Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: Where To Go For A Special Anniversary Dinner; Lunch In Wynyard Quarter

By Jesse Mulligan
The duck on nasturtium leaf on the menu at The Grove. 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.

Email Jesse at

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

The staff are “hired for their charisma, as well as their expertise” at The Grove. Photo / Babiche Martens
The staff are “hired for their charisma, as well as their expertise” at The Grove. Photo / Babiche Martens

Kia ora Jesse,

In November my wife and I will be celebrating 20 years together. We would like to celebrate with a memorable dinner for two in Auckland. Could you make any suggestions, please? We are looking for sophisticated, adventurous cooking (a tasting menu would be ideal), slick service and a vibrant atmosphere. A hushed temple of gastronomy isn’t quite our thing, but we’re happy to be persuaded otherwise if all the other boxes are ticked.

Background: We are a UK/NZ couple, both lawyers. We met and lived in London; we’re now happily based in Hamilton. We’re both staunch advocates of the Tron and have quite a wide experience of fine dining. Our last memorable dinner in Auckland was Cassia, which we both loved. Please, can you help us?



Jonathan, congratulations. Victoria and I have a big wedding anniversary ourselves this week but we’ve only made it half as far as you have. How will we be celebrating it? Probably by defrosting some oven chips for the kids and grabbing a quick drink in the 20 minutes or so between putting them to bed and passing out exhausted ourselves. I wish I had a husband like you to plan something nine months in advance.

But someone has snapped you up already, and good for her. I’d reward her good judgment by taking her to The Grove, the most special of Auckland’s special-occasion restaurants. It is everything you describe and, above all, it is incredibly consistent — I could send you somewhere else but what if the main manager is taking a night off, or you happen to get a waiter who hasn’t finished his training yet? At The Grove, you always feel like you’re there on a lucky night.

Where should you go for your 30th anniversary? To Cocoro, probably. But you shouldn’t need to book that just yet.

A bowl of ramen at Ramen Takara. Photo / Instagram, @ramentakara
A bowl of ramen at Ramen Takara. Photo / Instagram, @ramentakara

Dear Jesse,

I notice you’re making more of an effort to eat over this side of the bridge these days. Much appreciated! You seem to have found the best of Takapuna/Milford now — how about a trip to Browns Bay?


Hi Greg,

Google tells me it’s 29 minutes from my house to the middle of Browns Bay. Maybe I could stay overnight at your house?

Actually, I have eaten very well in your hood. I’m sure you already know about Ramen Takara, which does modest but delicious noodle soups served by modest but delicious people.

But have you been to Palato? The chef comes from Michelin-starred restaurants in San Francisco and Seattle and is cooking incredible pasta dishes right in Browns Bay. Right now the campanelle — a sort of bell-flower-shaped pasta with nectarine, rocket, prosciutto and pecorino — looks fantastic.

Williams Eatery in Wynyard Quarter. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Williams Eatery in Wynyard Quarter. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Dear Jesse,

I’m meeting a friend for lunch around Wynyard Quarter. Where should we go? I’m not looking for wine or white tablecloths, just a casual catch-up — maybe a good sandwich?


Hi Jenni,

There is an unbeatable vibe at Williams Eatery, which sadly doesn’t open for dinner any more but still does great food for lunch and breakfast. The staff there are just what you want in an inner-city cafe — fast and friendly and excellent — and the menu, while containing some standard fare, is just interesting enough that your friend will be impressed.

From memory, there are counter food options but right now it’d be hard to go past the heirloom tomato toast, with harissa, cashew cream and basil. The fig toast looks deeply seasonal too or, if you’re up for it, try the kinilaw, a Filipino raw fish dish that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Auckland.

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

What you’ve asked, what he’s shared.

Where to go for great ramen; when your friend is a foodie. Plus, a question from a man who shares my love of spaghetti and clams.

Where to find Welsh rarebit; a degustation you can take your teen to. One reader also asks for two must-do Auckland restaurants.

Where to go for faithful French food; a meal with a fantastic view. Visit a place deeply committed to French cuisine, while taking the odd Aotearoa detour.

Where to dine for great people-watching; places that go the extra mile. One reader says, “I want flavour, I want tastes of abroad. I don’t want fussy fare.”

Where to eat that’s actually fun; dinner that isn’t crowded. One reader is looking for a spot “that shows how good Auckland restaurants can be”.

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