27 June 2012

Auckland Eats

Every now and then I feel like getting out of town (it's been my New Year's resolution for the last couple years to leave Wellington at least once a month - the only New Year's resolution I've ever kept). And when I don't have the time or money to go further afield, which is most of the time, I head to Auckland. Often enough, in fact, that one of my friends recently told me it's almost like I live there - but like I'm one of those people who doesn't hang out that often.

It does almost feel that way, except I like to think of myself as the kind of person who emerges from seclusion more than once every few weeks. And no, I'm not thinking of moving to Auckland. But I'm getting into Auckland lots - I feel like in the last few years Auckland's developed a burgeoning cafe scene, or maybe it's just that I've discovered a lot more places since upping the frequency of my visits. Anyway, one thing is certain: when in Auckland, I eat well, whether it's at a cafe, restaurant or cheap and cheerful joint.

Here are a few of the places I've found pretty good over my last visits. Since many of these places I've only visited once or twice, rather than attempt a full write-up I'll leave you with my impressions and photos of what I ate:

Barilla Dumpling, Dominion Rd

I visited Barilla Dumpling for the first (and only, but certainly not the last) time when I was up in Auckland back in March. It's been much-talked about (see here and here and here and here) but I'll add my own two cents: awesome, no-frills dumplings, the likes of which you won't find in Wellington. The dumpling menu is about a zillion flavours long, you can only order them by the twenty (which will set you back roundabout ten bucks) and you can get them  boiled, steamed or fried. Eighty dumplings for four ravenously hungover twentysomething girls? Bring it on. 

(I have to admit, though, eighty was possibly a bit ambitious.)

Barilla Dumpling
571 Dominion Rd


Kokako Cafe, Grey Lynn

Kokako's new(ish) outpost in Grey Lynn deserves a mention even though I didn't particularly enjoy my visit there back in April, but then that can be attributed to the fact that on the day I visited I was suffering from one of those awful colds that completely robs you of your appetite and your sense of taste and smell. Horrible for trying a place for the first time.

But if I had been able to taste what I was having I might've told you that my smoothie was at once refreshingly tasting and refreshingly different: almond and coconut milk instead of dairy (probably a good thing, since I was sick), blueberries, banana, goji berries. And even without tasting it I was won over by the presentation - why are things served in jars somehow so likeable? Maybe it's some kind of quasi-hipster aesthetic that feels right at home in Grey Lynn.

Speaking of Grey Lynn hipster types, the place was full of them - there were those guys I saw at Golden Dawn the night before, here was a table of girls in improbably cool outfits (for me at least) for a Sunday morning. But despite feeling a bit sceney it's a nice place for anyone to hang out, my ailing self included. It's bright and airy and though I can't quite remember through my fever-clouded memory, I think the staff were nice. Good things. 

The baked eggs and cornbread I had came with not two, but three eggs (which sort of justifies the $19 price tag) atop a mix of black beans (yum) and kumara (I probably would've preferred potato). And, okay, I couldn't really taste much but I'm pretty sure those fresh chillies on top cleared my sinuses enough for my sense of smell to return slightly before lunch at Depot later that day (but more on that in another post).

Kokako Cafe
Corner of Williamson Ave & Great North Rd
Grey Lynn


Little and Friday, Newmarket 

There's been a little bit of buzz in the back of my mind for a while now telling me to get to Little and Friday. I'd heard bits and pieces about it on blogs and social media, they've just put out a gorgeous-looking cookbook, everyone seems to be talking about their cakes and pies and doughnuts. Their main outpost is in Takapuna, but not too long ago they opened up another cafe in a fabric store in Newmarket. 

On Saturday we went there and the place was intimidatingly packed: a line snaked around the counter, the big communal tables were packed shoulder-to-shoulder with cool girls and lunching ladies, staff squeezing through the crowds to deliver coffee and heated up pies and quiches and so on.

As is ideally the case with all counter-food joints, by the time we got to the front of the queue a couple seats had opened up for us. Phew. No awkward milling about or hovering over some poor souls trying to finish their lunch. 

There are about a million kinds of quiche (well, a handful at least, but there might as well have been a million, it was so hard to decide) and my beetroot and blue cheese one was definitely pretty tasty. Excellent pastry.

And this is probably the worst picture of a doughnut I've ever taken, but, guys: this. Don't eat it if you're after something light and fluffy: it's got a good coat of icing sugar on the outside that sort of crusts up like a cross between a sticky glaze and a crunchy sugar coating. And the vanilla custard filling? Dreamy. I think there was also some kind of jam or fruit or something inside but I wasn't even paying attention because it was all so rich and delicious. Probably not advisable to have more than one a week though, unless you want to be on a constant sugarhigh. I was.

Little and Friday
Martha's Fabrics
12 Melrose St


Xi'an Food Bar

Last one for now, and also the last and most recent meal I had in Auckland. This place is somewhere my friend Sophie told me about, and then another friend suggested we meet at a Chinese noodle place on Anzac Ave, and when I got there I realised with a happy coincidental thrill that they were one and the same place.

The place is spartan, almost dingy, and there are these funny ordering devices on the table that I feel would've been really futuristic in the early 1990s but now feel a bit comical. Anyway, you punch in your order number - no human contact required - and once your food is ready someone brings it over to you.

Xi'an food - from the same place as the terracotta warriors I believe - is not something I'm really familiar with, though I wish I was. I can't stop thinking about the hand-pulled noodles I had: $9 will get you a very filling bowl of freshly made, thick, flat noodles. You can have them in soup, or with chilli oil and a variety of toppings. I had braised pork and oh my god: whatever they did to this pork, I want to do to all pork I eat from now on. It was like a tangier, spicier Chinese cousin of Southern pulled pork or Mexican carnitas. Delicious. And did I mention only $9 for a huge portion - enough for me to eat half and take the rest home with me on the plane?

If I wasn't so full from the noodles I would've tried their burgers - a Xi'an style bun, toasted and halved, with different meat fillings. And cheap - I believe around $4.50. I'm sure they'd all be delicious but if I could have that pork in one of those buns - oh man. I'll be making a trip back for sure. 

Xi'an Food Bar
11 Anzac Ave

Auckland: love you lots. I may never move there, but that doesn't stop me from visiting, and eating, and discovering. And, best part? I'll be up again soon. Aucklanders (and Auckland-lovers), where should I visit next? 


Peasepudding.wordpress.com said...

I'm definitely off to Xi'an, hubby got very excited when I read the post to him, like the noodles he had when living in Beijing he said.

milliemirepoix said...

Cool! Let me know if you try the burgers, or even just the buns... I'm very curious :)

Lin Nah said...

There's a few of these Xian noodle or food bars in Auckland. not sure if they are related or decided to coincidentally be called "xian" (after all it is a famouse place). Dominion Rd (by valley rd shops), New North Rd (Mt Albert shops), Northcote (Pearn Place) and Anzac Ave are the few I've spotted so far.
There's also a few places near Barilla Dumpling that serve handpulled or their own home made noodles, in mainland chinese style.

Anna said...

Yes Lin, am interested to know if they're all part of same restaurant family - I believe three are, but not sure about Dom Rd Xi'An? Had their 'burgers' there last night, tasty indeed!