Gratia - Cafes and Restaurants

Best Ugly Bagels

Or, the story of my favourite bagel

Best Ugly Bagels is basically a bagel-lover’s spiritual home. It’s relaxed, friendly, and serves delicious food every time. That being said, I always order the same thing – the Weinberg bagel, which is topped with these amazingly juicy, sweet, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, spicy rocket leaves, salt, and lemony olive oil. Those toppings, combined with the chewy and airy Montreal-style bagel, make for the perfect meal. I eat it in a kind of bagel-trance, with oil and tomato juice dripping freely between my fingers. Yes, it may not be very adventurous to always order the same thing, but then I’m also never going to think – ‘dammit! Not quite as good. Should’ve gone with the Weinberg again.’

Delight Cafe on Waiheke Island

Turkish Delight and I go way back

Delight Café is a Turkish eatery on Waiheke Island which has incredible views over the rugged Oneroa. Upon arriving, the view of dramatic cliff faces absorbed all of my attention - luckily for everyone, I wasn't driving. Despite the breath-taking sights, I felt a ‘hangriness’ coming along, so the close proximity of Delight Cafe to the ferry terminal benefited my traveling companions immensely.

Giapo, Ice Cream as You've Never Seen It Before

The Giapo mission: to make New Zealand famous for ice cream 

One handbag, a notepad and my right shoe were happily sacrificed at Giapo last week. They all smell like sticky, rich chocolate gelato now; that's what happens when you get so caught up in the beauty of an object that you forget that it melts, and is actually produced to be eaten. A metaphor for life, perhaps? Certainly a recipe for the most gorgeous and extravagant ice creams in the country. 

Little and Friday Cafe and Bakery

Treating yourself? Then this is where to go.

Little and Friday likely serves the most delicious and naughty treats that you can get in Auckland (or possibly anywhere). Each tart, cake and doughnut is incredibly beautiful, almost to the point where you don’t want to destroy it by putting it in your mouth.

Orphans Kitchen, Ponsonby

Where else can you eat exquisite food while sitting on a sheep skin rug?

Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby is a café and restaurant with elegant, fresh food which looks like modern art, and probably has an equal amount of thought put into it as well. While the food is beautiful and serious, the environment that Orphans Kitchen creates is relaxed, intimate and friendly – you could get brunch there with a bit of a hangover, and the owners wouldn’t judge.

Pasta & Cuore restaurant

Made with love and care: This is how pasta should be

In New Zealand, most of us think of pasta as one of the quickest and simplest meals. From plastic packet to boiling water - you've got yourself your lazy weekday dinner. But handmade, fresh Italian pasta is something else entirely - making it is an intricate, tricky process that takes hours to complete; it is also tender, light, and totally satisfying. For a meal that is often devoured in just a few minutes, there's only one reason that you would spend the hours required to make it - because you have love and passion for the art of pasta. Restaurant and fresh pasta maker Pasta e Cuore (pasta and heart, in English), has its foundation firmly grounded in the love of fresh food and pasta.

Takapuna Beach Cafe and Store

Boasting spectacular views and multi-award winning gelato

As a North Shore local for twenty years, Takapuna Beach is a very special place to me. Takapuna represents the heart of where I consider home, and is the part of New Zealand that I miss when I’m elsewhere. Although Takapuna Beach is a beautiful stretch of land in its own right, it is Takapuna Beach Café that I think makes it such an unbeatable destination

The Chocolate Boutique, Parnell

Chocolates, desserts, and the most top-secret hot chocolate in Auckland

When Barbara opened a pop-up version of The Chocolate Boutique thirty years ago, it was a tiny space selling only hot drinks and chocolates. It is now a spacious cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, a menu with every sweet treat you might hope to eat, and the perfect place to start the afternoon or end the evening. It has become the local establishment in Parnell for desserts, waffles, a dozen kinds of hot chocolate, and, of course, handmade boutique chocolates.

The Midnight Baker

The new toast-based cafe that's changing the way we think about bread

After going gluten-free, The Midnight Baker owner Yeshe sought a way to continue her love of toast. She realised that the supermarket brands are hugely processed (as well as not hugely tasty), so she started to bake her own bread. After six months of experimenting with recipes, baking way past midnight, she created a bread that she loves, named the Freedom Loaf. It's free of wheat, dairy, eggs, refined sugar, yeast, nuts - and her buckwheat loaf is completely celiac-safe. This is a filling and delicious new take on bread, and the foundation for her month-old cafe, The Midnight Baker. 

Viaduct Harbour

A vibrant new social space in the heart of Auckland

The Viaduct Harbour is a social, modern new space that connects the busy central city with the ocean, allowing people to relax and enjoy the best that Auckland city has to offer, just two minutes’ walk from Britomart. Some of the best restaurants and cafes in Auckland are situated along the harbour, with outdoor tables overlooking a spectacular view of Auckland, the ocean, and the many white sails of the yachts that have become emblematic of the City of Sails.

Vinyl Cafe on Dominion Road

Edgy, mellow, and the best coffee in town

When my wife and I first went to Vinyl cafe, we felt rather out of place. As a couple of very middle-of-the-road (and dare I say nearing middle-aged) Mt Edenites, we didn’t completely fit into the edgy and youthful vibe that is Vinyl – the usual clientele have tattoos, the music is sometimes heavy metal, and the décor is mildly gothic. However, we are serious coffee-drinkers, and had been told that you can find no better coffee than at Vinyl cafe. So we accepted the challenge: we went along and pretended to be cool. The lovely staff helped with this self-image transformation by pretending along with us, and they soon knew our coffee orders and names by heart.

Whoopi: for Cakes on Nuffield Street

Whoopi cake and ice cream shop on Nuffield Street, Auckland, creates cakes with the sort of artistry which makes you question whether it is really okay to eat them. Luckily I was able to push past this feeling, because yes, it is not only okay to eat them but also a delicious experience for any sweet tooth. 

Wilder and Hunt

Paleo, organic, gluten-free, local, vegan, free-range, almond, kale. All of those foody phrases that let you know that you are eating healthily as well ethically, are embodied by Wilder and Hunt.

It was a normal summer afternoon in Auckland when our photographer Bella and I went to visit Wilder and Hunt – what I mean is, it was drizzling with rain and humid. Arriving at the café was a huge relief; it was comfortable, stylish and filled with light. Plus, the lovely staff quickly provided us with a raw cacao hot chocolate and almond milk latte, which could not have been more appreciated.