Saturday, March 3, 2012


I love Auckland. When we drove into the city on Tuesday morning and I was tired and grumpy and complaining about everything, the words just came out, and I meant them as much as I had meant it when I said I hate being awake. I don't need to go away to know this, but I have become one of those dicks who can't help comparing new places with home, and they are often found wanting, and it makes me happy. But I digress. The last time we went to Wellington, I had several hours to kill on my own while Vincent went to the All Whites game, and having no idea of where was good, I looked in Groove Guide, found a bar that had the same bands playing that a bar I like in Auckland had the weekend before, and off I went. It kind of worked; the bar itself was cool, but since I arrived at about 5pm when the bar-lady was still wiping down the bar and putting down chairs, it was a bit lonely. Eventually I found myself a bottle shop and got drunk in a bad movie instead. I'm digressing again. This time, Vincent got online and looked up things to do and places to eat, and then checked reviews and locations and menus, and we made our list accordingly. (He's a very clever man.) Anyway, it made me think how useful it would have been to have recommendations from someone like us: young(-ish), discerning(-ish), and with not a whole lot of money. And then, on Tuesday, when I was at work trying to stay awake, I started to think about my favourite places in Auckland, and how good they are... and so here, friends, is my guide to Auckland City.

- Alleluya, St Kevin's Arcade. I like Alleluya for lots of reasons, one of which is predictability. The food isn't bad. The coffee isn't great. And I can always rely on these things; I never expect anything to be the same as it was the week before, so I'm never disappointed (and when you don't like mornings much anyway, avoiding disappointment is crucial). This probably isn't a selling point for you though, so I will also tell you that the manager is always cheery and nice and has cool tattoos, the food comes out quickly, the cabinet is always full of cakes, and St Kevin's Arcade is always beautiful. I recommend the bruschetta and breakfast burrito, the bread & butter pudding, and putting Kaitaia Fire on everything. (Also, I always get Teza, currently in the feijoa and lime flavour.)

- Rakinos, High Street. If coffee is the thing that stops you from committing morning-murder, then I recommend Rakinos. I've been going to Rakinos since my first year at uni; I hated my course, so I would go there instead of going to class, drink coffee, read all of their magazines, and try to look cool. The place has changed a lot since then, and I think for the better; as Sunbeam said back in her Home Town Glory post, the three brothers working there make it feel a bit like you're in a dream fifties milk-bar, plus they give me a feeling of stability (not hindered by the fact that if I walk in before eleven-thirty a.m. the one who is usually on the counter is already reaching for a savoury muffin before I've opened my mouth. The savoury muffins there are the best.)

- The Don, Canterbury Arcade, between Queen Street & High Street. $5.50 Takoyaki. It'll get you through till lunchtime.

- Khao Thai, Chancery Lane. They have a $10 takeaway/$12 dine-in lunch menu that's quick and yum (I get the pad thai). Fridays aren't so quick though; lame office lunch groups who all want to pay separately and never have cash.
- Renkon, Durham Street East. Chicken Katsu. My food-anchor.

Happy Hours
- Rakinos. Happy hour at Raks starts at three, making it earlier than anywhere I know except strip clubs. The staff changes over, which is a bit of a bummer, but the view over Freyberg Square is lovely, you can smoke out on the deck, and they have Asahi on tap for $6. The perennial is the sparkling feijoa wine which they've had since I was seventeen and goes straight to your head (also $6 during happy hour).
- The Bluestone Room, Durham Lane. Happy hour is Mon-Thurs 5-6, Friday 5-7, Sat 8-10. There really isn't a better happy hour than Bluestone's. $5 Monteith's pints (they used to be $4!), $16 jugs, and for special occasions, obnoxious beer towers for $25. The happy hour crowd is a motley crew of nerdy office types, travellers, and us; so no-one owns it, and no-one makes anyone feel stink (except the middle-aged motorbike club member whose bike stalled that time). Bluestone is also where I met my wonderful Bluestone crew (yes that's really what we call ourselves), and for that it will always hold a special place in  my heart and a rotten section of my liver.

- Cheap and Yum: Food Alley, Albert Street. I would probably starve if not for Food Alley; when Vincent is working and I'm watching bad tv and can't be bothered getting food, the thought of a Wang Thong Massaman curry gets me off the couch. My other picks are the Sukiyaki from Thai Noodles, and the Malaysian chicken curry with roti from the place upstairs. If you're taking it home, Lemon 1000 is the the drink, otherwise they have beers from $4 (making it a good post-happy hour option).
- Rowdy and Yum: Ken's Yakitori, K Rd.
- With a group of friends: Coco's Cantina, K Rd.
- With one friend: Cassette Nine, Vulcan Lane. The pizzas are simple but nice, and you can get a booth or sit out on the patio, and get two Beck's for $10.
- Fish & Chips: Queen's Ferry Hotel, Vulcan Lane. This is probably better at lunchtime, but anyway, if you want fish & chips, this is where I'd go, and that's big of me since I declared war on the place after an uppity bar-dick marched up to me as I put my bag down and demanded ID. I was 26.
- With your Mum: Tanuki's restaurant, Queen Street. The cave is fun if you can be bothered waiting for a table, but the restaurant has better food, more light, and is still pretty laid-back.

- Rakinos. I realise this has already featured twice, but I like places I know. Besides which, you're guaranteed to hear at least one of your favourite forgotten nineties hip hop gems, you can dance, happy hour goes till nine, and if company sucks, there's enough light coming in the front windows so you can read.
- Cassette Nine. About once a month, on a Wednesday, Cassette has Bitchin' Bingo, which we have been to once and came away with a bottle of $80 vodka, Santa hats, and not much less money than we took, one of our group having won a bar-tab. We also got to hear things like "G-55, muff-dive" and "I-27, how was Kevin?". I liked it a lot.
- Wine Cellar, St Kevin's Arcade. This is where to go if you want to hear a good band, or good triumph over evil. Wine Cellar attracts some posers, but I will tell you how to deal with them. The first time I went there was with my two sisters. While out in the courtyard having a cigarette, one of them was stared down with daggers by an indie bitch who obviously thought my sister didn't belong there.

My sister: Having a blunt fringe and a bad dress doesn't make you bohemian.

When I went out to see why she'd been so long, she was surrounded by people, who had seen the whole thing and thought it was awesome, plus the drinks some of them had bought her.
Good: 1, Evil: 0.

There are lots of okay bars as well, and I don't go out much after ten these days so there are tons I don't know about. I'll just tell you which ones to avoid at all costs: Sale St, the entire Viaduct, and Ponsonby Road (this isn't strictly Auckland City, but it's close by).

- Auckland City Mission Shop, Hobson Street. This is one of the few, and definitely the best, thrift shops in the city. As well as being well-priced, I think it's where Recycle Boutique takes things that haven't sold or been picked up; at least that's how I explain my $12 Liz Mitchell trousers. And it feels right to spend money in the city that will help people in the city.
- Tango, Little High Street. Going to Tango is an experience. The place is full of vintage furniture, art, jewellery, and glorious clothes, and the proprietor - who is one of the most stylish people in the city - knows about every single piece. The designer vintage is well-priced and beautiful, and even though I can't afford most of what I see, I still like to go there.
- Aunty Mavis, St Kevin's Arcade. Aunty Mavis is a little treasure trove of Crown Lynn and other bits and pieces you might have found around the house in the fifties. Stock changes all the time so when you see something you'd best get it, and although there is eftpos, things are sometimes cheaper if you pay by cash. The owner, Alison, is lovely, and knows everything about Crown Lynn; some of her amazing collection was part of the exhibition that was at Te Papa last year.
- Search & Destroy, St Kevin's Arcade. For the most part, I resent inner-city vintage stores; they take the fun out of going through rack after smelly rack of old-lady clothes, and they plunder all of the suburban thrift shops and price up ridiculously, most of the time not even bothering to mend or even curate properly. Search & Destroy, however, is full of good stuff that is priced according to its worth. I bought my favourite trousers from here, and although they have a stain that hasn't come out, they're still worth every cent of the $10 they cost me, and I think the time I bought a jumper with rolled up sleeves and took it home to find that was because the wrist of one had been chopped off, was funny. There's no eftpos, so take cash.
- Vixen, St Kevin's Arcade. More vintage, more expensive, but full of things you wouldn't find in a thrift shop; leather boots, fiftties bodices, and fantastic eighties cocktail dresses.
- Pauanesia, High Street. This is where you'll find presents to take home that you won't find anywhere else; the shop is a one-off and most things are commissioned exclusively.
- Real Groovy, Queen Street. The best time to go to Real Groovy is on a Friday night; it's all loner audiophiles flicking through the boxes of vinyl at the back of the store. While Vincent was in Christchurch, I was one of them, and it was comforting to know that we were all lonely and really just killing time. It can be an expensive way to kill time though; I find it nearly impossible to leave empty-handed. (Sidenote: I hate vouchers, but if you must...)
- Jason Books, O'Connell Street. This is where you'll find the best secondhand books in the city, including some brilliant books about NZ and the Pacific.

Things To Do
- Auckland Art Gallery, Kitchener Street. This was reopened last year and is about a million times better than it used to be (which was fine). If you go, pop into the kids' section and look at the mural through one of the provided kaleidoscopes; it looks like acid.
- Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Domain. This isn't exactly in the city but it's one of the best things in Auckland so I'm adding it anyway.
- Judges Bay, Parnell. This is a beautiful little beach with pontoons you can dive off, a pier you can bomb from, and lots of families. It's also just below a lovely old chapel and cemetery which are worth having a nose around.
- The Room at The Academy, Lorne Street. The Academy is a small, independent cinema underneath the public library. The Room is one of the worst films ever made, and is screened at ten p.m. on the first Friday of every month. You will want to get drunk first, (but hope that the projectionist hasn't done the same; the last time we went, one of the reels was upside down and took about an hour to fix) and avoid the owner; he's embarrassingly douchey. If you want to see a normal movie, Tuesday night is cheap night.

I'll probably want to add to this later, but that's everything I can think of now. Everything is on the cheap side, and most is within a 500m radius of where I live (as my sister put it, I'm quite sedentary). If you have anything to add, please do! It's a wonderful city - the best in the world, my Dad once said (he's been to more cities than I have) - and it makes me really happy when people who don't live here say they like it too. Auckland, yuss!

Later additions:
- Britomart Country Club, Britomart. Early afternoon is best, so you can get a few drinks in and find the over-coiffed people who arrive later amusing instead of just cringe-worthy, and because it's partly outside you get to see the light fade but still be warm under the lovely big heaters. Food recommendations are the spicy beef salad and cabo del sol pizza, and drink recommendations are the jugs of sangria (or mulled wine, now that it's winter - I'm adding this in June), or the hot chocolate with gingerbread syrup, which I want to take behind a middle school and get pregnant.


  1. I love this! Finally, a list of innercity hotspots that actually make sense! I was up at K'rd the other day and blew half my weekly paycheck at the 2nd hand stores (topped off with a slice of Sal's at the end.. woohoo!) - but it was so worth it because even though the opshops here on Waiheke are dirt cheap it's not often you find as good quality and stylish clothes as K'rd. some others to add, and i'm sure you would agree, are Jason's Books on O'Connell St and Pathfinders on Lorne St for bookshops... also I don't know if this counts as innercity but have you been to Bread and Butter Letter on Symonds St yet? It's a cutesy boutique that's kind of a cross between Aunty Mavis and Pauanesia.... anyway somebody said to me the other day 'Screw Wellington... it's better that there's some of us up here than all of us being down there' - meaning artsy/crafty types, which is so true. We need to stick around and make the city an awesome place! Also, I LOVE that your sister set that girl straight. She may have been "Indie" but definately not bohemian.

    1. Dammit, just replied but forgot to hit this... I remembered jason's later and must have changed it before I saw this! Also, sorry about all my exclamation marks; you can imagine the gesticulations if we had this conversation in person :)

  2. Awesome, thank you! I've been meaning to go to Bread and Butter letter, I'll go next week!I know, we kept reading stuff that said Wellington is the arts and culture capital but that's such rubbish! Our population is far more diverse, we have lots more independent boutiques, and our arts scene is vibrant! People seem to have trouble grasping the financial centre of a country also being rich in other things... It makes me so happy hearing your call to stay here and make it awesome! If there are things wrong, they're not going to fix themselves! xo