The City of Sails offers world-class dining in most cuisines and for all budgets. We could fill several editions of Be Well with recommendations but today we've forced ourselves to stick with five ideas in each of four categories.
100 Parnell Rd, Parnell
You might face a bit of a wait if you visit on a weekend, but the delights within Winona Forever are well worth it. Long, rustic wooden tables adorned with flowers provide an inviting setting for good coffee, colourfully presented food and a cake cabinet so good it will have you drooling.
What we love most: The Eton Rifle. French toast with a decadent meringue and host of assorted goodies. If that's a bit much, the vegan bowl has so much goodness in it you will walk out with a halo.
Open: Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm.
434 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden
In the heart of the village, this institution offers great coffee and a wide range of brunch options. If brunch isn't your thing it's also open for lunch and dinner.
What we love most: Try the omelette with vine-ripened tomatoes, caramelised onion, feta, rocket and herbs. For something sweet you can't go past the coconut crust French toast with fresh fruit, berry compote, mascarpone and maple syrup.
Open: Mon-Fri, 6am-11pm; Sat-Sun, 7am-11pm.
GEEKS ON SAINSBURY
1/55 Sainsbury Rd, Mt Albert
You could be forgiven, just, for not knowing about Geeks, which is just off Morningside Drive on a row of businesses including a childcare centres. But to know it is to love it, from the eggs benedict selection (three twists on the classic, including a vegetarian option) to the Korean-inspired bibimbap there is something here for every bruncher.
What we love most: Great coffee paired with the seasonal fruit and granola waffle.
Open: Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm.
TAKAPUNA BEACH CAFE
22 The Promenade, Takapuna
With a to-die-for spot right above the sand, there's a lot to like about this place, before you even get to the food. Breakfast options are clever and extensive, the burgers are great for lunch and, for an after-swim treat the homemade gelato is not to be missed. Just note that dining here will cost a little more than your average brunch. But today's a special occasion right?
What we love most: The breakfast gnocchi and crab croquettes.
Open: Daily, 6am-8pm.
256 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
When a cafe has been a staple of the competitive Ponsonby cafe scene for more than 20 years you know there is good reason. Dizengoff is where the locals go, lured by the promise of good, unpretentious food in an equally unpretentious setting. Minimalist in looks, Dizengoff focuses on getting the two main things right — food and coffee. Your brunch options are the usual fare (think eggs benedict, French toast, big brekkie) but done really well.
What we love most: The very satisfying ½ & ½, a genius combination of scrambled eggs and creamy balsamic mushrooms, for those times when you don't want to choose.
Open: Daily, 6.30am-5pm.
HALLERTAU BREWERY & BIERGARTEN
1171 Coatesville Riverhead Hwy, Riverhead, Auckland
Roughly half an hour's drive from central Auckland, the original Hallertau Brewery & Biergarten (there's a newer outlet in Clevedon) is a virtual wonderland for kids and a much-needed chillout space for parents. With a stunning outdoor area including a large and impressive playground, bar stools for the grown-ups and live music on weekends, this venue has something for everyone.
What we love most: The very memorable beefburger, beer-tasting paddles and time to chat in the sunny beer garden while the kids are safely on the playground.
Open: Mon-Tue, noon-9pm; Wed-Sun, 11am-10pm.
BROTHERS BREWERY & JUKE JOINT
5 Akiraho St, Mt Eden
Another brewery (and another Mt Eden destination) makes our list, this one part of the Brothers group. It keeps its inner-city vibe while being heavily geared towards (younger) kids and families. Comfy couches abound, so you can sit back and eat your way through the fun sharing-friendly menu which has plenty of options for the kids. They'll be busy with the sandpit, the ride-on trikes and the super-cool old 60s mini-wagon parked inside. Dogs are welcome so bring the fur babies too.
What we love most: The pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken wings, pulled jackfruit and tater tots for the kids.
Open: Tue-Sat, 11.30am-10pm; Sun 11.30-8pm. Closed Mondays.
This is a firm favourite with friendly locations offering tasty, well-priced Mexican food in a super-chill atmosphere. What some may not know is that they also offer a kids-eat-free special every Sunday. Kids get to choose a sweet treat and a drink with their choice of healthy main (vegetarian options included) and the crayons and colouring paper are pretty cool too.
What we love most: Not having to worry about ordering and paying for a meal your kids won't eat, the margaritas (for the grown-ups!) and the range of vegan and vegetarian options.
Open: Daily, noon-late
486 Lake Rd, Takapuna
Love Malaysian? It's hard to go past this local favourite. As well as roti canai, there are twists on the classic in dessert form (the roti doughnut with gingernut icecream is definitely worth a try) and a refreshingly delicious children's menu. Boasting kid-size hawker rolls, chicken satay and more traditional options, rather than the overload of fried choices at many other places, Madame Woo is the perfect choice for your budding foodie offspring.
What we love most: The choice across the kids' menu, with four mains, five sides and three drink options.
Open: Daily, 10am-11pm.
8/14 Henderson Valley Rd, Henderson, Auckland
Part of the Whoa! Studios complex, this is another spot that will keep all ages happy. As you peruse the impressive menu by chefs Ben Bayly and Mike Shatura, kids can roam the woven wonderland playground that's arguably Auckland's most unusual. The kids' menu is also standout with brunch options and five mains to choose from. The lunch combo offer is great value, which is great news for the parents.
What we love most: The location and huge range of menu options for kids and grown-ups alike.
Open: Wed-Sun, 9am-late.
Fish and chips
200 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
Forget the days of tastless and nameless white fish battered to oblivion, Fish Smith offers a choice of fresh fish and lets you choose how you want it cooked. Plus, there's a choice between regular and kumara chips, and an array of sauces and condiments to complement your meal. This friendly joint also offers fish tacos, fish burgers and a vegetarian option or two.
What we love most: The freshness of the fish and being able to choose how it is cooked.
Open: Sun-Thu, noon-8.30pm; Fri-Sat, 9pm.
3/112 Chivalry Rd, Glenfield
Exceptionally fresh fish and a love of good food come together at this neighbourhood secret offering light and delicately battered bites that will keep you coming back for more. Chip Basket also boasts some of the better gourmet burgers in the area.
What we love most: The fish is wonderful, as are the burgers, but the fritters, oh the fritters! Mussel, whitebait, corn, they have it all!
Open: Daily, 11.30am-8:45pm.
THE ANCIENT MARINER
157 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden
Another one close to the slopes of Maungawhau and boasting food that is "Kiwi as", the Ancient Mariner offers a fun menu of fresh-caught fish, chips, burgers and even a bottle of gingerella for after all that salt. Definitely aiming for an old-school vibe, The Ancient Mariner will even cook you a battered sausage if you are so inclined.
What we love most: The clever puns and no-fuss fish and chips that don't leave you feeling like an oil-slick afterwards.
Open: Mon-Thu, 5pm-9pm; Fri, noon-9pm; Sat-Sun, 4pm-9pm.
GREENWOODS FRESH CATCH
1 Pah Rd, Epsom
Owners Thomas Ng and wife Lilian hand-pick their fish at the markets, offer customers a choice of battered or crumbed and serve it with chips so good you'd think they'd disappeared, until you realise you ate them all.
What we love most: The crispy batter on the fish and the chips cooked to perfection.
Open: Daily, 4.30pm-7.45pm.
THE BREWERS CO-OPERATIVE
128-132 Victoria St West, Auckland CBD
In the heart of the city — and, happily, almost opposite the Herald office — sits this brewery, restaurant and casual hang-out spot, popular with tourists and locals alike. While not just a fish and chip joint, this is one of the best places in Auckland to get your fish and chip fix.
What we love most: Handy location (especially for us), great vibe and wonderful craft beers to wash down the crisp, yet succulent fish.
Open: Daily, 11.30am-10pm
St Patrick's Square, Wyndham Street, Auckland CBD
The Grove is considered one of the very best restaurants in New Zealand. "But it isn't exclusively vegan!" I hear you cry. True, but they do offer something very special: a vegan degustation menu. The latest in a line of talented head chefs is Swiss-born Kira Ghidoni, who came to New Zealand from stints at London culinary hotspots Claridge's and Murano. Her vegan degustation menu needs to be seen, smelled and tasted to be believed, and takes vegan food to a new level of sophistication.
What we love most: Everything in the vegan degustation!
Open:Mon-Thu, 6pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat, 6pm-10pm; Sunday closed.
THE BUTCHER'S SON
204 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
In the heart of the buzzy city fringe and boasting plant-based versions of your favourite foods, this solely plant-based eatery is casual dining at its vegan best. Even the wine list is 100 per cent vegan.
What we love most: The mushroom medley pate and cauliflower tacos.
Open: Tue-Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun, 11am-9pm.
LITTLE BIRD KITCHEN
Cnr Summer St and Ponsonby Rd
Round the corner and along Ponsonby Rd, the first fully vegan cafe to open in Auckland is a firm favourite among vegans and the health-conscious. Founder Megan May is a trailblazer in plant-based eating with a strong focus on dishes that are also raw and organic. The raw sweet treats are worth a visit alone.
What we love most: The kimchi pancakes and the seasonal Bird Bowl.
Open: Mon-Fri, 7.30am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm;. Dinner only: Wed-Sat, 6pm-9.30pm.
KAIAROHA ORGANIC VEGAN CAFE AND DELI
100 Parnell Rd, Parnell
Located in Parnell's food hub, The Rise, this is exactly what the name suggests. At Kaiaroha you can choose confidently from the 100 per cent vegan menu and, when done, peruse the array of innovative foods for sale in the deli, including an impressive range of vegan cheeses.
What we love most: The breakfast sharing plate and the cheesecake.
Open: Mon-Fri, 7am-5.30pm; Sat, 7am-4pm; Sun 10am-4pm.
555 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn and St Kevins Arcade, 183 Karangahape Rd, Auckland CBD
Owner Philippa Stephenson is on a mission to tempt the most hardened meat eaters with her plant-based pastries and pies. Tart offers vegans the chance to indulge in doughnuts, croissants, cakes, pastries and more. The pies are so good they are a must for vegans and non-vegans alike.
What we love most: The mushroom pie.
Open: Mon-Fri, 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 7am-4pm.