Jesse Mulligan’s Auckland Restaurant Review: At Riverhead’s The Landing, The Vibe Is Peaceful & The Chips Are Pure Gold

By Jesse Mulligan
The Riv Burger from Riverhead’s The Landing. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Gastropub

Address: 33 York Terrace, Riverhead

Reservations: Accepted

Phone: (09) 412 8902

Drinks: Fully licensed

From the menu: Mushroom dumplings $26; seared tuna $26.50; cauliflower radicchio salad 13; fish and chips $30; scotch fillet $40; Riv burger $30

Rating: 15/20

Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it a go. 16-18 Great, plan a visit. 19-20 Outstanding, don’t delay.

“I’m not sure if we are on your radar?” wrote the proprietor of the Riverhead Tavern in an email last week. “We are the only restaurant in Auckland that you can arrive by water to our dock.”

I was in. She told me it was only 20 minutes from the city (people outside a certain radius always tell you the exact number of minutes it takes to get there, and they don’t always use a round number) if you travel by car. I briefly considered taking up her offer of a boat trip but though in my head I would arrive at the jetty like Daniel Craig at the 2012 London Olympics, the truth is I’d probably look more like David Seymour at the 2020 general election.

Instead we drove there in a Toyota Highlander, the boat of the road, and arrived (anonymously and unannounced, as always) 25 minutes after leaving Grey Lynn, on a Sunday with no traffic. I tell you this not to prove anybody right or wrong but to give you a realistic impression of what you are in for.

Technically the restaurant is split into three areas: inside, outside, and an appealing in-between space with views of the river and surrounding greenery but with plastic-based protection from the elements. When we visited there was a fourth area of revelry, the gravel carpark, where a group of young men riding mobility scooters were sinking beers and blearily solving the world’s problems. It looked like they’d got through a few rounds based on the heaving recycling bin one had attached to his vehicle, and I was glad they took it slow when they eventually left, in single file, heading up the road to God knows where.

The roast cauliflower and radicchio salad and the cured tuna tataki from The Landing at Riverhead Tavern. Photo / Babiche Martens
The roast cauliflower and radicchio salad and the cured tuna tataki from The Landing at Riverhead Tavern. Photo / Babiche Martens

To walk into the dining area (it’s called The Landing, but they also have a sports bar and a function area depending on what you’re looking for) is to immediately feel at peace. Those river views affect the soul in unexpected and inexplicable ways and you can get a little closer if you’re in the mood, following a path down to the jetty where the seabirds squawk and the water laps against the shore.

“The Oldest Riverside Tavern in New Zealand” trumpets a sign outside, and though it’s an award not as hotly contested as, say, Bayley’s Real Estate Agent of the Year, it reflects the pride and care the owners take with the building’s history. There are all sorts of plaques and captions and menu blurbs you can read if you’re interested, but it only takes a cursory understanding of the pressures residential development puts on heritage areas to realise we are lucky to still have this place in Auckland.

What is the food like? Well, it’s good. They offer an ambitious menu of traditional pub meals along with 21st century pan-Asian delights — deftly catering to people who’ve been eating here since it opened in the 1860s, along with Mount Eden types who, due to the travel time, arrive with the dangerous medical condition of not having eaten ceviche for at least 25 minutes.

The view from The Landing. Photo / Babiche Martens
The view from The Landing. Photo / Babiche Martens

The pub stuff is a better choice I think — fish and chips or burger and chips or steak and chips. The chips are fantastic, luckily, coated in a beer batter that is barely perceptible but catches a little more crunch and flavour from the frying process. My steak was cooked medium-rare, exactly how I’d asked for it — and it’s an underrated skill to deliver it blushing pink on the inside while achieving a brown crust over the whole surface. They’d seasoned it with plenty of pepper but not enough salt and I missed a jus or even a ramekin of mustard to add a bit of interest to the mouthfuls of meat.

Daisy’s burger had everything a burger needs — beef, cheese, bacon and aioli on soft sesame buns — and it’s not a disparaging remark to say that all this stuff would taste great after a few beers. We were on a more dine-and-dash sort of buzz, helped, in part, by the weather, which was overcast and breezy but could there be anything better than a big plate of fish and chips arriving at your table when you’re sitting in the sun three pints deep?

Vegetarians have their own section of the menu: I can recommend some pretty yummy pan-fried mushroom dumplings along with a cauliflower-radicchio salad, available as a main portion or a side. All of this stuff comes heavily dressed, so it might make more sense to pick from a few small dishes than blast your taste buds with a whole bowl of one thing.

The heirloom tomato and smoked bocconcini salad. Photo / Babiche Martens
The heirloom tomato and smoked bocconcini salad. Photo / Babiche Martens

I think there’s room to expand their tap beer selection — a couple of Monteith’s options and a Tuatara were all that stood out — but the wine list is appropriately local, a good chance for Aucklanders to drink chardonnay produced within their own city limits.

Service is young and friendly, with a team of waiters doing all they can to keep a busy room happy. Come for a drink with a view, stay for the food if you get hungry. This is a professional and largely faultless operation, with plenty to recommend it over the summer months.

From dining-out editor Jesse Mulligan.

In Its New Home on Federal St, Cassia’s Food Is Still Faultless. A shiny new location and an exciting new menu — how does the new hot spot stack up?

Newmarket’s Katsu Katsu Doubles Down On One Thing, And It’s Flawless. The casual new Japanese spot has an abundance of talent and boasts a buzzy bar.

Helensville’s The Butcher Baker Is A Journey. It’s Also Completely Worth It. The bistro is clever and imaginative, with a handsome courtyard and boldly hot crayfish.

Grey Lynn’s New Champion Of Hāngī Pork Belly And Rēwena Bread. The bistro’s menu moved from Italian fare to kai Māori, or a happy mix of both.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: