Special occasions come and go but the memories and the food you ate whilst attending them will linger forever. For those with an anniversary, birthday, graduation or 'because you're awesome' day coming up, we've complied the ultimate restaurants for a splash out in Auckland. With each offering more than enough taste satisfaction and reality escapism, it might be a night where you forget about the student loan, the kids or rent for the week, and splurge a little more than usual on some fine wine and cuisine. Treat yourself, you're worth it.
An elegant and sophisticated crowd favourite, The Sugar Club is your overall 'Auckland' experience. Located at the top of the SkyTower with spectacular views across the city, even just sitting there helps you unwind and prepare to be spoilt. The decor is modern, welcoming and capitalises on the 360 degree views. The menu is designed for ordering more than one plate, and there really is no excuse not to try a decent number of these dishes. With quintessentially Kiwi elements that brim with elegance, sophistication and taste explosions, it really is a whole dining experience.
Situated in a once abandoned and derelict warehouse, Clooney has been expertly redesigned to create a modern atmosphere. Managing to be both opulent and industrial with dim lighting and luxurious finishings, the only thing to compete is the food itself. Showcasing New Zealand ingredients with an international twist, the dishes consider every mouthful through a combination of clean and precise flavours.
A long standing reputation as one of the best in Auckland, The Grove provides modern food with a French twist. The head chef has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in both London and Paris and uses traditional French techniques with interesting flavours and seasonal offerings. Your meal at The Grove should always consist of a pre-dinner drink at the wine bar, as you're welcomed into the warmth and intimacy of the space. Situated next to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, it's the perfect inner city spot to live out your anniversary or birthday.
Nothing says special occasion quite like taking a ferry across the gulf to Auckland's very own 'Island of Wine'. Mudbrick is a crowd favourite with its beautiful al fresco dining options and more formal dining room. With views back over the water and lush grounds to explore pre or post-meal, it's a full experience. If you really wanted to make it a treat, why not book a room and make a weekend of it? Delicious sharing plates, tapas, a la carte and degustation dining options are on offer so there is really no excuse. It's also hard to ignore the fact it also comes complete with a multitude of fine wines to make sure you really are having a good time, because when on Waiheke, why the heke not?
Proudly boasting the Supreme Award at Metro's 2016 Restaurant of the Year, Cassia is a culinary experience worth trying. With an unassuming entrance and relatively humble exterior, walking in will ensure you're taken away from the grip of the city as you sample a deliciously elegant portrayal of Indian dishes. The dark and cosy setting also means you can melt into the surroundings and really be encapsulated by the spices on each plate. The menu is designed to be shared, meaning the more people you take the more plates you can try without feeling too guilty about the mass of amazingness laid out in front of you. Each one is a flavour explosion like no other, with a mix of textures and tastes that will be sure to keep you on your toes.
Another one from chef Sid Sahrawat, Sidart is a Chefs Table quality restaurant in the most unassuming locale in Ponsonby. It's the full gastronomic experience. The menu is designed to be a degustation so perhaps skip lunch to enjoy every morsel of the many courses that will be placed in front of you. A pro tip is to head in on a Tuesday, as you will receive a full-sized menu for a fraction of the price as the chefs experiment with ingredients and offerings. When you come to Sidart you are in the very capable hands. Be sure to let them know of any dietary requirements too as the menu can be adjusted for you.
Three Lamps Plaza Level 1/283 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
This gem of a Japanese restaurant is hidden away on an unassuming backstreet in Ponsonby. Simple from the outside, once indoors you will be confronted with gorgeous wood detailing and mood lighting. Fresh, tasty and absolutely gourmet, this place is a winner on all fronts. The cocktails are creative and incredible, and I would highly suggest starting your occasion off with at least one of these beauties. There is a full degustation menu which is definitely one to impress, or simply going for the fresh sashimi platter is a win in my books— you won't have seen such a beautiful display of raw fish and seafood before.
A little bit out of Auckland but definitely worth the commute, The Tasting Shed is known for putting on special lunches or dinners for all kinds of events and occasions. With a unique and interesting menu (can you say kimchi mac 'n' cheese?) you won't leave disappointed. Small entree sized dishes are designed to try and encourage a discovery of flavours, that have each been thoughtfully considered by seasonality and the finest produce. The ever-changing menu means each new visit here is likely to include new dishes to indulge in. Alongside their expansive wine list (largely by the glass) you have the makings of a perfectly paired and matched meal of taste discovery.
Acclaimed restaurant, The French Cafe, has been recognised as one of the world's top ten restaurants. Classically elegant and oozing sophistication, husband and wife duo Simon and Creghan Molloy-Wright have taken a holistic approach to food, menu and space. Bright and light decor will help you feel calm and relaxed as you prepare for the kind of meal that will knock your socks off. A la carte and tasting menus are available and with vegetarian offerings for both choices, there is even an option for the fussy foodies (myself included in this category). You can definitely be assured that everything is of the utmost quality, starting with the produce they source.
Dining at Poderi Crisci is much like being transported to Italy for an afternoon, except rather than a 24 hour flight with a crappy stop over in some airport— it's a simple 30 minute ferry ride into the gulf. Italian fare is at the heart of this restaurant, where the team keep a close eye on culinary trends throughout Italy. They pair this with locally sourced ingredients to keep the freshness bold. The way to go about Poderi Crisci, is to definitely sit down for the Italian-style long lunch on Sunday where you are at the hands of the chef to serve you what is best on the day; pair that with some wine and you're away laughing.