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Photographs: David Straight

In case you missed it, we collaborated with Matt Nash to produce a market bag last year, just in time for Christmas. They were incredibly popular and sold out well before Christmas. Lucky for you, we’ve got more on the way and they’re available for pre-order from now – get your orders in for this round by Friday January 16 and we’ll deliver by Tuesday 27 January.

To recap: these bags are made by hand here in Auckland from heavy-duty canvas, with handles made from heavyweight webbed cotton, securely sewn for heavy loads. There’s a handy pouch for your wallet and phone in the front, a canvas loop for your keys and a pouch for a wine bottle, so the bag transitions to picnic bag with ease. And – get this – it’s lined with nylon with to contain hummus spills and muddy potatoes.

After a summer of fairly intense use, we’re thrilled to report ours is bearing up well – the idea with these bags is they look good now, but they’ll also weather with age and use over time. The leather will develop a patina, the screenprint will scuff a little, though it won’t lose any of its strength or practicality. Got a special request? Send us an email and we’ll see if we can oblige.




image image imageimage imagePhotographs: David Straight

Mark our words: you’re going to see more like this. Chinoiserie occupies a narrow shopfront in a very ordinary part of Mt Albert; it’s owned by good people behind the throughly successful cafe L’Oeuf next door, which does inventive things with eggs. The fitout is beautiful: a punk sort of take on a Chinese opium den, in a space that we suspect used to be a takeout bar. Cue a very beautiful mural, plywood tables, industrial stools, drinks in jars.

In essence, Chinoiserie is a local bar that serves really good food. You order at the counter – we’re not convinced by this, but it does add to the casualness of the place – and there’s a short menu which is mostly dominated by gua bao ($8), which are a Tawanese take on a burger, served in a pillowy white bun. They’re excellent, especially the pork belly and the chicken; there are also fries with wasabi mayo ($6) and sticky chicken wings ($12) and sichuan-pepper peanuts ($8), which are nothing short of brilliant. Desserts are brilliant: you must have the doughnuts wih chocolate sauce and coconut thread ($8), sticky and coconutty.

All of which is fine by us. You can get a beer (There is Panhead by the bottle, though we think having Tiger on tap is a bit sad) or a very fine cocktail and a bao, and then if this was your local you could wander home without worrying about the pesky new drinking laws. It’s the kind of thing Auckland needs one of in every suburban shopping strip. SFG

HOURS Monday to Saturday, 4pm until midnight.

ADDRESS 4 Owairaka Avenue, Mt Albert.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings. Don’t forget to order at the bar.


DST-ODETTES1214-0395 DST-ODETTES1214-0596DST-ODETTES1214-0747 DST-ODETTES1214-0898DST-ODETTES1214-0870Photographs: David Straight

Odettes is in the City Works Depot, in a lovely high-ceilinged industrial former bus workshop, all steel beams and huge windows and a door that opens right across the front. To this, owners Clare and Joost van den Berg – they started Zus & Zo – have added handmade tiles, Japanese-ish fabrics, oiled timber and delicate blown-glass lights. It is an exercise in softness and texture and it kind of shouldn’t work in such an industrial space – and yet it does.

The food is fabulous: loosely plated and generous. There’s a brilliant saffron tortellini ($23) with yoghurt curd and green chilli and a Middle-Easternish lamb shoulder (half for $40 or whole for $69 – half is plenty) designed for sharing with tahini, chickpeas and radish – falling apart, slightly unctuous in the good way. We can highly recommend the wild mushroom, served with a mushroom doughnut and whipped feta ($17). The wagyu rump steak is perfectly cooked, beautifully charred on the outside and just past medium rare on the inside, served with a rouille, wild mushrooms and basil – an exercise in simplicity, though we question why it has to be wagyu. It’s magnificent – and good on them for serving rump – but it’s also $39, and sometimes you feel like steak but you don’t want to pay $39. (We also recently had incinerated broccoli and bullet-like chickpeas, though we’re putting these down to teething troubles because they have been very busy since the day they opened.)

Service is swift and efficient, the servings are large and the light is beautiful, so it is the kind of place you drop in at any time of the day, for coffee or breakfast or dinner – though it is best at night. You sit there with the doors wide open on a steamy Auckland evening, and the breeze tufts around you – you could be anywhere but you would mostly just like to be there. In short, it feels like how this city is meant to be. SFG

HOURS Open seven days breakfast and lunch; dinner Tuesday to Saturday.

ADDRESS Shed 5, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, ph 309-0304.











 Photographs: David Straight

Al Brown and wife Lizzie’s fridge is small. “We’re crammed,” he says. “We’ve got a tiny fridge because we’ve got a tiny kitchen – it was the only sized fridge that would fit in there.” The family moved to their Auckland villa a year or so ago, and Al recently built an outdoor kitchen, to try to gain another room over the summer at least. “I think your fridge represents your life in a way,” he says. “Ours is chaotic and crazy but full of flavour.”

Sirloin steak – from Black Rock Butchery which is owned by Nosh. “My wife bought that and she’s done pretty well,” he says. “I go through all the steaks, looking for the marbling – can you see the marbling on the lower one?” He likes sirloin because it is the intersection between cost and flavour: it’s cheap, but it tastes as good as scotch or fillet. “And look at that fat cap! I know you’re not supposed to eat it but the dog never gets it in our house.”

Butter. Several types, since Al’s daughter Connie is a baking nut. Though she doesn’t like Al’s butter, produced by Oamaru’s Whitestone Cheese. “They like generic butter,” he says. “They don’t really like anything I do, actually!”

Cheese, though it’s more generic than you might expect. “We shop like everyone else – if we want feta on a Wednesday night salad, it won’t be the most expensive.”

On the second shelf down there, that’s a huge Christmas cake, made by Lizzie.

Colman’s Mustard. It’s a classic. We have a lot of mustard,” says Al. “That little shmear on the side of the plate.”

In fact, as well as mustard there is an entire shelf of condiments. “We’re just loaded with them.” In the fridge at the moment: harissa, eggplant kasundi from Depot, vinaigrettes, chutney and who knows what else. They might eat steak cooked on the outdoor grill, salad and some kind of carb, say, and it will be cooked quite simply – but in the middle of the table there will be half a dozen condiments. “That’s the heritage of New Zealand food – we were a frugal bunch,” he says. “With a fridge full of condiments you can throw something together pretty quickly.”








Photographs: David Straight

Janken means paper scissor rock in Japanese, and we think it’s a much better word than ours. An adorable space on Jervois Road, there is concrete and ply and a giant map of the world on the wall. There are industrial fittings and timber modernist chairs and in this way it could be one of those cute little places down a back street in Omotesando with three tables and a sense of calm.

We love it, especially on a Tuesday night when you don’t feel like cooking and you just want to be looked after, and you come here and the joint is full of families and they cook you up the crockpot chicken ($26), which is almost not Japanese, but who really minds? The chicken is falling off the bone, and it becomes Japanese thanks to the lightest of teriyaki sauces. The seafood miso nabe ($27) comes out bubbling over a small flame, and recently we ate the dashi snapper ($28) – snapper with the skin on, tomatoes, and a stock with sake, bonito and kelp – light, delicate, full of clean flavours. The starters are more traditional – fabulous pork belly buns, only in this incarnation they come with kunekune pork ($10.50); wagyu beef tataki with a yuzu citrus sauce ($18)

It is genius, evidently, but it’s also organic, free-range and occasionally macrobiotic. There is a sense of care and of taking time: just what Auckland needs right now.

HOURS Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday.

ADDRESS 158 Jervois Road, Herne Bay, ph 360-0555.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Janken is tiny, but it does take bookings.