It’s my favourite time of year.
Okay, I know I said Bluff oyster season was my favourite time of year. So this is my other favourite time of year. I’m an adult so I can make my own rules. Two favourite times of year. Done.
It’s the time of year when I grab the HOT OFF THE PRESSES New Zealand International Film Festival programme from the Civic, which runs from 16 July – 2 August in Auckland. I will then draw little asterisks beside all my “must see” shows, marking circle-y things by my “maybes” and once I compare it to my partner’s list, I then realise at this rate, I’m going to be seeing 45 films at this year’s festival. Or somehow narrow it down. It’s gonna be a good year, film geeks.
Watching the films is only part of why this is my favourite time of year. I also love the breaks in between (we usually try and squeeze in a triple header): grabbing brunch, watching a movie, grabbing a snack, watching a movie, getting dinner, watching a movie and then going out for drinks. This makes it the best. So I’ve put together a list of the best places within walking distance of the venues in central Auckland (The Civic, The Academy, Queen St Event Cinemas and Sky City Theatre – sorry Newmarket, you’re missing out on this list as I try and avoid you and your awful traffic/parking).
– Depot –
86 Federal Street – Menu (Breakfast food is not on menu link, but it’s easy to list: Beignets (think breakfast donut), toasted muesli and bacon and egg doonas. Basics done right.)
I suggest Depot for breakfast because it’s yummy and efficient. Plus much better coffee than most of the central city. It’s a go to option any time of day, however mornings are best to avoid the crowds. It’s kind of hard to schedule a movie if you’re planning on dropping in to Depot for dinner beforehand, since you never know how long it will take to get seated. After a movie is another good option, and you know the drill anyway. They say it’s an hour wait. It never is, my patient little pork chops.
What to eat: Doona me up. And a coffee of any sort. They do incredibly good decaf if that’s your sort of thing as well.
– Ima Deli –
57 Fort Street – Menu
Ima Deli has been around for less than a year, but has it’s big sister next door at Ima Cusine that has forged the way for it. This is generous, tasty, unpretentious comfort food that is Middle Eastern inspired.
What to eat: Malawach (Yemenite Brekkie) – Puff pastry-like pancake bread, eggs, tomato, sour cream and fresh green chilli sauce.
*2016 edit – Ima is still in the same location but the deli and cafe are combined. Still serving amazing food!*
– Box of Bird –
12 Commerce St/21-25 Elliot Street – Menu
Box of Bird is a mini version of Bird on Wire, which I absolutely love. They have excellent customer service and if you sign up for their loyalty program, you get $5 off your next order. Easy. Order a yummy salad or chicken roll and you won’t feel like you’re going into a food coma during the movie.
What to eat: I love the gravy roll. Omg gravy. Their salads are seasonal and change all the time so add a bit of chicken to one of these and bam – you have a super yummy and healthy lunch, all for around $10-$12.
*2016 edit – Commerce St location isn’t there anymore as the building is undergoing renos but you can still check out Elliot St!*
– Kang Nam Station –
329 Queen Street – Menu
I always seem to have a slightly weird experience every time I dine at Kang Nam, but it’s part of the fun. Once, the owner climbed on one of our chairs to fix the blinds. While we were sitting on the chair. They also have a giant tree growing inside the restaurant, covered in plastic; And the food is excellent, it’s really fast and very very cheap. Plus, when you’re ready to order, there are buttons on the table that call the staff, and that is all sorts of fun.
What to eat: The Korean BBQ pork is served in a skillet and will come out hot and full of meat and veggies. They will also serve you rice, egg, mung beans, seaweed and sweet potato on the side. All of this will run you $12.
*2016 edit – *$13*
– No.1 Pancake –
Corner of Wellesley and Lorne Street – Menu
You will see the queue of people and smell the fried bread before you register that it’s the right place. They serve sweet and savoury pancakes, and they are divine. Probably get two.
What to eat: I go for the simple double cheese ($4). But BEWARE. It is going to be served screaming hot, and even though it will tempt you and smell super tasty, let it cool down bro. For the love of all things not burn-y.
– Giapo –
279 Queen Street – More info
By now you’ve surely heard of Giapo and it’s famous test kitchen. Giapo and the team construct new flavours on a daily basis using only seasonal and New Zealand inspired produce. Think pavlova or banoffee ice cream. But it’s not just ice cream. They are works of art. At Giapo, they keep the ice creams covered, because they want you to choose a flavour based on taste and not appearance. So get ready to sample as many flavours as you would like (they suggest this), and then sit back and watch them construct a gorgeous creation for you.
What to eat: My favourite at the moment is the Christchurch Hazelnut, which tastes like frozen Ferrero Rocher. But I don’t really think you can go wrong when choosing.
– Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar –
12 Wellesley Street – Menu
Moustache has the best cookies, and milk & cookies sounds so good combined with a movie. Plus, it’s likely the last year Moustache will be just around the corner from The Civic. They had rent/landlord dramas and will soon be operating the Milk & Cookie Moustache Bus instead. As long as we can still get our cookie fix, I’m super happy!
What to eat: I’m partial to a good ol’ chocolate chunk – but have heard rumblings that the Oreo & Marshmallow cookie is pretty good as well.
*2016 edit – Moustache is unfortunately not on this handy corner anymore but has moved to a permanent location at Auckland Uni and also has a travelling cookie bus which may pop up at the next event you’re at! Keep your eyes peeled!*
– Cassia –
5 Fort Street – Menu
Sid Sahrawat (of Sidart fame), has been running Cassia in the basement of 5 Fort Lane for a little over a year. It’s such a refreshing, different restaurant experience. Indian and New Zealand flavours are combined and modernised, served in unique ways. They also have a to die for gin cocktail list.
What to eat: Fennel brioche, fried eggplant and the Vindaloo beef brisket.
*2016 edit – Was voted Best Restaurant in Auckland this year! They take bookings so plan ahead, it gets busy.*
– Cafe Hanoi –
Excelsior Building, Corner of Galway & Commerce, Britomart – Menu
Cafe Hanoi has always been a top pick for me, regardless of how many other new restaurants open around them. Plus if you’re going to a matinee, you can book in for lunch Monday – Friday. The food is a combination of Old Quarter Hanoi and modern Vietnamese, full of big flavours in generous portions. I always have a good time at Cafe Hanoi.
What to eat: Roasted loligo squid stuffed with pork, wood ear mushrooms & glass noodles with a hot & sour tamarind sauce. No big deal, right?
– Federal Delicatessen –
The Fed has risen from the ashes. Quite literally actually, having overcome a massive fire in their kitchen air vents a couple months ago. They’re back, and business (like always) is booming. This is a great option if you’re wanting a late meal after your movie, as the kitchen serves food until 1am. And it’s good. Real good.
What to eat: If you’re eating off the late night menu, try the wings, the poutine, the chicken hoagie and don’t forget a piece of banana & toffee pie.
– The Jefferson –
7 Fort Lane – Menu
The Jefferson is the new cool kid in town, if the cool kid was a whisky bar. Right next to Cassia on Fort Lane, it offers a more mellow and classy drink experience than some of the other venues (venues is a nicer word than strip clubs) nearby. I’m not a huge whisky fan, but the wine and cocktail list is just as good, and they also serve incredible beef short ribs if you need a bit of a feed.
What to drink: You’re going to film festival, so it seems fitting to order a Humphrey Bogart or Shirley Maclaine cocktail.
– Xuxu Dumpling Bar –
Levy Building, Corner of Commerce & Galway, Britomart – Menu
Xuxu is right across the street (and is the little sister) of Cafe Hanoi. It is small and cozy – perfect for a nightcap after your evening film. Gorgeous cocktail selections and very competent staff means that you will always be happy with your order. And the dumplings are yummy and good value ($7).
What to drink: Xuxu Martini or an Apple and Cinnamon Old Fashioned.
– Masu –
90 Federal Street, SKYCITY – Menu
Masu has won quite a few food accolades in the short amount of time it’s been open, and they are pretty well deserved. But what impresses me most about Masu is the bar area. Take a good look around, next time you’re in the area. They hand chip the ice off a massive block sitting on the bar top, for the drinks. The cocktail list is huge, and they offer a ton of Japanese spirits that I have never heard of before but that taste incredible.
What to drink: Namatini (dry and savoury – fennel and cucumber lifted by dry junmai sake and gin)
Shows I’m booked in for this year: The Lobster (opening night!), The Assassin, Amy, Tale of Tales, Going Clear, The Wolf Pack, Song of the Sea, City of Gold and Peggy Guggenheim (I’m debating between Inherent Vice, The Experimenter, How to Change the World and Act of Kindness as well). What are your picks?
*2016 edit – Poi E, I, Daniel Blake, First Monday in May, High-Rise, Captain Fantastic, The Rehearsal, Low and Behold, Like Crazy, Personal Shopper, The Lure, Peterson, Julietta, Le Ride.*
Photos courtesy of the featured businesses Facebook pages.