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Photographs: David Straight

Back in 1992, Il Mee opened at the top of Queen Street in an Edwardian stretch of shops which, back then, we called Chinatown. These days that windswept stretch is mostly Korean, and yet Il Mee is still our favourite, a comforting slice straight out of 1990s Auckland. There is wood panelling, peach walls, green-topped tables and elegant dark chairs. There are posters for Korean brands, wishy washy water colours – and the All Blacks.

You’ll recognize the menu. It runs through Korean standards, from sizzling squid to noodle soup though there are a few variants, like the enormous pile of barbecued beef you can get for about $45. There is Hite and Lion Red in the beer fridge. They do an excellent bibimbab – I like the spicy kim chi, dol sot kimchi bok um bab ($12), which comes with lashings of kimchi and is topped with a fried egg and dried seaweed for good measure. There is also gal bi tang ($12) – a garlicky beef brisket soup. Recently, we ate steamed dumplings ($12), delicate and light, scattered with sesame seeds. It’s reliable, comforting, a reminder that Auckland wasn’t always as vanilla as we like to make out. SFG


ADDRESS 480 Queen Street, City, ph 303-0150.

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