The Ten Best Bars and Eateries of Karangahape Road
The best our most colourful road has to offer.
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The K Road district has a reputation like no other. When it comes to dining out it might not be your first choice, but if you see past the 'Red Light' guise, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. Beneath the superficial sleaze is a treasure trove of eateries and bars well worth your while.
Those who choose to dine at K Road are truly spoilt for choice - there’s every kind of ethnic food imaginable punctuated by a collection of quirky cafes and a few good watering holes. Choosing ten of the finest restaurants and cafes to represent one of the most iconic streets in Auckland was a little daunting, quite frankly, and finding the best was always going to be a struggle between picking the ‘tried and true’, and ‘fancy and new’.
K Road is one of the few places in town that proudly boasts its mottled past, flaunting its eclectic character in the face of gentrification. Not that new isn’t necessarily good, but it's those familiar places the make K Road what it is.
There is something to be said, however, for competition and K Road is no exception. Amidst the places we know and love, there’s a healthy smattering of new establishments spicing up the mix and keeping those old timers on their toes. It’s a win-win situation for hungry, thirsty, caffeine-deprived customers but all the more difficult to narrow things down.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Think of it instead as a seasonal menu of sorts, offering a selection what’s good right now: some fresh new dishes and a few old favourites.
Coming in at number one is one stylish little number, Coco’s Cantina. Offering rustic style Italian fare, which translates as simple, fresh and absolutely delicious, Coco's is the perfect mix of classy and casual. The setting's comfortable enough to totally relax in while the service remains impeccable, although really it's all about the food. The pasta is fresh and light, the meat tender and the desserts worth saving room for. The menu changes regularly to make the most of local produce and suppliers, plus all their seafood is sustainably fished. Not just a pretty face, you see.
Coco's is an ideal date spot—there's a great atmosphere and cosy corners for intimate moments—but is equally well-suited to a meal with friends or family. As you can imagine, tables are hard to come by, so you may have to wait. In that case, polenta chips and an aperitif at the bar are a great way to start. If a drink's all you're after, then you're still in the right place. Coco decided she liked the neighbourhood so much, they opened a bar next door. It seems they've thought of everything, right down to the details - like the red and white checkered table cloths. It's all the makings of a great night out.
374 and 376 K Road, Auckland
One of the newest kids on the block, this little honey of a cafe is about the best thing since sliced bread. In actual fact, they surpass bread altogether. Honeytrap offers all of their delicious sandwiches as 'bowls', that is without bread at all. Aside from the selection of home-style sandwiches (much better than any homemade sandwiches I've ever made), Honeytrap serves seasonal soups, smoothies and freshly baked goods - all lovingly made in their tiny kitchen. This family-run business goes against the espresso grain and using Supreme filter coffee (free refills), making another point of difference for this little gem. It's a great lunch spot for both the single and the duo: you can people watch from the tables in the arcade, or hide yourself away on the cosy mezzanine. Keep up to date on Facebook as they post saliva-inducing pictures of their freshest menu additions.
St. Kevins Arcade, 183 K Road, Auckland
A fairly recent addition, but from the outset it was clear Scullery is what you'd call a good sort. In the spirit of environmentalism, Scullery is a dedicated 'zero waste' cafe, composting food scraps and using recycled goods where possible, but don't worry - the food is fresh and the coffee's made to order.
Clothed in unfussy decor, Scullery offers indoor and outdoor seating and a menu that makes for interesting reading. There are some new takes on brunch faves, like spiced wagyu mince on toast, plus tasty lunch dishes like fried wild rice and a rotisserie pork roll. The gourmet toasties (serrano ham, manchego and black truffle butter) are sure to be a winter hit.
166 K Road, Auckland
Johnny couldn't have picked a better spot to set up shop, on the sweeping corner of Beresford and Pitt, where the sun shines a plenty. In all honesty, this pint-sized urban picnic earns brownie points on location alone. Look for the tables with a vase of flowers and a conglomeration of colourful stools. You can’t miss is it. And if it happens to be grey and rainy then there are some cosy corners to shelter in.
At Johnny Feedback, coffee comes with a smile and food in the form of buns. Or rolls. And brioche. So that bacon and egg combo you so fervently desire but don't have time for is conveniently presented in an easy-to-eat format. They serve the type of food for those wanting to have (and enjoy) their breakfast on the run.
Cnr Beresford St and Pitt St, Auckland
An oldie, but a goodie, Revel specialises in imaginative and tasty vegetarian fare. The vibe is warm and friendly from the minute you walk in the door and continues into the cosy coffee lounge - complete with mismatched furniture and spacey tables. The tables on the footpath are equally great as they make for an entertaining people watching spot (and K Road is certainly well-know for its interesting pedestrians). Along with their changing menu and daily specials, Revel offers an assortment of freshly baked goods and cabinet food including gluten-free treats and vegan delights. Variety is definitely a key word for this cafe. Revel also happens to be licensed so if it's a cocktail you're in the mood for, well they do that too.
146 K Road, Auckland
6. Verona Cafe
This is much more of a destination than a restaurant or a cafe. It's open all hours but no matter what time you come, the atmosphere is buzzing. It first appeared on the K Rd scene in 1992 and quickly established itself as a firm favourite among the artsy / alternative crowd. It's not that easy to nab a seat here, but if you do, you'll find that the American-style booths create a cosy atmosphere and yet still allow you to watch the interesting goings-on outside. Service is friendly and super laid back.
169 K Road, Auckland
7. Eight Thirty
If you’re lucky enough not to have to be at work by this time, then you should get yourself along to this petite roastery and café. With two premises in the area (one in Ponsonby), Eight Thirty is securing it’s place in the market (and giving Miller's a run for their money). Like Miller's, this is more of a roastery than a cafe, so really it's all about the coffee. In the way of food, Eight Thirty offers a succulent selection of sweets by local baking extraordinaire, The Caker, along with savouries and sandwiches. They use organic milk and ethnically grown coffee. Plus, their takeaway cups are compostable and they deliver their coffee by bike.
553 K Road, Auckland
Hidden behind an unassuming door next to the Synagogue, this cafe is certainly serving up something different. Established in 2008, Greys Ave Deli is the first and only kosher deli in New Zealand. They sell kosher meat from Australia and New Zealand, as well as a huge range of local and international kosher food. Unlike the average cafe, they also do airline meals and provide a catering service. Peruse the shelves which are chocca with exotic goods and the tantalising selection of freshly made food, then devour your finds in the chic and tranquil confines of the cafe. Definitely worth a visit.
108 Greys Ave, Auckland
When it comes to K Road eateries, Alleluya is an institution. Set in the iconic St Kevins Arcade amidst leafy palms in giant pots, Alleluya is one of the few places in Auckland that has stood the test of time. It's become such a permanent fixture, it seems it's as much part of the arcade as the stairs or ceiling. The good folk regularly offer up their tables for events in the arcade, including live performances and the art party, First Thursdays. Popular with the more creative types, Alleluya's tranquil setting is the perfect place to enjoy a patch of sunshine or shelter from a storm, with a posse or all alone. Those well-loved tables will happily accommodate patrons for brunch, lunch or drinks. Alleluya proudly serves Miller's Coffee and has a delicious selection of atypical brunch and lunch items, including vegetarian and gluten free options. Be warned, the cakes in the cabinet always look ridiculously good and it's hard to escape without succumbing to a slice. If you can nab a spot by the window, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views over the city and out to Skytower and sea.
St Kevins Arcade, 183 K Road, Auckland
10. Wine Cellar
Sliding in at number ten is the iconic Wine Cellar. The subterranean grotto nestled beneath the arcade has cemented itself a spot as a firm favourite in our books. With an unbeatable underground vibe, Wine Cellar is one of a kind. With it's vintage posters, ancient furniture, lounge-style back room and graffitied smoking spot , it seems like the kind of bar you'd find in the backstreets of Paris or somewhere in Berlin. Big supporters of local music and brews, Wine Cellar regularly plays host to all kinds of weird and wonderful bands and they offer a changing selection of beer and cider on tap, as well as an eclectic selection of bottled beverages and a range of bar snacks. The toilets aren’t the finest, but that’s all part of the quirky charm. For a quiet drink or a raucous night, Wine Cellar's got your back.
St Kevins Arcade, 183 K Road, Auckland
Published on April 30, 2014 by Lara Thomas