Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: Where To Find Great Indonesian Food; Review Regrets

By Jesse Mulligan
Jackfruit rendang is one of the many vegetarian options on the menu at Ponsonby restaurant Bali Nights. 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.

Fluorescent lights, stools and accoutrements bring brightness to Bali Nights. Photo / Babiche Martens
Fluorescent lights, stools and accoutrements bring brightness to Bali Nights. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hey Jesse,

My dad lived for years in Indonesia and is visiting me in Auckland next week. Are there any restaurants I could take him to that serve Indonesian food?

Thanks! Mike

Hey Mike,

Yes, there are — at least two great ones I’d be happy to send you guys to. For authentic, atmosphere-free Indonesian dining, try Makassar Corner on Dominion Rd, which I keep going back to for weekend lunches when I’m not sure exactly what I feel like. The sambal is great and properly spicy here so ideally go for a rendang makassar or one of the other dishes that has it on the side. I also LOVE the red rice — they’ll ask you to choose your level of heat and I found “hot” just the ticket to blast away a hangover.

If you want something a bit flasher, try Bali Nights on Williamson Ave. The proprietors are lovely and the food fantastic, including some great vegetarian options. They have a selection of sambals — order all three of them — and beautiful grilled chicken dishes, with perhaps a bit more freshness overall than you’d get from at typical Indonesian joint. Last time I checked it was BYO too. Sweet!

Hi Jesse,

Do you ever regret writing a bad review (or a good one)? Just wondering, I imagine you might feel bad sometimes.


Hi Erin,

When it comes to reviews I have a policy similar to the famous prison tattoo: “no regerts”. What I do feel bad about is if I review a place badly and then it gets good — or if I review a place well and then it gets bad. The review is stuck out there forever, like an albatross around the neck of the chef, or a mermaid on the rocks for unwitting diners relying on me for advice.

I might take this opportunity to mention the lovely Indian food at Joshi’s on Mt Eden Rd. This used to be a Satya outlet and I had a pretty stink time dining in there before the change of ownership. Regretfully (given how much the family behind Satya has contributed to Auckland eating and how good their restaurants are, on the whole), I was forced to write a fairly critical review and (unrelated) they gifted the restaurant to a long time chef shortly afterwards.

I’m worried people might still be avoiding the place so let me say that I’ve picked up takeaways from there several times and the food is very good! The door is still wonky and the dining room has the ambience of your dad’s tool shed but Indian cuisine is all about what’s on the plate and it’s pretty delicious stuff — I recommend the chaat samosa — smashed and topped with yoghurt and tamarind-date chutney — along with of the vegetarian curries, a side of cumin rice and the chilli-cheese paratha — a spicy, stretchy, flaky roti bread which may be one of the yummiest menu items in Auckland.

The trevally sashimi at Depot. Photo / Babiche Martens
The trevally sashimi at Depot. Photo / Babiche Martens

Jesse, just a thanks from me for your recent advice to take some American business guests to Depot. Fantastic night! Al Brown showed us to our seats, one of my guests was a foodie and had already been reading about him online. They loved it. They loved the food, there was one of the best waitresses I have ever been served by anywhere, she explained everything. Perfect!!!

Thank you, Ruby

Great news, Ruby! Yeah, so many of my requests are about where to take overseas visitors and while there are exceptions (Europeans often want to try local sushi, for example — it’s as close as they’ll ever get to Japan), I think Depot is almost always the answer. They are casual perfectionists, cutting-edge traditionalists. I love that there is a raw bar, but also steak if you want it. I love that there is snapper, but that the kahawai dish is even better. I hope it helped you close the deal!

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

What you’ve asked, what he’s shared.

Where To Go For A Good Steak & A Big Work Dinner. The answer for a 20-strong group: A veritable feast for $70 a head.

Where To Dine For Fussy Eaters & Septuagenarians. One reader would like suggestions for a family-with-partners birthday dinner.

Where To Go For Great Japanese; Eateries Worth Visiting Out West. One reader asks, “Do you pay for the meals you review?”

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