People dining at a central Auckland food court today were surprised with a side of stench when a huge food oil spill created a nauseating smell.

A substance oozing across the floor of the Atrium on Elliot food court eventually emptied out the popular dining location as contractors were called in to clean up the mess.

Speaking to Fairfax a witness described the smell as "truly horrid".

Some food outlets kept trading for at least 30 minutes after the noxious ooze seeped through the hall, he said, with only a wall separating the workers from the mess.

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"Staff inside looked pained, blocking their mouths as they carried on."

A spokesperson from Drain Ninjas confirmed a crew was in attendance.

Building management told Fairfax staff were trying to locate the source of the leak.

The food court will be closed until further notice.