Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: Pet-Friendly Dining & The Most Stylish Downtown Bar

By Jesse Mulligan
The Nightcar serves crispy fried dumplings and delicious drinks within a memorable dining room, says Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens

In this fortnightly series, Viva’s resident dining-out editor shares advice on where and what to eat.

Do you have any restaurant-related questions or dining-out dilemmas? Jesse Mulligan is here to help.

Email Jesse at and tell him what you need. Where and what do you like to eat?

Here are some questions he’s been asked lately and his answers.

Baduzzi's conservatory area. Photo / Getty Images
Baduzzi's conservatory area. Photo / Getty Images

Hi Jesse,

My partner and I used to regularly enjoy eating out until we became the parents of a small and (mostly) well-behaved dog. Now our eating out is pretty much limited to brunch at local cafes and food truck offerings at craft breweries. We’d appreciate any advice on more upmarket places in Auckland central suburbs which allow canine companions?

Thanks, Jo

Hi Jo, congratulations on your new family member!

When I’m looking for a restaurant that can accommodate a special request my first call is always to Cibo, where they have turned service and customer care into a fine art. The food is stunning there, the environment is lovely and guess what? “We encourage small, well-behaved dogs and people”, they were happy to confirm.

On the opposite edge of the CBD is Baduzzi, another smart-casual restaurant which has (like your dog I expect) an exceptional pedigree. “We do allow dogs, and we usually put you in the conservatory area” reports owner Michael Dearth. Nothing wrong with the conservatory area — it might not have the cosiness of the main, leather-upholstered dining room but it’s comfortable and fully enclosed, plus you’ll have a nice view of people wandering around the Wynyard Quarter (most of them trying to work out why the pedestrian bridge to the Viaduct has been closed for five months now, with no word on when it will reopen).

I’m sure there are more out there so restaurateurs please get in touch if you’re dog-friendly, and I’ll look at compiling a list.

The dining room at Queen Street bar and restaurant The Nightcar. Photo / Babiche Martens
The dining room at Queen Street bar and restaurant The Nightcar. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hey Jesse,

We have a client we’d like to take for a drink somewhere stylish and memorable. Has to be in the city as we have an event straight afterwards.



Yes Dan, you need to book a booth at The Nightcar, an exceptionally memorable, subterranean future space near the bottom of Queen Street. You can get a snack there and a beautifully crafted cocktail, and your client will think you’re a genius because it’s the sort of place you’d never otherwise stumble upon. The staff are great too.

If The Nightcar looks too cool for you, consider Palmer Bar, which admittedly looks more appealing in summer but also has super comfortable seating in a random but handy part of town. I see they’re doing jazz nights on Thursdays which will either be worth catching, or avoiding, depending on your appetite for live background music. Personally, I don’t mind a bit of shouting over trumpets to get the conversational vibe going, but you do you.

A brothy offering from Ramen Takara. Photo / Guy Coombes
A brothy offering from Ramen Takara. Photo / Guy Coombes

Jesse, I saw an interview recently where you said you haven’t ordered takeaways in 15 years?? Tell me you were exaggerating. You must give in sometimes.


Hi Pippa

Okay okay. There is something that happens when you’re being interviewed where you start saying quite big, unequivocal, possibly not entirely factually accurate things, because you know that when the journalist has enough interesting things written in their little notepad you can end the interview and both go about your business.

I mean, if I was being interviewed by the Financial Times I might be a bit more cautious but if you’re talking about the story I think you’re talking about, it was more of a nice “Jesse at home with the family” style profile piece where the standards are a bit more relaxed.

It’s true Victoria and I never get takeaways because we’re both pretty tight and can usually make something decent from what’s in the pantry. But we’re not monsters. We have children and from time to time they want the excitement of something arriving in a brown paper bag, which is when we place an order at Ramen Takara, a really quite lovely little soup joint in the unlikely twin locations of Ponsonby and Brown’s Bay.

The whole menu is good but I reckon the soulful, milky pork tonkatsu is best, with your choice of thin and straight or thick and curly egg noodles. At $19 it’s more than enough of a meal, though if you do feel like more, note that the gyoza are best straight out of the pan and lose a bit of charm on the car ride home, so grab a salad instead.

Dining out editor Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens
Dining out editor Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens

Previously recommended by Jesse Mulligan

What you’ve asked, and what he’s shared.

Auckland’s top Thai spots; where to go for a quiet, romantic dinner. From big menus and a sublime satay sauce, to lovely lighting and good acoustics.

Where to go for good gnocchi; a drink in Mt Eden. Try three different styles of gnocchi cooked traditionally, and Jesse’s current favourite.

Where to go for the best Vietnamese food in Auckland; dinner before a show. Plus, one reader asks where to find some of the city’s hottest new openings.

Where to go for a special anniversary dinner; lunch in Wynyard Quarter. Plus, two great dining out spots in Browns Bay.

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