victoria Park beyond, to its elegantly-curved bar framing one side of the interior, to the second bar on its sprawling deck (the biggest outdoor terrace in Central Auckland) with a vibe that feels both lively and intimate, Darling was designed to offer several distinct but connected spaces within its confines, with Kirby calling on Mitchell Addison and Jeffery Construction to help him bring it to life.

Left: Tuna Crudo with scorched peppers, thyme and roasted almond. Right: The interior bar at Darling.

“I wanted Darling to become somewhere you could have different experiences on different nights,” Kirby tells me, “or even the same night.” He continues, “Whatever the occasion calls for, you can find it here, whether that’s an intimate dinner in our dining room, or drinks in the sun on the terrace while enjoying our rotating roster of DJs and live music… or a bit of both.”

At the heart of Darling lies a pretty impressive culinary experience too, thanks to a menu created with the expertise of Chef Ryan Moore, whose pedigree includes stints at a number of acclaimed establishments, including The Grove and Bivacco. From starters to mains, sides and desserts, every dish harnesses locally sourced ingredients to offer elevated bar and bistro fare that plays on nostalgia and reimagined classics.

Left: Darling daiquiri. Right: Matangi Farm Poor Man’s Ribeye with bone marrow gravy.

To start, there is a range of tantalising small bites, from Tuna Crudo with scorched peppers, thyme and roasted almond to Short Rib and Mozzarella Nuggets with English mustard, to a deliciously delicate Wagyu Carpaccio and a particularly glorious Mushroom Parfait that has swiftly captured the imaginations of almost everyone who has tried it. Those seeking something more substantial can find it in the larger menu items, including dishes like the Chicken Leg Corn Dog (a unique take on a classic, fast food), the flavourful Fish Schnitzel with tartare butter, the undeniably indulgent Smashed Dry Aged Patty Melt with mortadella, burger sauce and fries, and the Matangi Farm Poor Man’s Ribeye, complete with utterly mouthwatering bone marrow gravy.

Those with a sweet tooth would do well to order a smorgasbord of Darling’s desserts, which come in at a tightly curated threesome of a Religieuse, which is a French delicacy made up of a small choux pastry stacked on top of a larger one, both filled with crème pâtissière and served with banana and salted popcorn, a Strawberry and Sherry Trifle and a Chocolate and Hazelnut Smore.

Left: Darling’s sun-soaked deck. Right: Darling’s chicken burger special.

Of course, no dining experience at Darling on Drake would be complete without exploring the carefully curated drinks menu. Designed with the help of the venue’s very capable General Manager, Marie Courtessole, the beverage offerings showcase a blend of classic cocktails and more innovative concoctions, each crafted with precision and care. From the crowd-pleasing Serpent (with tequila, mezcal, cointreau, jalapeño water, Kiwi puree and pineapple juice) to the sophisticated Ugo Martini (with pisco, Cocchi Americano and maraschino) to the signature margarita on tap (a strong crowd favourite, apparently), the libations at Darling on Drake are designed to surprise and delight even the most discerning palate. While the curated wine list spans a selection of good French and New Zealand drops, bringing together the best of of what both regions do best. 

Beyond all of this, what truly sets Darling on Drake apart is its dynamic atmosphere. Whether it’s for a leisurely lunch or a lively night out, the vibe here is always electric, thanks to its well-designed spaces and its diverse and thoughtful offering.

Since opening at the end of last year, Darling on Drake has continued to captivate the hearts of Aucklanders looking for good food and drinks and a great time. It makes sense then why this new dining destination has become such a regular watering hole for some of the city’s most discerning foodies. Whether you’re looking for a place to catch up over cocktails with friends, a new date-night dinner spot, a high-energy haunt for after-dark drinks or anything in between, Darling on Drake seems to have all the answers and is definitely the kind of venue that Auckland has needed for a long time. If you haven’t visited it yet, consider this a sign.

Opening hours:
Monday to Wednesday, 3pm until late
Thursday to Sunday, 12pm until late

Darling on Drake

27 Drake Street
Auckland

www.darlingondrake.com

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