Best Cheap Eats 2015: Ponsonby, Freeman's Bay and Herne Bay
Judge Bao. Photo: Rachel Dobbs
The Bearded Clam
Food truck (see thebeardedclam.co.nz)
These over-stuffed burgers are kryptonite for self-conscious eaters. Prepare to get messy with inventive specials that generally include layers of beef brisket, American cheese, free-range bacon and sauces in red, white and yellow. And the ethically sourced ingredients mean you can eat with a clear conscience.
BIRD ON A WIRE
234 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
The heart of the Ponsonby Rd chicken strip does a roaring trade in free-range rotisserie chicken, burgers and fresh salads. The Korean BBQ chicken roll is a sauce-dripping thing of dreams. There are satellite stores on Commerce St and Elliott St for inner-city chicken fans, and now there is a restaurant in Takapuna too.
BOY AND BIRD
222 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
“Hot bird.” A dish with a name like that ought to be a treat, don’t you think? And it is: a flavour bomb of kumara, feta, sultanas, peanuts, citrus and seasonal leaves, with black beans and shredded chicken. They also stuff rolls with chicken and flavours, and they’re very fine too. You can also eat not-chicken: vegetarian dishes, or other meats.
Ponsonby Central, 4 Brown St, Ponsonby
Still the best burgers in town. The beef burger with cheese manages to satisfy the deepest greed without becoming sickly, thanks to tangy homemade pickles and just the right amount of mustard. Pair it with an organic Little Paddock thick-shake, truffle oil potato skins and charred broccoli. Also at 3B York St in Newmarket.
CONCH KITCHEN & BAR
115A Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
There aren’t many records these days at Conch, but there is a menu of South American classics — arepas to tacos via twice-cooked beef short ribs — and a shack-like fitout that is faintly reminiscent of a favela. The food is excellent, deeply flavoured but dairy-free. And the beer, yep, it’s Hallertau.
166 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn
Fans were devastated when Epolito shut down in One Tree Hill, but we rejoice again, for Chicklena Rose has reopened her doors in Grey Lynn. The New York-style pizzas she’s been making since she was 13 are big and thick crusted. Our favourite? The East Side: a house pie doused in parmesan, artichoke and thinly sliced lemon. Add the hot sauce and wash it down with a beer.
200 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
Scott Brown, who has cooked for Sofitel and at Huka Lodge, runs a very smart fish-and-chip shop, with fish sourced fresh daily and chips properly twice cooked. You can opt for spiced fish tacos, spicy chickpea bites and more. The fish itself (battered or grilled) and crispy calamari can be served in a bun if you prefer. There’s a choice of salads too.
Fish and chips
Pop-up (see facebook.com/fortgreenenz)
Blue Breeze Inn sous chef Liam Fox and partner Andrea Mulhausen are on a mission to make sandwiches worthy of dinnertime. Their menu comprises hearty, seasonal combinations made from scratch, with such combos as posh fish fingers with mushy peas, and pork and black pudding with homemade piccalilli. We’re convinced.
113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
It is incredible there aren’t more places around town selling really fine pizza by the slice. Still, we’re delighted Il Buco has started to rectify that, with a new outlet in Vulcan Lane. With so much thin-crusted deliciousness to choose from, we’re hesitant to name a favourite — though several judges admit being partial to the Italian sausage with rosemary potato.
JIMMY THE FISH
136 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
This unassuming fish shop in Ponsonby Central serves gloriously triple-cooked agria potato chips: try them with a fresh fillet in Jimmy Gerard’s famous Lion Red batter, or a Bluff oyster or six while they’re in season. There’s glorious spaghetti vongole and a mean fish pie, too.
Fish and chips
Pop-up (see facebook.com/judgebaonz)
Ex-Depot chef Jamie Johnston learned about Chinese cuisine from his partner, Debbie Orr. Now they’re introducing newcomers to their versions of traditional Chinese dishes, offering fluffy, hand-rolled bao (buns) and fresh, local, ethically sourced fillings. Their mapo doufu may be the best “sandwich” you ever try. Find them at the Street Food Collective in Ponsonby and elsewhere.
THE LUCKY TACO
Food truck, 230 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, and elsewhere (see theluckytaco.co.nz)
Otis and Sarah Frizzell serve terrific tacos: with their own hot sauce, fresh crunchy red cabbage, house-pickled radishes and a variety of meats. The spicy fish taco is great, but when it’s on the specials board don’t miss the Lucky Lengua — it’s some of the best tongue you’ll eat in Auckland. They’re on Ponsonby Rd Fridays and Saturdays.
100 Wellington St, Freemans Bay
The waiters run around, everything is loud and it gets smoky, and these are just some of the reasons Nishiki has always been popular with locals and those in the know. There’s also the food: izakaya classics, all done just so. And it’s BYO, we love that too.
272 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
How we rejoiced when this famed Browns Bay ramen joint opened recently on Ponsonby Rd. There’s a heated courtyard and the same list of authentic, rich noodle soups you’ll find up the coast. Choose your own noodles, or go with what they suggest. The black sesame tan-tan is spicy and umami-laden and well worth a try — that’s if you’re venturing away from the hard-to-beat pork tonkatsu. They have a great drinks list, complete with cocktail specials.
THE ROAMING DIVE
Food truck (see facebook.com/theroamingdive)
A sudden proliferation of street food pop-ups this year hasn’t detracted from this 18-month-old’s slobberific appeal. Classic American comfort food is served in both delicately portioned sliders and their polar opposite, loaded po’boys and giant trays of sticky pork fries.
17 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
Satya consistently outperforms most other Indian restaurants both in atmosphere and food. Many customers cross town for the dahi puris (chickpea, tamarind and yoghurt finger food) and the menu is rich with curries, street food and dosas. With other outlets in Mt Eden Rd, K’ Rd and Sandringham Rd, Satya is a much-loved Auckland institution, and deservedly so.
Food truck (see tigerburger.co.nz)
In a Venn diagram of 2015’s hippest foods, Tiger Burger sits bang in the middle. The menu of Korean-inspired burgers changes regularly, though pulled pork and spicy kimchi, served in a preservative-free Wild Wheat bun, is a justified staple. And you really have to try the kimchi fries: crunchy hand-cut agria chips doused in chilli sauce. Who knew fermented cabbage would pair so excellently with Colby cheese?
Collect from Farina, 244 Ponsonby Rd
You can’t eat Totò’s pizzas on your own for $20, because they sell them by the metre. But if you have a group, this is your number-one, no-fuss, outstandingly moreish, deliver-to-your-work, downright delicious option. The boscaiola — with mushroom, spinach and truffle oil — makes everyone go ga-ga.