We gotta hand it to the Frenchies, they’ve perfected the art of living well. There’s no arguing that their fashion, art, wine and most importantly, food is unrivaled. From bloody beautiful cheeses to delectable desserts and the fine drops accompanying it, we can all agree that french gastronomy is what dreams are made of.
If you’re on the hunt for a crème brulée to crack the top off or a coq au vin to warm the soul, then look no further. We’ve got your French food cravings officially covered with this round up of Auckland’s best French restaurants. Bon ap’, mes amis.
When the brunch and brekkie sweetheart of Sandringham swung open its doors for dinner service, they had our hearts and bellies singing with joy. With inviting decor and scrumptious dishes, we wouldn’t put it past anyone to spend a day at Petit Bocal just eating and drinking from breakfast to lunch to dinner. As one would expect from one of Auckland’s best French restaurants, they’ve curated a fabulous wine list of local and French drops. Whether you fancy sparkling or still, red or white, or perhaps even a traditional little aperitif to drink — they’ll have just the drop to match your meal. Speaking of such, you’ll be spoilt for choice with plenty of traditional french dishes. We’re talking boeuf bourguignon, confit duck or provincial-style chicken. Prefer to graze away? They’ve nailed the sharing platter game: with beautiful platters of fresh breads, dips, cheeses and charcuterie. Have them on their own, or as an accompaniment to a French food feast, and prepare for your tastebuds to be indulged like nothing else.
Save yourself a trip to France and hit up Le Garde-Manger for one of the best French restaurant experiences in Auckland. If you’re after authentic French food in a traditional setting that’ll have you dreaming about biking along cobblestone streets while toting baguettes and a bottle of red—then look no further, you’ve found it. Worth a notable mention are their sweet crepes and their savoury counterparts, galettes. You’ll find simple french favourites like butter and sugar and Nutella on the cards, as well as your more flamboyant choices like a crepe suzette (yes, the one set alight in front of you) and a poire belle-helene, complete with poached pear and lashings of chocolate. Of course the real crowd pleasers are their traditional bistro dishes—identical to those you’d find in the motherland. There’s escargots, pate, onion soup and charcuterie plates for starters, literally. As for the mains, we simply can’t resist their classic beef bourguignon, coq au vins, and the tartiflette (a decadently cheesy, potato and bacon-filled baked dish) for the best winter warmer. Speaking of such, Le Garde-Manger is one of the only French restaurant in Auckland to serve up Raclette year round. Could we love them any more?
French food and beachfront dwellings. Can there be a more divine pairing since pinot and pâté? Questions aside, we’re pleased to reveal that both of these wonderful pairings at St Helier’s La Fourchette brasserie. As East Auckland’s answer to refined all-day French dining, this restaurant is home to the French classics we all know and love. For breakfast, treat yourself to a pain perdu (what the French *actually* call French toast), a béchamel-filled croque-monsieur, or nibble away at a quintessentially Parisian petit-dejeuner made up of a pastry, juice, baguette with jam and a warm brew. If you thought choosing a breakfast dish was a mish’, then we’ve got news for you: lunch and dinner decisions don’t get any easier. Seriously, you’ll be spoilt for choice between pâté, escargots and a salmon tartare for something small or Bayonne ham, confit duck, authentic bistro salads and the best steak-frites in Auckland for something on the hearty side. Truly earning their title as one of Auckland’s best French restaurants, La Fourchette’s menu also includes a short but sweet selection of crepes and galettes. You’ll find savoury favourites like the salmon-cream cheese Nordique and classic ham, cheese and egg Bretonne galettes. As for our sweet-toothed friends, you’ll want to pull up a chair and sink your teeth into their nutella, lemon, salted caramel and suzette crepes, ASAP.
With a name like Le Chef, you can bet your bottom dollar—or, er, euro—that this French restaurant is one of Auckland’s best. Cooped up in the CBD’s Vulcan lane, Le Chef is one of the best places to unwind after a long day’s work, with a slice of cheese and a glass of pinot in hand or for a cosy dinner. Le Chef is all about seasonal cuisine, sprucing up their menu every two months to showcase the best of local produce, while staying authentically French. With outside seating dotted along the top of this pedestrian street, you’ll feel like quite the Parisian watching city-dwellers pass by, grazing away at a charcuterie, duck terrine, savoury beignet or roast camembert sharing plates. Croque-monsieurs (or madames, if you add the egg), brioche French toast and one of the best chevre-chauds salads in Auckland are to be found on their lunch and breakfast menu. The star of the show here is none other than their raclette—a hearty feast for the senses that will have you devouring a plate full of potatoes and charcuterie, covered in a decadent blanket of melted cheese. Grab a buddy and give Le Chef a bell—you’ll want to pre-order at least a day in advance to avoid any cheese FOMO. If you can't make it to Le Chef in the near future, do yourself a favour and whip up their legendary Fondue Savoyarde at home.
Sid At The French Café
This Auckland city staple simply doesn’t need an introduction. In case you missed the memo somewhere along the line, Sid at The French Café is the ultimate destination for fine wining and dining in Auckland. Here they pull out all the stops: the interior is impossibly chic and the food is next level wonderful. It’s a guarantee that here you’ll be treated to some of the most pristinely prepared and plated cuisine you’ll ever come across—this institution draws inspiration from fine French dining, after all. There’s an a-la-carte menu, where you can choose between three or four courses of seasonally crafted dishes. You’ll find beautifully roasted meats, cured fish and fresh produce, all garnished to perfection as well as cheeses and wonderfully creative desserts to finish. Or leave it up to the culinary masterminds to do the choosing, and opt for a five or seven-course tasting menu and be treated to course after course of plated magic. Not to be missed are their monthly Gaggeneau Tuesday Test Tables, where for $175 a pop, you can join fellow foodies as you enjoy six feature dishes, canapes and a tipple prepared by mastermind Sid and his team of talented chefs. As you might expect, everything here is executed with French finesse and will have you oohing and oh-la-la-ing with every bite.
Speaking of delectable wine bars, let us introduce you to Bar Céleste. Found on K’Road, this neo-bistro offers Aucklanders a taste of the effortlessly exquisite dining style that the French are famous for. They’ve curated their selection of dishes to be shared, grazed at, and ordered at leisure—over a fine splash of wine, of course. With additional influences from a range of cultures and cuisines, Bar Céleste truly deserves its place in this round up of Auckland’s best French restaurants for bringing some of the favourite French bistro classics to the table. We’re talking the freshest burrata imaginable and drizzled with olive oil, smooth chicken parfait and simple yet snackable radish bunches paired with salt and butter. Alongside this line-up, you’ll also find plates highlighting NZ’s superb seafood, like a clam mariniere, crayfish bisque and a totally decadent whole buttered flounder. Wash this down with a glass from their considered list of organic wines, and voila, your tastebuds will love you.
Pssst Aucklanders, we’re going to let you in on a little secret here. It’s to do with your new favourite watering hole and place for, well, stuffing your pie hole. We’re talking about none other than Apéro, a cosy yet chic wine bar and eatery propped up on K' Road. Taking its name from the urban French tradition of enjoying a quality drop and bite in good company, it comes as no surprise that Apéro is one of best French restaurants in Auckland. In true French bistro fashion, delectable lunches and dinners are served as a mix of small sharing and grazing plates, with the odd hearty dish thrown into the mix. French bistro classics are aplenty here: there’s a terrine of the day, a signature Apéro charcuterie board as well as saussies with pickles and mustard that’s served by the quarter metre, for the lovers of meat out there. You’ll also find fabulous dairy staples dotted in the menu, in the likes of goat cheese croquettes, the best burrata, and, of course, a legendary cheeseboard featuring their favourite slices of the stuff. As for desserts, you’ll most certainly want to leave room when you get a glimpse of their buttery madeleines, or seasonal soufflé. In true French style, there’s a plentiful wine menu full of quality drops. Whichever one you pick, rest assured that it’s been lovingly handpicked and received the seal approval by Apéro’s local wine legend, Mo. Now go forth and sip and graze your way through this menu—you can thank us later.
A longstanding legend in Parnell, Antoine’s dishes out some of the finest French-inspired cuisine in Auckland. Antoine’s has wined and dined plenty of A-listers over its 40+ years on the scene, so it’s no surprise that it’s earned the reputation for being one of the best restaurants on the block. Two fabulous menus are on offer here; the Table and Nostalgia. Both are utterly divine, and feature elegant French fare using the most exquisite of ingredients. Signature dishes are among the likes of an Alsatian onion tarte, and carpaccio of beef with steak tartare. Not to be missed are of course, their cheese-heavy dishes—because a French restaurant visit isn’t complete without fromage in some form. Our pick is their perfectly fluffy and flouncy double-baked blue cheese soufflé—which is totally worth the 40 minute wait time. Or sink your teeth into their elevated take on the french favourite, onion soup, which is traditionally baked with a decadent cheese topping. Make sure you leave room for dessert, a chocolate souffle with rosewater and cassis jelly, as well as a decadent trio of chocolate await. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that everything here is executed and plated so beautifully, that you’ll almost not want to touch it. Almost.
Bringing a modern and interpretive French approach to the Auckland dining scene is Paris Butter—a place that’s all about out-of-this-world elegant combinations. At the helm is Nick Honeyman, who has worked with some of the big names of French fine dining and owns a seasonal restaurant in the south of France. Fabulous French food is his thing. At Paris Butter, he and his talented team mix French finesse with Kiwi ingenuity and ingredients—and a touch of je ne sais quois. The result? Creative, contemporary dishes that strike a stunning balance between bistro fare and fine dining. Trust them to bring out the best of any ingredient, building dishes around seasonal produce—be it a slab of salmon, market fish, a prime cut of meat or even foraged foliage. As a result, their menu is ever-changing, giving us the perfect excuse to visit them again, and again, and again. Also worth a mention—and a few visits—is their Liquid Butter bar, where they shake up cocktails the same way they shake up dinner. There’s a sweet selection of Paris Butter classics, featuring a Connemara Coffee with whiskey, nitro coffee and a bunch of surprises as well as their gin-based Paris Butter ‘bubbles’. The liquid showstoppers here, however, are cocktails that are made with the likes of potato, persimmons, and even garlic. Yes you read that right. And yes—like everything on the menu—they’re absolutely delicious.
Le Paris French Eatery
Venture down into the wonderfully eclectic Elliot staples dining precinct, and you’ll stumble upon Le Paris, one of the best hidden secrets of Auckland’s French restaurant scene. Combining the best of both worlds, the team at Le Paris use New Zealand’s best produce to whip up authentic French dishes. The result? A menu dotted with some of the most authentic bistro dishes you’ll find outside of France. Seriously, you’d be forgiven thinking you’ve been magically transported to your local brasserie somewhere in Bordeaux or near the Champs Elysees. Their menu is full of different kinds of crepes and galettes: nutella, sugar and butter, nordique or fromagiere—you name the crepe, they’ve got it. Our pick, however, is the Tartiflette, which wraps up a baked potato, bacon and cheese-filled winter dish into the comfort of a crepe. Crepes aside, they have a stellar menu of French faves like escargots, onion soup, boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin. As for something sweet, we recommend having a peep in their sweets cabinet—French favourites like mille-feuilles, canneles, and tartlets have all made guest appearances here.
Want to learn more on French cuisine? Check out our guide to French Rosé.
Image credit: Petit Bocal, La Fourchette, Sid At The French Café, Apéro, Paris Butter