Here's a plan that will take you on a hassle-free girls' day out in one of New Zealand's best shopping districts. Let Libby Nicholson-Moon be your guide.
When I discovered Little and Friday's cafe in Takapuna, I became a true devotee, so when owner Kim Evans opened her Newmarket store I felt doubly blessed, as it's only 10 minutes from my home. My niece and I have planned a day of decadence in Newmarket and first on the list is coffee and breakfast treats at Little and Friday's store inside Martha's Fabrics at 12 Melrose St, just off Khyber Pass. The cafe's two long communal tables are scattered with vintage cutlery, beautiful flowers, jars of chutney open and ready for use, and tiered cake plates ladened with delicacies. The cafe shelves are bulging with takeaway delights, including meringues, biscuits, nougat, chutneys, jams and more. I order the famous Little and Friday cream doughnut filled with raspberry coulis. Think crunchy on the outside, delicately yeasty and pillowy on the inside, and oozing sweetness. Customers have been known to queue from 8am to indulge in these little wonders, and they often sell up to 400 on a busy Saturday. My niece chose the layered walnut pesto, caramelised leek and haloumi galette with its layers of mouthwatering pastry. With a second round of coffee we share a gluten-free chocolate baci cake. We are literally ready to roll.
Little and Friday shares the same venue as Martha's Fabrics, which imports from the top mills in America and Europe and sells at wholesale prices to the public. We browse the French velvets, taffeta, linens and chenilles, with vintage-inspired patterns, English prints, and amazing colour palettes. Fabric descriptions such as Floradora Butternut, Vintage Plume Ginger, Spice Merchant Nutmeg, Watermelon Velvet, St Tropez Chocolate and Raspberry Florette sound almost culinary.
Our next stop is The Recycle Boutique in Kent St, where we rummage the racks of pre-loved and designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. I find a cool vintage evening bag (I'm an avid collector), and my niece a beaded top, both at incredibly reasonable prices. Next we check out Sitka surf shop in Osborne St. The niece has heard they have the coolest range of bikinis, and as I was a novice surfer back in the day, I'm ready to indulge in nostalgia. New Zealand owner and operator of the Newmarket flagship store, Andrew Howson, explains that fellow Canadians Rene Gauthier and Andrew Paine established Sitka in 2002 (the Sitka spruce tree is often found on the rugged shorelines of western Canada), primarily for the manufacture of surfboards. The company has since added skateboards, a clothing range and accessories. This store is a cool hangout for skaters, surfers and beach fashionistas alike, with its re-cycled interior, old style piano (they often have gigs in-store), comfy couches, a plasma screen featuring surf videos, and a coffee machine. They also sell New Zealand products, including the recycled Trash footwear range from Raglan.
It's time for some hard-core fashion shopping, and Osborne St has a lot to offer. We admire the handbags and accessories at Oroton, an Australian brand founded in 1938. Gold and silver Oroton bags became popular in the 60s and 70s, and are now collector's items. I purchased my first Oroton silver mesh bag when I was in my early 20s and have been collecting ever since.
Next is the iconic, avant-garde and internationally acclaimed luxury fashion and beauty brand, World, established by Francis Hooper and Denise L'Estrange-Corbet. World's store interiors, which are theatrical and eccentric, are described by the fashion house as a 'Factory of designs and experiments'. The Newmarket store showcases the imitable style of World's collection against a backdrop of eclecticism and alluring mystique. We also love their stunning range of European perfumes, including signature fragrances such as Gin Fizz by Lubin, created exclusively for actress Grace Kelly in honour of her beauty, and The Imperial Collection of fragrances created exclusively for Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1700s by French perfumer Francois Rance. We play dress ups, and I am beguiled by a beautifully tailored coat and an incredibly elegant string of pearls.
Also on Osborne St is the internationally renowned Zambesi label founded by Elisabeth and Neville Findlay in 1979. Elizabeth Findlay's instinctively inventive, de-constructed and textural designs, with a nod to the eclectic, are perfectly showcased against the minimalist and stylish store interior.
Over the road we drop into The Poi Room and admire inspirational New Zealand art, then pop into Repertoire, an award-winning store with its ultra feminine collection of New Zealand-made fashion, accessories and gifts. We love the merino gloves with fake fur.
Around the corner in Teed St is an impressive line up of fashion options, from Australian label Nicola Waite, to Annah Stretton, Ruby Boutique, Moochi, Storm, Zambesi Man, Kate Sylvester, and many more. Also in Teed St is the charming Madder and Rouge with all that is French for interiors.
The autumn sun is warm and inviting so we take five and recline at tables outside Altzano cafe in Osborne St, sip coffee and watch the bustle of Sunday shoppers.
Bendon on Broadway beckons us next, for both the practical necessities and feminine indulgences, and as we exit on to Broadway I confess to the niece that
I seldom visit Newmarket without gracing the doors of Smith & Caughey's, one of Auckland's oldest and most loved department stores, first established in Auckland's Queen St in the 1880s. We stock up on a few make-up items and waft across to Nuffield St, leaving a fragrant trail of Chanel perfume.
Nuffield St features several design favourites, and we make a beeline for Australian designer label Alannah Hill to revel in her ultra-feminine clothes, shoes, and gorgeously embellished accessories. I'm also keen to investigate the Gorman fashion label. A recent arrival on the block, Lisa Gorman has 16 stores in Australia and her Nuffield shop is her first international venture. The label takes a definite approach with environmentally conscious design and manufacturing processes. Natural fibres such as cotton, silk and bamboo are used, with some items kept to a minimum so as not to mass-produce. We love Gorman's distinctive colour palettes, directional knitwear, and whimsical style, and the younger one makes a few purchases, while I make a note to return once I am re-financed. We also pop into the Karen Walker store where I gravitate to the glass cases displaying her stunning jewellery; we love the collusion of colour, stunning eyewear, and her unique design edge.
Across the road we check out the upmarket Runway Shoes & Accessories to drool over and try on their fabulous shoes, drop into Angela Daniel Jewellery and admire her contemporary and classic collection, then linger at Harrowset Hall, one of New Zealand's long-established fine bedwear stores, where we check out the range of kitchen, bathroom and bedroom accessories. Both lovers of paper and notebooks, we visit the award winning kikki.K stationery store, with its classic and contemporary Swedish style.
Before we head to lunch we take in a section of Westfield's 277 shopping complex which covers several floors in central Newmarket. With over 70 stores, we add a few more purchases, including stockings for winter, and also visit Lush for divine soaps and a present for the niece's mother.
It's time to lunch at the recently opened York St Mechanics restaurant and bar. Situated just off Kent St, the restaurant is the brainchild of entrepreneur Doug Rickard-Bell of Shed 5 fame. It showcases a range of bespoke motorcycles, as well as clothing, footwear and accessories, and serves great food, coffee and wine all under the same roof. From our table the hub of activity in the workshop intrigues us, and Bell explains that "it's completely possible and highly probable that your conversation will be interrupted by the comforting roar of a motorcycle engine or the smell of fresh weld on old paint".
We love the restaurant interior with exposed timber beams, a fireplace, steel and glass cabinetry, leather squabs, Persian rugs, and cosy alcoves. The menu changes daily and is complemented by a succinct wine list. I order the steak sandwich with aged, grass-finished Angus Beef, slow-roasted beetroot on walnut loaf, and crunchy, hand-cut chips, while the niece opts for handmade pasta with porcini mushrooms and truffle oil. A glass of wine to match, and we finish with affogato. Superb all round.
With movie tickets pre-purchased, we glide up the escalators to the Rialto Cinemas. The cinema showcases independent and film festival movies, and has a licensed bar and several theatres. With time to spare, we check out Baci Lounge, a bookstore and cafe established by director and owner Dr Sharad Paul. This store has received a number of awards since opening in 2002 and has an impressive selection of books, magazines and art. The niece reminds me there's just enough time to load up on popcorn (not that we need it), before we are seated and magically transported to India thanks to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
A great movie deserves a de-brief, so we return to Nuffield St's Tasca Restaurant and Bar. Since opening in 2006, Tasca has remained a strong presence in the neighbourhood with its Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired menu, inviting ambience, and superb service from manager Julio Monroy and his staff. We order a couple of glasses of chianti and a selection of tapas, including Pan con Tomate (Spanish grilled tomato bread), Oxtail al Jerez (oxtail braised in sherry with tomato and onion), Casablanca Mussels (green-lipped mussels steamed with fresh coriander, chilli, saffron and ginger, served in a fragrant broth), and slow-cooked Pinto beans with fried chorizo and flat leaf parsley. Delicioso. To finish we share Tasca's famous baklava and an espresso each.
Mission accomplished, we agree to call it a day and head home, a little bit lighter of pocket, slightly over indulged, and very happy.