Jesse Mulligan Restaurant Recommendations: Dining Rooms With A View; Best (Inexpensive) Lunch In The CBD

By Jesse Mulligan
The elderflower ice cream at Sidart. 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 Mulligan is here to help.

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

The view from the outdoor dining area integrates the nearby park at Azabu Mission Bay. Photo / Babiche Martens
The view from the outdoor dining area integrates the nearby park at Azabu Mission Bay. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hey Jesse,

I know it’s a bit old-fashioned but I really like a dining room with a view. Any suggestions?


Hey Kara,

Have you been to Azabu Mission Bay? The food is cracking and the weather is getting warm enough to sit at one of their (covered) outdoor tables and enjoy the family park scene with the glistening ocean less than 100 metres away. Soul Bar has a great view of the Viaduct and so do the right tables at Bivacco — both have fantastic food and service.

There is The Sugar Club, of course, 53 floors up the Sky Tower where you can probably pick out your own house if you look hard enough, though I haven’t checked out the food there recently. Anybody been?

But my personal favourite view is at Sidart, perched on the Ponsonby crest, with big windows looking back towards the city. Auckland has never looked more beautiful than it does from this room, and of course, the food is spectacularly beautiful too.


I’ve noticed your weekly ratings never drop below about 15/20. Why is that?


Hi Jo,

Keen observation, though it does sometimes happen (I went as low as 9/20 a couple of years ago). It’s not that I don’t eat at bad restaurants — inevitably I do — but if it’s really atrocious we’ll sometimes make a team decision not to run a review rather than publicly gut them.

There are two types of bad restaurants — one where it’s bad all the time and one where it’s usually good but they’re having an off night, often because a key staff member isn’t there. If it’s the former I blame myself not them — I should have done more homework before showing up to dinner — but if it’s the latter I’ll usually drop them an email afterwards, tell them what happened and give them a decent chance to correct it. I don’t promise to go back any time soon though — life is too short and the list of consistently great Auckland restaurants is too long.

Lebanese coffee and a slice of ba’alawa at The Lebanese Grocer. Photo / @Lebanesegrocer
Lebanese coffee and a slice of ba’alawa at The Lebanese Grocer. Photo / @Lebanesegrocer


I know you don’t review lunch spots but is there anywhere you recommend in the CBD? It all seems overpriced and underwhelming.

From, Dee

Dee, I hear you. Eating a city lunch can sometimes feel like another work chore — the salads are bland, the sandwiches are bready and dull. You can’t get full for under $20 and anywhere even half-decent has a queue from 11.30am.

I think it might be a Western problem, best solved by switching genres and pretending you live somewhere that people eat as well in the day as in the evening. I’m not sure sushi provides quite enough sustenance for a long afternoon wrestling Excel but I like the donburi at City Works Depot’s &Sushi — a little hot box full of goodies (I like the salmon but they also do a chicken version).

The stuffed pitas at Carmel off Newton Gully don’t quite qualify as CBD but they’re worth a special journey — the falafel ones in particular are insanely good, made fresh each day by an Israeli-led kitchen. On certain days you can also take pita home in bags, in case you want to DIY your own lunch the next day.

Geopolitics aside, I’m sure the Carmel team are friendly enough with The Lebanese Grocer, which flies under the radar a little behind the rail link construction zone on Pitt Street but might be the best lunch spot in the city. It’s run by chef Elie Assaf, who set up Milenta restaurant, then moved into this new space as his family expanded so he could spend more time helping out at home. He has very, very high standards for food so a kebab here will taste as good as it is humanly possible to taste — the lunch special changes daily, though it tends to come with a side of fries so you may not choose to eat here every day.

Elie’s also imported a range of authentic Middle Eastern supplies for you to take home for dinner, and sells bags of pita “chips” baked in garlicky olive oil that are great for kids’ (or adults’) lunchboxes.

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 Find Great Indonesian Food; Review Regrets. One reader asks: Do you ever regret writing a bad review (or a good one)?

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.

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