Where to go when everything else is closed. With thanks to Stella Artois.
On a Thursday night in May, the Metro team emerged from our Karangahape Rd offices around 9.30pm, on the hunt for a hot meal that didn’t take the shape of a burger or kebab. Ken Yakitori Bar was decidedly closed, its ‘open’ sign flipped over despite people finishing up inside. We walked into Candela in hopes it was running its late-night bar snacks programme, but no dice. Bar Céleste across the road was shut, too, and so was Gemmayze St and Pici. We gave up. I bussed home and went to bed hungry.
It didn’t need to be so! We decided it was past time we revisited Tāmaki’s midnight dining spots, with the pandemic’s unpredictable turbulence having done a number on the hospitality industry’s opening hours. While we were all locked inside, many places began closing early — then kept doing so. (Some iconic institutions, like Spicy House, are now open only till midnight on Friday and Saturday, despite previously doing a roaring trade till 3am on weekends. The Fed closes at 9pm! Tanuki’s Cave at 10pm!)
After analysing our options — and actually going out and trying some — we’ve discovered the restaurants that toil away to feed the shift workers, night owls, partiers, students and everyone in between. While it can feel like Auckland is a city that goes promptly to sleep at 9pm, that’s not entirely true. If you know where to go and aren’t lazy about getting there, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility to have a full meal — or a substantial snack — after 11pm. Let us help.
Note: We’re keeping it to central and surrounding suburbs.
Best Late Night Dining
- Mt Eden
- Karangahape Rd
When in doubt, start at Pocha, an Auckland late-night eating staple. I don’t know about you, but if you’re on a buzz and want to keep that alive, it always feels like a major bummer shambling into Maccas and waiting for your chips in fuck-off fluorescent light. Pocha is friendlier to the promises of night, and that Almond Krunch will taste so much better in the throes of post-drink hunger. KFC (as in, Korean fried chicken), makgeoli and a Cass or two — I mean, they even offer bottles of Still Life from Everyday Wine if you truly can’t let go of your White-Auckland alter ego — and you and your friends can yarn into the early hours about how you’re the Auckland version of Girls and someone should make a TV show about you.
50 Kitchener St
Till midnight Sunday, Tuesday–Thursday; till 1am Friday–Saturday
If Pocha is too busy, try the nearby OBar in Chancery Square, which is the closest thing Auckland has to a hub of outdoor dining: a fully pedestrianised space where all the restaurants have tables outside and glowing heat lamps in the winter. We like OBar because it always feels like something’s going on there, what with the crowds of Asian students who flock to this place in huge groups. (That’s another thing about OBar — the menu assumes you have heaps of friends who can all go in on a $60 bowl of stew and $50 plate of fried chicken.) There’s also the added benefit of that weird Poker Ape ‘cafe’ next to it, where you can join a table to go in on Texas Hold ’Em and “absolutely no real money or cash out is involved” (wink, wink).
15 Chancery St
Till 1am Sunday–Thursday; till 2am Friday–Saturday
When deciding where to eat at night, I often go, “Do you feel like going into the city for Korean, or Dominion Rd for Chinese?” because we’re a city of two halves, bar a White Lady or two. Along with Pocha and OBar, town has Twelve, Sophia, Dong De Moon, Seoul Night and Ah Ssak, all Korean restaurants which serve more or less the same thing. Twelve is open till 3am every day but Monday, which is good when you can’t quite muster the energy to think about where to go and what else is open. It’s also on Uber Eats and HungryPanda, if you’d rather have it delivered. (Side note: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just order a precise delivery of fried chicken at 2am to, like, the side of the road, if that’s where you happened to be, like in Korea?) I do find the number of chicken options available at Twelve quite intimidating, and need to steer you away from the “Carbonara Chicken”, which sounds really good but is so creamy you start to feel quite sick, quite fast.
1 Courthouse Ln
Till 3am Tuesday–Sunday
You would think that yakitori is the perfect kind of food to consume at 1am — it’s the primality of meat on sticks. But only Ken Yakitori Bar on Anzac Ave is open till 1am, and Bonjiri Yakitori Bar in Chancery Square is open till midnight. When you’re at Bonjiri you should definitely order the chicken tails (which is what the restaurant is named for); they’re slightly crunchy and cartilage-y, like eating chicken skin but with a more satisfying meatiness. It’s also usually more chill than Ken Yakitori, which can get busy from people calling it an early night after spilling out of the nearby bars in Britomart.
55 Anzac Ave
Till 1am Wednesday–Sunday
12 Courthouse Ln
Till midnight Tuesday–Sunday
Worst comes to worst, and you do not want to have fast food, the Proper Pizza Company is open till 6am, every day.
12 O’Connell St More about Pocha
Till 6am, Monday–Sunday
We go through periods of being either Gogo girlies or Maya BBQ stans — the two places functionally serve the same kind of food, but have completely different vibes. You’re much more likely to run into people you know at Gogo, as it’s been around long enough to gain a foothold in Auckland’s non-Chinese community (alongside places like Eden Noodles, New Flavour, Spicy House — you know the ones), and Maya BBQ feels more modern, safe and sane. We like how the windows outside frame the booths of people having their late-night kai — pops of bright light in the middle of an otherwise dark Dominion Rd stretch. We also love the pork belly skewers here (one of our team has been known to put away more than 10 at once) but also really rate the spicy Chinese buns (mantou).
345 Dominion Rd
Till 1am Monday–Sunday
To get into Gogo Music Cafe you must fight your way through a curtain of translucent plastic sheets — the gate of transition from the darkness of Dominion Rd into a wash of white light. There is no mood lighting at Gogo, not even at 2am: just a relentless bright sleaze, beer towers, cowboy murals and the promise of hot, heavily spiced skewers. Every time I come here, ascend the stairs, and see how slammed it is, I breathe a sigh of relief — relief that busyness still exists in this city despite the quiet of the streets. In that brief moment, I know that Auckland really is quite cool. Ordering at Gogo is now done via QR code, which can be difficult to navigate if you’re a few drinks in. Skewers are the thing here (for surprising yummy-ness get the barbecue chives) and bigger plates of spicy chicken are served alongside handmade noodles.
559 Dominion Rd
Till 1am Sunday–Thursday; till 2am Friday–Saturday
Most people who went to university in Auckland in the past couple decades will be familiar with New Flavour, a BYO spot popular for late-night Dominion Rd pilgrimages out of the city. It may well be the site of many sheltered kids’ introduction to Chinese food; here, they form an iron-clad relationship with pork and chive dumplings that will last forever. There is an intimidatingly long menu, which makes me feel bad for the kitchen, but at least they know the people wandering in here at midnight probably want a plate of dumplings, some fried noodles, sweet and sour pork, and maybe a side of cucumber salad, for balance.
537 Dominion Rd
Till 1.45am Sunday–Monday and Wednesday–Thursday; till 2.45am Friday–Saturday
Flavour House Chinese Dumplings is a lesser-known player on the same strip, though it has been around since 2002 and serves food familiar enough to make it a solid option if you’re wanting a change of scenery. There are actually a lot of not-dumpling dishes on the menu that we’d recommend, like the braised spare ribs noodle soup (yum) and a braised pork hock with spicy soy sauce, plus a few dumplings that are good, too, like the pork, chives, egg and shrimp ones. We haven’t had them yet, but Flavour House also offers duck and bean sprout dumplings — very intriguing.
614 Dominion Rd
Till 1am Sunday–Thursday (Wednesday closed); till 2am Friday–Saturday
A little further up Dominion Rd towards Mt Roskill, there’s a food truck, Aya’s Kitchen, that is open until 1.30am every day but Sunday and an extra half an hour on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a good option if you want somewhere to swing by in your car (or Uber, please be safe) to stop for a takeaway. It’s run by a sweet couple, and while we have found the food to be of varying quality, it’s definitely the type of food you crave once today’s evening ticks over into tomorrow: nachos, chicken tikka wraps, grilled chicken sandwiches (toasties). There’s even a Nutella sandwich, if that sounds appealing to you.
1041/732 Dominion Rd More about Maya BBQ
Till 1.30am Monday–Thursday; till 2am Friday–Saturday
Along with being our best late-night bar, Acho’s is good for snacky, late-night Japanese tapas, like lotus root chips and fried squid tentacles. You can also suck on edamame beans and slurp up a carb-heavy bowl of udon noodles. All the hot, fried finger food will act as a happy go-between if you don’t fancy a White Lady burger (though we hear the cheese toasties there are nice) or a hefty kebab from Little Turkish Cafe.
K’ Rd Food Workshop, 309 Karangahape Rd More about Acho's
Till 2am Tuesday–Sunday
Broadway Diner is a family-owned food truck, a little like The White Lady — which makes sense because the two are related to each other. (They’re both run, though separately, by members of the Washer family.) As the name suggests, the diner is parked up on Newmarket’s Broadway and serves a wide range of burgers that one might call ‘classic’, due to their size and the uncompromising inclusion of lettuce and tomato layers. Broadway Diner is a boon to shift workers and hospo staff who don’t feel like dealing with the messy central city; the Newmarket strip at that time of night is usually dead, dead quiet.
Till 3am Sunday–Thursday; till 5am Friday–Saturday
For a sit-down meal, Guangzhou Hotpot’s Newmarket branch is open till 2am every day (the city branch opens till 2am only on Friday and Saturday). I never really feel like an elaborate hot pot in the wee hours, but they also have these claypot rices that feel like they go on forever and are the sort of thing — because the main flavour is salty and there’s really not much texture — that makes you zone out and middle-distance stare as you monotonously and without thinking spoon food into your mouth. I also think the fit-out and vibe of both Guangzhou Hotpots are cool — moody, with a million different clashing textures and colours that somehow all work together.