Journeys with Carole Kotkin
From the Land of Kiwis: Auckland, New Zealand
Carole Kotkin is a syndicated Miami Herald food columnist and co-author of “MMMMiami – Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” She is also the manager of The Cooking School at The Ocean Reef Club, food editor for “The Wine News” magazine, and co-host of “Food and Wine Talk” on southfloridagourmet.com.
From the romance of a table by one of the world’s most beautiful harbors, to the aromatic clamor of the Otara weekend market and the cool sophistication of a Parnell Village café, Auckland is New Zealand’s most worldly city. If first-time visitors know anything about this country apart from its wealth of sheep, Sauvignon Blanc wines, indomitable rugby team, and “Lord of the Rings” landscapes, it’s the name Auckland.
Because New Zealand is literally situated at the opposite end of the planet from Miami, our cool autumn is their warm spring. Summers (our winter) tend to be temperate, with steady ocean breezes, and though Auckland’s skyline may be architecturally modest, more than 50 volcanic hills swell its cityscape. Centered on an isthmus between two natural harbors, Auckland proper has scores of gorgeous beaches. The wind-whipped waters of the Hauraki Gulf and its many coves, amply televised during the 2003 America’s Cup races, have made the city a yachtsmen’s paradise and earned it the nickname City of Sails.
The greater Auckland area has much in common with the Napa Valley – grapes, tourists and a big city nearby. For most wine lovers, if you mention New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc is the wine that first comes to mind, but the region produces both reds and whites (though the grapes may be sourced from Marlborough or Hawke’s Bay to the South). It is the whites – specifically Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs – that have won Auckland its widest praise. But the country’s most exciting wine is a Bordeaux-blend red – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Although very few of these wines are exported, a change is expected soon.
With 9,000 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that New Zealanders eat a lot of seafood. New Zealand’s mountains are home to grazing sheep – the joke is that sheep outnumber humans by about 20 to 1 – which means that lamb plays a major role in their cuisine, too. Lately, venison farms have begun to make inroads on the lamb flocks.
Kirk McLean, chef de cuisine of Partingtons at The Langham Hotel, is one of the most inventive chefs in a country that is just now awakening to the possibilities of a real cuisine. “The good thing about New Zealand is that we can get fantastic ingredients,” says McLean. “I do like Asian ingredients and they find their way into my food. But I gravitate toward France, and we now have all the ingredients you could want for French cuisine.”
McLean is especially fond of lamb, which New Zealand exports by the thousands of tons, and seafood such as crayfish, paua, oysters and snapper. Partingtons is the 2007 winner of New Zealand Restaurant of the Year. Partington’s wine list features 500 wines. The Winery at the Langham Hotel offers afternoon tea daily following the tradition of London’s Langham Hotel which first served Afternoon Tea more than 140 years ago.
Auckland boasts one of the most vibrant cafe scenes you’ll find anywhere. The heart of this fast-evolving scene is cheery Ponsonby, a neighborhood of old Victorian homes and brightly painted shop fronts.
Soul, Viaduct Harbour, is one of the buzzing new restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating facing the America’s Cup Syndicate Row. Run by one of the city’s top chefs, Judith Tabron, it serves some half-dozen varieties of fish (including yellowfin tuna snapper, John Dory and hapuku — similar to grouper) prepared in four different ways. After dinner, the slick, see-and-be-seen establishment reinvents itself as a lively bar that hums late into the night.
Clooney is an opulent contemporary restaurant in the Victoria Park area serving excellent food and providing attentive service in a comfortable and welcoming setting.
Hidden behind downtown Auckland’s main strip, Vulcan Lane is a pedestrian-only alleyway that rises gently over two blocks intersected by three streets (High Street, New Street, and Chancery Lane) that together form the hub local fashion in the area.
Trendy Ponsonby Road, located in an inner-city suburb that, despite gentrification, still offers the occasional bohemian moment thanks to pockets of renting artists and long-standing residents. Works by local multi-media artists and designers fill the boutiques.
Karangahape Road, known as K Road, is the city’s most offbeat area. Seedy 1970’s-era strip clubs mingle with ethnic restaurants and shops, and on weekends, popular nightclubs spring to life. The city’s alternative fashion scene permeates the shops of the Art Deco St. Kevins Arcade and other stores along K Road.
Vibrant with history and elegance, Parnell is Auckland’s oldest suburb. This charming shopping and gallery precinct is only 10 minutes from the city by bus or taxi.
Where to Stay
Continuing a tradition of gracious hospitality established by the Langham Hotel, London 140 years ago, the Langham Hotel in Auckland continues the Langham legend by offering elegance, innovation, and attentive and friendly service. Situated in the vibrant heart of New Zealand’s largest city, the hotel, which recently underwent an extensive renovation, is within walking distance of the spectacular waterfront, the beautiful Auckland City Domain, an extensive oasis of parks and gardens and the Auckland museum. Guests as diverse as Queen Elizabeth and members of the Royal family to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones have signed the Langham guest book. The hotel is firmly rooted in the 21st century and provides current guests with all the modern facilities they require. Chauffeur driven BMW limousines are offered for airport pick ups and return. The Auckland Hotel is the 2007 winner of New Zealand’s “Best Hotel in Tourism Awards,” accorded by the New Zealand Tourism Industry Association.
Qantas Airline offers daily nonstop flights to Auckland from Los Angeles, and flies throughout the South Pacific.
New Zealand Travel & Business