Land of the long white cloud? More like land of the long, green grass! Lordy, it was enough to make me sob into my Aussie flag travel neck pillow. I’m talking stop the car and roll sideways down the first hill like a giggling moron type of green. I know you’re expecting this to be about food – and it will be – but, much like my husband you will have to hear me go another round on the unmistakably verdant scenery of New Zealand.
Everywhere cows formed languid piles, semi-submerged in the paddock, a concept altogether unfamiliar to an Australian. ‘I guess I could go a blade, if I must’. It’s only fortunate that our own Aussie bovine can’t board a Jetstar flight and witness this decadence. The secret would be out that some cows simply bob in a sea of green and, surely, Oz would no longer be the wide brown land for them!
Unlike for my poor husband, here is where I will stop and spare you two more weeks of incessant bucolic awe. Be assured that if you haven’t already visited NZ, dear Aussie, you too will be amazed at the 100% ratio of ‘plants planted’ to ‘plants growing’. No median strip with its sad, fenced off eucalypt here. #yesdear
Ok so, technically, Auckland was the least ‘green’ in hue… but it was still massively green. It won’t be a stretch to imagine that a country so-coloured grows a heck of a lot of great food. Grows, makes, brews, grills, bakes and ferments. I can’t fault it. Truly, I could pick apart the latest portrait of Princess Charlotte without too much trouble but I really did struggle to dislike anything about New Zealand. Not least the delightful accent and their insistence on saying ‘sweet as’.
Sweet is a good place to begin. I may be the only person under the age of 65 that uses a travel agent but I stand by my decision. I got the best deals, best rooms AND a four pack of treats from the divine Miann bakery in Auckland waiting for us on arrival. Tell me the swirl on this lemon meringue doesn’t make you feel a bit giddy. Don’t get me started on what that freeze dried raspberry does to me.
Our first dinner, this foodie traveller was overcome with choice… and hunger. We went with Crab Shack which – if you have followed my growing obsession with seafood boils over on Instagram – conjured images of forty centimetre crab legs and prawns the size of Thor’s bicep. It was… fine, but it was none of these things. What it was, was expensive. Points for having a respectable kids menu and some mixed shellfish in a bucket I could clatter around. Points lost for only having one crab dish on the menu at CRAB Shack.
(Some points were regained for the decor which included obligatory netting and buoys on the ceiling.)
Later on, from the window of my hotel, a red light beckoned. Before my husband had realised, I’d donned a hoodie and slinked out into the night. I dared not catch the gaze of passers-by as my jandals flip-flopped through the city streets on my way to a salacious destination: Better Burger. Or as I call it, ‘heavenly second dinner’. This is a no-nonsense store with a burger to match! Add the crumbed Portobello mushroom to your cheeseburger and tell them I said ‘hi’.
(As luck would have it, my dalliance resulted in me winning a whole stack of vouchers which they couriered to our hotel just in time to be our final NZ meal! Unless you count plane food as ‘a meal’.)
Travelling with children there are always going to be places that remain like unrequited lovers. As you’re walking past they catch your eye and while you squeeze the grubby, adorable little hand in yours, you shake your head knowing it will never be. Should you travel to Auckland alone, promise me you’ll try the Botswana Butchery with its meat cleavers for door handles. Promise me.
One thing you can do with kids though is devour a metric tonne of ice cream. Most urchins will be content to lick a discarded cone right off the sidewalk but when mummy fancies herself a bit of a ‘food blogger’ (#LOL) then you have to go to ‘the place’. In this case, Giapo. There is a short line but they give you free chocolate while you wait. They also sell you amazing ice cream with all manner of accoutrements, in our case more torched meringue and hazelnuts. It’s rich and satisfying, just like Richard Gere to a bunch of pensioners.
While on the subject of palpitations, breakfasts on holiday set my heart aflutter – though I’ve not met a food that doesn’t! We had two super ones in Auckland. In the Britomart area we stumbled on a nearby receiving dock turned alley cafe called Imperial Lane. For about $15 we nabbed a tasting platter with fruit salad, granola and – catch me while I swoon – a sour cherry danish. This was just about the only value-for-money we encountered on the whole trip but don’t let that be a concern, that’s for future you to work out!
(Incidentally, I write this blog as ‘future me’ and vehemently encourage you to keep saving. With petrol at $2.50 a litre you may not be declaring ‘smashed avo for me, please’ with the reckless abandon you might have done in Canberra.)
The second of the wonderful breakfasts was neither stumbled upon or nearby. With two very small people in tow we trekked long roads and steep hills all the way to Major Sprout. Thank goodness for Sam and Froddo otherwise we may never have found it. (We also sent them back to the hotel to pick up the children once we’d arrived.) Pancakes mit fairy floss are de rigeur… and de lightful. Kids menu, check. Half size menu for stingy adults, check. The Green Eggs Benedict were as superb as the fitout. Hobbits agreed.
(No, we didn’t go to Middle Earth. This reference is as close as we got. It’s all exaggeratedly big to make people look small. We get it. I don’t need any assistance looking short.)
No self-respecting Australian in New Zealand could eschew a greasy serve of fush and chups. We headed to the Auckland Fush Markets and enjoyed a good twenty minutes of pointing at thungs and callung them fush. The joke is wearung thun but I refuse to funush untul every ‘I’ has been made into a ‘U’. Meal utself gets a sux out of ten.
The Auckland Night Markets rounded out our three day stay nicely. The marriage between slow-cooked brisket, bread and a pickle while part of a confusing, polygamous food analogy, is also very tasty. Hot sauce complicates the relationship further, though in a good way. Smokin’ BBQ, you are just that. My husband had some bulgogi fries that were a hit on the ‘gram.
Writing about a holiday has its charms; one minute you’re all impressive adjectives and, the next, you’re hurtling down a path of inuendo and semi-engaging dad jokes. But it was fun, and so was Auckland! I seek not to be patronising when I say that it’s like a little Sydney. Or is it a little like Sydney? There’s water, good food and big buildings. Three days was just enough and then we headed South. More on that next time.
I leave you with one, final thought-provoking question for Part 1 of my New Zealand series: do Kiwis really call an Esky a ‘chilly bin’ or is it all a complicated ruse to troll Australian visitors?