After Dark: Auckland
Once the epicentre of Auckland’s sophisticated nightlife, the past 10 years have not been kind to Queen Street, and it’s now a hollowed-out husk of a place, home to seedy backpacker hostels, souvenir stalls and a lingering sense of unpleasantness. Set your sights elsewhere for the evening – somewhere like K’ Road, perhaps – where you can kick off things with a cheeky sundowner.
K’ Road – or Karangahape Road, to give it its full name – was a once a ridgetop thoroughfare for the original Maori inhabitants of Auckland, which was then known as Tamaki Makaurau, or the place of a thousand lovers.
In the 1970s, however, most of those thousand lovers found their way on to K’ Road, turning it into a notorious red-light district. It wasn’t until bars like Madame George and nearby Coco’s Cantina came to the street that it began to slowly lose the hookers-and-drugs reputation and replace it with some serious fine-dining options.
Madame George is a classy little joint with just the right amount of street smarts to sit comfortably in this edgy district on the fringe of the CBD. The footpath seats are a great place to watch the sun set on the relics of Auckland’s seedier past, while the owner, Pablo, plies you with platters from the seriously eclectic menu and liquor from his latest foray back to his birthplace, Peru. Sample exquisite little dishes like burnt potato and broccoli – much better than it sounds – or ceviche with radishes, then ask Pablo to make you a pisco sour and watch his face light up with joy.
40 Karangahape Road
Alright, you’re two cocktails in, feeling sated and have a hankering for the sweetest treat you can find. Hail yourself a chariot and skip over a suburb to the Morningside Precinct.
There you’ll find a tucked-away spot frequented by locals. It’s also home to a tiny working chocolate factory, Miann, which just happens to have a dessert cafe squeezed between sacks of cacao beans and centrifuges that spin rich, heady wafts of chocolate scent into the night.
Start with a hot chocolate. Miann offers these in the same way that vineyards offer wine. You choose a brew from a long list complete with tasting notes and details of beans that have been sourced from different countries then roasted in the factory. Sit back and sip as you watch the busy Oompa Loompas – sorry, normal-sized staff – hard at work, knowing you’ll be ruined for hot chocolates for the rest of your life. Then pick a dessert and prepare to have your mind (and taste buds) blown.
Miann Chocolate Factory
12–16 McDonald Street
But wait? Who’s this? It’s your friend, that hectic travel pal who always arrives late.
Which is fine, of course. Perhaps they were down at the waterfront watching an outdoor movie. Films are shown regularly throughout the summer, projected on the towering concrete silos that are located in the old industrial shipping district. But for now your mate needs to line their stomach. Luckily, Electric Chicken is just around the corner.
This eatery is what Colonel Sanders might have created if he’d started in Auckland, served only free-range chicken and had a penchant for pink and purple neon. To really satisfy your hunger try a double electric sandwich with pineapple, and don’t neglect the homemade natural shakes – the sour lime is a winner. If you want to wet your whistle with something a little more alcoholic, try the cider bar down the lane. Morningcider is the country’s first and only dedicated cidery and you can sample dozens of locally brewed bevs, many of them available on tap.
18 McDonald Street
16 McDonald Street
Well, you’ve indulged in some fine food and drinks, watched on as chocolate is made and looked on the bright cider life. So there are only two things left to do to make this a perfect evening: amazing cocktails and reckless dancing.
To make this happen you need to head to Britomart or Ponsonby Road or both. On the way, definitely stop by Satya Chai Lounge, a hidden gem in Sandringham.
Sandringham is Auckland’s Little India, a buzzing stretch of shops and restaurants that, in true Indian form, really comes alive after sunset. The Satya Chai Lounge is a spin-off of the original Satya restaurant, which was the first establishment to introduce South Indian cuisine to the city. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot, so look for the long alleyway entrance, head right down to the back and spend half an hour soaking up the tealight ambience with a dash of Bollywood hipster. If you fancy a drink, there’s a vast range of craft beers and some super-creative cocktails.
Satya Chai Lounge
515 Sandringham Road
Now the serious debauchery begins. Caretaker in Britomart, a revamped portside zone, is your best option for intimate underground cocktails. It’s a New York-style drinking lounge and tends to get busy early on, or at least it feels like it does considering it’s so small. Do yourself a favour here and ignore the drinks list; the best cocktails come from conversations with the bartenders. All you have to say is “I’m really feeling like something with tequila” or “I once had this drink that tasted like a Mars Bar” and they’ll whip you up the tipple of your dreams.
40 Roukai Lane
If you’re not getting itchy feet by now, there’s something wrong with you, so wander up Ponsonby Road in search of a boogie. A great venue in this upmarket area is Revelry, an unassuming bar that’s often overlooked in favour of its flashier neighbours. Big mistake. Revelry boasts a frequently packed dancefloor and a welcoming, celebratory vibe that once led musician Pink to declare it “the most perfect place in Auckland”.
106 Ponsonby Road
Perfection never lasts, of course, and by 3am most of Ponsonby Road is shutting up shop. Your best chance at keeping the good times rolling is to go full circle and head back to K’ Road. Walk down from Revelry, thread your way past the karaoke dregs and street corner traders and take refuge at InkBar, a house and techno joint that’s been spinning tunes for ravers since 2001. You can let loose here until they kick you out at 4am – if you manage to last that long.
268 Karangahape Road
Air New Zealand flies to Auckland from all major Australian airports.
Rest your weary head and aching feet at Hotel DeBrett, a luxury boutique hotel housed in an Art Deco building constructed in the 1840s. Located in the heart of Auckland, it offers 25 individually styled rooms, all featuring cosy beds, local artwork, generous bathrooms and DeBrett’s signature striped carpet. The atrium restaurant, DeBretts Kitchen, specialises in contemporary New Zealand cuisine.
For more information on what you can see, do and eat in Auckland during the day, visit the official Auckland tourism site.