A London chef's love letter to Auckland

Monica Galetti has been back in Auckland, where she spent some of her childhood. She tells Britain's Daily Telegraph her favourite spots and what she loves about the city

Monica Galetti loves that Waiheke Island, with its relaxed lifestyle, is just a short ferry trip from the bustling city.
Monica Galetti loves that Waiheke Island, with its relaxed lifestyle, is just a short ferry trip from the bustling city.

Why Auckland? - I spent some of my childhood in Auckland and was also recently there for work. It has been wonderful to rediscover the city. It's big enough to feel like a bustling city but I love that you can get on a ferry and 30 minutes later be picking oysters on Waiheke.Anything special I should pack?A detailed map of the area as there are lots of small beaches to discover and some beautiful little towns to the north of the city.

What do you miss most when you're away? - The native oysters from the nearby islands. They're farmed differently to those we get in Britain - more like mussels - and they taste much stronger than British ones. The shells are also smoother and quite beautiful, but you need to eat them in Auckland to appreciate the difference. For fresh oysters in relaxed surroundings try The Depot Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

Ben Bayly at The Grove. Photo / Babiche Martens
Ben Bayly at The Grove. Photo / Babiche Martens

What's the first thing you do? - If it's a nice day I go for a walk along the waterfront by the city's Viaduct Harbour, which is a great place to have a drink, relax and watch the boats bobbing on the marina.

Soul Bar is my favourite spot.

Where's the best place to stay? - I always stay at the SkyCity Hotel because it's within walking distance of the city's best bars and restaurants. It's a beautiful modern building with a fantastic spa, and very child-friendly too.

Where would you meet friends for a drink? - The Lime Bar on Ponsonby Rd is great for cocktails.

Where are your favourite places for lunch? - The Grill by Sean Connolly next door to the SkyCity Hotel. It's quite upmarket and more like a brasserie but relaxed. I also like Cafe Hanoi, which serves top-class Vietnamese cuisine, and Coco's Cantina is fun.

Mt Eden Village is a great place for the first-time visitor. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Mt Eden Village is a great place for the first-time visitor. Photo / Sarah Ivey

And for dinner? - The last time I returned to Auckland, I hosted a dinner with the chef Ben Bayly at his restaurant The Grove, one of the city's best. Ben sources everything as locally as possible. It's a shame to be in such a great country and to buy produce from outside the port when you've got such great resources on your doorstep.

Where would you send a first-time visitor? - Mt Eden Village, located at the foot of an extinct volcano, is worth a visit. Devonport is very pretty, and Waiwera has some hot thermal pools to explore. For tranquillity, great beaches and wineries, I'd recommend taking the ferry to Waiheke and staying there for a couple of nights.

Coco's Cantina in K Rd is a favourite lunch spot. Photo / Babiche Martens
Coco's Cantina in K Rd is a favourite lunch spot. Photo / Babiche Martens

Where would you tell them to avoid? - The public transport outside the city, and the Rainbow's End fun park, which is run-down and not worth a day trip.

Public transport or taxi? - Auckland is a big city but there is no underground system. Buses or taxis are your only options and taxis are not cheap. If you want to see quite a lot, your best bet might be to hire a car.

Handbag or moneybelt? - Handbag. I feel safe in Auckland, but it's best to be careful in any city. There's the odd pickpocket like anywhere else but if you're street-smart, you'll be OK.

What should I bring home? - Some of the best vineyards in NZ are nearby, so take a day trip to one and pick up a bottle of something you won't be able to find easily in Britain. My husband's a sommelier and the last time we were there, we brought back some beautiful wine from Stony Ridge Vineyard.

Anywhere that isn't your kind of town? - I didn't like Christchurch, in the South Island, when I visited a long time ago. I had been camping on the outskirts of some gorgeous little towns throughout the South Island. But when I arrived in Christchurch, I just didn't like it or find it to be very friendly.


• Monica Galetti was born in Western Samoa and spent some of her childhood in New Zealand. She is senior sous-chef at Le Gavroche in London and a judge on MasterChef: The Professionals.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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