When I first visited Auckland, it seemed relatively quiet and yet serene; expansive and still easily accessible from one corner to another; and not many social things happened after sunset. In 2011, many of these impressions still emerge, though at night it is more lively now, especially in the city centre, with the launching of the Wynyard Quarter ( next to the harbour front Viaduct) for the World Rugby gathering in New Zealand; with Queen Street echoing and displaying the hustle and bustle of over twenty years of more open immigration policies; and with urban renewals in inner city precincts like Parnell, Newmarket and Posonby. What about the outer suburbs, which for Auckland just mean a drive of more than 15 minutes away? Above image, a purposefully drawn graffiti found on the brick wall side of an Italian styled cafe near the Eden Quarter.
As I strolled along Dominion Road, once and still a main thoroughfare out of Auckland city centre to the suburbs, I noticed the emergence of many restaurants, souvenir shops and small businesses with an Asian flavour. Even if New Zealand is at least five hours away from the timezones of Beijing and Bangkok in the southern hemisphere summer, I can feel the vibes of Korean eateries, Indian curries, Thai cuisine and more. Above, a traditional Irish pub now neighbours a China eatery. The presence of a more diverse demographic these days, apart from the Maoris and Pakehas, have injected more dynamism into neighbourhoods with good schools, people willing to dine out more often and go to supermarkets like Countdown (owned by Australian Woolworths) at any time of night after hours. Below, tasty roast duck cuts prepared in the Cantonese way from an outlet of Love a Duck.
New Zealand produce has held a consistent reputation in quality and taste, especially its wines, fruit products and seafood like Bluff oysters. So one naturally seeks restaurants that stand out in cooking innovation, experimentation and output. One of these is Two Fifteen, essentially a wine bar, but also offering dishes involving cured meats, home made breads, apple and pork sausages, smoked pork, venison, rabbit, confit duck leg, snapper, pork belly and hand made chocolates. Run by Jeremy Schmid, it is located at 215 Dominion Road in Mount Eden. Image below, the restaurant's current menu.
The quarter acre block is also on the way out of history in Auckland's suburbs. I noticed the evidence of many sub-divisions of what were once larger pieces of land. However, the architecture and design of Auckland residential houses never fail to fascinate me. They look pretty painted with solid white, always sitting elevated off the ground, come with the picket fence that are accompanied mostly by roses, succulents and neatly cut hedges. In addition, there is an impressive patio with fancy eaves and an outdoor seat. The roofs are another matter, often not doing justice to the rest of the house. Image below, a typical residence in a suburb of Auckland.
New Zealand can delightfully surprise. It commenced with a rather relaxed and down to earth safety video used by Air New Zealand. It culminated on my recent trip there in sighting this KFC fast food outlet completely and purposefully painted in black, near the Mount Eden Stadium, in the year the All Blacks rugby union team secured the world championship. (image below) In between, I still savour the cooling nights, ice cream with fejoia fruit flavours and passengers still making a point of saying thank you to their bus driver when disembarking. I have moved beyond my discovery of hokey pokey ice cream, but cannot wait to hear again the rather engaging accent, to feel the wind of the Tasman and to bite into a steamed piece of hapuka fish. And these are all readily available in the suburbs, even if going down into the city centre is not a chore.