7 Top Picks For Restaurant Dining In Auckland This Easter Weekend

Food Truck restaurant Lil Ragu in Takapuna is open for dining this Easter weekend. Photo / Babiche Martens

If you’re vacationing or staycationing in Auckland this long weekend, chances are you’ll have long Easter lunches and leisurely dinners on your mind. But if you don’t want to spend time in the kitchen, what are the options that don’t involve food served in a paper bag through your car Viva’s dining-out editor Jesse Mulligan.

Lil Ragu, Takapuna

Jesse says: A brilliant example of somebody executing a simple idea in a beautiful way. It is a food truck, now permanently situated next to an office building, with chairs and tables in between the two creating the sort of al fresco experience more associated with Burleigh Heads than Takapuna. Why don’t we have more of this sort of thing? Well, I suppose because even in the first week of March the breeze was a touch chillier than you might have preferred it to be. Also, as an aspiring restaurateur, it’s not the sort of thing you can just … do.

“How did you end up here?” I asked Tarik Tnaja, the lovely bearded Italian man who runs the kitchen (and the floor, when things are busy).

“Well,” he began, “I spoke to the landlord and applied to the council … ”

But I had already stopped listening. I shouldn’t have asked. The magic of being a diner and not an owner is that by the time you show up, all the torturous admin has been taken care of. Your only admin is to choose a glass of wine.

Easter opening hours: Open on Friday and Saturday for lunch (12pm-3pm) and dinner (5pm until late). Closed Sunday, Monday.

Address: 150 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna

Phone: 021 244 0148

Metita, SkyCity Grand

A pāua, ulu, paneer and burnt orange dish at Metita. Photo / Babiche Martens
A pāua, ulu, paneer and burnt orange dish at Metita. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: The ingredients and combinations are heavenly: chopped raw salmon, mango pickle and roe served on a fresh betel leaf; eel pureed and mixed into a bread dough, fried and served with spicy banana ketchup; fire-roasted tuatua clams, fleshy and multi-textured mouthfuls with a soupy, spicy red harissa sauce to stand up to those big seafood flavours … these are bold dishes of significance — each flying the Pasifika food flag with pride and power.

Easter opening hours: Open on Friday from 5pm (with a surcharge). The restaurant will open for dinner at 5pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and will also serve lunch on Sunday from 11:30am-3pm.

Address: SkyCity Grand, 90 Federal St, Auckland

Phone: (09) 363 7030

The Emerald, Epsom

The Eton Mess from The Emerald in Greenwoods Corner, Epsom. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Eton Mess from The Emerald in Greenwoods Corner, Epsom. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: After 10 years of reviewing, I don’t visit a new neighbourhood restaurant with an unknown chef expecting much, and perhaps that was the secret to my happy experience. I kept waiting for a dish that didn’t work, a waiter with no clue, an owner out of his depth ... but it never happened. Emerald is brand new but if they’re stuttering to start there’s no sign of it. They were full but the guy in charge seemed relaxed and up for some banter.

Easter opening hours: Open all weekend from 12pm until late (with a surcharge on Friday and Monday).

Address: 581 Manukau Rd, Manukau

Phone: (09) 624 0363

Tala, Parnell

Tala restaurant in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens
Tala restaurant in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: Tala has immediately become one of the most beautiful restaurants in Auckland. The chemistry of the space — a warmer reimagining of the famous Pasture dining room — is quite astounding. You feel good from the moment you open the door. Actually, that door was opened for us from the inside as we approached, a nice service touch that lets you know how seriously the staff are taking your experience.

Easter opening hours: Open Friday and Saturday, booking is recommended.

Address: 235 Parnell Rd, Parnell

Contact: 021 172 8349

Darling on Drake, Victoria Park

The mushroom parfait with pickled Ora's mushrooms at Darling on Drake at Victoria Park. Photo / Babiche Martens
The mushroom parfait with pickled Ora's mushrooms at Darling on Drake at Victoria Park. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: Individually, things taste very good: Ahi may do a scampi corndog but Darling does it with a chicken leg, the bone in place of the iceblock stick and served simply with horizontal stripes of mustard and tomato sauce. It’s a great take on fried chicken and would be just about the perfect bite with a cold beer. You should also order the spicy kūmara flatbreads with Red Leicestershire cheese melted in the middle. It’s an unusual choice of cheese for a New Zealand restaurant but I guessed it must be a nod to chef Ryan’s home country and LinkedIn confirmed he went to high school in Leicester.

Easter opening hours: Open on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm until late. Closed on Friday and Monday.

Address: 27 Drake St, Auckland CBD

Kookoo, Dominion Rd

The sweet chilli fried chicken at Kookoo on Dominion Rd. Photo / Babiche Martens
The sweet chilli fried chicken at Kookoo on Dominion Rd. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: The fried chicken is just what you’ve been hoping for, probably, and because I was a little nervous about ordering the very hot version following my humiliation at Simon and Lee a few years ago, I went for the “most popular” sweet chilli option, which hit the spot — that batter crunchy but with some chew to it, the pink glaze sticky and scattered with sesame seeds (there is also a “cheese powder” chicken option which might be worth a look in case, as a New Zealander, your natural aversion to very processed cheese products is outweighed by your desire to eat a Very Korean Thing).

Easter opening hours: Open 5pm-11pm on Friday (with surcharge), and on Saturday 11:30am-11pm and on Sunday 11:30am-9:30pm. Closed Monday.

Address: 245 Dominion Rd, Mount Eden

Phone: 0274 408 589

Katsu Katsu, Newmarket

Katsu Katsu's pork tonkatsu. Photo / Babiche Martens
Katsu Katsu's pork tonkatsu. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse says: The pork katsu is a simple but flawless object — crumbed and oil-fried then served on a little metal grille which keeps it off the plate and ensures the bottom surface doesn’t steam the crunch away. Pre-sliced, with a golden-brown shell and bright white interior, it’s a simple expression of flavour and geometry but has a lot of pulling power — when you need it, you need it.

Here, it is served with a bowl of elite-quality rice — “The rice is the main event, everything else including the pork are just side dishes,” the owner Jason explained to me — along with miso soup and a heap of finely shredded cabbage (like the rice, this is refillable on request).

Easter opening hours: Katsu Katsu is open from 11am to 9pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Address: 483 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket

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