To visit Auckland is to experience one of those places that no matter where you live in New Zealand, you end up. While it’s not the *actual* capital of our tiny island nation, it might as well be.
Home to 1.6 million people and a shit ton of volcanoes and traffic, it’s by far the biggest hub in New Zealand. Auckland houses the major airport and most of the business, as well as many quirky neighborhoods, cool beaches, and an almost tropical climate. Therefore, even before I got together with my partner Giulio Sturla, a celebrated chef here, I would go away to Auckland all the time.
Whether it was for business and meetings with clients and brands I work with or to just see some of my close friends or even just to shop and eat in the big smoke, Auckland is a place I’ve come to know well.
My routine in Auckland is down pat. I fly in the morning; it’s just an hour and a half Air New Zealand flight from Christchurch. Grab a hire car (way cheaper than Ubers) – though you’re always going to sit in traffic. I actually have a theory – hear me out. No matter where you drive in Auckland, it’s always 20 minutes (or more).
This time around, I tagged along on a trip with Giulio. He was the guest chef at a pop-up at the amazing Paris Butter restaurant in Herne Bay. You don’t have to ask me twice!
Traveling while trying out new dining spots is one of my favorite pastimes. Cetainly, this brought Giulio and me together after years of being friends. United through food, who would have thought?
Gone are my travel days of ticking off as many “must-do” spots as possible in a day. Instead, I like to take it easy. Go slow and enjoy every bite a place has to offer.
Now that most of my go-to Auckland hotels have been acquired as quarantine hotels and I’ve reached an age where I just can’t sleep on sofas anymore, I’ve begun to explore other neighborhoods and options on each visit.
This time around I was so stoked to check out a friend’s latest project – the Convent Hotel. Hidden away in Grey Lynn in, you guessed it, a convent, I think I might have found my new favorite urban getaway in New Zealand.
Once a community of nuns (as the grand-niece of a nun, I loved it), the Convent Hotel has been reinvented into Auckland’s newest/coolest/chic-est boutique hotel.
Grey Lynn is an area of Auckland I’ve explored a few times. It’s home to some of my favorite cafes and cute side streets. It definitely has a fringe feel about it. Here feels like a tropical paradise, with gardens spilling over fences and beautiful old villas you could almost imagine yourself owning (if you had a couple million in the bank, of course).
Loosely bordered by Great North Road and K-Road on one side and Ponsonby Road on another, Grey Lynn has a bit of everything. Working-class for a century, Grey Lynn has now had a bit of gentrification similar to Ponsonby.
Definitely more of the “real” Auckland, Grey Lynn is really close to the city center where you can walk around and visit Auckland. The Convent Hotel is the perfect base for you if you want to visit Auckland like a local.
As soon as I stepped inside the Spanish mission-style building, I felt transported back to my travels abroad. The Convent Hotel felt so much like the kind of cleverly restored place I love to stay in when I’m voyaging overseas. Sigh. Can you tell that I miss travel?
The feel was definitely European but stylish and modern but affordable. Talk about ticking all the boxes! With cute little nooks hidden throughout the property, I could have stayed inside the whole time!
Luckily one of my best Auckland mates joined me for dinner at their in-house watering hole, Ada Restaurant. Small and yummy Italian-style sharing plates, it was a chic and perfect spot for dinner. Fills up fast though so book in advance – definitely share their fried pizza – OMG.
Almost every time Giulio and I visit Auckland, we head over to our friend’s restaurant Orphans Kitchen for brunch and coffee, also in Grey Lynn. Top-notch, exceptional, and unique food reigns supreme here. If you want something a bit different but incredibly delicious, wake up and head over here.
Head over to Freida Margolis for a cheeky wine before dinner, another classic Grey Lynn haunt that is a vibe.
With new eateries and cool spots popping up all the time, Grey Lynn rocks. It’s my new favorite corner of Auckland to hang out on trips up to the big city.
If there was one thing to tempt me out of this exciting new-ish neighborhood for me, it was for Giulio’s collab with Paris Butter. Head due north towards the bridge and you’ll stumble across a restaurant straight from Europe, provencal France to be exact.
Paris Butter is one of those places which never disappoints and you can’t go wrong. Here they elegantly combine a French bistro vibe with the best kiwi produce. Chef Nick Honeyman (who splits his time between here and France) and his team work tirelessly to create innovative meals that share the same values as my partner Giulio. His dishes created a playful twist on flavors we all know and love. And unfortunately, I enjoyed it so much I only took about 8 photos – sorry babe!
What do you think? Have you been to Auckland before? Where’s your favorite neighborhood to explore? Spill.