Farewell plane ticket, us Kiwis no longer need a small seat and swollen ankles to experience the tropics. We’ve got it all right here, baby! From cocktails served in coconuts to Caribbean-inspired mains, Auckland boasts a plentiful selection of tropical themed eateries. You’ll find Bob Marley playing in the background, lush green sketches on the walls and aromas channelling those balmy summer evenings. There’s nothing quite like the tropics to put a smile on your dial.
With the exception of white sand beaches and perfectly bronzed bodies, these tropical eateries are the perfect inner-city escapes. So, next time you find yourself scanning the web for cheap flights to Jamaica, check out these Auckland sweet spots beforehand. Chances are, you’ll save whoppings of cash and be equally as satisfied. Job equals done.
Here are the eight best Auckland eateries that’ll make you feel like you’re on holiday.
For a vacation right in the heart of our city, head straight to Talulah. Here you’ll be transported to a magical paradise, boasting lush vibes and delicious cocktails. Grab a seat at the tiki hut bar and witness your woes disappear at full speed. The groovy resin bar has tropical flowers on the outside and tiki-inspired nicknacks holding fort on the counter. The drinks menu is something worth shedding a happy tear over. The staff's top pick is the Pandanacolda, giving the classic pina colada a run for its money. This creation originates from the streets of Paris and New York and features coconut-infused dark rum, coconut milk, pandan syrup, pineapple, banana and black tea bitters. After you’ve polished a few of these babies off, order a plate of the crispy spiced squid soft tacos which come equipped with pickles, blackened corn and harissa aioli. So, who’s up for an after work vacay?
An experience that’ll leave you sailing across the seas, Swashbucklers is like Auckland’s very own pirate hideout. An idyllic spot for those who enjoy the casual holiday life—kickback, pop ya feet up and order a pint of beer alongside some freshly caught seafood. The only difference from Swashys and Greece is the ocean your fish was caught in. With an open courtyard showcasing views of the Harbour Bridge, it gives devoted sea lovers a chance to smell the ocean without the continuous rocking of a dinghy. To kick off your appetite, order a bowl of Swashbucklers famous seafood chowder—it’s been said to turn the most stubborn of seafood avengers. After a few more cold brews, it’s time for the main course. We struggle to bypass the cajun salmon, grilled and served with avocado salsa and sweet chilli sauce. Mmmm, a match made in tropical heaven. The hardest part is leaving, we normally just wait until the card declines. That’s true holiday spirit, right?
The Blue Breeze Inn
Modern Chinese with an island breeze, it’s difficult to beat The Blue Breeze Inn for a true tropical experience. With an interior set to impress Rihanna herself, the bamboo fittings, wooden tables and giant tiki sculptures will give you all those Barbados vibes, plus more! Begin the night with a seat at the bustling bar, ordering none other than the toolong a lover. This delight is a blend of coconut-infused rum, hand smashed pineapple and rocket-red cherry served in a fresh, baby coconut (!!) The only thing missing is the beach. Or, order any cocktail from the menu and ask for it to be served in a tiki mug, which you can take home to add to the collectables. As for the food menu, let the taste of modern Chinese infusion take your tastebuds on the ride of their lifetime. You simply cannot go wrong with a serving of the infamous bang bang chilli chicken. A day spent at the beach and an evening at The Blue Breeze Inn? That may just be a match made in heaven.
Soul Bar and Bistro
If there is one spot in Auckland that reflects the glam of a summery vacation, it’s Soul Bar. With views over the Viaduct and neighbouring bars and restaurants bustling with people, it is the ulti-mate spot to do what we do best—looong lunch. Whether it be a romantic date or an outing with your squad, be sure to nab a seat outside. Decorated with an abundance of foliage, white table-cloths and elegant umbrellas, it’s a true taste of Europe on Kiwi shores. Drown your stresses in numerous glasses of Champagne and a mouthwatering side of sashimi. When it’s time for the main course, switch to cocktails and order the classic whitebait fritters. Trust us, you simply cannot go wrong. P.S. On holiday one would never skimp on dessert, so order yourself the chocolate budino tart and don’t look back.
The Lula Inn
It’s too easy to slip into island time at this relaxed eatery on Auckland’s Viaduct. The Lula Inn ooz-es South Pacific charm with a touch of Kiwiana—perfect for those who don’t like fleeing the nest for too long. Located perfectly above the water, let your imagination run free as you sip on a hot coffee or decadent cocktail gazing out upon the harbour. If this place doesn’t make you feel like you’re in the Pacific, we don’t know what will. The lush foliage and seating adorned with native New Zealand birds is like a snapshot straight out of Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates. Grab a seat on the deck and allow the sun to envelop your skin as you devour a plate of oysters cooked in chardonnay vinegar and lemon. Um, yum! When you’re finished eating, trust us when we say to order the pacific punch cocktail. This is Lula’s tribute to a well-known classic, combining Mount Gay Rum, pineapple and a scoop of coconut ice cream. There’s little else we’d rather be doing on a sunny afternoon...besides maybe the real holiday destination.
The Crab Shack
Up for a coastal vacay, anyone? The Crab Shack is definitely worthy of a mention. As the name suggests, this eatery is all about seafood. From calamari popcorn (!!) to blackened shrimp tacos and mussels by the scoop—the only thing the team enjoy more than fresh fish is an ice cold bevvy. It’ll be hard getting the lads away from this spot. An idyllic eatery to enjoy solo or with the entire family, the shacks interior is utterly picturesque. The walls has sketched world maps and lush greenery, the ceiling has low hung lighting in an array of colours and the stainless steel bar is so funky that it’s nearly impossible to order just one drink. Our pick is the classic pina colada which the team describe as ‘sweet sexy and a little bit nuts!’ It’s a combo of bacardi superior, Malibu and fresh pineapple and coconut. Who needs the Maldives when we’ve got The Crab Shack at our fingertips?
Nestled amongst an abundance of flora and fauna, Pilkingtons is the inner-city getaway we’ve been dreaming of. A coffee break here feels more like an island escape due to the tranquil yet sophisticated atmosphere. Designed with bespoke fabrics, natural stones and overflowing greenery, this is one of the best spots to feed your tropical soul. This oasis serves nothing short of delectable food, with award-winning chef Des Harris at the helm. To start, grab yourself a plate of rye waffles accompanied by cured salmon, pickles and creme fraiche. For the main, the pure but-ternut risotto is truly something special, served with mascarpone and pecorino. This is the ideal eatery for those who want to taste a profusion of flavours yet feel the balmy atmosphere of the tropics beneath them.
No inner-city holiday list would be complete without a Spanish getaway. After all, Europeans do all the important things best—wine, pasta and chocolate. Casita Miro is the perfect eatery to make you feel like you’re on that summery vacay. First things first, get yourself a ferry ride to Waiheke. That’s basically a cruise checked off the list. Next, get yourself a taxi to the restaurant. There’s your interaction with the locals. And lastly, eat your weight in divine food while gazing at some of most picturesque views in town. That’s everything on the holiday to-do-list complete. Sip away the day with a bottle of red wine or perhaps some craft beers and count your lucky blessings that this place exists. No plane ride, no sore feet and best of all, fabulous food!
Image credit: Lydia Arnold