Jesse Mulligan Auckland Restaurant Recommendations: Where To Go For An After-Work Drink; The Strangest Things I’ve Found In My Food

By Jesse Mulligan
Sunset Bar’s non-alcoholic Sunset Sour.

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 answered.

The Sudima hotel’s rooftop bar, Sunset, in central Auckland.
The Sudima hotel’s rooftop bar, Sunset, in central Auckland.

Dear Jesse,

A group of us who work remotely are having an office day next Thursday and I thought we might head out for a drink afterwards. Unfortunately, it’s been too long since I worked in the city and I’ve totally lost touch with the bar scene.

Could you recommend somewhere that is nice, has a mid-range budget and some food if people get hungry? We’re getting together not far from the NZME building actually, but can jump in a cab if need be.

Thank you!


Hi Jayne,

I had a lovely drink the other night at Sunset Bar, and I think it’d be perfect for your group. It’s right up the top of the Sudima on Nelson St, neither of which sounds very luxurious but Sunset is a total Auckland gem, with views forever and beautiful furnishings and lovely drinks too. (I just loved the passionfruit martini, which is barely a martini as it’s quite sweet, but I think you should start with one of those).

The staff are very attentive and the food is … well, you wouldn’t come here solely for dinner, but it’s the sort of stuff that goes well with booze and chat: fried chicken, waffle-cut fries and some nice enough flatbreads loaded with eggplant kasundi and feta.

Good luck for your big office day!

Dear Jesse,

I won’t name the restaurant but we found a hair in our food recently. Luckily, we aren’t easily put off and enjoyed (the rest of) the meal.

What is the etiquette here? Do you tell the waiter or just suck it up? I didn’t want to embarrass anybody and, really, it was probably an unlucky one-off. But perhaps they would want to know?

Warm regards,


Hello Joan,

Yes, I think you’re right, they would want to know. Any decent restaurant will comp you that dish and possibly a drink too, and it’ll be a good chance for them to review their practices. It seems like you’d do it in a nice, quiet way, without expectation, which I think is a great approach.

A tougher question is what I should do when it happens to me. For you, a random object might ruin a dish, in mine it could ruin the restaurant.

I found two separate hairs in one meal a few years ago and didn’t write about it. Instead, I called the restaurant the following day and chatted to them about it — they promised to do better and I don’t doubt that they did. Should I have written about it at the time? Possibly, but I didn’t regret the decision not to.

At another restaurant I found a caterpillar crawling on my microgreens. “Well, at least you know it’s fresh,” said the manager philosophically when I showed it to him. The bug was possibly a sign that they didn’t wash the salad thoroughly enough and if I’d been reviewing them it would have been a tough decision whether to include it or not. In fact, I was judging a top 50 and they missed the cut for other reasons, so I didn’t have to make that call.

Most unusual of all, I recently found a small metal spring in my salmon steak. The front-of-house guy knew I was reviewing and took it very seriously (I’m pretty sure he would have anyway), meeting immediately with the kitchen to discuss the matter and returning with the news that there were no springs of any kind on premises — it must have happened during processing. He gave us the salmon and a round of drinks for free and I was happy to put it down to very bad luck.

What’s the theme here? Best to give them the benefit of the doubt. Cancelling well-meaning people for things they didn’t intentionally do is what social media is for.

Bar Celeste. Photo / Babiche Martens
Bar Celeste. Photo / Babiche Martens


I know you’re a fan of Celeste on K Rd. We’re going next week but wondered if we need to book?


Hi Karl,

Yes, please book, but note also that Celeste is about to change up its offering.

From May 16 it’s a pop-up pizza joint. I was initially a bit disappointed — who needs another boutique pizza place, etc — but it’s occurred to me that Karangahape Rd doesn’t yet have one so it’ll be a welcome addition. Plus, the team behind Celeste have never put a foot wrong so I can pretty much guarantee this new incarnation will be brilliant.

Good luck to them and good luck to you Karl, too!

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.

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.

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