Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: The Best Spanish Restaurant; Where To Eat With 20 People

By Jesse Mulligan
The anchovy and tomato tostadas at Alma. Photo / Babiche Martens

In this fortnightly series, Viva’s resident dining-out editor shares his sage advice on where and what to eat. He’s eaten a lot of bad meals so you don’t have to.

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

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Here are some questions he’s been asked lately and what he answered.

The spicy salmon, kingfish ceviche, lamb chops and eggplant on the menu at First Mates, Last Laugh. Photo / Babiche Martens
The spicy salmon, kingfish ceviche, lamb chops and eggplant on the menu at First Mates, Last Laugh. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hi Jesse,

I am looking at taking my friend out to lunch during the week to celebrate her 70th birthday — something special but not too expensive as we are pensioners! Licensed would be good. Somewhere along the waterfront (Eastern) or in town near Westhaven (i.e. easy parking).

Looking forward to seeing your suggestions.


Hi Liz,

What a lucky friend!

The concepts “inexpensive” and “waterfront” don’t often go together but I think you would both really enjoy First Mates, Last Laugh (don’t be put off by the name) where the service is great, there is plenty of parking and the menu is a mix of familiar and modern.

They have a selfie booth where the two of you can get a nice birthday pic, and a dedicated icecream kitchen for after your savoury courses. Mains cost $30-40, so it’s up there, but I think that’s the minimum you’ll be paying for a reliable restaurant in the area you want to be eating.

Have fun and please send me the selfie!

Alma’s delicious menu is based on the flavours of Andalusia, a southern region of Spain. Photo / Babiche Martens
Alma’s delicious menu is based on the flavours of Andalusia, a southern region of Spain. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hi Jesse,

My husband and I are travelling to Auckland this weekend. We are from the UK and Ireland but live in Tauranga. Our favourite food is paella or anything Spanish.

Can you please recommend a restaurant for us?

Thank you,

Phil and Jacinta

Hi Jacinta,

We are missing some of the great Spanish and Spanish-influenced restaurants you have in London … I had some life-changing meals at Moro when I lived there, and long nights at some lovely tapas places in Soho.

But you’re in Auckland now. Well actually you’re in Tauranga heading for Auckland and I’m going to send you to Alma, our very best Spanish restaurant. Everybody who eats here loves it, and I think it’ll be perfect (despite no paella).

Candela is brilliant too if you fancy braving Karangahape Road — it’s less of an all-out tribute to Spain but you’ll recognise plenty of the flavours.

And if you’re set on paella, please head to Barulho in Parnell — they are one of the few places in Auckland to offer this dish and they do it properly, with clams, prawns, fish, Moreton bugs, saffron rice, roast peppers and beans. Yum!

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for helping out with this restaurant selection!

The brief is for 20 people for an annual event for the staff that have clocked up five years or more. Half the group will be doing a half-day walk but, for others, the dinner is the whole event.

We have a budget of up to $250pp, so $5000 total.

What I think we’re after:

  • Semi-private space in a restaurant, cosy space, quieter over noisier
  • Needs to be unrushed and a place we could spend a minimum of two hours or could stay on for extended after-dinner drinks
  • Cuisine can be relatively open so long as portions/total amount of food is good. There is a mix of classic/vanilla tastes and folks that would be interested in more modern fine dining



Ebisu's waterfront location is ideal for impressing guests. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Ebisu's waterfront location is ideal for impressing guests. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Hi Josh,

I love Masu but their private room maxes out at 18 — keep it in mind if you have any drop-outs! In fact, a lot of the city’s large group spaces can’t quite manage 20 so I’m directing you to Savor Group’s head of operations — a large restaurant company for a large request! Please enjoy her suggestions below; I would vouch for any of them and particularly like the idea of getting out of the CBD to Mission Bay.

Jo Cooke writes:

“For groups of 20, we don’t restrict dining times unless the customer requires to be out by a certain time. They are welcome to stay and enjoy as long as they need. We have Bar Non Solo in Britomart which is a great option for a pre or post-dinner drink for any of our Britomart venues.

Ebisu — Japanese option. We have a semi-private space at the front of the restaurant — our Nikau Courtyard. This space has sheer curtains which can be drawn for privacy. A set menu would range between $85-$110 with options to go higher with wagyu, crayfish and truffles. We could offer a bespoke beverage pairing and include some sake and a selection of wines.

MoVida — Spanish option. There is space looking over Quay Street to the left of the restaurant that can be semi-private. This part of the restaurant doesn’t have curtains but they would be seated all in the same area without others. A set menu for MoVida sits around $95 with options to add on extras such as oysters. We could put together a fun Spanish wine selection to showcase some great wines and sherries alongside the food. Bar Non Solo is perfect for pre-dinner drinks.

Non Solo Pizza — Italian option. There is a private room at Non Solo Pizza. This is nestled at the back of the main restaurant and seats 20. Set menus start at $90 per person for a shared Italian experience. Non Solo Pizza closes for renovations in June, though, with the last day being the 23rd.

Azabu Mission Bay. The Stonehouse at Mission Bay is a larger completely private room. If the group is happy to have something a little bit further out then this would be a great option. Set menus start at $95 per head with options for upgrades to wagyu, oysters, more seafood and truffles. They could start with drinks in the room or on the deck overlooking the courtyard.

“Our larger venues Amano and Bivacco can accommodate groups of 20 but don’t have semi-private spaces. Bivacco has a great bar to have pre- and post-dinner drinks.”

Thanks, Josh, I believe in you! Let me know where you end up.

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

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