From the Metro Top 50 Restaurants 2018.
This Ponsonby bistro located in the heritage-listed former post-office building at Three Lamps takes its inspiration from Paris. The menu reads like a lesson in French classics – steak tartare, duck à l’orange, steak frites with sauce béarnaise, crab bisque, baked-to-order madeleines – and French grape varietals and Champagne dominate the wine list. The elegant dining room with its high ceilings, white tablecloths and luxuriant greenery sets the scene for a memorable dinner; like any good Parisian bistro, the atmosphere is lively and the outdoor courtyard is always popular.
What it offers Fixed-price meals / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good seating outside / Takes large groups
A favourite dish Cloudy Bay clams in persillade butter
Hours Lunch and Dinner 7 days
Chef Juan Balsani
1-3 St Marys Rd, Ponsonby
Azabu’s Ponsonby Rd frontage is a mysterious letterbox-shaped window carved into a wall next to an oversized door. Open it and you enter the dimly lit dining room, which extends corridor-like on to Maidstone Lane, and the restaurant’s Roji Bar out the back. Near-touching tables amp up the rowdiness of this place, which, with ex-Ebisu host Ken Toyota at the helm, always seems to balance smartness with fun. Chef Yukio Ozeki’s shared-plates menu is legitimately fusion: a hybrid Japanese/Peruvian cuisine called Nikkei. The tuna sashimi tostada illustrates the mash-up: wasabi tartare alongside jalapeño and fish on a tostada strewn with coriander. With an ever-changing selection of Japanese whiskies and cocktails, it’s business time at the front, party out the back.
What it offers Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Good for kids (kids’ menu) / Bar / Craft beer selection / Japanese whisky selection
A favourite dish Eggplant tempura with hatcho miso and spring onion.
Awards Finalist, Best Drinks List
Hours Lunch Wed-Sun, Dinner 7 days
Chef Yukio Ozeki
26 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
There’s a sense of pride in the service at zen-like Cocoro that matches the thoughtfulness of executive chef Makoto Tokuyama’s contemporary Japanese cooking. The care with which every ingredient is sourced and presented is impressive: you’re unlikely to taste sashimi this fresh anywhere else in the city. You can order à la carte – although if you’re planning to do that, you can’t make a dinner reservation – but we recommend leaving the meal in Tokuyama’s capable hands and opting for one of the set menus, alongside either a premium sake or wine pairing or just a single glass from the excellent and comprehensive drinks list.
What it offers Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork, line-caught fish / Takes large groups / Dégustation options / Fixed-price meals / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Udon noodles with house dashi broth
Awards Runner-up, Best Smart Dining; Runner-up, Best Drinks List
Hours Lunch and dinner Tue-Sat
Chef Makoto Tokuyama
56a Brown St, Ponsonby
So much has changed on Auckland’s dining landscape since 2013, when Orphans set the standard for daring, ethical food anchored in a deep sense of place. Yet the restaurant continues to hold its own. The pared-down aesthetic of the long, narrow room provides a neutral backdrop, which allows the short, seasonally updated menu to shine. Like the fit-out, it is the antithesis of mass-produced – there are no corners cut here, with dishes such as snapper carpaccio with tamarillo and horseradish or aubergine with cucumber and seaweed quietly revealing fine-dining accents in a bistro setting. Begin with Orphans’ wickedly crusty sourdough with burnt butter while debating what to order; alternatively, the four-course feasting menu offers not only adventure, but excellent value.
What it offers Fixed-price meals / Shared-plate options / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Takes large groups / Bar / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Lamb with cabbage and feijoa
Awards Finalist, Best Chef: Tom Hishon; Finalist, Food for Good
Hours Breakfast and lunch 7 days, Dinner Tue-Sat
Bookings For dinner only
Chef Tom Hishon, executive chef; Conor Wiremu Mertens, head chef
118 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Ponsonby Road Bistro
In its eighth year of operation, Ponsonby Road Bistro is still the best restaurant on the city fringe. Everything about this place is warm, from host Melissa Morrow’s welcome to the amber and honey hues of the low-ceilinged dining room. Chef Sarah Conway’s artfully handwritten menu changes every three weeks and features dishes you can imagine being reworked from a library of classical and international cookbooks. Sometimes, that means spiced split-pea and feta manti; lamb rump with Punjabi cashew curry; or straight-up beef carpaccio with capers, parmesan and truffle. Bistro staples may seem familiar, but like the hand the menu’s written in, Conway’s execution is always esoterically brilliant. We love the attention to detail, from the careful wine matching to the gentle farewell pat on the back as you leave. It’s like eating at the home of a sophisticated friend, but with better wine.
What it offers Shared-plate options / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Bar / Craft beer selection / Good seating outside
A favourite dish Spiced split-pea and feta manti with garlic, yoghurt, paprika butter, toasted pine nuts and mint
Awards Winner, Best City-Fringe Bistro
Runner-up, Restaurateur of the Year: Sarah Conway, Melissa Morrow, Blair Russell (Joint)
Finalist, Supreme Award
Finalist, Best Chef: Sarah Conway
Finalist, Best Service
Finalist, Best Wine List
Chef Sarah Conway
165 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
There are few restaurants in Auckland that have the sense of permanence Prego does, and its re-entry into the Top 50 in 2018 marks a welcome return to form for this Ponsonby stalwart. Sometimes the true value of a restaurant is not in the boundaries it pushes but simply in the way it treats people. Prego makes newcomers feel welcome and cared for, it makes kids feel special and it makes regulars feel fiercely loyal. The staff are genuinely charming and unflappable, conjuring extra chairs and cutlery when needed, recommending favourite dishes, and serving the familiar, quality Italian cuisine that appeals across generations because the flavour combinations are tried and true.
What it offers Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Good seating outside / Takes large groups / Good for kids
A favourite dish Duck risotto
Awards Runner-up, Restaurant Personality of the Year: Kaylee Yoshida; Finalist, Best Service
Bookings Big groups only
Hours Lunch and dinner 7 days
Chef Lennox Bull
226 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Lovers of spice will appreciate the liberal use of chilli at Saan, an integral element when it comes to achieving balance in the punchy northern Thai dishes served here. Head chef Chutima Polvit gives authentic dishes a contemporary spin by subbing in New Zealand ingredients such as Te Mana lamb, kumara and local fish. The setting is beautifully subdued, with bespoke blond wood furniture and tropical plants offsetting the hissing wok fire and smoke from the chargrill, where Thai street favourites such as aromatic sausages, turmeric chicken and satay are cooked out in the open. Behind the bar, and bringing it all together, is a young, fresh team who can shake a cocktail as well as they can explain the intricacies of the menu.
What it offers Shared-plate options / Fixed-price meals / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Good seating outside / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Lanna pork sausage with aromatic spices and kaffir lime, served with green chilli paste
Hours Lunch Wed-Sun, Dinner 7 days
Chef Chutima “Say-Say” Polvit
160 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Metro Top 50 2018 restaurant Sidart offers contemporary fine dining at the Three Lamps end of Ponsonby Road and is this year's Supreme Winner.
In a time of uncertainty for many fine-dining establishments, it’s no mean feat that Sidart – now in its ninth year – has reached new heights of excellence. From the first tingly taste of compressed cucumber to the genius of a simply presented peach half that turns out to be so much more, everything you eat here surprises and delights. Noting that Sid Sahrawat is a brilliant chef is stating the obvious, but his knack for nurturing talent, specifically in the case of head chef Jason Kim and Lesley Chandra, who is in charge of research and development for both Sidart and Cassia, gets less attention; it’s one of the reasons he and his wife and business partner, Chand, can run two restaurants at the pinnacle of Auckland’s dining scene. The service at Sidart is pitch-perfect under the leadership of restaurant manager Sophie Beaton, ably assisted by the knowledgeable sommelier, Sho Osumi.
What it offers Dégustation dining only / Tuesday test kitchen / Discovery menu Wed-Sat / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good for vegetarians / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection
A favourite dish Blackfoot pāua with corn, fig leaf and sea lettuce
Hours Lunch Fri, Dinner Tue-Sat
Chef Sid Sahrawat, executive chef; Jason Kim, head chef
Winner, Best Fine Dining
Winner, Best Chef: Sid Sahrawat
Winner, Restaurateur of the Year:
Sid and Chand Sahrawat (Joint)
Finalist, Restaurant Personality of the Year: Sho Osumi
Finalist, Best Service
Finalist, Best Drinks List
Finalist, Food for Good
Level 1, Three Lamps Plaza
283 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
The Blue Breeze Inn
Big, bold, China-inspired flavour is what The Blue Breeze Inn is about, from the deftly prepared food to the convivial atmosphere. It’s always a good time in this corner of Ponsonby Central and one of our favourite places to dine with a group. Chef Che Barrington pays particular attention to balancing flavours, so while many dishes on the menu come with a fair whack of heat from chilli and/or Sichuan peppercorns, they don’t overwhelm. Long-time favourites such as pork-belly-filled steamed buns and tiger prawn dumplings never leave the menu, but daring diners should try dishes such as ground wild boar with water chestnut and soy custard, and wok-fried little-neck clams with XO sauce.
What it offers Sunday Peking duck special / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Private room / Takes large groups / Good seating outside / Bar / Craft beer selection / Good for kids
A favourite dish Ground wild boar, water chestnut, coriander, soy custard
Chef Che Barrington
Ponsonby Central, 146 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby