FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 kicks off today, with Aotearoa hosting matches in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Ōtepoti Dunedin, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington and Kirikiriroa Hamilton over the next few weeks. Two opening matches are happening here and in Sydney – the Football Ferns play Norway this evening at Eden Park, and Australia will go up against Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia.
It's been a landmark year for women’s sport, and these games are expected to draw billions of viewers around the globe. As well as the games, each of NZ’s host cities will have its own free-entry FIFA Fan Festival operating on selected match days during the tournament, featuring live music, entertainment and game screens. Auckland’s is down at The Cloud, Hamilton’s is at Claudelands Events Centre, Wellington’s is at the waterfront, and Dunedin’s is at the Dunedin Town Hall and Glenroy Auditorium.
Fandom is hungry work and if you’re in Auckland for a match with time to explore, here are the places you should add to your hit list.
Get in the zone for a jam-packed day of exploring with topnotch brunch and in-house roasted coffee at Ozone Coffee Roasters in Grey Lynn. The industrial fit-out is spacious and airy, and dishes like the signature smoked fish kedgeree are a change from the norm.
If you’re staying closer to the CBD, Italian institution Amano is solid morning, noon and night; for a handheld breakfast, grab a pastry from the popular bakery side, or sit in for a stracciatella, almond, mint and cauliflower frittata. Britomart’s boutiques are well worth exploring after you eat, and you can wander over to Commercial Bay where many more eateries, stores and an acclaimed art gallery also await. In Britomart (and at five other locations around the city), the soon-to-expand Daily Bread is another hub for more excellent sweet and savoury pastries and wholesome sandwiches.
Or, to start the day at a table with a view, nab a seat by the window overlooking Myers Park at beloved Karangahape Road cafe Bestie.
Stroll down towards the water in Wynyard Quarter and stop in at Williams Eatery – we’re never disappointed by the market greens on toast or the topped pitas such as fried cauliflower with miso pumpkin and XO sauce. Head over the Wynyard Crossing bridge to Viaduct Harbour, and the Japanese, Korean and Chinese flavours of Hello Beasty. Upstairs overlooking the boats, Saint Alice are also worth a stop for local oysters, ceviche and woodfired pizzas.
If you’re craving hand-pulled noodles and broth to ward off the winter chill, look no further than King Made Noodles on Fort Street in the CBD. Tucked away upstairs on Wyndham Street, chef-owner Kyle Street’s restaurant Culprit celebrates the best of New Zealand produce and makers with innovative, playful techniques and combinations.
Moving two kilometres west of the CBD, Ponsonby is home to more great eateries and boutiques. Pull up in the courtyard at Prego for a long Italian lunch, head to Beau for big-flavoured, textural sharing plates and an excellent wine list, or tuck into gochujang-laced bibimbap at Korean restaurant Ockhee.
If you’re planning an evening meal for its proximity to any matches, Eden Park stadium is ideally situated for the culinary riches of Dominion Road. Get juicy katsu sandos and yakitori at Omni, next-level sausage, potato and ricotta pizza at Ooh-Fa, soul-nourishing noodles from Udon Works, or dumplings, mapo tofu and kung pao chicken from Jolin Shanghai.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a concentration of the city’s top restaurants on Karangahape Road. Book in at Pici for handmade pasta and a cosy vibe, Gemmayze Street for a sublime Lebanese feast, Candela for refined Spanish tapas and topnotch cocktails, or Sri Pinang for deeply flavourful beef rendang, char kway teow and dirt-cheap corkage.
Pop over the bridge to the North Shore for duck frites at acclaimed Birkenhead bistro Duo, oysters and pork schnitzel at Northcote Point institution The Engine Room, or contemporary Filipino fare at Nanam in Takapuna.
Back to the CBD, it’s hard to go wrong with the seasonal sharing plates at Depot (the fish sliders are a rite of passage) or the polished modern Indian plates at Cassia a few doors up next to the Sky Tower. Mr Morris is all elegance – from the fit-out to the service and the Pacific fine-dining menu, and Alma’s fire-charred Andalusian menu brings the heat.
Head to Hotel Ponsonby for polished pub vibes and excellent food to go with your pint. Around the corner, Annabel’s channels cosy European wine bars, and way down the other end of Ponsonby Road Deadshot serves expertly made cocktails that are mixed to your personal tastes. Its sibling bar Caretaker is in Britomart near our aforementioned dinner picks and, if the sun shows its face, the view from the deck at rooftop bar Sunset is postcard-worthy – as is the vantage point above Viaduct Harbour from award-winning bar Parasol & Swing.
The Hotel Britomart
With a five-star rating from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is a candidate for Auckland’s most eco-friendly hotel – and certainly among its most chic. Pillows and duvets are made from recycled plastic bottles; guest rooms are stocked with refillable containers of New Zealand-made haircare and skincare products; and the hotel’s all-day eatery, Kingi, serves sustainably caught seafood and thoughtful breakfast fare.
This five-star boutique spot in Viaduct Harbour features bold colours and textures throughout the fit-out, and each room has a luxurious rain shower and a coffee machine. The hotel’s in-house restaurant, Esther, is a Mediterranean-inspired eatery led by head chef Sean Connolly – and the Mediterranean influence continues to the rooftop bar, which serves mezze plates, snacks, seasonal cocktails and craft beer against a backdrop of dazzling views of the surrounding city and harbour.
The Convent Hotel
Located in Grey Lynn, just 10 minutes’ drive from Auckland’s CBD and five minutes from Ponsonby Road, The Convent has an anti-hotel vibe that aims to sit between an Airbnb and a high-end hotel. As the name suggests, the grand 1922 Spanish Mission-style building was originally home to a convent of nuns (followed by a series of boarding homes) and they’ve run with the theme throughout the decor and room names. The Convent’s resident restaurant Ada is well worth a visit whether or not you’re staying, serving a mix of Italian plates such as pasta and cannoli, and Pacific dishes like rēwena (fried bread) and ika mata – cured fish.
Additional reporting by Nicola Heath.