[Photographs: David Straight]
I first met Natalie at Metro, when she was an elfin intern who had magicked herself into a job on the late Runway Reporter, which she followed up with a stint as our web editor – only it was clear she was really there to write, which she did beautifully. We were all a bit in awe of her. Since then, she’s done everything from write about fashion to work in ad agencies. She is funny, always gentle, and brilliant at getting things made. She also knows a lot about food and so, when we both found ourselves back in Auckland at the start of 2010, we thought we’d start a food-reviewing website, which became Eat Here Now. Two years, a few supper clubs, a lot of oysters, thousands of emails and 5000 readers a month later, she leaves these shores on a one-way ticket to Europe where, conveniently, she’ll be writing about European food as our writer-at-large. I don’t blame her, but I will miss her and I hope very much that she will return. Here, she tells us what she’ll miss about eating in Auckland. SFG
Cazador is a recent discovery, but one so full of character it’s hard to forget. Eating here feels like dining at your Uncle’s in Taupo, in 1973 with Hunter S. Thompson. A gin and tonic before dinner in the snug bar. Shots of Polish cherry vodka before your meal. Game in various guises – venison heart carpaccio, pheasant, brains and livers – delicious, delicate and flavoursome. It’s a family affair, it’s easy and fun and you dine surrounded by taxidermy and lots of love. I think it’s my favourite restaurant in Auckland. 854 Dominion Road, Mt Roskill, ph 620-8730.
Takapuna Beach Cafe. The gelato shakes. Peanut butter chocolate, or coconut, or salted caramel. Fancy fish and chips under the pokutakawa trees on a summer evening. Taking a dip with a view to Rangitoto. Picnics with a bottle of white wine. This is where I take visiting friends for long, lazy eat too much brunches; where I’ve had all my special birthday and anniversary and Valentine’s day breakfasts. You can see the sea, and the food is good. There is both an offal section to the brunch menu and a delicate high tea service. 22 The Promenade, Takapuna, ph 484-0002.
I’ve had countless dinners at Coco’s Cantina, drunk litres of red wine and eaten hundreds upon hundreds of polenta chips. I’ve been on dates here, and taken my Mum, caught up with friends one on one or in large, unwieldy groups. It’s always the same – fun and friendly and a pleasure to see Damaris and Renee, always. It never lets you down. 376 Karanghape Road, Newton, ph 300 7582.
Millers Coffee. So simple. Just coffee, that’s all they sell. Some to drink, beans to take home. And that Ume plum cordial. A morning ritual, a dark soy flat white in a paper cup, a flick through the Guardian. My favourite place to drink coffee in this city. 31 Cross Street, Newton, ph 356-7322.
My Kitchen. I’ve had many in Auckland. One-woman apartment ones in Herne Bay; a generous wooden villa in Grey Lynn, a poky but perfect two-person nest in Freemans Bay, a shared flat in Grafton. They all had gas hobs and big pantries. They were all host to dinner parties, 20 people sitting on the floor/couch/spilling into the garden; or just two at the coffee table. These kitchens are where I perfected a heavy handed pour, the perfect risotto, lamb shanks, learnt to balance a vinaigrette, cater for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, nut-free – sometimes all at once. Where I learnt to gut a fish, to mash potatoes, to make icecream. How to get pizza crisp on the bottom, how to cook steak medium-rare every time. How to make something vaguely impressive when I was on my last $20 (fancy mac and cheese).Where I perfected my Old Fashioneds and learned how to clean up from a party in half an hour flat. I bought food at Nosh and Farro Fresh and New World, spices in Sandringham, cheese at Dida’s, vegetables at Fruit World, meat from the lady at the Grey Lynn Butcher, mozzarella from the nice couple at La Cigale; cooked fish we’d caught that day, tomatoes from our garden.