Eat like a local in Auckland

Coffee, yum cha, fresh pasta and seafood – no matter your cravings, we've got you covered if you're looking to eat like a local when visiting Auckland.

  • Author

    Discover Auckland
  • Last updated

    Jun 2024
  • Time to read

    6 mins

Keen to bypass the tourist spots on your trip and eat like a local in Auckland instead? This guide will help you fit right in and uncover the hidden gems that Aucklanders are keen to keep to themselves.

For a Sichuan spice hit

Dan dan mian aficionados know Eden Noodles does it best, and luckily this casual Sichuan eatery has branches in Commercial Bay, Newmarket, Albany and Mount Eden. The menu offers dry and soupy versions of this popular noodle dish, so take your pick.

And don’t forget a side order of its famous dumplings in spicy sauce – the kitchen prepares several thousand each week and the sauce is a secret recipe that takes days to make. You’ll feast well for under $30 per person.

For more great Chinese dining and renowned cheap eats in Auckland, it’s a quick bus ride to Dominion Road – a 7.3km thoroughfare that stretches south from the city fringe and is famous for its wide range of Asian eateries.

Duck into Jolin Shanghai for juicy xiao-long pork buns, slurp loaded bowls at Guilin Rice Noodles, and explore Uyghur cuisine at JadeTown. Visit Xi’an Food Bar (which has six branches across Auckland) and order the all-time favourite #37 – hand-pulled noodles with Xi’an style braised pork.

For a warming bowl of curry

Sandringham is home to a concentration of Indian restaurants and often regarded as the place to go for the best Indian food in Auckland, and none draws a crowd like Paradise does. It serves up fresh Hyderabadi cuisine for dining in and to take away – Paradise put aromatic Chicken 65 on the map in Auckland, so don’t miss that.

Having watched the chefs slapping naan against the walls of the tandoor ovens through the window, you know you’ll need to order some, along with other goodies from the clay oven like sheek kabab and tandoori chicken.

If you're after rave-worthy curry with distinguished service in the city centre, Aucklanders know Cassia is the place to go for guaranteed satisfaction. Owners Sid and Chandi Sahrawat are hospitality royalty in Auckland, and at Cassia they bring a modern take on the comforting, palate-tingling Indian flavours they grew up with.

For laid-back Italian

When it comes to celebrating a birthday, graduation, new job or just enjoying a long Sunday lunch, Prego is where residents of Auckland have been flocking since 1986.

Regarded as some of the best Italian food in Auckland, the menu has everyone covered, with pizza, pasta, hearty secondi and tempting desserts. It’s a popular choice for families, helped along by an impressive children’s menu, and it caters well to most dietary needs. Walk-ins are welcome, so don’t be shy!

If you’re mad for freshly made pasta, check out Pici on Karangahape Road, suburban newbie Bianca in Ellerslie, and Osteria Uno in Birkenhead just over the Harbour Bridge.

For oysters and Champagne

Aucklanders love oysters, and for good reason. We grow them fat and sweet in the Hauraki Gulf, and haul them in live and fresh from other pristine waters around the country. March to August sees our world-famous Bluff oysters from the far south Foveaux Strait in season – to feast on those, Soul Bar in Viaduct Harbour is the undisputed champ.

For a truly local experience, seek out Te Matuku oysters farmed sustainably on Waiheke Island. Favourite spots to enjoy them include kingi, Bar Céleste, Advieh and Shucker Brothers (perched on the water by Downtown Ferry Terminal).

At Metita in The Grand at SkyCity, chef Michael Meredith douses the oysters in bone marrow and gives them a light grilling, resulting in the ultimate companion to a flute of crisp Champagne.

Or park up at Depot on Federal Street to enjoy the best of the bounty New Zealand’s land and sea provides. The raw bar is at the heart of things at Depot, with oysters shucked to order. Take your pick, and go French or local for the bubbles.

For bistro brilliance

When locals want an experience that hits the classic bistro notes – unfussy yet satisfying food, warm service and a relaxed setting – they know that The Engine Room always provides.

You’ll find it across Auckland Harbour Bridge in the pretty heritage neighbourhood of Northcote Point. It’s hard to go past the crisp-tender schnitzel, but there are always daily specials chalked up on the board. Finish with a liqueur or an affogato for the full elegantly nostalgic experience.

Heading south of the city, Cazador is a haven of honed hospitality on Dominion Road. Its warm, friendly and knowledgeable front of house staff are backed up by a kitchen that continuously wows with bold flavours built around a nose-to-tail and wild food ethos. No wonder it has won awards for both best service and best chef numerous times over the years. 

A roll call of more central places that meet this brief are steak frites heaven Ponsonby Road Bistro, Kiwi chef Josh Emett’s Gilt in the historic Chancery Chambers building, and Depot, where local wines is served in tumblers and the best nights end with a slice of chef Al Brown’s famous sugar pie.

For dim sum deliciousness

Yum cha has become a tradition readily upheld by Aucklanders of all backgrounds, especially on lazy Sundays when great food and company is the sign of a day well spent.

Huami at SkyCity serves up one of the best yum cha around. Take a seat and your table will be graced with a host of popular dishes in no time. From baskets of delicate dim sum and mānuka honey-glazed char siu pork, to fragrant lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice and sweet soup bearing pillowy avocado dumplings.

Roast duck is the hot item here – order in advance to ensure you don’t miss out. It’s cooked in a traditional clay oven fuelled by fruit wood, and arrives at the table expertly carved into rich meat and lacquer-like crisp skin, alongside pancakes, duck sauce and crunchy spring onions.

Also try Pearl Garden in Newmarket – it’s one of the city’s oldest established Chinese restaurants in Auckland and still owned by the same family. Their prawn dim sum and tofu puffs are otherworldly. East restaurant in Sudima Auckland City serves up an entirely vegan yum cha on Sundays – nobody will miss the meat!

But first, coffee

Before you can consider where to head for breakfast, lunch or dinner, every Aucklander knows you need decent coffee to kickstart the day. Luckily you’re incredibly well-served wherever you go with the Auckland coffee scene well and truly thriving.

It is, in fact, very bad luck to get a bad coffee in a city that’s mad for it and is home to a multitude of roasteries. Even a simple filter coffee will impress – for bottomless cups alongside your latkes, do breakfast at Federal Delicatessen.

If minimalist-chic decor and slow-brew single origins are your thing, head to inner city spot Rumours, or for a café that’s well placed for sightseeing, check out Holiday at the foot of Maungawhau / Mount Eden.

Written by Discover Auckland

Last updated 22 Jun 2024

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