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A Definitive List of the Seven Best Restaurants in Auckland as Chosen by Concrete Playground

From a famously fabulous modern Indian eatery to an Italian-inspired nook on K' Road — these are the eateries we'd recommend to a friend (you, dear reader).
By Sarah Templeton
September 14, 2022
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By Sarah Templeton
September 14, 2022
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A DEFINITIVE LIST OF THE SEVEN BEST RESTAURANTS IN AUCKLAND AS CHOSEN BY CONCRETE PLAYGROUND

From a famously fabulous modern Indian eatery to an Italian-inspired nook on K' Road — these are the eateries we'd recommend to a friend (you, dear reader).

In this busy, bustling city of ours there are no shortage of spots to dine — from waterfront restaurants to French bistros, Japanese teppanyaki bars and everything in between.

But there are some notable spots we consider to be the crème de la crème. You know what we mean — those eateries you can't stop thinking about the day after your meal or the first place that springs to mind when a friend asks for a recommendation. We've compiled an exclusive shortlist of the restaurants we consider to be the best, thanks to their consistent service, beaut fit-outs, strong vibes, and above all, damn good food.

These are Concrete Playground's top picks for the best restaurants in Auckland.

  • 7

    In our eyes, Sid Sahrawat’s award-winning underground hidey-hole Cassia can almost do no wrong. At Cassia, the fit-out is modern yet intimate (with private dining rooms available), and depending on your location in the long, low and warmly-lit interior, you can watch the dishes prepared in the kitchen right before your eyes. This is modern Indian food done the best way — warming, hearty and deliciously bold. We’d always recommend being taken on the menu’s ‘journey’ by the excellent kitchen team — you’ll be surprised with a mix of delicious snacks, curries and sides that will leave you so stuffed that you’ll probably barely make it back up the stairs onto Fort Lane afterwards.

    Our top menu pick: The roasted carrots with dry korma and cashew, alongside the beef short rib with mushroom and spinach — with a side of garlic naan.

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  • 6
    Pici

    Found tucked away in St Kevin’s Arcade, this eatery is modelled on the small wine bars of Europe, but it’s actually consistently serving up some of the best fresh pasta and wine in Auckland. Pici is a cosy and intimate space — it can seat up to 42 patrons at a time — but given its popularity, you’ll probably see someone you know in there, perhaps on a date, in a group or grabbing a solo post-work bite.  The simple menu changes with the seasons but everything bursts with flavour — and of course, diners near the kitchen are rewarded by getting to watch pasta rolled and cooked in front of them. We can only hope they never get rid of the cheesy, peppery cacio e pepe, the ultimate in comfort eating. Never change (that dish), Pici.

    Our top menu pick: The aforementioned cacio e pepe, alongside the fettuccine with mascarpone and nduja. Finish things off with the famous olive oil-topped cheesecake. 

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  • 5

    Boisterous, welcoming and completely natural: these are most definitely the characteristics we have come to associate with the infallible Al Brown — and his Federal Street eatery, Depot. Since it first opened in 2011, this eatery is consistently one that Concrete Playground recommends to visitors to the city — as well as reminding locals to choose over some of the flashier new kids on the block.  With a menu that is easy to navigate thanks to a select number of dishes, but packed with variety and flavour, it is a safe bet to close your eyes point a finger and take what comes. Depot has the completely comfortable vibe of being at a dear friend’s house for dinner. Just pull up a seat, order a tumbler of wine and dig into your complimentary flatbread and hummus.

    Our top menu pick: Start with a serve of Te Matuku oysters and the snapper sliders, share some bone marrow and skirt steak with a side of potato skins, and whatever you do, don’t forget to finish things off with the cookie skillet that’s finally, FINALLY, back on the menu.

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  • 4

    Trying to think of the perfect group dining spot? Say hello to Hello Beasty. This vibrant and colourful eatery from award-winning chef Stuart Rogan takes its inspiration from the cuisines of Japan, Korea and China, to create something Rogan dubbed upon opening as “contemporary New Zealand fusion cuisine”. A large open kitchen spans the length of the restaurant and diners are encouraged to sit at the pass to watch the action unfold. Booths and an open-air courtyard overlook Market Square and maximise the harbour views. The result? A cheeky, fast-paced and extremely fun space — with one of the best spicy margaritas in the game.

    Our top menu pick: The KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) and Beasty sashimi selection, alongside the slow-cooked lamb shoulder in sichuan sauce.

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  • 3
    Ada

    Found in a once-thriving nunnery which is now a convent-inspired hotel in Grey Lynn, Ada wows before you even mosey through to the eatery. With easily one of the best interior fit-outs of any restaurant in Auckland, the high ceilings, glass windows and relaxed vibe will have you feeling like you’ve been whisked away to Europe for the afternoon. Set in the Spanish-Mission style, this gorgeous restaurant churns out modern Italian food with the very best local produce. Ex-Cotto chefs Hayden Phiskie and Johnny Price are in the kitchen — or you might see one of them hand-rolling pasta along one of the long dining tables if you’re there during lunch service.  Our recommendation? Make a (well-in-advance) booking for the long Sunday lunch service. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of Prosecco before enjoying a five-course shared banquet. There’s no need to rush away afterwards — park up on the patio to enjoy a few warm-down bevs.

    Our top menu pick: Share a selection of plates including the pizza fritta topped with ‘nduja and fontina, the lamb ribs with hazelnut pesto and the tagliatelle with pork fennel ragù and chilli. And always finish with a cannoli.

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  • 2
    Origine

    Is it a hugely bold call to put such a freshly opened eatery in our list of the top contenders in Auckland? Probably, but we don’t care. Origine, the brainchild of acclaimed chef and restaurateur Ben Bayly and chef Chris Martin, is just that good. Whether you’re a fan of classic French fare, fresh local produce or you just love to watch the ferries roll into harbour, this is the place you’re going to want to make a regular haunt this summer. The extensive menu has been curated to represent classic French regional cuisine — using the freshest and best ingredients from around Aotearoa, of course.  Pop in to celebrate a shopping win with oysters, champagne and sunset views, or make a special trip in for a multi-course dinner paired with cocktails and French wines. Just like a traditional French bistro, diners are encouraged to relax and enjoy, no matter how long they’re staying.

    Our top menu pick: Create a seafood platter of your choice from the ‘fruits de mer’ section of the menu, before tucking into a classic steak and frites. Finish things off with the rhubarb souffle with gingerbread ice cream.

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  • 1
    alma

    Lifting the curse that once hung over the corner of Britomart’s Gore and Tyler Streets, alma is the light, bright and fabulous all-day eatery inspired by the food and culture of Andalusia, the region bordering Spain’s southern coast. Not only is the fit-out one of the best in the city, the menu travels through seasons, incorporating produce and localities from here afar across a selection of flamed-kissed small plates. You might be confronted with some ingredients you’ve never heard of — zaalouk, anyone? — but ask the extremely friendly waitstaff for assistance if needed. Catering to a business crowd throughout the day and creating a sexy, party-like vibe for diners at night, alma offers exciting food and above all, truly excellent service. We also have on very good authority the savoury scrolls are something to behold if the morning line for Amano is just too much to face.

    Our top menu pick: Share a selection of plates, including the cauliflower and manchego tostada and the hummus,  before digging into the lamb and ribeye  — with a side of brown buttered mushrooms. 

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