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Where I stayed:
Quest Parnell (www.questapartments.com.au; look for the Jump Direct
section, then scroll down to click on Quest Parnell, 09 337 0804).
Parnell is an upmarket suburb of Auckland and, as far as I’m
concerned, a great place to stay. These apartments contain a kitchen
and washer-dryer, a nice plus. A two minute walk, if that, to the
nearest restaurants, grocery store, and The Link bus system, a great
way to get around. Comfortable accommodations in a generally quiet
location; efficiency combines here with a desire to conserve resources.
Friendly and professional staff.
What I saw and did:
—Food Tour. Phillip Parker, Insider Touring, www.insidertouring.co.nz,
09 849 4519. Phillip is genial and very laid-back. His tours are
quite expensive, but he has the local knowledge and contacts to
get you to some good places.
- The Albany Olive Press, 88 Burne Road, Albany, 09 427
8194, www.olivesnewzealand.co.nz. Located in a beautiful setting.
The First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil was too peppery
for me, but the Lemon Olive Oil was absolutely delicious. Naturally,
as the character of the olives changes from year to year, so
does the olive oil!
Kapiti Fine Cheeses, 136-142 Fanshawe Street, City,
09 377 2473 (and other locations), www.kapiticheeses.co.nz.
Great fun! Many kinds of condiments and conserves are sold here,
as well as cheeses and some very good ice creams. Make sure
you sample the Kikorangi Triple Crème Blue; you might
also try the the Port Nicholson Washed Rind and the Mt. Hector
Chevre. The fig and honey ice cream is notable.
- Seamart, Corner Packenham Street and Market Place, City,
09 302 8989 (also two other locations), www.seamart.co.nz. A
fish shop and seafood resturant, very popular with those who
recognize that truly fresh seafood is the only way to go. Whole
fish, fish steaks, marinated fish, seafood kebabs, etc., and
a deli with fish-based foods (such as seafood lasagne, sushi,
and smoked fish tortellini). Also condiments related to fish.
- Bees Online, 791 State Highway 16, Waimauku, 09 411
7953, www.beesonline.co.nz. A small café here features
ethnic Maori-influenced dishes. As well, there’s as a
shop selling a selection of honies, honey cosmetics, and other
honey products (such as their “honeygar”). You can
try honies before you buy them. A very enjoyable place.
- Sabato, 57 Normanby Road, Mt. Eden, 09 630 8751, www.sabato.co.nz.
Dishes, cookware, and cooking ingredients, including olive oils
and their own line of relishes, many designed by noted foodwriter/chef
- Cook the Books, 405 Mt. Eden Road, Mt. Eden Village,
09 638 4628, www.cookthebooks.co.nz. Although this shop isn’t
large, it stocks an impressive array of cooking and food books.
A great place to browse!
- Epicurean Workshop, 6 Morrow Street, Newmarket, 09 524
0906, www.epicurean.co.nz. Cooking equipment and some sweet
and savory foods. Knives and pans in names you’ll recognize,
also cooking classes.
—Parnell Road. If you’re into shopping or food,
you’ll like this thoroughfare. Souvenirs, fashion, and so
many restaurants/cafes you’ll be spoiled for choice. Check
out the Chocolate Boutique (323 Parnell Road, 09 377 8550, www.chocolateboutique.co.nz),
with many types of chocolate products, including sauces, ice cream,
hot chocolate, etc.
—Auckland Museum (Te Papa Whakahiku), (www.akmuseum.org.nz).
Unbelievable! Even if you think you’ve never had any particular
interest in the culture of the South Pacific, this place will change
your mind. Room upon room of stunning Pacific Island artifacts.
Ornamental objects, weapons, incredibly ornate canoes, items of
daily life and those reserved for ceremonial occasions—they’re
all here. A must for anyone headed to the region.
—Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater Adventure (www.kellytarltons.co.nz).
A ride in a snowcat takes you past several types of penguins; Kelly
Tarlton’s is part of a breeding program for them. I think
the best exhibit here is the walk-through “tunnel”,
where live sharks, stingrays, etc swim overhead and all around you.
Particularly good for kids, as you might guess.
—Ponsonby Road. A number of interesting shops and
- City Cake Company, 186 Ponsonby Road, 09 376 3985, www.citycake.com,
also three other locations. Some lovely-looking cakes and pastries.
Try the Parisien, a pyramid of genuinely moist chocolate sponge
cake covered by chocolate icing and decorated with edible gold.
- Powder, 266 Ponsonby Road, 09 360 9804, Intriguing menu,
including a vanilla risotto with poached fruits as a breakfast
option. Recommended dish: ravioli of pumpkin, silverbeet, and
cheeses. Laid-back neighborhood café.
- Rocket Kitchen, 234a Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 360
8834, www.rocketkitchen.co.nz. Beautiful takeaway food, including
excellent chocolate raspberry tartlets.
- Bambina, 268 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 360 4000. One
large communal table is orbited by a handful of smaller ones here,
with a little outdoor seating. Recommended dish: corn fritters—2
large corn “pancakes” sandwiching Canadian bacon-like
ham, with greens, tomatoes, and a small cup of relish on the side.
All-day breakfast and lunch menus. Locally popular.
- Total Wellbeing, 145 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 378
2020, www.totalwellbeing.co.nz. Foods and cosmetics (including
some nice cheeses), with an emphasis on organics.
—Karangahape (“K”) Road. I don’t
get this place. Everyone talks about the funky atmosphere and shops,
but none of the places looked interesting except a hole-in-the-wall
restaurant called “Revel”, and unfortunately I wasn’t
hungry. I did find a cheap internet place here, though.
—Devonport. A rather touristy seaport, but pleasant
enough. A ferry ride from Auckland (get a Link pass and you can
ride the ferry as part of that), a lot of shops and restaurants.
Look for the Devonport Stone Oven Bakery and Café for good
sandwiches; Devonport Handmade Chocolates are OK.
—Auckland Art Gallery (www.aucklandartgallery.govt.nz).
Have I mentioned that modern art and I don’t really get along?
For those who love the stuff, here’s the place for it. Best
artwork I saw: a “portrait” of a cheese in the initial
stages of fragmentation, entitled (I swear) “Exploding Cheese”.
—Auckland Zoo (www.aucklandzoo.co.nz). The only zoo
I’ve ever seen with free-range poultry; there are chickens
pecking contentedly about the grounds. Joking aside, this is a very
nice zoo, with a lot to see; I got to watch a keeper training the
keas. Crowded on weekends.
—Sky Tower (www.skytower.co.nz). Unexpectedly cool.
Jaw-dropping views of Auckland and environs laid out at your feet,
as it were. Also open at night, although I didn’t get to go
then. I don’t often do well with heights, but I had no problem
—MOTAT(Museum of Transportation and Technology), (www.motat.org.nz).
I really like MOTAT, which is split into two parts in two locations.
MOTAT I is a “time capsule” of the earlier days of transportation
in New Zealand; I was fascinated to read about the aviatrix Jean
Batten, of whom I’d never heard. MOTAT II is all about aircraft
and their uses in wartime and peacetime. Interactive exhibits, as
well as some touring exhibits. A tram takes you most of the way
between the two locations.
—Gault at George, 144 Parnell Road, Parnell, 09 358
2600. An upmarket, though not stuffy, restaurant. Where possible,
local foods are used here. Recommended dishes: chilled green pea
and truffle soup; smoked Akaroa salmon with gingered cucumber, rocket
salad, and Champagne lime mayonnaise; panzanella. Nice atmosphere,
friendly service. Don’t sit near the fireplace if you’re
bothered by cigarette smoke, which unfortunately drifts in from
the adjacent bar.
—Milano Cucina Italiano, 111 Parnell Road, Parnell,
09 379 0906. A very “neighborhood” feel predominates
here, and there are obviously clients of long-standing. Recommended
dish: South Island cod with artichokes and lemon, which was not
wonderful visually but tasted very good. Just off the main drag,
this place can get noisy.
—Alligator Pear Restaurant, 211 Parnell Road, Parnell,
09 307 2223. This restaurant is below ground level and simply furnished
and decorated, which I liked very much. Short menu. Recommended
dish: a special of tarakihi (a local fish) grilled with fresh herbs
and limes and served with a lime hollandaise sauce. One of the specialty
coffee drinks here is called “What’s Under Yer Kilt”.
Where I stayed:
—Strathern Motor Lodge (www.strathern.com, 03 355 4411).
Despite being located directly off a main road, the bedrooms here
are quiet. Very nice owners, who I trust now know a bit more about
their surroundings (they’d only taken over two days before
I arrived.) Bus stop located in front of the hotel. Not fancy, but
relaxing and rather charming. Those electric mattress pads are great
on a cold night! Well-situated for walking or taking the bus both
to Christchurch and the upmarket suburb of Merivale. Laundry facilities
on premises. A good alternative to the cookie-cutter chains in Christchurch.
What I saw and did:
—Rachel Scott’s breads and chocolates. This wasn’t
an activity so much as it was a quest. Ms. Scott has a reputation
as an excellent bread-baker. I was unable to meet her, but I believe
she bakes and delivers her breads only twice a week, and then only
to selected locations, such as the Nor’wester Café
(see below). She’s also begun to make candy (her truffles
and chocolate-covered caramels are delicious). If you get a chance
to try any of her breads, please let me know how they are!
—Food Tour. John and Jo Carter, Vin de Pays, www.vindepays.co.nz,
03 357 8262. Normally, they do wine tours, with a bit of food thrown
in, but you can arrange for a customized tour, which I did; as of
this writing, those cost $50 NZD per hour. John, who drove me around,
is a lot of fun and seems to know a great many food people. Highly
recommended. Among the places we visited:
- Divine Taste of Canterbury, Blakes Road, Off Trents Road,
Templeton, 03 349 4442. Located in a hazelnut orchard, this little
shop offers oils, nut products (especially those with hazelnuts),
chutneys, mustards, and dukkah. A great setting with friendly
proprietors who offer a good variety of products.
- Nor’Wester Café, 95 Main North Road, Amberley,
03 314 9411, www.norwestercafe.co.nz. The day we dropped in, the
café was closing early; there was going to be a celebration
in honor of their having won an award for their preparations of
wild game. Due to time constraints, we didn’t get to eat
here, but I’d certainly have loved to do so. Great menu
(not just wild game), plus bread and a new line of chocolates
from the mysterious Rachel Scott (see above).
- Athena Olive Groves Ltd., 164 Mackenzies Road, Waipara
Valley, Amberley, 03 314 6774, www.athenaolives.co.nz. A gorgeous
greenish olive oil, which was complex but not peppery.
- Havill’s Authentic Mead, Fernside, Rangiora, 03
313 7733, http://www.nzcentre.com.mead.htm. Gabrielle and Leon
Havill produce at least ten distinct kinds of mead, each made
with a varietal honey. Try the Medium, Manuka, or Black meads
(the Black was my favorite); they will taste different if served
warm or cold. Call to ask about availability; I’m not sure
where it’s sold locally. Worth checking out.
- de Spa Chocolatier, 1013 Perry Road, Ferrymead (and other
locations), 03 384 5285, www.despa.co.nz. Walk into this address
(billed as the “factory and showroom”) and you’ll
be pleasantly overwhelmed by the range of chocolates. A champagne
truffle, perhaps? Oooh, look at that coconut crème in white
chocolate! And a milk chocolate Orange Heaven sounds like it would
hit the spot right now, don’t you agree? Flavors both traditional
and more modern await you here, and the quality of the chocolate
is very good. My picks? The peppermint crème and cognac
& coffee, plus the unusual apricot center in dark chocolate.
- New Zealand Honey Farm Ltd. , 235 Buchanans Road, City,
03 349 9532, www.nzhoneyfarm.com. Honies unique to New Zealand,
also honey wines, candles, and honey cosmetics. In the process
of revamping as of mid-September, but a pleasant visit nonetheless.
The tastings really give you an idea of the differences between
types of honey; make sure you try the Rata!
- Karikaas Natural Dairy Products, Loburn, Rangiora, www.karikaas.co.nz.
Yoghurt, goat gouda, maasdam, leyden, and more. As you might have
guessed from the name, they specialize in Dutch cheeses.
—The Arts Centre (www.artscentre.org.nz). Formerly
a university campus, now home to a multitude of craft shops and
cafes. The weekend craft market held here is very popular. I think
some of the shops here have decent deals, and there’s a very
good selection from which to choose. Fun to browse.
—Christchurch Art Gallery (www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz).
Even if you don’t go inside, you can’t miss the ultra-modern
exterior, which is eye-popping and worth a snapshot or two. Mostly
modern art but a few older works. Some interesting prints.
—Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwihouse (www.southernencounter.co.nz).
If this will be your only opportunity to go to a zoo or aquarium
in New Zealand or Australia, go for it. Otherwise, I’d probably
hold off. Well-presented for what it is, but it’s also small
and there’s just not that much to see.
—Christchurch Gondola (www.gondola.co.nz). I had a
blast with this. I normally don’t do that well with heights,
but the views are so beautiful the only thing you’ll be thinking
about is getting photos, and the gondolas don’t move terribly
quickly, which is helpful. Terrific panoramic views at the top,
too, and you can actually walk down to the town below, if you wish.
Look for hang gliders floating down over adjacent hills.
—Willowbank (www.willowbank.co.nz). You can feed the
eels here—no kidding. You can also feed several other kinds
of animals, luckily. Multiple kiwis in the Kiwi House, a tuatara,
goats unique to an island off New Zealand’s coast, keas, and
a lot more. The emphasis here is on indigenous animals, and if I
had to choose I’d go here rather than to Orana (see below).
—Canterbury Museum (www.artists.co.nz/museum.html).
As a collection of information on the history of the area, it’d
be hard to beat the Canterbury Museum. The ground floor has a pleasing
collection of Maori artifacts, plus intriguing accounts of how Europeans
came to New Zealand and how difficult their “pioneering”
lives were. The second floor is a collection of European artifacts
from the mid-1800’s on, while the third floor is a mix of
Antarctic expedition information, the area’s geological makeup,
indigenous and introduced fauna, and a dinosaur history of the region.
—Orana Wildlife Park (www.oranawildlifepark.co.nz).
A very low-key, rather sprawling complex. There’s definitely
an African slant in the wildlife here—cheetahs, springboks,
lions, meerkats, and more compete for your attention. If for no
other reason, the gift shop is worth going into because of the three
birds kept there; one, a corella, will “dance” if it
hears music, bouncing up and down and sidling along its perch.
—Science Alive! (www.sciencealive.co.nz). Unless you’re
a kid or have one in tow, I wouldn’t bother with this. The
day I went, many of the exhibits weren’t working or being
offered, and the place is small to begin with. I liked the forced-air
ping pong ball maze, though, and be sure to check out the amazing
instrument in one corner that can produce dozens of sounds of other
—Antarctic Centre (www.iceberg.co.nz). I had no real
interest in Antarctic exploration until I went here, but this is
so well done it’s impossible to be bored with the subject.
A special “cold” room with simulated Antarctic conditions
(yes, you can go in), exhibits on wildlife (lots of penguins), and
tons of information on what scientists are doing in this area of
the world and their daily lives there. The Hagglund ride (an additional
charge applies) is great fun, too. Go!
—The Fudge Cottage (in the Arts Centre), City, 03 363
2836. Candy Central! They make their own fudge and even have a tour
where you can see how it’s done. Most of what they sell I
found too sweet, but they do have some Van H. chocolates here which
are worth getting. (Van H. chocolates are also sold from the Mary
Gray kiosk in Merivale Mall on Papanui Road.)
—The Organic Food Caravan, outside the Court Theatre,
Arts Centre, City, Saturday and Sunday only, 03 960 2075. Muffins
and more. Nice people with a smallish variety of good-quality foods.
—Copenhagen Bakery (Armagh Street, close to Cathedral
Square), City. Good range of baked goods, sandwiches, and drinks.
Great for lunch or a snack; try a date-wholemeal scone or the very
light chocolate-orange gateau.
—Anathoth Jam, Anathoth Marketing, Ltd., Upper Moutere,
Nelson, 03 543 2849, www.anathoth.com. I had a sample of this given
me by the proprietors of the Strathern, as they liked it and knew
I write about food. The blackberry jam is terrific.
—Canterbury Cheesemongers, 44 Salisbury Street, Asko
Corner, City, 03 379 0075. Saturdays and Sundays, these folks are
at the Arts Centre Market, but you can find them in their store
Tuesday through Friday. They do not make cheese; they buy it from
cheesemakers and age it properly, then sell it to happy consumers.
A beautiful little aging room and knowledgeable staff. Also chutneys,
jams, honey, sweet and savory pastries, herbs, coffee, and their
—Traiteur, Corner of Aikman and Papanui Roads, Merivale,
03 355 7750. The best takeaway food in the area! I got dinner here
for a couple of nights. Some vegetarian entrees, and you can always
find something interesting, though I didn’t think the cakes
were stellar. Some condiments, olive oils, etc., too, as well as
Eight Moon Saffron (didn’t try that).
—Honey Pot Café, 114 Lichfield Street, City,
03 366 5833. A fine spot for people-watching, this is also a place
for relatively inexpensive food. All-day breakfast as well as lunch
and dinner. Very informal. My “Galeforce” was a mix
of grilled French toast, grilled bananas, very fatty bacon, maple
syrup, and a bit of dry granola on top—an intriguing combination,
but too sweet for me. Still, I’d go back here—perhaps
with an eye toward the lunch menu.
—Ciao Bella, 131 Victoria Street, City, 03 371 7288,
www.ciaobella.co.nz, City. Small menu but the best service I had
in New Zealand—friendly, polished, and very well paced. Tiny
restaurant but pretty and atmospheric, though perhaps a bit crowded
for a romantic dinner. Recommended dishes: rocket-Parmesan salad
and the shredded duck crepe.
—Saggio di Vino, Victoria Street and Bealey Avenue,
City, 03 379 4006. Another small restaurant with a small menu, but,
blessedly, it was smoke-free, at least when I was there. Recommended
dishes: fresh breast of duckling (oven roasted, served with pommes
Anna and sauteed cherries in a Cabernet sauce). Also a tapas menu.
Expensive for the area. And portions, which were about right for
me, would be too small for most people.
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