Where to Eat in Auckland’s Ponsonby Neighborhood
Inner-city Ponsonby is a rambling residential neighborhood in Auckland, New Zealand, teeming with beautiful people and Victorian-era houses; it’s their answer to New York City’s West Village. Its main drag, Ponsonby Road (and nearby Jervois Road in Herne Bay) is lined with bars, cafés, and restaurants, and even if you’ll be staying in the busier, hotel-stocked Central Business District, it’s definitely worth the few minutes’ drive (or 20 minute walk) to this charming neighborhood. Within just a few blocks you’ll find some of Auckland’s best eateries—like the six places listed here.
Mark Wallbank’s passion for Asian flavors shines at Blue Breeze, which sits on a corner of hip Ponsonby Road. Wallbank is behind a clutch of the city’s most successful restaurants, all of which are innovative and always ahead of the game. He also owns next door’s Chop Chop, MooChowChow (just up the road in a converted villa), and Woodpecker Hill, in posh Parnell. The former chef started his career cooking for politicians at the Beehive in Wellington, the country’s capital, worked at the Ivy in London, and did a turn as a judge on cooking show MasterChef New
Little Bird Unbakery was the game-changer that kickstarted the local raw-food movement. Starting out in warehouse garage, the brand’s explosive success began when Megan May opened her chic "unbakery" café in Ponsonby, launched her own brand of raw-food products, and wrote a recipe book. With incredibly high ceilings, the café looks and feels gorgeous—as will you when you eat the plates of nourishing and sustaining goodness. Be sure to leave room for a treat from the dessert counter, which has tons of sweets with wow factor.
Inspired by the botecos of Brazil, this Ponsonby treasure entices with its warm welcome and rustic booth seating. The sugar cane is hand pressed for cocktails, and the beer and wine lists are succinct and tend towards the organic. Home-style cooking is served from breakfast to dinner, many dishes imbued with lovely smokiness from the wood-fired oven. Deservedly, it’s a much-loved local.
Golden Dawn is much more than just a bar. It has one of the best wine lists in the city, with a wide selection of natural wines, crafted cocktails, and beer, as well as great food and music. Matthew Crawley, Golden Dawn's entertainment manager, describes it as a “place for Auckland to come get weird, to have fun, drink interesting things you wouldn’t find anywhere else, eat yum stuff, see and hear music you might otherwise not, and hide out from the boring and scary people of the city.” Amen.
One of the skinniest bars on Ponsonby Road, Mea Culpa gets packed quickly with locals coming to try the weekly rotating cocktails. Watch the mixologists work their magic with homemade bitters, tinctures and tonics, and homegrown flowers. The wine list is a tight edit of six whites, six reds, and a rose (many are organic), plus there's a cellar selection. And it’s nice to know that the bar has a policy of composting, recycling, and reducing waste as much as possible.
Is the food at SPQR among the best in Auckland? We’re not sure it matters. Ponsonby’s unofficial social epicenter is all about air-kissing, flowing Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris, and a hilarious, campy waitstaff. For the best people-watching, snag a table on the terrace and order the cockle linguine or thin-crust pizza with smoked salmon and watercress.