My Un-Sung Auckland Food Heroes
Here are my un-sung Auckland food heroes, the guys who make a big difference in my food life, you won’t find any fine dining restaurants or $250,000 door handles here, just hard working businesses offering great food, service and general hospitality.
Giapo Ice Cream and Research Kitchen
279 Queen Street, just next to the Civic Theatre
If you haven’t had ice cream from Giapo on Queen Street you simply haven’t had the best of Auckland. This place is incredible! Amazing ice cream from amazing chefs serving some of the best and most unique Ice cream. What makes them different to your average ice cream, well try ordering the crème brulee flavour and you are given a very creamy crème brulee flavour and to top it off shards of the burnt sugar that you would usually get on the top of your restaurant crème brulee. There are essences and sprays all over the counter and every ice cream is finished with its own special touch. That’s what makes them the first of my Auckland Food Heroes.
I’m not sure who the heroes are? Is it the tea totallers or the café in Milford? For now I’m going to stick with the tea, I love a few brands of tea and Tea Total is one I have written about quite a few times in my high tea reviews at http://www.chefkevinblakeman.com/book-and-restaurant-reviews most of the high teas use Tea Total so that says a lot first. They have over 160 flavours and most of them are pretty outstanding. It’s hard to pick a favourite and to be honest there’s no way to have tasted them all. So far my top 2 are Otago Summer Fruits and the Cherry tea. Head over to the Tea Total Café in Milford and you’ll find a decent café and all of the teas available, you will also have the opportunity to nose your way through the whole range before buying a cup, a take away sachet or a whole packet of the tea flavours for yourself.
2/229 SH 17, Albany, North Shore
This may seem a strange one to add in if you know the place. Tucked away in old Albany it’s in the collection of shops, restaurants and cafés which have been greatly affected since the opening of another mall a few years back. Since then businesses have opened and shut and changed hands several times. However one business that has remained open and running seemingly well is Opium café. There are a few reasons why I have chosen them. The service is always immaculately friendly, the food is tasty and centered around kebabs and it’s also incredibly affordable. The value for money is brilliant a kebab and salad with sauce for around $10 and that of course comes with rice or a delicious salad.
Ok you may say I am a little biased because I am the demonstration chef at the Hobsonville Market Kitchen but I have something to back me up in my selection. They were recently in the annual national search to find the best Framers’ market in NZ and were voted by the public as Auckland’s best Farmers’ market beating off some stiff competition. Individually the producers inside create some magical things some of which won individual awards at the afore mentioned Farmers’ market awards. Ron the Salmon Man won best in the country from the sea and Naaz curry paste finished second overall in the product categories to name a couple. You also have Farm Gate Produce LTD who supply the best pork you can get, Earthbound Honey sell possibly the best organic honey in the country, Rockhaven estate have mind blowing olive oils and Country Fresh sell the best fresh produce you can possible put your hands on and it’s all seasonal as well. Add to this all the other producers, the cool idea of FREE cash out for market buyers and the Market kitchen in which I (and occasionally others) create dishes for sampling using market produce and you have a pretty sensational farmers market.
Albany Chinese Restaurant
198-200 State Highway 17 North Shore 0632
Again you would be forgiven for thinking I have lost my mind but this is no ordinary Chinese restaurant. It’s relatively new and we stumbled upon it after a recommendation but before heading there I didn’t have much hope. It’s simply called the Albany Chinese Restaurant and can be found next to GPK on the Old Albany Highway. The first thing that strikes me EVERYTIME I go there is it is heaving and everyone in there is Chinese and that’s always a good sign. The portions are massive and 1 meal with rice or similar would suffice two people. Also its proper Chinese family style service with huge bowls sitting on the table for everyone to share. The staff are great and I fully believe this is the best Chinese restaurant AT LEAST in Auckland. You must go there.
Crescent Dairy Goats Cheese – Kumeu
177A Taupaki Road, KUMEU
When I was head chef at Allely house I used to get my Goats cheese from just up the road, around a 10 minute walk from the restaurant. It’s a family run goat farm and when you head out to Kumeu its worth taking the two minute drive up Taupaki road (off the new roundabout outside Allely House) to sample and see the happy goats playing on the farm.
They moved from Albany to Taupaki Road in 2009 and have an incredible range of cheeses from a simple but delicious Chevrolait which is a French styled soft cheese to a unique cheese layered with nettles.
41 Elliot St, Auckland CBD
I love Elliott Stables and in truth don’t get there enough I wish there was more dining spots around Auckland like it. You may say it’s just a food court but take a mall food court and the products you get there and then take a look at Elliott stables, the quality doesn’t compare. I love the bruschetteria and Frankie’s the sausage place especially. Just writing about it makes me want to go there now perhaps I will.
Glenfield Night Market
Car Park at Glenfield Mall
I wrote about this on my website http://www.chefkevinblakeman.com/site_map/glenfield-night-market. Did you know in Asian countries there is a way of life which is known as street food? I have yet to experience it but it’s up there on the bucket list and I have a particular yearning to visit Vietnam. The theatre of eating the local delicacies really speaks to me and I have heard that grasshoppers are particularly good.
Glenfield night market which runs every Sunday from 5.30-11pm. It is a condensed version of street food with stalls from all over Asia (and a few from elsewhere) crammed into the Glenfield Mall car park. Initially I thought it would probably be the same as many other “farmers/food markets” including crafts and all sorts of other non-food items but we decided to check it out anyway and we couldn’t have been more wrong and I had no idea of the experience I was in for that night. From pigs intestine to delicious Pad Thai you can find it all and the atmosphere is an absolute buzz.
Bird on a wire
234 Ponsonby Road
I discovered bird on a wire on Ponsonby Road thanks to a daily deal site and didn’t think much of it until I got there. It is a free range rotisserie chicken and must be the only takeaways where pre order would be recommended. This is how it works, you walk in and the smell of the rotisserie chickens smack you in the face and you are served by incredibly passionate staff, you have a choice of many marinades (I went for the Champignon Truffle Butter) there are sandwiches, burgers, freshly made salads, sides and meal deals and what’s more they deliver.
The food is delicious and I am surprised I still haven’t heard a lot more from these guys. The twist that I love is they are virtually next door to the horror that is KFC!
Farro Fresh especially Constellation Drive
70 Parkway Drive, Mairangi Bay, Auckland New Zealand
The final unsung hero is Farro fresh and more specifically the one on Constellation drive. Ever since this shop opened I have been relieved that finally there is a shop which is pretty much a collection of all the ingredients that I can order at work but would never get in the supermarket. I haven’t seen the other outlets but the one on Constellation is pretty much the same as a supermarket but without the limp produce and mass produced endless shelves of cans and tins.
The veg is super fresh and in most cases cheaper than the supermarkets, add to this the deli with their excellent sandwiches, huge array of NZ and imported cheeses and their collection of boutique products and you have a must visit place within Auckland.
So hope you enjoyed this and you can support some of my unsung heroes, the guys that do a great job but don’t necessarily get the praise they deserve.
I’d love to hear about your unsung food heroes.