Matakana’s best known for its famous Saturday markets, which hustle everything from vintage 50s dresses to goat cheese-stuffed figs in a picture book setting – complete with a live string band – by the Matakana River. Equally worth a visit is the Matakana Village Pub (just across from the markets on Matakana Valley Rd), complete with all the fixtures of a good old-fashioned country pub and always filled with a rowdy mix of folks.
Housed in a beautiful split-level villa built circa 1903 from kauri timber, Matakana’s local has gone through several refurbishments, the most recent in 2012. It’s now got that renovated Grey Lynn villa vibe – plenty of rustic charm; but with fresh paint, insulation and a shiny new kitchen and bathroom.
The menu has a great selection of NZ craft beers (the Sawmill chocolate stout is not to be missed) and wine from nearby vineyards. The food is a little pricey for pub fare, but much more varied and of better quality – you’ve got your classics such as burgers, steak and fish & chips, as well as pasta, pizza and even tapas. The veges are all grown in the backyard and the meat and eggs are free range and locally sourced.
I ordered the Gourmet Sausie Rolls (Salumeria sausage meat and fennel) with pickle salad and Fat Chips, duck fat-smothered wedges so thick you’ve downed an entire potato after three. My friend got the handmade potato gnocchi, which was slightly gluggy but redeemed itself with a plate-lickingly good blue cheese sauce.
While the food’s not perfect and the portions could be upsized, it’s all good - the staff are super sweet and the cheery music and fireplace make you feel like you’re in a friend’s lounge. Like you could get a little too juiced or talk a little too loudly or mispronounce something on the menu and nobody would mind at all.
If it’s dinner and a drive you’re after, Matakana’s Sunday roast is amongst Auckland’s best. Also be sure to visit on Saturday night for live music and drink specials – just don’t get too buzzed as a taxi home will probably cost as much as your rent.