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We are so spoilt with burger options in Auckland, it’s honestly a crime to have anything but the best. Food snobs foodies unite. These Bearded Clam burgers will help you maintain that diet. The Buffalo Chicken burger ($16) was my favourite, chicken incredibly tender and perfectly balanced out with the blue cheese sauce. The Cheeseburger ($12) is simple done right. It’s the traditional maccas ordeal but 100x less greasier, 100x tastier, and 100x better for you. Their brioche buns are super soft and pillowy, basically what every burger fiend dreams of. Here are some photos of the beautiful beings basking in the winter light, you’re welcome.P6110249P6110248P6110234P6110247P6110241

Bearded Clam
Locations change

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A quick Instagram stalk of Hello Friends + Allies will tick all the boxes – latte art, avocado, eggs bene, cake cabinet. The breakfast bruschetta ($19) is 100% on looks. It comes with an overwhelming load of feta cheese, and added saltiness with the smoked prosciutto leaving me incredibly thirsty. Unfortunately the beautiful fig and awkward puddle of honeycomb did little to help balance things out. The cafe has an enticing baked goods cabinet. The passionfruit cake ($6) is fluffy but the filling sandwiched in between is heavy and bland. I just wish there was more of that delicious tangy sauce. While the staff are friendly, the service can be slow. It’s spacious with an extra private room out back.

Hello Friends + Allies
93 Great South Road, Epsom, Auckland 

P3240143.jpgP3240148.jpgThe simplest things are forever the hardest to get right. Like the eggs bene and the mushrooms on toast. Or the humble burger and the fish and chips. Burger Burger and Fish Fish have hit the sweet spot on the latter two respectively. According to our Instagram grid, we are well rehearsed in the BB game and thanks to the panko-crumbed gurnard with tartare sauce last Thursday night we will soon be FF frequent grammers too. The seafood is fresh, the chips thick cut. It’s the fish and chips you actually wanted need for the beach. Not the slimy, thick battered ordeal from the corner dairy.  A slaw is good to throw in the mix, and so is something from the specials menu. The prawn and sweet potato fritter is incredibly tasty with its spicy vinegar sauce. Not as enjoyable if you are the type of person that believes whitebait fritters stare into your soul, the prawns here are also. There aren’t many seats but you can order online and takeaway – good for that horrendous Ponsonby parking.

For those on the shore, watch out for the BB and FF powerhouse opening soon!

Fish Fish (menu here)
Ponsonby Central, Auckland

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Geeks have nailed it. The beautiful food, the indoor outdoor space, the easy parking, the casual vibe. It’s exactly how brunch is supposed to be. The place is jam-packed on a sunny Saturday but there’s no rush, no crazy Ponsonby queues of cars and people. I highly recommend the Eggs Benedict, it’s perfectly portioned and doesn’t weigh you down like a typical hollandaise drenched dish would, though the bacon is a little on the chewy side. The blueberry smoothie is delicious and the ice chocolate is something to keep going back for. As always, food on other people’s tables are that much more exciting and we are eyeing up the mushrooms on toast and the banana waffles for the next time we make the trip over to Sandringham.

Geeks on Sainsbury
1/55 Sainsbury Road, Auckland

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Okay let’s be honest here. When we think of Indian food, we think takeaways, butter chicken, and naan bread. It’s always plastic containers and never beautiful ceramics. We hardly find ourselves craving for Indian food, but Cassia has totally changed the game. The interior is almost the same as when it was a dumpling bar but the entrance is wider and more inviting. For restaurant month we were served five courses for $55. It was an amazing meal and kept us talking for days. The beef short rib with madras curry was heavenly. The beef fell apart easily, it was soft but still retained texture, and packed full of flavour. The fish was fresh, and perhaps a little dry but it was a light dish and the perfect predecessor to the beef. A definite favourite round the table was the raw scallops and prawn pakora with green chilli. We ended with a yoghurt panna cotta. It was refreshing with grapes, cubes of pineapple and a buttermilk sorbet. We were well and truly satisfied. The food is served in brilliant bowls, though at times not quite handy for fork and knife action.

Trust us, you have to go.

Cassia (book online, it’s super easy!)
No.5 Fort Lane, Auckland Central

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As we enter the cold, all we want to do is eat noodles and drink soup all day long. Ramen Takara has just opened along Ponsonby Road, just in time for Winter. The restaurant has a bar and a courtyard but it is small. There is next to none waiting space so bear that in mind when you are faced with a 40-minute wait time and howling wind and rain outside. The Tonkotsu ($13 + $3 for extra noodles) and Black Sesame Dan Dan Noodles ($15.50) were our favourites. The Tonkotsu wasn’t overpoweringly salty, it was perfectly creamy and the noodle texture just right. If we are comparing (of course we are), Takara has smaller portions than Ramen Do. The egg is also not as well done as Do’s molten goodness. Yet overall we prefer Takara because we just can’t get enough of those noodles and soup. Wouldn’t recommend the sides, stick to the ramen though if desperate, order the Karaage Chicken. Service though is still lacking as it is only a week or so old – the bartenders were definitely confused. Give it a few more weeks and we will definitely be back again!

Ramen Takara
272 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

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Back a few years, bagel cravings meant a trip to Maccas for their breakfast menu. It was strangely satisfying, the eggs and bacon combo. Though now at long last we have a few of our own bagel hideouts. So long to the oily, sloppy, paper wrapped before 10:30am munchies. Goodness Gracious serves New York style bagels with a wide variety of toppings. Faced with so many choices I ordered The Sampler, so I could try more. The Sampler ($17) is three mini sized bagels of your choice. Between the CAB (chicken and avocado), the Classic (smoked salmon and cream cheese), and the B.L.A.T. the latter was definitely my favourite. The relish and crispy bacon won me over. The CAB chicken was too dry. My friends had the Bene Bagel ($14.50) and Vege Bagel ($11). The Bene is ideal if you are famished. It comes with two eggs and heavy hollandaise which thickens quickly. The Vege Bagel was delicious, satisfying even for meat-lovers. The bagelry is right at the mouth of Kingsland and is busy constantly. There aren’t a lot of seats, so you may want to consider takeaway. Service is a little slow, we’d almost finished our bagels before our drinks came. Check out their Instagram for some more drool-worthy pics.

Goodness Gracious
2A New North Road, Eden Terrace, Auckland

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Japanese cuisine is hands down our favourite type of food. So Japan Day, we thought must be our kind of heaven. Except it was quite the opposite. There were gazillions amounts of people and hardly any food for sale. It wasn’t strictly Japanese food either, of the six or so stalls there were hotdogs and Chinese takeaways, what. There were also lines, lot of lines and lots of waiting. We spent about 20 minutes in the line for yakitori skewers and then found out that after the 30-minute wait to place an order, there was another 40-minute wait for the actual skewers. I stepped out immediately. We left Japan Day with empty stomachs and empty-handed. Feeling a bit ripped off we went to Ramen Do to satisfy our Japanese food craving. The place was small but there was a constant flow of customers. Thankfully wait for food was 10 minutes. Of the three, the miso ramen was the best ($15). #1 most popular according to their blackboard and rightfully so. Second place would go to the Soy-sauce based Mukashi ramen ($12). Skip the Takoyaki and Paitan. This is the first ramen spot in Auckland that we have come across serving delicious molten eggs!

Ramen Do (click for link to the menu)
167 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland

So we said we’d share more South Island extravaganza, three months on and we’d only posted two lots of photographs. So here is more.

You will find that 90% of these photos have mountains in the background. Wherever you go, they follow. It is so easy to forget about the city lights after spending a week lake and mountain hopping.The sunsets are the most breath-taking thing ever. We probably took a couple hundred ‘on-the-road’ snaps, it was a scenic drive 24-7. We can’t wait to go back!

Lake Wanaka
The water is just as clear as Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. There are of course more towering mountains and also this famous #thatwanakatree. To my surprise, the houses here are modern and very flash, like those you see in design magazines. We spent a day here and did a 3 hour walk up Rocky Mountain. There are two ways which you can get up the top, we recommend going west for up and east when coming down. You have to use your hands and climb a few sections, but walking different routes mean you get to experience it all. Bring a picnic to have at the top too!IMG_0606 IMG_0604 IMG_0594 IMG_0631IMG_0662IMG_0657

Lake Tekapo
The Lake Tekapo/Mount Cook area has the clearest skies in the whole world. The best place for stargazing, if of course you don’t bump into a full moon like we did. It’s also home to the most photographed church, The Church of the Good Shepherd.  Pro tip: book early and get a place to stay in Tekapo. We lucked out on all the accommodation and had to stay at Fairlie, which is a 30 minute drive away and not very convenient. On the 2 days that we stayed there, it was all rain and thunderstorms in Fairlie while Tekapo had sunny blue skies and beautiful sunsets.IMG_1087

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Mt Cook/Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki was my favourite lake. The water is a striking baby blue caused by sediment deposit from glacial erosion. It is the most beautiful thing ever. You have to see to believe. Mt Cook sits with a family of other mountains which tower over you. We stopped at the info centre first. This info centre has more than just pamphlets and toilets, there are artefacts, old cameras, maps, and stories of the first climbers. We did the short walk to Kea Lookout, just 30 minutes. It’s the best walk when you’re tight on time. At the lookout point you can see Mt Cook, Mount Sefton, The Footstool, Hooker valley, and Mueller Glacier lake. Unlike Lake Pukaki, the water here is grey.IMG_1064 IMG_1047 IMG_0916 IMG_0910 IMG_0889 IMG_0888 IMG_0887 IMG_0885 IMG_0878 IMG_0979 IMG_0987 IMG_1000 IMG_0997 IMG_0995 IMG_0994 IMG_0968 IMG_0986

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Let’s get right into it. The soft shell crab is the best I’ve had in a long time and so is the kaarage chicken. The lunch set is easy on the wallet and service is friendly and of course very polite. Decor is not Cocoro standard but still okay. Though the outside seating doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the restaurant. I’d fully recommend the Deluxe Lunch Set ($28) which comes with your choice of 3 ‘tapas’ (again, get the soft shell crab and kaarage chicken). They are closed on Sundays.

Tatsumi
73 Davis Crescent (next to Archie’s and The Flying Burrito Brothers)
Newmarket, Auckland

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