Dec 16, 2022 Metro Eats
Welcome to the inevitable “looking back on the year” newsletter; the Metro Eats Wrapped of 2022. There is much talk in this one, if you scroll down, about the most memorable bites I had this year (I always say “memorable” instead of “best” to cover up the sins of my forgetful nature… give me a break, I eat every day!).
Yesterday, our latest issue came out, which, three weeks out from the deadline, always seems like it’s never going to happen and then only feels like it’s actually going to happen in the final three days. That’s usually very cool and not stressful at all. But it’s here! The Summer 2023 issue of Metro magazine has DJ Half Queen on the cover, one of the co-founders of club collective FILTH, a fellow Aries icon, and, as I only found out through the feature (written by our arts ed, Tendai*), been kissed by Madonna, on stage, in 2016. Main character behaviour, obvi.
We photographed Half Queen at New Lynn Ethiopian restaurant Gojo, one of the restaurants on our Metro Eats for under $25 list, which was one of my favourite new openings this year. I love the spicy piles of lentils and spongy injera, the people, the Keneto (an alcohol-free beer, made from barley and honey). The composition of the hands in this photo is particularly satisfying.
The Metro Eats feature this year (thanks to Tuatara, see more below) was designed by Sheahan Huri, who Simon got on board after seeing posters he designed plastered all over the street our office is on. I remember telling him that all I really wanted was for the feature to reflect the liveliness and fizziness of the restaurants on the list – how fun and revelatory it can be to discover and eat at these places. I wanted it to be a bit messy and a lot to look at, to sort of convey the breadth (and depth) of what it’s like to eat in Auckland. I think it worked? You should probably buy a copy to find out.
This is my last newsletter for 2022, but, happily, this is the first newsletter which is presented in partnership with our friends at Tuatara, who will also be along for the ride next year. Thanks again!
* Read Tendai’s last arts newsletter, in which he talks about the arts funding crises (including the personal one affecting Metro and the end of our Arts Editor role, which brought so much to the magazine via Lana and now Tendai). Bye, Tendai! If you’re not Tendai, stop reading now. Tendai, thanks for your verve, wit and companionship in the last few months. I can’t believe we never ended up going to see Don’t Worry Darling together. I’ll miss you!
The Official Metro
Christmas Gift Guide 2022
Need to get some last minute gifts? Besides the obvious (e.g. a subscription to Metro), there is a very thorough, very good gift guide in the latest issue, compiled by Amanda Jane Robinson. Because we’re all about added value here, and because we are nine days out from Christmas, you can pursue the guide at your leisure on our website.
Some of my personal favourite recommendations from the guide include:
– Pen2, the second recipe book from Coffee Pen ($65)
– Can I Ask You A Question? by Jennifer Venditti ($135)
– A pair of socks from artist Turumeke Harrington ($35)
– Misma Anaru ceramic organiser ($220)
– Wilbur Hsu x Emma Jing collab scrunchie ($65)
– Sabotage MFG voucher
– Banana, toffee and almond porridge pack from Posh Porridge ($30)
– Numa Mackenzie’s hand-printed eel t-shirts from Moana Fresh ($33)
And, if you’re looking for some food-themed gifts that aren’t food (or cookbooks), here are some ideas (from me)…
– Pinni top in Lobster from Hej Hej ($200)
– Camilla Skirt by Allina Liu Says Gah! ($295)
– Wine Time T-Shirt by Lazy Oaf ($87)
– Bread mirror, by Apt. 2 ($210)
– Shield corset – Harvest, by Samantha Pleet ($218)
– Food enthusiast Long Sleeve Shirt, by Lauren Martin ($70)
– A print by Maggie Cowles ($170)
Happy gift giving!
My Favourite Metro Stories This Year
(that I didn’t write)
Top 50 Wines 2022, by Oliver Styles.
A great list for all your wine needs – especially with the holidays coming up, which usually comes with wine buying, for some reason or another. Since I am all that I am, I personally like this ‘Yellow’ Skin-Contact Sav from Jumpin’ Juice. Only $20 atm!
The trouble with Auckland Transport, by Hayden Donnell.
As someone who can’t drive, I love complaining about public transport, and especially Auckland Transport, where I spent one very tedious summer interning.
The time Angella Dravid was Paul Reid’s graphic designer, by Angella Dravid.
I found this extremely funny.
The Character Protection Racket, by Hayden Donnell.
Let us live near nice things?
The magic of solo dining, by Sharon Lam.
Solo dining rules, but I find most places in Auckland are quite hostile to the notion that people want to do it (e.g. the restaurants are not built for it). However, as this essay from Sharon reflects, it can really be quite magical and self-gratifying.
You and I eat bread differently, by Various.
On my anti-sourdough shit with this one. (Jokes, I love sourdough but I like lots of other types of bread too!)
Laneway Festival has announced their food vendor line-up, with lots of Metro favourites involved, like Ockhee (a Top 50 Restaurant), Peach’s (A Top 50 Metro Eats restaurant), and Ramen Takara (ditto). We got a ‘lil #gifted package from them to celebrate, which included a box of Tip Top Trumpets of the S’more and Boysenberry variety — both welcome in this very humid heat. (Did you know I only tried the Boysenberry Tip Top for the first time this year? Crazy, according to some people I know.) Laneway Tickets are still available, for the 30 Jan, here.
Tonight, Baby G is popping up at Ragtag – 4pm to sold out, with drinks provided by Ragtag. $15, cash only.
Coffee Pen (aka the best cafe in Auckland, according to us) is hosting a special market called Little Little Market at theirs on 17th December. From 8am-1pm, there will be coffee and special food, alongside a chance to stock up on some Christmas gifts from Jiho Store, Klay, Misma Anaru, Thea Ceramics and Walk in the Park. If I had all the money in the world, by the way, I would love a piece from Walk in the Park.
Say farewell to Soap at Beresford Square, Saturday 17th Dec from 10pm-3am. Dance, cry, say bye forever.
This Sunday 18, Lima Cinque is popping up at Annabel’s, serving up skewers and natural wine. 4pm to late.
Also on Sunday, Acho’s is throwing a Christmas party, featuring a roasted whole pig. 2pm-late. Yum.
Gemmayze St is serving up all its kebab shop favourites on 20 December, including mixed grill, loaded hummus, lamb pide sandwich (and some vegetarian options!). Also yum.
Memorable Bites of 2022
Welcome to my annual round-up of some good things I ate this year.
Probably the best meal I had all year was at Bangkok restaurant Jeh o Chula. You gotta picture the scene with me. I’d just come off the plane from Singapore, it is hot as hell, I am profusely sweating. There is a masking requirement, even outdoors. My sister had already pre-booked a table at this place in Bangkok where rows and rows of locals sit outside, waiting on rickety plastic chairs for their number to be called. A man is selling coconut-based ice cream in a wheeled food cart amongst the waiting diners – people risk getting hit by scooters as they cross the street to order a scoop in a little cup. While waiting, you can peer into this walled-off glass outdoor area in which staff are handling massive slices of fatty pork belly and crackling, stacked on top of each other in giant-sized metal bowls, and frying noodles in smoky woks.
We go in. The first thing comes to the table. It’s the Tom Yum Mama, a spicy-hot-hot soup where octopus tendrils and criss-crossed cuts of squid emerge from the milky broth and two raw egg yolks bump alongside generous slices of fresh lime. There’s a side of that deep-fried fatty pork belly I saw earlier, in those boulder-sized bowls. Later, I eat a plate of raw salmon doused in an acidic melody of garlic, chilli, mint and ginger. Everything is so bright, zingy, vibrant – an antithesis to the total absence of any of that.
The other memorable thing I ate in Bangkok was the crab omelette at Samrub Samrub Thai, a very small restaurant where there is one chef behind the pass for every 2 diners in the place. It’s a set menu, with an add-on: a generously mammoth omelette with juicy crab meat folded into it. We are already stuffed so full that I suffer from brief moments of nausea, but we have to do the crab omelette, because it’s a crab omelette. It is crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside: this salty, cloud-like concoction that I wish I’d eaten on an empty stomach.
Soz, but there is something about eating in an unfamiliar country that makes it more memorable – I mean, that’s why travel food shows exist, right? We’re all desperately bitter, jealous people that want what we can’t have. And what I want, all the time, and what I can’t have, any of the time, is banh mi from Marrickville Pork Roll. The banh mi there is just a masterclass of textures – the crunch and the squishy and the smooth – and it’s just such easy deliciousness. And under $10. Another thing I can’t have, but have thought about often since coming back, is the pain au chocolat at Lode, which is not a traditional pain au chocolat, but is beautifully layered and has a sprinkling of sea salt on top. Delish!
Don’t worry, I still love eating in our city! Like a lot. I feel like my Metro Eats feature this issue will betray a lot of my favourite bites this year: the dumplings at TianFu, the youtiao dipped in soy milk at Silverlake, the kolo mee at Taisumyun . (Buy the magazine to find out more!) In comparison, I feel like I think about the meals I’ve had at restaurants more holistically than in individual bites. When I look back on my experiences at some of the best restaurants in Auckland: Lillius , the Best Fine Dining winner at this year’s Restaurant of the Year awards, or Mr Morris , the runner-up for Best Smart Restaurant, I remember the warmth in which we were greeted; I remember the feelings of being delighted at the complexities and unexpected surprises of what we were served, rather than specific flavours.
I do, however, very strongly remember the blue warehou at Alma , the market fish that day, which was cooked exactly how fish should be cooked, with a meaty juiciness that felt really lavish and rich, and a distinct flavour from being finished on the fire.
I do remember the Peking duck at Mr Lobster, a Top 50 restaurant out in Henderson, where the thin pancakes came out with a little tea light underneath to keep it warm, and the skin of the duck was beautiful and blistered.
I do remember the okra at Milenta , which is perhaps not the dish they thought I would remember, but it was the first time I’d ever had it like that – cooked on the flame, and not slightly slimy in a curry. The black sesame mole was also a happy surprise.
And I do remember the olive oil semi-freddo from Hugo’s Bistro, which is a simple indulgence not unlike the cheesecake at Pici : both things designed to linger in your mind at the end of the meal.
If you’d like to know more about what I thought was good in 2022, you can browse through the entire archive of Metro Eats newsletters.
Happy holidays, friends. See you next year!