Jesse Mulligan Restaurant Recommendations: Where To Go For French Food; A Meal With A View

By Jesse Mulligan
Soul Bar and Bistro’s sleek bar area. 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.

The cured wagyu at Auckland’s MoVida. Photo / Babiche Martens
The cured wagyu at Auckland’s MoVida. Photo / Babiche Martens

Dear Jesse,

My friends and I usually eat at cheap restaurants but we want to try something flasher for a change. Can you recommend somewhere in Auckland with a view, that won’t totally break the bank?

Thanks, Louise

Hi Louise,

I love the view from Sunset Bar at the top of Sudima Hotel on Nelson Street. You wouldn’t go there for the food in particular but the vibe is sensational and you’ll find plenty on the menu to soak up the cocktails.

Would you call MoVida’s perch a view? Well, you’ll mostly be looking at container ships and dock workers but beyond that is the beautiful sparkling sea, and being up high anywhere in Auckland is a treat.

If you’re happy at water level try Soul Bar, which would be a fantastic choice with friends (the view back towards the people in the restaurant is sometimes just as good as the luxury yachts outside).

Good luck!


The mixed seafood platter at French restaurant Origine in Commercial Bay. Photo / Babiche Martens
The mixed seafood platter at French restaurant Origine in Commercial Bay. Photo / Babiche Martens

Hi Jesse,

We really love traditional French food. Where do you go for that sort of thing in Auckland?


Hi Jan,

I think you’ll love Origine, (it also has a lovely view of the Ferry Building, but I suspect it may be at the pricey end for our correspondent above) which is deeply committed to the best of French cuisine, while taking the odd Aotearoa detour along the way.

But there are also a couple of lovely smaller places you should check out. I was sad to see the demise of Les Bistro des Gourmet in Parnell, but there’s still great French food to be had at Le Chef in Vulcan Lane, where they are famous for their annual long lunch but are just as great creating memorably French experiences for tables of two. It’s not flash but — in a cute alleyway in central Auckland — it’s romantic in its own way.

Finally, consider lunch at Maison Vauron in Newmarket. They’re sadly not open in the evenings but as a Francophile you’ll find their menu a joy to read through: saucisson de canard, gnocchi aux epinards, salade de poisson … afterwards you can browse their wine collection and take a bottle home with some cheese for dinner.

Bivacco, in Auckland’s Viaduct, has a prime waterfront location. Photo / Babiche Martens
Bivacco, in Auckland’s Viaduct, has a prime waterfront location. Photo / Babiche Martens


You recently answered my last-minute request for a Sunday night dinner for three people with various dietary requirements; you sent me to Bivacco.

I’ve eaten out a lot (I’m 70) and wanted you to know how impressed I was. When we arrived our lovely waiter brought three separate menus, already marked up for each person, showing what the coeliac person couldn’t eat, and what the person who couldn’t eat garlic or sesame seeds couldn’t eat. My menu was left unmarked, so you could see the receptionist who took the booking had talked with the wait staff.

I’d rate the service 110 per cent excellent, good decent meal size 100 per cent, and value 120 per cent, plus a great location and outlook. I’d put this meal in my top three restaurants ever.

From Brett

Thanks for the feedback Brett (there was a lot more in his email, all complimentary). I passed your comments on to one of the bigwigs at Savor Group who shared it with his team. He was particularly happy to hear your comments around price: “Pleasing to hear they thought it was good value, we have put so much work into pricing this year to try to keep it down, including changing suppliers and cuts of meat.”

So Brett, thanks very much for taking the time to write back! And for anybody else who is used to feeling like the annoying one requesting allergy-friendly food, looks like you’ve got a winner in Bivacco.

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 a good steak and a big work dinner. The answer for a 20-strong group: A veritable feast for $70 a head.

Where to dine for fussy eaters and 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?”

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 eat in Commercial Bay; where I buy Indian spices. “I fear the box of cumin I bought from Pak’nSave isn’t going to cut it,” says a reader.

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