Make the most of Auckland’s top eateries when the city empties over the festive period, suggests Nici Wickes.

I had plans for this summer. Then we broke up. Now I'm staying home, nursing a tender heart, having a staycation. I know it's the right thing to be doing.

I'm going to reach out to the ocean and swim incessantly, letting the frothy waves of our west coast beaches tickle my skin, then I'll flop down in the sand and read a book. I'll take to my bicycle and head out on the long and winding roads where the crunch of an unsealed road and the mundane repetition of pedalling will drum its uncomplicated sense into me.

And I'll eat, because you should never underestimate the comfort eating brings. I'm not talking about sitting alone on the couch with a tub of cheap icecream or a rasping packet of artificial colouring. No way. I'm talking about meeting the friends who are also opting to stay closer to home this summer.

We'll take advantage of a quieter Auckland, a more serene city, its uncrowded state making us feel like we own this town. We'll immerse ourselves in the deeply satisfying dining options to be had because, let's face it, this year has been a cracker when it comes to the sheer number and quality of eateries that have opened.


It used to be that Auckland turned into a tumbleweed town over the Christmas break and it always broke my heart that just when I had endless days and nights to scurry around and enjoy the city and when the traffic and parking eased enough to make it possible, all the decent eateries had turned off their burners and stacked the tables and chairs for the duration.

Thanks to a vibrant hospitality sector that is growing up fast, this has all changed and, save the public holidays (and who can blame them for needing a rest), most are working through, making it entirely possible to revel in some of our favourite places.

In fact, the window between Christmas and New Year and the lazy days that follow is a great time to try your luck at securing a table at those establishments that have axed the booking system and been heaving with too many patrons all year. Chances are, you'll waltz in while all the other Aucklanders are up or down the line somewhere.

I've sussed out the best of the best that are staying open (mostly) so stick this list on your fridge, or download our free iPad app, and vow to spend your precious holiday in our wonderful home city, eating yourself to happiness. Perhaps I'll see you there!

Soul Bar & Bistro Viaduct

- the best relaxed fun to be had off the water, closed only Dec 25. Ph (09) 356 7249.

Ortolana Britomart - bless them, they're open every day except Dec 25 and 26. Ph (09) 368 9487.

Milse Britomart - because desserts always cheers us up, open every day except Dec 25 and 26. Ph (09) 215 8996.

Baduzzi Wynyard Quarter - if crayfish meatballs can't cheer you up, nothing will. Open except Dec 25 and 26, Jan 1 and 2. Ph (09) 309 9339.

The Refreshment Room, Titirangi - a scenic drive is always good for the soul, open usual hours except Dec 25 and 26, Jan 1. Ph (09) 817 8655.

SPQR Ponsonby - closed Dec 25 and 26, Jan 1, otherwise serving bubbles as usual. Ph (09) 360 1710.

Blue Breeze Inn, Ponsonby Central - this may be your best chance to get into this popular eatery, closed Dec 24-26, Jan 1 and 2.
Ph (09) 360 0303.

Coco's Cantina, K Rd - because the generosity here makes it feel like a friend's dinner party every night, closed from Dec 21, open from Jan 3.
Ph (09) 300 7582.

St Heliers Bistro, St Heliers - dine looking through the blushing pohutukawa to our sparkling harbour, open every day except Dec 25 and 26. Ph (09) 575 6995.

La Fourchette, St Heliers - another favourite around the bays, closed only Dec 25, Jan 1 and 2. Ph (09) 215 8332.
The Commons, Takapuna - best courtyard close to a beach, closed only on Dec 25. Ph (09) 929 2791.

Stafford Road Wine Bar, Northcote Point - for relaxed neighbourhood dining, closed Dec 25 and 26, Jan 1 and 2. Ph (09) 480 9463.

Note: All of the above have been reviewed in our Eating Out column and scored 7.5/10 or higher (score: 1-4: not good enough. 5-6: okay but needs work. 7: recommended 8: excellent. 9-10: outstanding, make a booking!)


The Grove, St Patrick's Square

- Six-course degustation by wonder-chef Ben Bayly.

The Sugar Club, SkyCity - Sitting pretty to watch the dazzling fireworks light up the city.

Clooney, Sale St - a glass of Moet Chandon Grand Vintage 2004 to start, then chef Des Harris' bespoke five-course tasting menu: bliss.
Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby - for the sheer fun of it.

Ostro, Britomart - welcome in the New Year portside.