The best restaurants in the Auckland CBD

by Metro / 31 August, 2018
From the Metro Top 50 Restaurants 2018.

Cassia on Fort Lane won numerous awards at the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Awards 2018.

1947 eatery

1947 had us at slow-cooked lamb shank, but there’s more to this diner than its signature dish, which is simmered for five hours in a rich melee of spices and arrives on the bone, ready to fall apart onto the restaurant’s excellent naan. There’s the fit-out, for a start, which has a sort of industrial Mumbai vibe, all drop lights, steel and reclaimed timber, along with a tuk-tuk in the corner. There’s a back story – possibly apocryphal – about three friends “discovering” recipes long lost from the time of partition in India, but what you need to know about 1947 is that the food is entirely, fantastically authentic, unsullied by Western additions or flavours. The service is charming, attentive and enthusiastic, and the beer list is excellent.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Fixed-price meals / Good for vegetarians / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection 
A favourite dish 
Slow-cooked dry goat curry
Hours Lunch Wed-Sun, Dinner 7 days
Price 
Seats 150
Chef Manmohan Singh

Book now

1947eatery.co.nz
60 Federal St, Central City
Ph 377-0033

Read more: Auckland's best restaurants by cuisine All of the Metro Top 50 Auckland restaurants for 2018 | Best bars in Auckland | Best cheap eats in Auckland

Cassia 

Executive chef Sid Sahrawat and his head chef, Alok Vasanth, share a passion for the regional cuisine and ancient cooking techniques of their homeland: the result is Cassia’s stellar reputation. From the outside on Fort Lane, you might not notice this place, but there’s a certain kind of magic in play as you descend the stairs into the underground dining room, which sparkles with light and colour. Cassia feels like a well-kept secret, but it’s one of the most exciting restaurants in Auckland: engaging waiters work the room with admirable efficiency, explaining the menu and decoding the wine list, and when the food arrives – exquisite, exotic, complex flavours, deftly wrought, delicately plated – everything just makes sense.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Fixed-price meals, including business lunch / Dégustation options /Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians /Bar / Private dining room / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Tandoori chicken perfumed with fenugreek and lemon
Awards Runner-up, Supreme Award; Winner, Best Smart Dining; Winner, Best Chef: Sid Sahrawat; Winner, Restaurateur of the Year: Sid and Chand Sahrawat (Joint); Winner, Restaurant Personality of the Year: Prateek Arora; Finalist, Best Service; Finalist, Best Drinks List
Bookings Yes
Hours Lunch Wed-Fri, Dinner Tue-Sat 
Price $$
Seats 75
Chef Sid Sahrawat, executive chef; Alok Vasanth, head chef

cassiarestaurant.co.nz
5 Fort Lane, Auckland CBD
Ph 379-9702

Culprit

Culprit is a hidden gem located in a large, loft-like space on Wyndham Street. It’s a hive of activity, with plate-laden trolleys wheeled around the tables offering a yum cha-style selection of seasonal treats such as sweetcorn brûlée with succotash and blue corn chips for diners to sample while their mains are prepared. Chef-owners Kyle Street and Jordan Macdonald, both ex-Depot, give some love to less-popular, often-wasted cuts, species and vegetables in these dishes, and the mains, ordered à la carte, are as inventive and appetising as the trolley offerings. It’s all backed up by an excellent drinks list, featuring cocktails and a selection of natural wine and craft beer. Keep an eye out for their Queen St venture, Lowbrow.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Trolley service / Fixed-price meals / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Takes large groups / Bar / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Cloudy Bay tuatua with chorizo XO sauce and chicken salt-fried vermicelli
Awards Runner-up (Joint), Best Inner-City Bistro; Finalists, Restaurateur of the Year: Kyle Street and Jordan Macdonald
Bookings Yes
Hours Lunch Thu-Fri, Dinner Tue-Sat
Price $$
Seats 60
Chefs Kyle Street, Jordan Macdonald

culprit.co.nz
Level 1, 12 Wyndham St, Auckland CBD
Ph 377-5992

Depot

Auckland’s obsession with Al Brown’s Depot can be measured both by the energy in the always-packed dining room and by the number of oysters shucked there each week – up to 1600. Seven years in, this SkyCity stalwart is still one of our favourites, thanks in no small way to the unflappable servers whose ability to charm even when the place is full is a testament to their excellent training. We’re also seduced by the menu, which seldom changes – hāpuku sliders, pork hock and sugar pie are still the mainstays – but always satisfies. An evening at Depot starts with a koha of bread and dip from the kitchen, and the magic in the air makes you feel the night could go anywhere from there.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Good seating outside / Craft beer selection / Free-range chicken and pork, line-caught fish / Bar
A favourite dish Squid-ink linguine and Cloudy Bay clams.
Awards Runner-up (Joint), Best Inner-City Bistro
Hours Breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days
Bookings No
Price $$
Seats 110
Chefs Al Brown, executive chef; Andrew Mackle, head chef

eatatdepot.co.nz
86 Federal St, Auckland CBD
Ph 363-7048

Federal Delicatessen

This is a Kiwi take on a New York deli but despite being inspired by a style of food and service from the other side of the world, it’s never felt out of place. The “Fed” manages to stay on the right side of the line between great and gimmicky because the entire experience is more affecting than the sum of its parts and because, it turns out, high-quality New Zealand produce lends itself to being served in this way – casually, without fuss or pretence, with a focus on solid flavours. The menu doesn’t change often because that’s not the point: you’ll go back again and again, not for what’s new but for dishes that are comforting, familiar and well executed. What elevates the dining experience at the Fed is the level of service, the quality and flavour of those local ingredients, and the fact that everything just tastes really, really good.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Late-shift menu 11pm-1am Fri & Sat / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Bar / Craft beer selection / Good for kids / Good seating outside
A favourite dish Spit-roast chicken and gravy.
Hours Breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days
Bookings No
Price $
Seats 116 
Chefs Andrew Mackle, executive chef; James Olsen, head chef

thefed.co.nz
86 Federal St, Central City
Ph 363-7184

Orgy of mushrooms and Clevedon buffalo ricotta gnocchi at Gusto. Photo/Angie Humphreys.

Gusto at the Grand

Sean Connolly’s Italian trattoria is a cult favourite among the city’s well-informed foodies, and for good reason. Others overlook its brilliance, perhaps because it’s located at the far end of the Grand Hotel’s plush concourse and is a hotel restaurant. But by the time you’ve sampled the house-made ricotta with honey and locally grown pine nuts, or the pillowy oxtail agnolotti, or feasted on meat and fish cooked on the bone, the fact you can give a room number as payment is irrelevant. You’re suddenly in Tuscany, eating generously soaked rum baba, with a big grin on your face.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Fixed-price meals / Pre-theatre menu / Chef’s table in the kitchen / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Private room for 28 / Good for kids / Bar / Craft beer selection / Takes large groups
A favourite dish Orgy of mushrooms and Clevedon buffalo ricotta gnocchi.
Hours Breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days
Bookings Yes
Price $$
Seats 100
Chef Sean Connolly

skycityauckland.co.nz
SkyCity Grand Hotel, 90 Federal St, Auckland CBD
Ph 363-7030

Hugo’s Bistro

Hugo’s Bistro is the more-grown-up sibling restaurant of owners Clare and Joost van den Berg’s Odettes. A new inner-city away-office for Shortland St’s legal execs and accountants, the elegant space offers easy-to-understand, well-executed European-style bistro fare, served promptly with a smile and a ready chat. Crucially, the kitchen nails the classics – fans of steak frites and veal schnitzel rejoice – but this is also the most sophisticated new fit-out in town. Everything from the green-pillowed booths (the most comfortable in the city, we’d wager) down to the terrazzo flooring exudes taste, and the dining room features the last slabs of pink marble from the South Island’s Hanmer.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Espresso semifreddo, burnt orange.
Awards Winner, Best Inner-City Bistro; Winner, Best New Fit-out; Runner-up, Best New Restaurant; 
Finalist, Supreme Award; Finalist, Restaurateur of the Year: Joost and Clare van den Berg
Hours Breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner Tues-Fri
Bookings Yes
Price $$
Seats 38
Chef Emile Bennington

hugosbistro.co.nz
67 Shortland St, Auckland CBD
Ph 320-4387

Masu

Nic Watt’s Masu was a gamechanger when it opened: there was that incredible fit-out that feels like something out of a Japanese design magazine, and the charcoal robata and the long open kitchen, and the menu serving black cod. The nice thing about Masu? It’s just got better, from the craft beer list stocking hard-to-find Japanese offerings to the excellent cocktails, and the Sunday Champagne brunch, which feels like something you’d find in a five-star Japanese hotel. The food is familiar and yet novel: there’s kingfish sashimi, of course, and maki rolls, sake-steamed clams, and a wonderful king-crab hotpot; there’s also lamb cutlets grilled on the robata served with gochujang, pickled cucumber and carrot. Explore the sake list: it’s a triumph.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Semi-private room for 18 / Eki Ben express lunch / Nichiyo buffet Sunday brunch (kids under 5 dine free) / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Bar / Sake selection / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Sake-steamed Cloudy Bay clams, ginger, garlic, green chilli and ponzu butter
Awards Finalist, Best Drinks List
Hours Lunch and dinner 7 days
Bookings Yes
Price $$$ 
Seats 120
Chef Nic Watt

skycityauckland.co.nz
SkyCity Grand Hotel, Auckland CBD
90 Federal St
Ph 363-6278

O'Connell Street Bistro 

The city’s law quarter, with its mix of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco buildings, has been reinvented with shared-space roads, where commuter cyclists whiz by in pinstriped blurs. They stop for O’Connell Street Bistro, a white-table-clothed restaurant that has for more than 20 years catered to the neighbourhood’s corporate set with charm and personality, led by affable proprietor Chris Upton. His wine list is the city’s best: a bible of producers and regions, available in half-bottle and magnum selections. Mark Southon’s menu flexes, too, with tasting and set menus that include perennial favourites such as wild Bendigo rabbit pappardelle and old-school steak tartare. Southon is a master of contrast: his starters tantalise the palate with freshness and acidity and his mains are hearty without being heavy – key when business is the second order of the day.

What it offers Fixed-price meals / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good seating outside / Takes large groups / Private room / Bar / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Origin South lamb rack with mustard gnocchi, feta, peas and artichokes
Awards Winner, Best Wine List; Finalist, Best Chef: Mark Southon
Hours Lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner Mon-Sat
Bookings Yes
Price $$$
Seats 100
Chef  Mark Southon

oconnellstbistro.com
3 O’Connell St, Auckland CBD
Ph 377-1884

Odettes 

Some restaurants transport you to other worlds through flavour alone, but at Odettes the journey begins the moment you step over the threshold into the lovely light-filled dining room, designed by co-owner Clare van den Berg. The impression of being far from Auckland’s inner city is perpetuated by the informal, breezy service, ably led by long-time operations manager Poi Eruera, and the menu, which is inspired by flavours from all over the world. In its early years, the influence was clearly Mediterranean-meets-North African, but since the arrival of new head chef Jonah Huang in 2017, the menu has broadened to include Pan Asian flavours, and they’re welcome. At Odettes you can feel equally as comfortable ordering a glass of French Champagne and a dozen oysters as you can a bowl of chips and a beer – it’s a place that’s found the right balance between aspirational and approachable.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Good seating outside / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection / BYO Tuesday (free corkage)
A favourite dish Chickpea and miso dumplings
Awards Finalist, Restaurateur of the Year: Joost and Clare van den Berg; Finalist, Restaurant Personality of the Year: Poi Eruera
Hours Breakfast and lunch 7 days, Dinner Tue-Sat
Bookings Large groups only
Price $$ 
Seats 125
Chef Jonah Huang

odettes.co.nz
90 Wellesley St West, Shed 5, City Works Depot, Auckland CBD
Ph 309-0304

The steak at The Grill is some of the finest in the city.

The Grill by Sean Connolly

It’s all too easy to run with the obvious at The Grill: the aged rib-eye is fantastic here, but you really should explore the other options as well. Think manly classics from a posh steakhouse: the tartare, prepared at the table, is one of the finest in the city, and the duck parfait is a thing of silky beauty. For steak, you really must try the wagyu rump, cooked to perfection on the rare side of medium, bronzed and dark on the outside, with a perfectly pink interior. It comes with a choice of sauces, as you’d expect; what you don’t expect is top-notch wine service and a room as darkly contemporary as this. The finest steak in the city, by a country mile.

What it offers Shared-plate options / Fixed-price meals / Sunday roasts (from 6pm) / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Pre-theatre menu / Bar / Craft beer selection / Private room 
A favourite dish Pasture-fed North Island west coast rib-eye on the bone with Café de Paris butter and duck-fat chips
Hours Lunch Wed-Sun, Dinner 7 days
Bookings Yes
Awards 
Price $$$
Seats 110
Chef  Sean Connolly

skycityauckland.co.nz
SkyCity Grand Hotel, 90 Federal St, Auckland CBD
Ph 363-7067 

The Grove 

This is one of Auckland’s most consistent and inspiring fine-dining institutions: many of the city’s best chefs learned the ropes here. What’s exciting about The Grove in 2018, however, is that the experience feels unpredictable and a little daring. This is likely due to the arrival of new head chef Scott Denning, but the feeling is about a lot more than the fresh ideas of a new culinary chief – the service feels less formal, too; even the music is more eclectic. The Grove offers a four- or seven-course dégustation. It’s a journey inspired by global food trends that focus on provenance and sustainability but it’s also just incredibly flavourful and easy to like. There are elements of theatre: your night begins with a verbal tour of a menu you never set eyes on, and ends with a flaming Bombe Alaska, finished at the table. What’s most memorable is how seamlessly it all flows when you’re guided by efficient, attentive and, most importantly, charming staff.

What it offers Dégustation options / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Takes large groups / Bar / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Bombe Alaska
Awards Finalist, Best Service
Hours Lunch Thurs-Fri, Dinner Mon-Sat
Bookings Yes

Price $$$
Seats 38
Chef Scott Denning

thegroverestaurant.co.nz
St Patrick’s Square, Wyndham St, Auckland CBD
Ph 368-4129

See here for all the Metro Top 50 Restaurants 2018

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