The Auckland Arts Festival starts today, and there’s nothing that makes you feel more cultured and in control of your life than dinner and a show. Here’s a guide on where to eat before or after.
You’re seeing a show at: Academy Cinemas, Auckland Town Hall, Auckland Art Gallery, Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Q Theatre or Aotea Square
BBQ Duck Cafe
My number one recommendation for a quick pre-show meal in this vicinity is always BBQ Duck Cafe, which will get you in and out under 30 minutes, no problem. Just stick to the usual roast duck on rice, and you’ll be golden.
350 Queen St, central city
So it’s not the closest eatery to the venue, but the Fed always puts you in a good mood for a show. It might be the New York diner vibes, which years of American television have brainwashed into associating with Broadway, or the fact you can skulk in by your lonesome and shovel in a chicken sammie before meeting your perpetually-late friend outside Q Theatre. Great for a post-theatre feed, too.
86 Federal St, central city
Speaking of eating on your lonesome… You can find Queens Court by weaving deep past for-lease shops in this sad, empty retail building; the food court is usually hopping, with people eating from Bombay Chinese, Ha Noi Corner, Bite Brazilian Eatery and more. We recommend Bite Brazilian: unpretentious meat, veg and chips.
368 Queen St, central city
This inner-city Korean favourite is made for a pre-show hustle: busy, vibrant, tasty. Dishes come quickly and individually, so you don’t have to faff around deciding on sharing plates for large groups. It also has a relatively large menu for a Korean restaurant, meaning fussy eaters should be able to find something to love here without much bother.
47 High St, central city
I can’t write a pre-show meal guide without including Tanuki’s Cave, which is perfect because you can eat as little or as much as your heart desires. It’s a yakitori bar where you get two sticks per serving, and I’d be careful with this one – it’s remarkably easy for your tab to slowly inch up.
319 Queen St, central city
Oh, oui, oui. I never feel more French than I do when I eat at Le Garde Manger, which has the vibes right down to the cliche red and white tablecloths. They serve wine by the carafe and savoury crepes (galettes) with hearty – often cheesy – sauces.
466 Queen St, central city
Along the Upper Queen Street strip are a handful of nocturnal Korean restaurants which serve soju till the wee hours of the morning, perfect for post-show dissections. Even better – their crazy range of different fried chicken, which, in my opinion, is among the best communal meals you can share.
472 Queen St, central city
You’re seeing a show at: ASB Waterfront Theatre
This is the OG pre-ASB Waterfront Theatre meal, where food and service are both quick and easy, and spicy means spicy. We enjoy the coconut-laden curries and the fact we’re mostly left more or less alone to let all our chatter out before having to sit quietly for one or two hours.
12 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter
If you’re not feeling particularly hungry yet, gather around some drinks and pre-show bar snacks at Wynyard Pavilion. The place is huge so you won’t be fighting for a table, which is music to our ears.
17 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter
There’s always going to be one member of the party that insists on “dining somewhere nice, guys, I only get to go out, like, once a month.” If that’s the case, then I’d recommend Baduzzi. It’s on our Top 50 Restaurants, and the vibe is smart and a little special. It’s easy to make it a long and languid meal or, alternatively, short and speedy.
10-26 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter
Auckland Fish Market
This is my top pick for families. You might get ripped off a little bit, but that’s the price we pay for convenience, and, well, the Fish Market is very convenient. There’s a range of stalls in there and the kids can just have a simple fish and chips, while the adults can get something more sophisticated at Azabu Light.
22-32 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter
You’re seeing a show at: Hollywood Avondale
Call in for some crowd-pleasing food where you can pick and mix the pasta and sauces and not pay any more than $22 (you can even get a dish for $10 if you just want butter and cheese). There’s a particularly tasty dessert, too, the torto ceprese della nonna, which is somehow both rich and light and a recipe from owner Fran Mazza’s own family.
1790A Great North Rd, Avondale
If you’re out in Avondale, let’s just say I assume you have a car. Four minutes up the road is Bunga Raya, a Malaysian restaurant that may possibly have the best Hainanese chicken in Auckland, and a great no-nonsense type of approach to their service. I’m a bit of a fan of the Tropical chilli fish, too.
2a/3062 Great North Rd, New Lynn
You’re seeing a show at: Bruce Mason Theatre
You’re spoilt for choice in Takapuna – which, if you’re a city slicker who rarely ventures over the bridge, has a high concentration of restaurants, actually – but the best place for a quick feed is still Burger Burger, out on Fortieth and Hurstmere, Taka’s infamous dining lane. You’ve been to Burger Burger, so you know the drill.
40 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna
I will never not recommend slurping up a laksa at Mamak, which will get you nice and awake and ready for Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus, which I assume you’re seeing.
6 Huron St, Takapuna