Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: Where To Eat On A Student Budget; Spots For A Semi-Romantic Date

By Jesse Mulligan
The cucumber salad, chilli chicken and mushroom fries on the menu at new restaurant Lucky 8. Photo / Babiche Martens

In this fortnightly series, Viva’s resident dining-out editor shares his sage advice on exactly where 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 is here to help.

Email Jesse at and tell

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

Tok Tok in Takapuna. Photo / Babiche Martens
Tok Tok in Takapuna. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hi Jesse,

I am an artist with an opening event at a Takapuna gallery. Afterwards, we would like an early 6pm dinner. As I live at Mt Maunganui, I don’t know the local eating scene. Could you please recommend a restaurant with a reasonable price (say $28 main); for 5 to 10 people who are all mobile, so no access issues; casual; not fried; maybe Asian, though an inexpensive Italian would be great.

Later, everyone would return to their respective suburbs. Many thank for your info-sharing, it’s a great concept.

Cheers, Valda

Hi Valda,

Congratulations on the event! My wife and I went to an exhibition opening recently and hadn’t realised quite how explicit it was going to be. Eating a piece of complimentary brie while looking at a naked bottom the size of a car door is certainly a memorable way to spend your Sunday afternoon. Anyway, I had a look at some of your sculptures online and they are quite beautiful you must be excited to share them with Auckland.

Afterwards, I think Tok Tok would be a safe bet. It is reliable, large and light the perfect place to take a group and not feel like you’re being too noisy (fans of the restaurant should know the owners have also recently opened Semola in Ōrewa, which looks very promising).

The menu is Asian fusion, mostly Thai (there are some fried things on it, but plenty of other options too make sure you get the duck pad thai) and though some of the mains are priced in their 30s rather than their late 20s, it’s a sharing system so you could order say four of them between five of you and meet your budget.


Icco's eggplant dish. Photo / Babiche Martens
Icco's eggplant dish. Photo / Babiche Martens

Dear Jesse,

My partner and I have just moved into a new flat in Mt Albert. Where’s a good local restaurant for a semi-romantic date?


Hi Rose,

Not sure what end of the suburb you’re in but Icco in Morningside shouldn’t be too far away it’s a neighbourhood Japanese with some high-profile fans (we sat next to John Campbell last time we visited). Book ahead and enjoy being shown to your table where you’ll find your name written in calligraphy on a card, next to an origami swan. Order what you like the look of it’s all good but make sure you get some sashimi, and the grilled eggplant halves.

I also love Bar Martin, a suburban treasure where the food is excellent, if limited, and the wine list spectacular. On my last visit, I sat next to something even more exciting than at Icco: a furry cat. Something to drink plus something to pat is a winning combination IMO (not saying you can’t pat John Campbell but I’d probably discourage it unless he asked). If you really want romantic, visit Bar Martin on a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining outside.

The almond crunch chicken on the menu at Pocha. Photo / Babiche Martens
The almond crunch chicken on the menu at Pocha. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hi Jesse,

I read your reviews each week but I treat them mostly as fantasies about places I’ll eat when I have a job and some money! Anywhere you’ve reviewed that might suit a student budget? Ideally somewhere that serves drinks too.


Hi Anna,

I went to Korean joint Pocha in the Chancery last year and loved the vibe it’s busy and diverse and the meals are huge for the price. Plus, it’s right next to AUT and Auckland University, so there’ll be plenty of other students around.

If you feel like getting out of the CBD head to Lucky 8 in Ponsonby: the dishes are just $8.88 each and it’s super fun: you order beers and food from an app and eventually lose track of how much you’ve had of both. Look for a set of stairs leading from the street up to a busy dining room.

Or try Tiger Burger, now with sites in Grey Lynn and on Dominion Rd. The food is simple but excellent burgers and chips with a range of tasty condiments and the dining room is nice enough to eat in, with a beer. If you need to juggle your budget, order something with kimchi and treat the whole meal as medicine.

Viva dining-out editor Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens
Viva dining-out editor Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens

Previously Recommended By Jesse

What you’ve asked, what he’s shared.

Where To Go For A Buffet; How His Ratings Work. One reader asks where to find the best version of a misunderstood vegetable: eggplant.

Where To Go For Marine Cuisine In A Seafood City; Bar Food Worth Its Price. One reader asks, “I can’t face paying city prices for bad bar food. Where shall we go?”

Where I Eat When I’m Not Reviewing; The Promise Of Prego. One reader asks, do you ever get to eat just for fun?

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