Must Eats, Auckland and Beyond with Alana Lowes

My pick of the menu is the sashimi kingfish – as the cold clear waters surrounding New Zealand are the perfect breeding grounds for incredible seafood.

I’m not here to talk about pretty outlooks or riding rapids, I just want to share with you mouth-watering dishes and fresh produce.

From the moment you touch down in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, you don’t have to venture too far to uncover some of the best restaurants and produce in the country. Think plump, sweet strawberries, fresh kingfish, naked natural oysters and famous wines, all ready to be greedily consumed on a North Island gourmand getaway. Farmers markets and exciting restaurants capture the best of what the Land of the Long White Cloud has on offer.


One of my favourite Kiwi chefs, Al Brown, is kicking big round golden goals with his NZ interpretation of the Montreal-bagel at his newest establishment, Best Ugly. I know what you are asking “why Best Ugly?” Think about it... If you were punched, rolled, boiled and fired, you wouldn’t look your best either. Al first discovered his love of the hand-made, wood fired bagel while living in Montreal back in the 80s. Each of his bagels are individually hand-rolled, simmered in honey-water and then fired using NZ’s famed Manuka hard wood.

You would be forgiven for thinking you are on holiday in Japan upon entering Everybody’s bar and eatery. Executive chef Nick Honeyman has taken Izakaya style as his muse to design his menus. In urban Japan, Izakaya is a popular drinking establishment that serves inexpensive food to be shared. My pick of the menu is the sashimi kingfish – as the cold clear waters surrounding New Zealand are the perfect breeding grounds for incredible seafood. Of course all dishes should be washed down with a little sip of sake.

For a real local delicacy and a popular Kiwiana snack, stop off at La Cigalle French Markets. Among the artisan breads and pastry stalls is the very simple whitebait fritter serve on top of white bread with lots of salt and pepper.

Hawkes Bay

If you’re after a break from the dining table, and feel the need to be active, then get to Havelock North in the Hawkes Bay region. Jump on a push-bike and pedal around on a food tour, tasting local fare along the way. Loads of companies offer cycling food tours, but make sure you request a stop-over for the chance to PYO (pick-your-own) strawberries at The Strawberry Patch. My guide to picking your strawberries is pretty simple – pick the biggest reddest strawberries you can find! My (very) sweet tooth has gorged on quite a few and washed them down with a real fruit smoothie.

I am known to love a drop of vino (or two) and The Hawkes Bay region is famous for producing some of the world’s best. Craggy Range Winery is nestled at the base of Te Mata Peak and the cellar door has an impressive outlook of the rocky mountain. They are most famous for their elegant Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, which are widely available in Australia. Keep an eye out on their website for their many long lunches and food festivals, you might just be there at the right time to celebrate with the locals.

Bay of Islands

The whole of the North Island of New Zealand is bulging with incredible produce, from the Hawkes Bay in the south to the Bay of Islands region in the north, and it is here you will discover one of my favourite delicacies – oysters.

Orongo Bay oysters are a speciality of the Bay and are defined by their round plump shape with a fresh light seawater taste. I have a penchant for slurping them straight from the opened shell bought directly from the shop at the oyster farm. If you prefer a more conventional setting, head to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, where the salty molluscs are served with white balsamic, lemon and Tabasco sauce.

Plan Your North Island Gourmand Getaway

Flights to Auckland: Virgin Australia operates flights to Auckland every day, from Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Melbourne.

Auckland Holiday Packages: Experience all that Auckland has to offer, Virgin Australia Holidays has a great array of Auckland holiday packages. Packages include flights, accommodation and a great variety of extras.

North Island Car Hire: Take to the road and discover the North Island’s most intimate locales. Book a car for pick up at Auckland Airport, and receive great rates from our car hire partners.  

North Island Hotels: Establish a great base from which to experience the splendour of New Zealand’s North Island. Select from a wide choice of hotels with our hotel partner Agoda.

More About Alana

Alana Lowes is a celebrity cook of MasterChef pedigree, and has travelled the world co-hosting the television show ‘A Taste of Travel’ on Channel Ten.

Alana has just embarked on a new adventure with the launch of her own Alana’s Pantry Spicy Sauce range available at Coles Supermarkets nationally. Inspired by her travels globally, she has bottled up the flavours of the world into her range of gourmet hot sauces.

Discover where Alana is jetting off to next or what’s on her dinner plate, follow her on Instagram and Twitter @AlanaLowes.

Words by Alana Lowes - Published 7 October 2013
Quick Facts 
Population 1.415 million
Area 1,086 km2
Time Zone GMT +12
Languages English (official)
Currency New Zealand dollar (NZD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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