Earlier this year, I spent a couple of days in Auckland after completing my reservist obligations at Waiouru. We were based near the University of Auckland, a hilly district not unlike the terrain of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. There were nice, quaint cafes – like Brickhouse Espresso Bar along Symonds Street – littered around the student accommodations where we were put up at but on my second visit to New Zealand’s largest city, I wanted to stay somewhere different.
Apart from the city centre, travel guides recommended considering some of Auckland’s inner-city suburbs as a base to explore the city and its popular surroundings. I’d intended for the first day to let us recover from our flight and adjust to the time difference, so I didn’t plan to cram our day with activities and sights. We also needed to pick up the car from Mount Wellington the next morning for our road trip, so Newmarket seemed like a good place to stay on our first day in New Zealand.
After arriving at Auckland International Airport following a 9.5-hour red-eye flight from Singapore, we got through the security checks and picked up our travel SIM cards from the Spark counter. There was a promotion for the SIM cards so we figured we’d just go for it. After activating them on our phones, we made our way to Quest Newmarket Apartment Hotel, where we would stay for the night. Fortunately enough, our room was ready when we arrived in the morning so we checked in early, took a shower and got some much-needed shut-eye.
Refreshed after a bit of rest, we walked the short distance to get lunch. I was enjoying the cool weather as a light rain drummed on our umbrellas. It wasn’t long before we arrived at The Candy Shop. Its name is apparently a metaphor for treating oneself (a la “kid in a candy store”), so don’t take it literally unless you want to be disappointed. Having said that, customers are unlikely to find anything here that will let them down – the food, coffee, and service are all excellent.
The scrambled eggs were glorious. Like carelessly laid ribbons of custard, they were perfectly textured and stole the show for me. The spinach, mushrooms, bacon, tomato and micro herbs gave the plate the colours of spring.
After a scrumptious meal, we set out to wander around the neighbourhood, dropping in at indie boutiques and convenience stores. The Newmarket area was originally intended to be a shopping district, which probably explains the abundance of malls and independent shops. However, it’s apparently evolved into something of a mini-CBD. The main street, Broadway, has pretty much everything – malls, boutique stores, banks, restaurants, bars, and cinemas.
If you choose to explore further south of Newmarket’s centre, consider paying a visit to Highwic, a Gothic mansion built in 1862. According to Heritage New Zealand, the estate was inhabited by colonial businessman Alfred Buckland, who was apparently a businessman, farmer, and – wait for it – father of 21 children.
As the street lights came on, the laneways took on a quiet stillness. We strolled into Newmarket’s Burger Burger for dinner. At the outlet’s entrance is a decent-sized open courtyard for diners to get some fresh air – provided the Auckland weather is kind. A few steps further in is a full bar and long kitchen. Americana stickers pasted on the walls are accompanied by copywriting with a dry sense of humour. This place definitely has personality.
My Old Smokey (NZ$17) burger contained a generous 170g NZ grass-fed beef patty, bacon, caramelised onions, and smoked aged cheddar. A healthy squeeze of BBQ sauce and mayonnaise over its contents added to the sweet, smokey profile. The toasted bun was light and airy. I’d gladly order this again despite the mess it inevitably creates when bitten into.
If there’s one difference I picked up on, it’s the way sweet potato (kumara) fries (NZ$7) are cooked in New Zealand. There, the fries seem to be denser, with less of a crusty exterior – unlike how we’ve come to enjoy them in Singapore. The homemade aioli was intensely flavourful, however, and helped to liven up the side dish. The basket of BB Broccoli (NZ$10) had the comforting flavour profile of a Chinese vegetable stir-fry. Charred florets in chopped garlic, almonds and melted butter gave it just enough textural diversity and savouriness.
That sums up our day but of course, Newmarket has a lot more to offer than just The Candy Shop and Burger Burger. Around the same neighbourhood as these two places we dined at is Camper Coffee, one of the most well-known coffee stops in Newmarket run by Woo Hyung Lee, New Zealand’s AeroPress Champion in 2017; and Little & Friday, which specialises in pastry cuisine (read: sweet and savoury pies, and rolls). Venture further south and you’ll likely chance upon Teed Street Larder, a cafe serving an upmarket menu with all baking done from scratch and on-site; and Cali, a bistro reflecting the culinary trends of its namesake American state with an infusion of Korean flavours into Mexican and western dishes.