Iconic Auckland Eats: City’s top 100 dishes revealed

For one Auckland woman, keeping her New Year’s resolution to keep her weight in checkjust got that much harder.

Data insights manager Kerrie McGirr has been declared winner of the Iconic Auckland Eats. Her prize – getting to eat at 100 restaurants with the iconic dishes across the city over the next 12 months.

In September, the hunt for 100 unique Auckland dishes was launched in a move to build the city’s reputation as a food and beverage destination.

The Iconic Auckland Eats initiative was delivered by Auckland Unlimited, a new Auckland Council entity formed as a result of the merger between Auckland Tourism, Events, Economic Development and Regional Facilities Auckland.

The first 50 dishes were nominated by well-known Aucklanders, including top chefs Al Brown, Ray McVinnie, Peter Gordon and Ganesh Raj, and the public were asked to name the next 50.

Auckland Unlimited received more than 360 nominations. A number of restaurants were nominated more than once.

Three nominations from data insights manager Kerrie McGirr made the list. This won her the prize of dining at the 100 restaurants across Auckland over the next 365 days.

“Honestly, it came as a shock and I never expected it. But as a foodie, this sure feels like striking the food lottery,” McGirr said.

The dishes McGirr voted for were Ahi’s Te Mana lamb and cheese savouries, Federal Delicatessen’s toasted Reuben and Miann Britomart’s creme brulee.

McGirr said Ahi’s “tender NZ lamb in feathery puff pastry with mozzarella” savouries reminded her of the pies her Nana used to make.

“My Nana, a good West Coaster of solid working class roots made amazing savouries with a mince filling handed down through generations and across continents,” she said.

“I thought there was no savoury to beat Nana’s, but I was wrong. This Ahi savoury was something else. It took a traditional Kiwiana item and turned it on its head.”

After studying in the United States and staying with a Jewish family as an exchange student, McGirr said Federal Delicatessen’s Reuben brought back fond memories.

“Travelling back to the USA might be a pipe dream for now, but I’m thrilled to know the best toastie in NZ is available right in the heart of Auckland,” McGirr said.

Other dishes that made the People’s Choice list include Azabu’s volcano sushi, Cassia’s special fish with Kerala sauce, Mekong Baby’s braised pork belly and Red Elephant’s go ob pu kao fai, or flaming chicken with Thai herbs.

Also making the cut was Boracay Garden’s Filipino-style fried pork hock dish, crispy pata.

Jesus Domingo, the Philippines Ambassador to NZ, who voted for crispy pata, said it was a popular Filipino dish with international appeal “sort of like the German Eisbein”.

“We always serve it in special gatherings. Boracay’s rendition is superb, and we always order it especially when we introduce Kiwi friends to Filipino cuisine,” Domingo said.

Also on the list are Cafe Hanoi’s NZ octopus and kaffir lime sauce, Eden Noodle’s dumplings in spicy sauce, Farina’s diavola pizza and Pari Butter’s duck, truffle and black garlic.

Dishes were assessed by moderators against a set criteria, including how loved they are, how they represent local culture and people, and whether they’re a “timeless classic” or considered a signature dish.

Chris Martin, co-owner and general manager of Ahi, said the lamb and cheese savoury was its take on the traditional Kiwi mince and cheese pie.

“It’s an honour indeed that we’ve made it to the list, and for the savoury to be considered as something iconic,” he said.

Aucklander Geraldine Chan’s nomination of the roast duck dry noodles from her mum’s favourite food court stall, Fu U BBQ in Northcote, also made the list.

“We come here for their Chinese roast duck with egg noodles tossed in a delicious dark sauce and the Chinese roast pork,” Chan said.

“The roast duck is served on a bed of tasty blanched cabbage, and we also get a small bowl of corn soup. Their roast pork also I rate as one of the best I’ve tasted in Auckland.”

Chan said at $12.50, the portion could easily feed two,and was “very good value for money”.

Auckland Unlimited destination general manager Steve Armitage said the initiative had helped uncover hidden gems from across the city and highlighted the diversity of the Auckland food scene.

“Our food here in Tamaki Makaurau is world-class and it’s easy to see Auckland’s ethnic diversity represented in our food scene,” Armitage said.

“One of the wonderful things about Iconic Auckland Eats … is that it uncovers stories and introduces the owners, or the friendly staff, the history of a dish, or shares how one bite is enough to be transported back in time or across the world.”

He said the variety of eateries on the list, which ranged from restaurants, markets and cafes, showed that to Aucklanders, iconic does not mean just fine dining.

One of the aims of the initiative is also to help give a boost to the hospitality sector, which has been struggling as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said many restaurants had been hard-hit and “every bit of publicity helps” when it came to getting people out dining again.

“From the volume of incredible dishes nominated, we can see the sheer scale and variety of what is on offer from our fantastic Auckland eateries and we would strongly encourage diners to get out try as many as they can,” she said.

Bidois said the initiative was in line with the association’s call for recognition of the significant role hospitality plays.

“It’s so important to recognise the importance of connecting with the people who eat our food,” Bidois said.

“Hospitality needs to become an integral part of our domestic tourism story. This is a fantastic way to highlight the incredible array of dining experiences we have on offer here in Auckland.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is encouraging Aucklanders to explore their city and region, and they are being urged to sample new flavours and meals.

“While border restrictions mean international travel isn’t an option for most of us right now, Auckland has an entire world of international cuisines to enjoy right here,” Goff says.

“We’re one of the most diverse cities on earth and the entries in the 100 Iconic Auckland Eats list reflect that diversity, as well as the talent of our local chefs and our hospitality industry.

“I hope Aucklanders have a chance to get out and try some of these meals, whether it’s at a favourite local restaurant or a new eatery across the city.”

Restaurant hub co-owner Mark Gregory, also one of the moderator of the 100 iconic eats, was impressed by the number of nominations and how Aucklanders got behind their favourite eats to make sure they made the list.

“Aucklanders’ passion for their favourite dishes is undeniable,” he said.

“It was a tough call to determine a top 100 and now it’s an even tougher call to decide where to book in first.”

• Check out the 100 Iconic Eats at www.iconiceats.co.nz

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