Hunger zone: The guide to Auckland's best eateries for friends and family

Alexia Santamaria picks out some great spots for sustenance in between games.

Drinks and tapas Spanish-style at Bellota in Federal St. Photo / Babiche Martens
Drinks and tapas Spanish-style at Bellota in Federal St. Photo / Babiche Martens

SHARING SMALL PLATES

It seems more and more people are following the lead of other cultures such as the Spanish and the Japanese and eating communally. Lots of little plates to share and taste rather than one large one for individual consumption.

Here are some places that do it well:

El Faro
El Faro is part of Elliot Stables - several small eateries in a Melbourne-like cosy setting. The tapas are excellent and the vibe jovial and fun. Check it out for a taste of Spain.

Address: Elliot Stables, 39 Elliott St, Auckland City

Nishiki
Nishiki is clearly not Spanish tapas but it is small plates to share and it's one of the best Japanese isakayas in town. It's rowdy and the décor isn't flash but the food is incredible.

Address: 100 Wellington St, Freemans Bay

Bellota
Given this is Peter Gordon's baby, you can imagine the level of quality. Authentic Spanish tapas made from high quality ingredients in a gorgeous setting. Saludos!

Address: 91 Federal St, Auckland Central

Grand Harbour
An essential for any round-up of Auckland sharing food. This yum cha does some of the best dumplings in town and has queues out the door in the weekend. Make sure you book.

Address: Corner Pakenham St and Custom St West, Viaduct Harbour

Also great in this category:
La Zeppa, Serafin, Mondial, Didas

FUN FRIENDS NIGHT OUT

If it's fun you're looking for with your great tasting food, this is where you need to go.

Cafe Hanoi
Cafe Hanoi has filled a gap in the Auckland market. It's fabulous Vietnamese food but with nice decor and a buzzy, fun atmosphere. A rarity. Choose times wisely as you can't book.

Address: Corner Galway and Commerce Streets, in the Britomart precinct

Industry Zen
At Industry Zen the food is great, the presentation eccentric, the fitout funky, the staff hilarious and there's often a brief floor show of sorts. One big mad Japanese package.

Address: 104 D Customs St West, Viaduct Harbour

Depot
Al Brown's new place is the talk of the town. And rightly so. Its industrial fitout still manages to be warm and inviting and the food is high quality and perfectly executed but totally unpretentious at the same time.

Address: 86 Federal St, Auckland Central

Eight at the Langham
Bringing new meaning to the much-maligned smorgasbord, Eight has eight interactive kitchens to choose from. Have great-tasting fresh food cooked/made in front of you with a good dose of theatre too.

Address: 83 Symonds St, Auckland Central

Also great in this category:
Tanuki's Cave, Prego

WORLD CUISINE

For those guests who are adventurous and want to explore Auckland's ethnic cuisine, there are a wealth of treats both in the central city and hiding in the suburbs.

We've divided them up by ethnicity but be warned, good food does not always come with good décor or fabulous ambience.

Vietnamese: Sam Woo and Try it Out in Otahuhu; Saigonz in the city

Mexican: Ahsi Itzcalli in Grey Lynn, Mexican Specialities in Ellerslie (be careful of restricted trading hours)

Chinese: Canton Cafe in Kingsland, Pearl Garden Yum Cha in Newmarket, Love-A-Duck and Barilla Dumpling on Dominion Rd

Indian: Satya in K Rd, Sandringham and Mt Eden, Taste of Fiji in Sandringham

Malaysian: Bunga Raya in New Lynn, Santhiya's in Mt Roskill, Sri Puteri in Panmure, KK Malaysian Cuisine in Epsom

Middle Eastern: Lebanese Cafe on K Rd, The Middle East Cafe in the CBD

Korean: Choi's in Meadowlands, Bi Won in Glenfield, Bon-ga-ne in the CBD

Thai: Jungle Flavour in Balmoral, Mekong Neua in Kingsland, Zap 1, 2, 3 and 4 in various locations around Auckland

Food Halls: Food Alley on Albert Street in the city, Ponsonby Food Court, Northcote Shopping Centre, Mercury Plaza

Streets of note (for great clusters of diverse international food): Queens Rd Panmure, Dominion Rd, Meadowlands, Upper Queen St

COUNTRY COMFORT

These places are a bit out of town but lovely for a drive on a sunny day.

Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant
Hallertau is a boutique brewery with restaurant attached. It is perfect on a Sunday for handcrafted beer, excellent fresh food and live music.

Address: 1171 Coatesville Riverhead Hwy, Riverhead

Leigh Sawmill Cafe
Also a micro-brewery, the Leigh Sawmill cafe is a gorgeous eating establishment with woodfired pizzas and excellent fresh fish. It's also a gig venue and a fabulous night out.

Address: 142 Pakiri Rd, Leigh

The Riverhead
Renovated and polished to perfection, the new "old" Riverhead has decks and a river jetty, a cosy fireplace, smart pub food and the happiest publican behind the taps. Pick up freshly harvested produce en route.

Address: Cnr Queen & York

FINE DINING

This city has some world-class eating establishments for those who want top-end food with outstanding presentation and service.

The Grove
For the past two years The Grove has taken out the Metro Audi Restaurant of the Year award. And with its exquisite creative food and impeccable but friendly service, it's no wonder.

Address: St Patrick's Square, Wyndham St

O'Connell Street Bistro
O'Connell Street Bistro has received wide acclaim both in New Zealand and in major international magazines as a place you must eat at. Go there and you'll understand why.

Address: 3 O'Connell St, Auckland Central

Merediths
Supreme Winner of the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards 2011, Merediths is an amazing experience in delicious innovative food.

Address: 365 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Valley

The French Cafe
The French Cafe has been a favourite among all who love good food for 12 years now. It cleverly manages to retain its signature dishes as well as stay fresh and modern.

Address: 210 Symonds St, Eden Terrace

Soul Bar
Soul has it all. Amazing location at the water's edge, great food and excellent service. Always great for beautiful people-watching as well.

Address: Viaduct Harbour

Also great in this category:
Clooney, Vinnies, dine by Peter Gordon

BIG BLOKE FOOD

There are still men (and women) out there who haven't succumbed to small plates or highly decorative small portioned a la carte offerings. Here are some places to go when you want substantial food.

Wildfire
Wildfire is a Brazilian Barbeque Restaurant and it's an all-you-can eat scenario with meats cooked in traditional marinades and sliced directly on to your plate. Carnivore heaven.

Address: Princes Wharf, Shed 22 132-138 Quay St

The Grill
Part of the buzzing new Federal St precinct around the Sky City, Sean Connolly's The Grill is smart luxury with a huge range of immaculate steaks (wagyu, grass fed, grain fed or a tasting platter if you can't decide), a stylish sea-food bar and warm service. The duck fat chips are already legendary.

Address: The Grill 90 Federal St, City ph 09 363 7067

Belgian Beer Cafes
Blankenberge, De Fontein, De Post, The Occidental and The Ponsonby are all great places for Belgian beer and hearty food. Great for mussel lovers but plenty of other options too.

Lone Star
With dishes such as Redneck Ribs and Lasso of Hog, Lone Star is a chain for people with big appetites looking for a man-sized meal. Not for weight-watchers. Fun service, great beers and a great night out. Restaurants in Newmarket, New Lynn, Manukau and Takapuna.

Jervois Steak House and Saloon
Excellent option for posh man-food. Best quality produce, cooked perfectly with great creative flourishes for the discerning meat eater.

Address: 70 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

Be in to win: Taste your way around the country

The Taste of New Zealand festival at Auckland's Victoria Park from October 19-22 features international cooking stars Rick Stein and Gary Rhodes, Australian-based Kiwi chefs Warren Turnbull, Josh Emmet and Justin North, fine restaurants from around the country and some favourite telly cooks all in one great feast.

Weekend Life and Taste of New Zealand are giving away two premium tickets for Friday night, October 21, (value $70 each), $40 worth of "Crowns" to buy food and drink, access to the Fisher & Paykel Chefs' Kitchen, Chef's Table and Rick Stein's Malaysia Kitchen along with a copy of Annabel Langbein's latest book Free Range in the City.

Click here to go in the draw. Enter your details and the keywords Taste of New Zealand by midnight Wednesday October 12.

- NZ Herald

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