When a trip to some far-flung Pacific isle necessitates passing through Auckland, don't pass up the opportunity to break your journey and explore New Zealand's most populous city. Set on a junction of waterways, and ringed by approximately fifty (extinct) volcanoes, it's a pretty place to spend a 48-hour layover.
Adventure tourists will find everything from jet boats to a variety of ways to risk life and limb by dangling from, or being hurled off a variety of structures, both natural and man-made. However as a foodie, I was more excited to find out that my weekend in Auckland coincided with The Food Show. It certainly saved me some time hunting down farmers' markets & cool producers by throwing them all together in three huge sheds (okay: convention centre style halls).
After swallowing my way through copious craft brews (the Epic beer range was notable for more than just the name), mountains of green lip mussels and a plethora of excellent honeys, I'd say that Genevieve's Cuisine Truffled Chicken Liver Pate, Ringawera Lavash (Waiheke Island), & Salash Delicatessen's Bachka Salami were the best products I discovered.
They worked very well together for a decadent birthday picnic on the island of Niue too - but that's a whole 'nother travel story.
The one producer I would have liked to visit in situ was Giapo - it's basically a religious experience in ice cream if you believe those crazy Kiwi cousins. Sadly it was closed (Sunday) on the day I attended, so I had to make do with a peanut butter milkshake and an amazing chewy nutella cookie from Moustache, Auckland's milk & cookie bar right round the corner. I no complain…
While New Zealand doesn't seem to have descended into the hipster craze that has a stranglehold on Sydney, if there were hipsters they'd definitely shop at Ponsonby Central.
This former postal building houses a range of trendy eats, from South American street food at Maldito Mendez to hip warehouse style Toru Cafe who did me a mighty fine breakfast of French toast with pineapple curd, toasted coconut and lime.
There's also a marketplace with Neat Meat (a butcher that inspired my own purchases) and an engaging cheese room called The Dairy where I spent up big on aged New Zealand Gouda and smoked brie.
Your eating and shopping is fueled by a live DJ set performed by the in-house Radio Ponsonby DJ. Yep, if there were Auckland hipsters, they'd definitely be found here.
Wider Ponsonby has a lot to offer in the eating and drinking department too; in fact, it'd be easy to spend a whole day just discovering what the suburb has to offer! After a wander that spotted some excellent street art, and cute streets of houses that looked like they'd been plucked from America's Cape Cod, I earmarked a few bars, including The Golden Dawn (thus named before the Greek xenophobic neo-Nazi group emerged) to return to at a later date.
Ponsonby is also full of restaurants, with Sidart standing out as an excellent Friday lunchtime choice, as they offer up a ridiculously good value five-course lunch for $50/head. The menu is constantly changing, with new weekly menus tested out on diners on a Tuesday night. While it adheres to a level of molecular gastronomy that Sydney has already grown past, I did find the gel of pickled ginger with the sashimi dish a clever addition to the stellar array of New Zealand produce (the lamb pictured above was also a highlight).
Three Lamps Plaza, 283 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Ph: +64 9 360 2122