Auckland cuisine blends European and Southeast Asian influences, showing off New Zealand's bounty of seafood, meats and produce. Pair this with their world-renowned wines – there are dozens of wineries in the Auckland area alone – and you're in Kiwi culinary heaven.
From green shell mussels, scallops and Bluff oysters to giant crayfish and paua (abalone), New Zealand's seafood bounty is the star of the show at the Auckland Fish Market. A cooking school on site offers hands-on tutelage on topics such as sushi making, filleting and pairing seafood with wine. There's also a sushi counter and a deli selling top-quality olives, cheeses, fruit and veg – in short, the makings of a perfect seaside picnic.
Corner of Daldy and Madden streets, Freemans Bay, 64-9-379-1490
Isle of wine
A 35-minute, ridiculously scenic ferry ride away, Waiheke Island is a tiny land mass that packs in a whole lot of goodness. Wineries, olive groves, pristine sandy coves, and grassy knolls lead to rock cliffs that jut out to sea. Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant boasts the most breathtaking views on the island, best taken in over a seriously delicious long lunch on a sunny day (again, local produce shines). Wines on offer include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, syrah and chardonnay. Fullers ferry service offers half- or full-day Waiheke vineyard tours, including tastings and lunch, with stops at Mudbrick and the lovely Stonyridge and Peninsula Estate wineries.
Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, Church Bay Rd., Waiheke, 64-9-372-9050
Fullers, Ferry Building, 99 Quay St., Auckland, 64-9-367-9111
Stonyridge Vineyard, 80 Onetangi Rd., Waiheke, 64-9-372-8822
Peninsula Estate Wines, 52a Korora Rd., Waiheke, 64-9-372-7866
Some of the Auckland's best dining can be found in hotels, which makes indulging foodie fancies especially convenient if you're short on time. For the ultimate fine dining experience, don't miss the ultra-swish Partingtons, within the equally lavish Langham Hotel, which recently unveiled a $12-million facelift. Partingtons' hot young chef Marc Soper was named Chef of the Year at the 2005 New Zealand Culinary Fair – not bad for a 26-year-old. Try the exotic South Island thar (alpine goat) loin or go for gold with the decadent nine-course degustation menu with wines to match.
SKYCITY Grand Hotel, housed in the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, is an equally plush accommodation option, with a more contemporary esthetic. The hotel's restaurant, dine by Peter Gordon, is celebrated for its contemporary fusion cuisine, created by New Zealand-born Gordon, considered a founder of the fusion movement. The East Coast hapuka on wok-fried Asian greens and spiced satay sauce pairs perfectly with one of the fine Marlborough region sauvignon blancs on offer.
The Heritage, a former Art Deco era department store, features period design flourishes and Hectors, a restaurant serving Pacific Rim fare in a seven-storey atrium. And if water views are what you crave, the Hilton's sleek, minimalist White restaurant, perched atop the Princes Wharf, is perfect for watching the boats go by, while Mollies, a small luxury boutique hotel, comes with 16 suites, a gourmet restaurant and views over Waitemata Harbour.
Langham Hotel Auckland, 83 Symonds St., Auckland, 64-9-379-5132
SKYCITY Grand Hotel, 90 Federal St., Auckland, 64-9-363-6000
Heritage Auckland, 35 Hobson St., Auckland, 64-9-302-1277
Hilton Auckland, Princes Wharf, 147 Quay St., Auckland, 64-9-978-2000
Mollies, 6 Tweed St., St Mary's Bay, 64-9-376-3489
(Genevieve Paiement is a Montreal-based freelance writer who has lived and worked in France and Australia. Travelling and eating are her twin passions.)
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TOP PHOTO: TOURISM AUCKLAND
SKYCITY: SKYCITY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP