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Metro Eats No. 12: Christmas special; what's open over the holidays

Metro Eats No. 12: Christmas special; what's open over the holidays

Dec 21, 2020 Metro Eats


It’s the last food newsletter for the year. Crazily, we’ve reached 12 weeks since the first we sent out, which means it’s been more than four months since we started this whole thing.

Starting a new chapter of a legacy title means there’s a lot of umm-ing and aah-ing around the roundtable about what Metro is, what Metro should be, what Metro can be. In my view, Metro is a city publication, first and foremost, and it’s that specificity which allows us to explore the complex nuances of our communities, and our issues, and our people, and our places. We should be somewhere which reflects back what it’s like to live in Auckland right now, and somewhere more than just a select few of us can see ourselves in. There’s still work to do, but I think we’re on the right track.

While I write about food a lot, I’ve always seen it, like all the best kinds of writing, as a vehicle to explore other things. (Though sometimes it’s just fun, too.) In the latest issue, I wrote this sorta silly story about baking a pavlova with Peter Gordon as someone who has never had pavlova at Christmas before – or any “traditional’ food, really. (Never had a ham, never had a turkey, never had a mince pie. Lol.) But it was really a way to address these stupid feelings I’ve held on to over the years about not celebrating Christmas “the right way”, and not having any extended family in New Zealand, because the messaging gets kinda crazy this time of year. Every lifestyle publication is always on about festive recipes and family reunions and, like, Modern! Trifle!

But, for many, many other New Zealanders, Christmas will just be like any other day, or will be celebrated in ways which won’t fit into what we think of as a Kiwi Christmas. And, like, that’s fine. Who cares. Happy holidays. Hope you all get some time to chill out, exist, and eat a lot of food.

Thank you to everyone who has read this newsletter, subscribes to Metro, or just supports us in any other way – much appreciated! Would love to be able to do it next year, so, you know, do your thing and gift a subscription, maybe.

Scroll down for what’s open during the holiday season, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, and my favourite openings this year.

Till then,

— Jean

first, some news

It’s the last little drive for DineAid’s annual appeal, where proceeds (100% of the money raised) will go towards City Missions throughout Aotearoa. You can add a voluntary donation to the bill or order a DineIn special, where $2 of the dish will go towards DineAid. In Auckland, participating eateries include  Williams Eatery Cassia Euro Sidart  and Burger Burger – for the full list, click here.

You can donate directly to the Auckland City Mission right here.

Some new hospo merch coming in hot: the  Bestie and Checks collab has spawned tees and mugs, and  Fort Greene  x Def Store have also released new threads.

Everyday Wine is opening at 442 Karangahape Rd today (Friday 18 December). It’s an organic wine shop some of you may be familiar with from its original store on Cuba St in Wellington.

Miss Torta, Mr Taco ’s sibling shop around the corner, is sadly not open yet (we checked) but is due to open next week… “maybe”, owner Manuel says.

what’s open over the holiday season

(holiday season meaning that no-man dead zone between Christmas and around 6 January) 

Inevitably, this list is heavy on central-city and inner-city suburbs, with a particular focus on those restaurants in our Top 50. But if there’s anything we’ve had drilled in our heads this year, it’s to support local, and look within your own ‘burbs, too.

Lots of cafes, especially, have not released their Christmas hours yet. Quick way to find out is to check on Instagram first, if they have one.

  • Amano  is always a safe bet for holiday dining
  • 1947 eatery is open through the holidays, plus Christmas and Boxing Day, with no surcharge. This place is underrated, in my opinion, and serves up some great cocktails
  • Baduzzi  is open through, except on 25, 26 December and 1, 2 January
  • Café Hanoi are open from 27 December onwards, evenings only
  • Euro are open through, except for 25/26 December
  • Hello Beasty  are open, except for 25/26 December
  • Prego  are open, except for 25/26 December
  • Saan is open from 28 December
  • Soul  is open all the way through, bar 25 December
  • Three Seven Two  on Waiheke (my favourite Waiheke restaurant!) is only closed on Christmas Day
  • Candela  on Karangahape Rd are open except from 1-4 January
  • Neighbour in Grey Lynn are open from 27 December onwards
  • The Woozoo Group’s café’s –  Fields  in Albany; Filly in Sylvia Park; and Percy in Mangere are all open through
  • Odettes Eatery  is open for brunch only from Boxing Day till 17 Jan
  • Ozone Coffee Roasters are also open for brunch only, 27 Dec-10 Jan

on christmas day

  • Nanam  are holding a buffet Christmas lunch. The menu includes a “lechon” roast (pork belly), glazed ham and endless dessert station.
  • Probably every hotel restaurant Onemata Eight at Cordis,  Esther  at QT and more.
  • Various SkyCity restaurants, such as:  Masu  (yum cha lunch),  Huami  (a la carte, normal menu), The Grill ($150 set menu), Gusto at the Grand ($130 set menu)
  • Yum cha is always a great choice for Christmas brunch. Lucky Fortune in Three Kings and Grand Harbour (central city) and Grand Park (Epsom) are always open, and it’s likely your local place is, too (but call first!).

new year’s eve celebrations

  • Gochu  – A set menu of “all the best that’s yet to come” for $85pp, and a $65pp optional drinks match
  • Cazador  – An honest-to-god feast at $110 – oysters, pork tail, venison and more
  • Paris Butter  – 7 course degustation meal with a beverage pairing for $250pp
  • Cassia – For the first time, Cassia is opening on New Years Eve for a dinner at $150pp
  • Lillius  – 6 set courses at $130pp, with an optional wine pairing for $75pp
  • Culprit – $75pp or $125pp (Epic Menu) with sashimi, liver parfait etc. I did this a couple years ago and it was a good time.
  • East Street Hall – will be open for a party on New Year’s Eve – keep an eye out on their Insta for tickets via Eventbrite.
  • Mr Morris  – $165pp set menu, including three courses and some snacks
  • Onslow  – Two seatings, the first $175pp and the second $220pp (five courses, plus you can stay as long as you like – there’s a nice view to the Skytower at Onslow)

favourite new openings

It’s that time of year again – the inevitable 2020 round-up. There’s been some extreme lows (like, really, really extreme) but also a crazy year of new openings, most of which were already in the works pre-pandemic.

It’s a tough time to open, especially amidst all the various doom-and-gloom think-pieces regarding the hospitality industry, so here’s my sincerest congrats to every place that has made it this year – the owners, the chefs, the front-of-house staff, the kitchenhands, the bartenders, the baristas. We are, however, still in a rocky place. Hospitality is the only industry, as compared with other SMEs, that has not “experienced a meaningful recovery of jobs from those lost at the height of the lockdown in April”, with revenues down 8% from the same time a year ago.

I truly, truly love eating out, and appreciate that I get to. The following are my personal favourites that have opened their doors in 2020.

Disclaimer: I have not dined at every new restaurant in Auckland! There’s an extra little round-up of notable openings below.

Omni  – Omni is an amalgamation of the various ways the Auckland restaurant scene has evolved in 2020: limited seating, natural wine, katsu sando, raw fish, yakitori, an open kitchen. But all those moving parts have pieced together into something that makes sense, centred around the couple (John Yip and Jamie Yeon) who runs it. I reviewed it in the latest issue, so for more you can read it there.

Mr Taco – It’s incredible the impact one place can have on the community of people who love food in Auckland. I’d argue that Mr Taco, a taqueria smack dab in the middle of the city, has made a bigger splash than any higher-profile opening. For more, you can read the review in our latest issue, which sings praises of its al pastor.

Cazador Delicatessen – I have a certain degree of envy (meaning, a high degree of) for people who can consider Cazador their local neighbourhood restaurant. Cazador is supremely out of my way, but I love their little delicatessen they opened earlier this year, with meaty, moreish pies encased in perfect pastry. The little array of take-home charcuterie have, I assumed, fuelled many a platter this year.

Ockhee  – Back in the Bauer Time, just before we closed, I was preparing to write a feature on Ockhee for our Restaurant of the Year issue. So I met with one of the owners, Paulee, and got a little insight into the work, development and research that went into this place – so, inevitably, there’s a little bias. But I still wholeheartedly stand by the food – fresh, zingy, earthy, with a clear understanding of what kind of food they want to serve. It’s Korean, no concessions.

Vibe Coffee Roasters – This new cafe, housed in an old warehouse in Wairau Valley, is just starting to find its legs. To get in, you can walk through the back garage, past hulking coffee roasters and hessian sacks of unroasted beans, into the main space. They’re one of the first places I know that offered the “croffle” – a croissant and waffle hybrid – with my favourite being the version with a cube of ice cream and curled shavings of brown cheese. And, man, I just love coffee.

Gochu – I really like the food here. Punchy, with new lens on familiar flavours. I hate that I’ve already seen countless casual reviews from diners (mostly fellow Asians) saying that Gochu isn’t “authentic” Korean food, and therefore bad – this preoccupation with a certain type of authenticity is actually damaging and limiting of Asian chefs, and the rhetoric that “cheap” places are more authentic is not actually the hot take you think it is, sorry.

Kōkako  – I’ve written before about the lack of coffee-related experimentation in Auckland – we sure love our flat whites – but the new Kōkako flagship in Commercial Bay readily plays around with cascara and cold brew, most closely with their collaborator Plabita Florence (of Auckland restaurant Forest ). They also don’t charge extra for alternative milks, so is my choice for a caffeine hit if you’re downtown.

Mr Morris – Despite only having been there once, Michael Meredith’s Britomart restaurant strikes as the most interesting of the old guard openings: a restrained playfulness that spans across different cultures without any weird, tokenistic framing. I also just love the pani popo there; it’s a fucking delight to eat.

Karangahape Rd – I’ve put this in its own category, because for better or for worse, the street is changing, and rapidly, into a hub for a certain demographic of diners.  Pici  in St Kevin’s Arcade, Candela and the nearby East Street Hall have all opened this year, and I’ve only been to all of them once, so it’s too soon to call on my favourite. They all have something going for it: the cacio e pepe pici at Pici; the ceviche at Candela; and the falafel at East Street Hall are my picks.

Other notable new openings: 

Onslow (Josh Emett); Esther (Sean Connolly);  Ahi  (Ben Bayly);  Homeland  (Peter Gordon); Saxon & Parole (AvroKO Hospitality Group); Onemata (Park Hyatt).

Benedict’s on St Benedict’s Rd in Eden Terrace; Neighbour in Grey Lynn; Dedwood Deli on Ponsonby Rd;  Young George  in Mt Albert.

Ada  in The Convent Hotel, helmed by Hayden Phiskie and Johnny Price, both ex- Cotto Hotel Ponsonby , helmed by the team behind Grey Lynn restaurant Lillian;  Beau , Wine Bar, brought to you by Diva Giles and Logan Birch of Freaky;  Boxer , the chef-run bar in front of Pasture Churly’s Brew Pub & Eatery, from Behemoth Brewing Company.

It has been an unsurprisingly slow year for “Cheap Eats”, but we’ve welcomed a few gems:  Khu Khu Eatery , a tiny, fully-vegan Thai spot on Ponsonby Rd;  Momo Junction , a Himalayan restaurant in Henderson; Kebabish, a new Paradise outfit on Sandringham Rd;  Paasha Turkish Kitchen Mr Hao  and Just Plove on Dominion Rd.

If you read to the end, god bless you. See you in 2021.


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