There's no question that Auckland city cafes are top notch, and Metro magazine is great at uncovering the best of the best. The 2019/2020 Metro MINI Top 50 Cafes has been announced, and the exciting part is, 11 of the 50 are right here in the Heart of the City!
Williams Eatery | G03/85 Daldy Street
What was once a neighbourhood cafe with barely a neighbourhood to support it is now a busting eatery open breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner Thursday through Saturday. Busy at the times you’d want it to be busy, slow and easy at the times you’d want that, too. The coffee — espresso, batch brew or cold brew — is always excellent. The food is just as good — usually light, often vegetable-driven, and often surprising, seamlessly running from breakfast to brunch to lunch and (sometimes) dinner, with a small core menu and other dishes weaving in and out throughout the day. Time it right and you can have oysters for breakfast.
Not only making the top 50 list, Williams Eatery has been recognised as the Supreme Winner for 2019/2020. Brothers Charles and Patrick Williams are doing something exceptional down in Wynyard Quarter, redefining the cafe game in Auckland since they opened their doors a little under two years ago. They’ve curated a short, well-executed menu using seasonal and local produce, caffeinated us well and got the finest people to do it all. Williams Eatery was awarded Best Coffee with their consistently good filter and espresso Flight Coffee, Best Service, and Best Menu Dish with their Ora King salmon pastrami with Jerusalem artichoke cream and crisp, pickled apple.
Amano | 66-68 Tyler Street
Is there a more reliable go-to, day and night, than Amano? Though it’s well known as a first-rate spot for dinner, it’s equally as appealing to brave the crowds for breakfast or lunch (Amano won Best All-day Restaurant in 2019’s Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year, BTW). And brave the crowds you will, as three years on from their opening, the tables remain as full as ever, and for good reason: seasonal-led ingredients manifest in fresh, Italian-leaning comfort eats, like risotto with asparagus for breakfast, or octopus carpaccio for lunch. The on-site bakery lovingly handcrafts fresh loaves of bread, flaky croissants and takeaway sandwiches daily, and sometimes we go just for that.
Ortolana | 33 Tyler Street
It’s hard to feel anything but zen at this Hip Group outfit, especially when sunken into a comfy banquette and with something seasonal on your plate. Breakfast eggs always come with a twist — turmeric, maybe, or smashed with some chives — and cured meats like prosciutto always offset with something light and fresh. For lunch, a luxurious-sounding but simple pasta dish — bucatini with octopus and squid, anyone? — is the way to go, and if it’s a nice day outside, the people-watching is excellent. Ortolana understands why we love to while away the hours at our favourite cafes; it simply is such a nice place to be.
Best Ugly Bagels | 90 Wellesley Street
From the roaring fire to the chirpy staff (if you’re still half asleep ordering your morning coffee, the confirmation call of “ONE FLATTIE!” will wake you right up), Best Ugly is a little bit special. You can watch the dough being rolled into its imperfect circles and loaded into the woodfired oven on an astonishingly long paddle, or you can linger outside and hope you’re able to hear your name called out over the tinny speakers — either way it’ll always be worth the wait. From the perfectly simple red onion bite of the King Salmon to the tangy lemon fennel olive oil on the White Rabbit, no one does bagels better than Best Ugly.
Coffee: Good Joe
Chuffed Coffee | 43 High Street
A hidden oasis in the CBD, Chuffed is a perfect spot for hiding away when you just need a moment to collect your thoughts. Not that you’ll be there alone, by any means — this High St cafe is popular, and for good reason. But the plant fronds swaying overhead and white walls soothe the mind, as does the secretive feeling of their cute little courtyard out back. Order the omelette with manchego cheese, slices of chorizo and caper berries, dotted with onion jam. Finish with a coffee or stay and relax into a cheeky afternoon Bloody Mary.
Eighthirty | 16 Anzac Avenue
After outgrowing the original bricky space on K’ Rd — which has recently had a very lovely refit by Eighthirty’s go-to architect, Dom Glamuzina — Eighthirty moved the roastery to the very lovely Tasman Building — high ceilings, beautiful steel windows and a massive long steel bar plus low timber tables. The coffee is excellent, as you’d expect. There’s a compact but compelling selection of food, including some highly excellent open-faced sandwiches.
Federal Delicatessen | 86 Federal Street
The Fed is a great time morning, noon or night, but the bonus of heading along for breakfast or brunch is: unlimited filter coffee (you could technically indulge at night as well, but let’s assume most people reading this enjoy sleep). The large New York deli-style breakfast menu offers a wide variety of options (though little in the way of vegetarian fare), including the rich, oily, smoked mullet hash with a poached egg — a delight. The brunch menu offered at the weekend features most of the Fed’s signature dishes, meaning you could conceivably order a plate of poutine at 7.30am if you so desired.
Coffee: Good Joe
Hugo's Bistro | 67 Shortland Street
Hugo’s is sleek and sophisticated, with next-level coffee and a small but perfectly formed menu. Head chef Alfie Ingham joined the team at the start of this year after a stint working in Paris. His revolving menus are simple and not particularly long, but each dish is a near-perfect version of what it’s supposed to be. The coffee is second to none in the CBD: made with Hugo’s in-house blend and executed perfectly, their espresso is fruity, strong and worth coming back for.
Coffee: Hugo’s blend
Ima Cuisine | 53 Fort Street
There are many different reasons we love Ima, but if you’re looking for just one, here it is: the beyond tasty eggplant sabich sandwich, pita stuffed messily with potato and boiled eggs and tahini and that tangy amba. We’ll have that for lunch, please, and the malawach for breakfast — a fried puff pastry-like pancake bread, topped with grated tomato and green chilli sauce. Owner Yael Shochat and the team go out of their way to make you feel at ease, and the homey, rustic interior is an appreciated comfort, a welcome reprieve from the minimalist hip cafes of late. We wouldn’t dare forget to order one of Shochat’s cakes or pastries from the cabinet, and once March rolls around, well, you’ll find us in that never-ending hot-cross-bun line.
Coffee: Be Specialty coffee
Odettes | City Works Depot
There’s no better place for a friend catch-up or business meeting than in one of Odettes’ roomy booth tables, soaking up the rays streaming in from floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The fit-out strikes the right balance between luxurious and unpretentious, and sitting outside in the semi-private courtyard area will make you feel like you’re on vacation. The food takes after Mediterranean flavours, with interesting vegetable dishes — the burnt eggplant with almond tahini is a winner — and meats from the wood-fire. Don’t leave without a portion of their curry chips slathered in honey mustard. Oh so good.
Coffee: Odettes blend
The Lunchroom | Level 1/45 Queen Street
The atrium-like space is huge, with floor-to-ceiling windows opening out onto the bottom of Queen St, giving a lovely vantage point for people-watching on the street below. The menu is half-brunch, half-lunch, and covers off the basics — smashed avo, poached eggs, various omelette options and granola are all there — as well as offering a hearty range of lunch fare, including a very yum-sounding spiced lamb kofta, with hummus and a spiced yoghurt dressing. Go for somewhere relaxed but just a little bit fancy if you’re after lunch in the heart of the CBD.