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Photographs: David Straight

We need more places like this. Bolaven is named after the Bolaven plateau, in the high country of Laos – owner Sip Mounlath’s parents came from Laos in the 1970s and so her new restaurant has that wonderful and rare combination: cute fitout, decent wine list, authentic food. It opened a few weeks back and, as of last week, is now open three nights for dinner.

It’s lovely. Sip and friends did the fitout: timber, ply, metal, brick. It’s light-filled and bustling by day and a cozy, candle-lit space by night. Service is friendly, casual. By day there are freshly made juices and a cafe menu with Lao highlights: recently, we’ve eaten fried eggs with sticky rice and a Lao tomato chutney ($12.50), a dish that Sip serves her kids: you smudge the egg with the rice and soy sauce and chilli and make a delicious mess. And then there is pho ($19.50). A generous big bowl of beef broth with lightly charred strips of fillet and a pretty collection of additions – lime, chilli, peanuts, ginger. It makes for a perfect early lunch.

We went back for dinner and ate a sublime green vege curry ($19), grilled eggplant with lemongrass and tomatoes ($13), all gooey and grilled, as well as a fabulous salad of prawns and pan-fried squid with Lao dressing and smashed cucumber. There was caramelised pork belly with a braised egg ($22), sticky and gloriously sweet, and mok pa ($26) a package of hapuku cooked in banana leaf with lemongrass and coconut milk. Flavours are punchy and clean: it takes us straight back to Laos. Keep an eye on this one. SFG

HOURS Breakfast & lunch, seven days. Dinner, Thursday to Saturday.

ADDRESS 597 Mt Eden Road, ph 631-7520.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings (unless there’s more than eight of you).






Photographs: David Straight

Burger Burger is very small and very narrow and very loud: we like to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen. The service has attitude, just enough. The burgers are $10 and extras – lettuce, cheese, bacon, etc – are $2, the sides are $6, and they cook the patties medium-rare. The meat is free range. There is a great whisky list and Lion Red in big swappa bottles. Oh, and there’s Martinborough Te Tera pinot noir by the glass. So far, so genius.

It’s the latest venture from Mimi Gilmour, one of the founders of Mexico, and some of the hallmarks are the same: it’s not very expensive, it has pace and bounce, and the booze flows freely. You can eat a burger and a beer and leave for less than $20, which we like very much. And so, at the moment, if you go for dinner the wait is anywhere between half an hour and an hour.

There have been quibbles, though not from us. Never have we heard such earnest discussion of a burger. We’ve had some great burgers here – you must have the fish and make sure you add lettuce, and the classic beef is excellent – and we’ve had a couple of not-great burgers. But think about it for a second: this place costs less than most takeout burger joints, only here there is table service and you can get a stool and a beer. It’s fun. And the vanilla thick shake is a thing of beauty. SFG

HOURS 11.30am until late, seven days

ADDRESS The Lane, Ponsonby Central, 136 Ponsonby Road.

IMPORTANT DETAILS There is 30 minutes free parking in the Ponsonby Central park out the back.




Photographs: David Straight


People often ask us where to find the best ramen in Auckland and we have two answers: Ramen Do, and Ramen Takara in Browns Bay.

You’ll find it in the Browns Bay shops, a block up from the very pretty beach, across from the Irish pub. The interior is stock-standard cheap-eat Japanese: lots of dark wood, timber screens, calligraphy. There are cheerful bright red tables and simple wooden chairs. So far, so familiar.

Except the ramen, or more precisely the broth. Pure flavours, clear stocks; they’re adventurous though, slightly tweaked. The shoyu ramen ($9) is classic, simple, and very good. Then there’s also the Sai-Sai ramen ($13), a clear vegetarian broth and Kaisen ramen ($14.50), which is a a simple, delicate fish broth topped with prawn and squid. The Tonkotsu (pork broth) ($12) has none of the overbearing fattiness that so many of them have. Our current favourite, though? The Tan-Tan Men ($15), which is a sour and spicy soup, balanced with sesame and topped with pork mince and leek. It is simple, sublime. If only Browns Bay was closer. SFG

HOURS Lunch 11.30am to 3pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm, seven days.

ADDRESS 4 Anzac Road, Browns Bay, ph 476-6041.

IMPORTANT DETAILS There’s also a short tapas menu which we have to remind ourselves to try every now and then. It’s good too!


Final for web

Photograph: Matt Choi

Crane Brothers has sponsored Eat Here Now for a little over two years now, a partnership that was resolved over a plate of oysters. Murray Crane makes beautiful suits, but he also really likes food – and more importantly, he knows his stuff. So when he went to Paris on one of his annual trips recently, we asked him to write about his favourite places to eat. It’s a very fine list, as you’d expect.

It is actually really hard to find great bistro food in Paris and when I’m travelling in winter comfort food is always a must. This is a classic French bistro – set menu, all the classics covered: snails, pigeon, brûlée and a good wine list. 9 Rue de l’Éperon, St Germain des Prés, ph +33 1 44 41 00 09

La Duree
Macarons, pastry and chocolate. There is something about that ganache. Only the French would have the audacity to call it a boutique but they are treasures, easily as beautiful as a pair of Louboutin shoes or a Dior dress at a fraction of the price. Stores across Paris.

I always start conjuring up ways to smuggle whenever I visit the food markets in Paris. Seafood, cheese and charcuterie, all sold by surly locals. There is a good one on Rue de Buci in St Germain des Prés, but most neighourhoods have them. Tuesday to Sunday; stands close for lunch.

Boucherie Roulière
As the name suggests, meat is king here. Operated by a fifth-generation butcher, the menu includes rich marrow bone, veal kidney, salers beef and sea bass. Vegetarian Unfriendly. 24 Rue des Canettes, St Germain des Prés, ph +33 1 43 26 25 70 

Les Deux Magots
Old-school French. Bourgeois, overpriced and average: the food tastes better because of the people watching. Play it safe.

Cult hamburgers. Try everything: it’s all good, especially the Cheesy and the Signature, not to mention French fries and coleslaw. Like a lot of Parisians, great buns.






Photographs: David Straight

In a way, this is a bit of a farewell. Stafford Road Wine Bar has always been a very nice spot – dark timber chairs, a corner site, a good wine list and decent beer. It was the kind of place that made you think Auckland had hope; that life was spreading to its suburbs.

Then it hired Ed Verner, who had previously cooked for Meredith’s and Sidart, and a very pleasant local wine bar was suddenly serving the kind of food you’d expect to find in a fine diner – and yet which didn’t cost anything more than the very ordinary tapas you find all over the city. The produce comes from the garden out the back, or from hand-picked suppliers and it is inventive, subtle, textural – and beautifully plated. A Tio Point oyster ($4), say, freshly shucked and warmed in its shell, then served with a Maori potato stock and chips. A salad of lettuce with beetroot, buffalo yoghurt and black tahini ($9.50). A short rib ($18) so beautifully cooked it was black on the outside and pink on the inside, which we spied across the bar and then simply had to eat. And so on.

Sadly, Verner left recently to travel overseas and work in some of Europe’s most exciting eateries. Which is understandable. But restaurants are more than one chef, so here’s hoping Stafford Road carries on with what he started – because it’s a small piece of genius. SFG

HOURS Dinner from 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

ADDRESS 141 Queen St, Northcote Point, ph 480-2690.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No reservations – but if you’re a large group, let them know and they’ll see what they can do.