Do you ever try to imagine Auckland through the eyes of a tourist? Where is our central city food hub if you are staying in the city and have kitchen facilities?
Within 500m (or so) of Britomart train station are many great restaurants worthy of recommendation, Cassia, Amano, Ostro among them.
But where in the heart of the city can you get all the ingredients you need to make a meal?
Not far from those hallowed eating destinations, atop the station's community forecourt, lies an offshoot of the long-standing La Cigale market, right in the heart of Britomart.
I was drawn to Takutai Square by the caramel-rich voice of a busker playing a violin and singing songs that would be equally fitting in France. I was mesmerised watching this diminutive man perform, and spent the entire time it took to drink my Kokako organic coffee and savour a Philippe's croissant daydreaming about France.
So what else would make you go ooh la la at this market of 20 stalls?
Très authentique are the pastries and breads from Philippe's. This Grey Lynn bakery has an extensive range of sweet delights including delicate palmier – puff pastry with a light dusting of sugar; pear and chocolate danish, and cinnamon brioche.
But it was their savoury selection that truly surprised. We bought a beetroot baguette with a pink hue and an earthy taste, as well as a caramelised onion and prosciutto roll that had a piquant sweet and sour flavour.
Keen on bagels instead? Hermon Bagels has a range of freshly-baked supplies.
Bonne qualité is how the French would say good value – and the meat here definitely is. Karāpiro Prime has grass-fed, hormone-free beef that has aged 21 days, and lamb for seven days. They do a three-pack special for $29, such as a "Grumpy Rump" trio of steak, sausage, and gourmet sausages, or a selection of your choice from the laden chiller cabinets.
They also sell on behalf of Mudgy's Hot Smoked Salmon – freshly smoked the day before with a variety of flavours.
Oui oui. Even an amazing croque monsieur would not have given the same mouth-wateringly good results as the bacon sandwich from the bacon stall. The nitrate-free bacon was cooking in front of me so you could see it was beautifully cured: no wet, salty water oozing out, just delicious rashers of crispy goodness.
Having tried a sandwich (I got only a bite, my companion wasn't willing to give up any more than that) I had to buy a pack to take home.
Crepes would be a fitting breakfast – be it in France or Auckland, and Sweet As Crepes has more than 30 sweet and savoury flavours.
A Parisian vibe came in the form of jaunty buckets of flowers providing a softer contrast to industrial pillars. From daffodils to gerbera, there are a multitude of blooms to dress your Saturday-night dinner table.
Fromage? There were no cheeses when we visited, so you may have to walk up to the Kapiti store on Shortland St.
Borderline … not in quality, but a long way from the French border, was the Venezuelan arepas food truck. A corn roll (great for gluten-free eaters) had spinach, black beans, cheese and slow-cooked beef. I added a little chimichurri and aioli, but I had that garlic taste lingering for the rest of the day.
Sacre bleu! Okay, it's a French-themed market but no need to charge as if it's Paris! How will these small stallholders survive if people don't come back after being stung $18 for parking for less than 90 minutes at the Britomart multi-storey complex? It left a sour taste, not something you want after a food market! (I have since seen that the website says it will be $5 if you get your ticket validated at the market – but there were no signs at the market, so maybe ask your favourite stallholders who does that.)
Before you say au revoir, take in the city centre as a tourist would. Stroll out to Michael Parekowhai's The Lighthouse on Queen's Wharf, window shop at Tiffanys or enjoy lunch at one of the aforementioned restaurants.
EFTPOS is available at some of the stalls, but there are also several ATMs in the area.
Le enfants? It is a casual open space with plenty of room between stalls, so they can run around, or you can easily navigate a stroller.
Et les chiens? It wouldn't be a truly French market if you didn't take your little pooch in its own carry bag!
Verdict: If I lived in an apartment in the centre of town, this would be my Saturday night dinner go-to. The range of eat-now-cook later stallholders make this an interesting place to visit while in the city, but with only 20 stalls you may still need a supermarket shop to ensure you have all you need for the weekend. Grab a second coffee and people watch – you will see how tourists are seeing your Auckland.
• La Cigale Market at Britomart, Te Ara Tahuhu Walking Street, 8.30am-12.30pm, Saturday.