Best places to eat in Auckland according to chef Peter Gordon

From Asian-fusion feasts at Hello Beasty to fish and chips at FishSmith, the “godfather of fusion cooking” shares his top food picks in the world’s biggest Polynesian city.

New Zealand’s most populous city sprawls across an isthmus between two harbours, its downtown commercial district perched on the waterfront of the Waitematā, a spiky cluster of skyscrapers and sails. Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population – and one of the most culturally diverse populations – in the world, and its refreshingly unique food culture is heavily inspired by this multiculturalism, along with the region’s fertile volcanic soils and its bounty of seafood.

As founding chef of a number of Auckland restaurants over the past few decades, including The Sugar Club, which remains at the top of the city’s Sky Tower, internationally acclaimed chef Peter Gordon has long been associated with the cutting edge of the city’s culinary scene. And after more than 30 years based in London, his restaurants building his reputation as the “godfather of fusion cooking”, Gordon returned to Auckland in 2020 to create something he’d long yearned for: a “food embassy for Aotearoa [New Zealand] and the Pacific”.

Gordon has Scottish and Māori ancestry (Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu are his tribal affiliations), and Homeland – his restaurant, cooking school and artisan food store – is a vehicle to showcase the Māori concept of manaākitanga – hospitality, generosity, compassion – via the sharing of food and the preparation that goes into it. Gordon has a nose for finding delicious and innovative food that’s demonstrative of the city’s cultural and geographical landscape. Here, he shares some of his top picks.

Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and boasts Māori culinary history stretching back at least 700 years. How do those elements influence the city’s food scene?

As a youth, I’d travel to Auckland for the school holidays and back then, there wasn’t anything Pacific-influenced about the food. More recently you might find [Pacific] Island food at the weekend produce markets at Otara and Avondale, but it was kind of seen as only for Pacific people.

Chef Peter Gordon opened Homeland – a restaurant, cooking school and artisan food store – in 2020 (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

But that’s started to change within the past decade, and it’s exciting. Hāngi is being rediscovered. It’s the oldest way of cooking in New Zealand and methods like it feature around the Pacific Islands too. It’s an earth oven: we dig a big hole in the ground and put rocks in, or even big railway sleepers and steel car parts; anything that retains the heat. We lower baskets full of food on top and cover it: these days it’s with hessian sacks but traditionally it was woven flax, then soil. The food cooks away for hours. I once cooked hāngi for 800 or more: a whole sheep rubbed with smoked paprika and fennel seeds and wrapped in banana leaf. You can’t really dig a pit at a restaurant, but more people than ever are able to enjoy hāngi thanks to people like Rewi Spraggon – the Hāngi Master. He cooks the hāngi pork belly and beef we have on the menu at Homeland, and makes things for another downtown restaurant, Ahi, too.

At Sweet and Me in the suburb of Onehunga, chef Bert Jang’s Fijian influences his baking; he uses ingredients from the Islands where he can, like koko Samoa [Samoan cacao]. We are a nation of pie lovers and I love that Blue Rose Cafe in Sandringham is doing these fusion pies, marrying the European pastry traditions with Pacific flavours. The lu’au pie is filled with taro leaf, coconut cream, onion and cream cheese; the palusami [a traditional Samoan dish] version has the addition of corned beef – corned beef is big across the Pacific; they also do a hāngi pie too.

Living close to Homeland in Wynyard Quarter, what are your favourite food and drink spots in this waterfront precinct?

For coffee, we go to Rushworth, right by the water on North Wharf – they always make it so well, with Allpress beans. Williams is a lovely spot to meet people, especially on a sunny day when you sit outside – they put all their energy into doing really good breakfast and lunch. I love their bacon and egg buns in the morning.

According to Peter Gordon, “we do a really good brunch at Homeland” (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

La Petite Fourchette has these elegant, delicate cakes I like to take home; recently they had one with cherry, it was super glossy and red on the outside with chocolate, mousse and sponge; [and] the croque monsieur is worth trying.

I love that we can swim in Wynyard Quarter – even though there are all these boats in the marina, the water is clear, well-monitored and clean; we swim there nearly every day in summer where the big steps enter the water beside Park Hyatt. After a swim, order a cocktail at Captain’s Bar in the hotel; I’d have a negroni or one of the rum cocktails.

Crossing the bridge over the Viaduct Basin to Downtown Auckland, where would you make a beeline for?

Kingi has a funky, chic, elegant-yet-earthy dining room and [chef and owner] Tom Hishon does amazing things with fish; they really understand it and care about sustainability. Try it all: oysters, cured fish, the deep-fried Chatham Islands blue cod wings – the wings are a part that would often just be thrown away. I took Yotam Ottolenghi there and he loved it.

The deep-fried Chatham Islands blue cod wings are a top pick at Kingi (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

The deep-fried Chatham Islands blue cod wings are a top pick at Kingi (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

Alma does things close to my heart, it makes me feel like I’m in Spain. It was awarded the city’s best restaurant last year; the design is beautiful, the service always really good, and they put playful dishes on the menu. I like Cafe Hanoi for modern Vietnamese food and cocktails, and for something special we’d go to Mr Morris, [the chef and owner] Michael Meredith is one of the city’s great chefs and has been bringing touches of Samoan culture to his cooking for years.

Hello Beasty is possibly my favourite Auckland restaurant and one we visit often – the atmosphere is great, the food so interesting… fresh, flavoursome and punchy, and it looks great on the plate – and they play good music, which is a bonus. They even make their own tofu. The owner Stu is pretty much always there in the kitchen; he does the Asian-fusion vibe that I love so well.

I’m a rum fan and the Huckleberry (with fig) is a standout at Panacea – it’s a little hideaway cocktail space (not really a bar) serving inventive and whimsical small batch cocktails made by either Dany or his co-creator, Theo.

Alma is a slice of Spain in Auckland, serving up bright and bold dishes with Andalusian flavours (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

Alma is a slice of Spain in Auckland, serving up bright and bold dishes with Andalusian flavours (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

Auckland is a series of villages spread across the isthmus; what draws you out of the city and into the suburbs? 

I love everything on Karangahape Rd, from The Caker to Coco’s Cantina, sex shops to night clubs to drag queens. It feels very Hackney in London. We ate a beautiful dish of hearts there the other night at Bar Celeste.

Speaking of hearts, Cazador’s [chef] Dariush is so clever, cooking game and offal: hearts and [other] bits and pieces. I love the fact this restaurant, on Dominion Rd in the suburbs, is second-generation, and its deli side is great, especially the charcuterie they make. Dominion Rd is a really fun place to explore when you’re not in a rush, it’s like an extended Chinatown stretching down a long road through several suburbs. Petaling Malaysian [also on Dominion Rd] is extraordinary – just so tasty – they cook seafood well and the rendang is delicious.

At Carmel Israeli Street Food in Eden Terrace, you can bite down into the fluffiest pita packed full of crisp salad, tahini sauce, falafel or meat. Everything is punchy flavoured and so fresh. And the babka – creamy lemon or Nutella – are fantastic.

Carmel Israeli Street Food is known for its fluffy pita-breads and fresh fillings (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

Carmel Israeli Street Food is known for its fluffy pita-breads and fresh fillings (Credit: Anna King Shahab)

I love the vibrancy of the Avondale and Otara markets, and a bit closer to the city we like to shop at Grey Lynn Farmers Market on a Sunday morning. It has a social vibe, amazing produce and you get to meet the people who have grown or produced what they’re selling.

What are a few Auckland food traditions not to be missed?

Fish and chips is a tradition here: order them from FishSmith in Herne Bay and take them down to one of the nearby beaches where you can sit and look out towards the Chelsea Sugar Factory.

Kiwis love brunch, and I do think we do a really good brunch at Homeland. I love our hāngi pork, served on a paratha and topped with roast bananas and a seasonal condiment; recently it was feijoa kasundi – feijoas are a very Auckland fruit. Our kedgeree is lovely, with whatever type of smoked fish is best at the time, and our creamed paua on toast hasn’t been able to leave the menu, it’s so loved. Paua is black abalone, indigenous to New Zealand waters. When I was growing up, creamed paua was a typical dish you’d see on the marae [hub of a Māori community] but often it was a bit gross with the paua hua (stomach or roe) and gloopy bechamel sauce. Our version at Homeland is really good paua meat with onion, cream and butter and a tiny bit of gluten-free flour. Sometimes customers get a bit emotional and teary when they eat it.


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