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Food Neighbourhood: Takapuna

Food Neighbourhood: Takapuna

By Anna King Shahab. Photos by Ken Downie.

Takapuna looks to have it all: a long, golden-sand beach, Rangitoto staunchly straddling the horizon, a busy retail strip feeding off The Strand and Lake Rd, and in recent years a food scene worthy of the area. It’s not a self-sufficient village yet, but it’s getting better all the time.

Approaching from the east along Lake Rd, you’ll notice the growing Korean and Chinese flavour. The flashy new Fortune Fountain restaurant does à la carte and the area’s first yum cha, the latter being the better choice. Petite Korean joint Myeong Dong offers reliable cheap eats, and Gangnam Style (it had to happen) does a BBQ buffet that draws a steady expat crowd. Faro, meanwhile, is the place to go for a classier Korean experience.

The McKenzies Precinct is looking more comfortable in its skin at last. The large central courtyard is packed out on these still-cool weekend evenings as people sit and sip under the heat lamps, and the place is set to buzz come summer. It’s home to some good cheap eats: Blunderbuss, with Italian-inspired small dishes and pizzas (try the pizza with baby octopus and pickled chilli, and the meatballs with a parmesan custard), and a branch of Mexico, which has all the charm of its Britomart HQ and is the keenest user of limes in the city.

Around the corner, Joost and Clare van den Berg, formerly of Zus and Zo in Herne Bay, have opened Zomer (Dutch for summer) — it’s a bright, airy cafe that feels more Sydney than Amsterdam; don’t miss the dikkertjes (thick pancakes). The Commons offers both a casual bar menu and smarter dining upstairs. Chef Nick Honeyman now spends quite a bit of time at Everybody’s Izakaya in the CBD, but the menu has retained his deft touch, with many delicate flavours balanced by louder bursts of umami, salt or sour. You really should do the dego (advise when you book).

Cafes abound. The Latin Larder has a lovely back courtyard, and you can’t talk Takapuna without a nod to the cafe that raised the bar so high five years ago: Takapuna Beach Cafe. Off Lake Rd, The Department Store and Como St Cafe are both purveyors of delicious things to eat and drink. If you’re a fan of organic and fair-trade food you’re well served with Jam Organic Cafe, its patrons spilling out onto the newly beautified Hurstmere Green, and (on Lake Rd) little Mimosa, with its cute arty vibe and some lovely Japanese flavours.

With the yoga mecca Lululemon open and the beach thronged with fitness fans of all ages, Takapuna is an obvious spot for a Tank Juice Bar, which you’ll find on Anzac St, but the scene is right for more “clean eating” joints.

Sunday morning’s market makes the carpark between the mall and Hurstmere Rd a much nicer place to traverse. There’s fresh produce, including some very good Kumeu organics, and summer brings excellent tomatoes from the grower Lu Zheng. The honey guy at the Lake Rd end sells fantastically toothsome wetland honey from Port Waikato and pohutukawa honey from Northland.

Market stalwart Top Shelf sells a great range of dips; the chilli tapenade is addictive. Go early for pastries and croissants from the French couple who always sell out, and just across the aisle from them look for the Turkish guys selling delicious baklava and borek redolent with spiced potato and dill.

What else? Sadly, Elske is gone so there’s no artisan bread; and no fishmonger, no butcher, no dedicated greengrocer either. You’re sorted for brunches, beers and buffets but, as in so many other parts of the city with a growing density of housing, you’re not sorted for provisions. Why not build on the popularity of that Sunday market? How about Auckland’s first permanent covered market (Mercado Central in Valencia, anyone?), instead of that ugly old carpark.

Bustling market with local artisan produce and beautiful beach? How is it not already happening?

Published in Metro, October 2013.

Anna King Shahab blogs at eatsbyanna.

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