Auckland, Where the Restaurant has Been Mastered

We enjoyed our ride to Auckland. The views of the coast and city were still great from the bus which dropped us at the bottom of Queens St.. We hiked up to the familiar path to the hostel we had stayed in when we first arrived to Auckland in the beginning of October and stopped at the grocery store on the way. We bought some of our longed-for favorites including bread, fresh produce, gummies, wine, etc.. We continued to the hostel with our grocery bags, but found it was fully booked. In fact, everywhere was fully booked. Over the course of several hours we researched and called every backpackers and hostel in Auckland and found every single one was fully booked. Disappointed, we resolved ourselves to having to pay for a hotel. At least we would get free shampoo. We also went ahead and reserved a room at the hostel for the two following nights.

After making a reservation, we headed out to find a bus that would take us to the hotel we chose. We followed the directions given to us, but couldn’t find a bus stop at the intersection. As we were looking around and checking maps and phones, a guy from the middle lane of traffic called out to ask if we were lost. I ran out into the major intersection and explained we were just looking for a bus stop. The guy asked where we were going and I told him. He said, “Well, what the hell!! Just get in! I’ll take ya!!”

I called back to G to get the bags and come quick. We got partly in the car before the light changed and rushed to finish the job. The gentleman was wild and happy to help. He took us right up to the front door of the hotel. We thanked him profusely and wished him well.

The night in the hotel was rough. G and I had to work some things out, and we tried. We did get free shampoo and conditioner and the shower after all day hiking in the rain was well earned. Clean, we slept in our forced luxury knowing we would be back in our friendly hostel getting clean laundry the following day.

The next day we enjoyed our fresh food breakfast and some morning cartoons. We checked out and decided to walk back to the hostel rather than take a bus. While we were walking, we decided to shop our way back to the hostel. 🙂 We went in several outdoor shops looking for various things: a sleeping bag liner or additional pair of sleeping pants for me, socks for us both, dry bags, small pouch to attach to G’s pack…Plus, we just liked looking at all the things.

Eventually, we made it back to the hostel. Too early to check in to the room, but we set up in the dining area and started all our laundry. I put our shoes and tent on the sun deck to dry. We found some rice in the free food bin–one of our favorite parts of hostels–so we made a big pan of rice for lunch.

Our time in Auckland was productive and restful. We both made time for our loved ones and our many emails. I blogged and enjoyed the sun deck. Unfortunately it was a holiday weekend so we couldn’t get our bounce box until Tuesday, when we would be leaving Auckland; but oh well. Of particular note in Auckland, we ate like royalty.

Besides eating our own deliciously fresh groceries, we went out for dinner two nights. Both nights we asked the lady at the reception for her recommendation. The first night we wanted hamburgers. She advised us to go to Burger Fuel on Queen St and then to go next door to an ice cream place called Giapo. I was excited with this recommendation because that was the incredible ice cream place I had seen when we were in Auckland previously–and it looked unbelievably good.

The second night we wanted steak. The lady’s coworker recommended a place as she said she didn’t know much about steaks. In his explanation of how to find his recommended steak house, the lady mentioned a second place. We never ended up finding the guy’s steak house, but we found the one the lady recommended. The second night, though, we went to get ice cream at Giapo before dinner–to help me sleep better. And because we got ice cream first, we also decided to get dessert on the way home from a cake shop called The Gateau.

Let me tell you about these four amazing AMAZING places to eat.

Burger fuel: awesome, but not unbelievable. It is probably one of the best burger places in New Zealand, but they don’t make burgers here like they do in the States. Still, it was very good. G’s was a plain burger. Mine had mango, avocado, bbq sauce, tomato, lettuce, a house sauce, cheese, and bacon. 😉 They had me at mango. Something we really loved, though, was that they served exclusively burgers. That was their purpose and their mission. They were focused.

Giapo: Un. Believe. Able. Absolutely. Un. Believe. Able. Amazing. Incredible. Genius. Pure genius. This ice cream experience is beyond explanation. Do not leave New Zealand without eating here. The small shop has two doors, only one of which is an entrance. We waited in line for a bit and when we got to the gold painted counter, the gal introduced herself and explained that they don’t show their ice creams because they want people to select flavor a based on tastes not appearances. She further explained several flavors’ ingredients and method of production, allowing us to sample each. Then she asked which of the remaining flavors we would like to sample next. Though the line was long, she assured us there was no rush and that we could sample every flavor. After this awesome experience, we selected our flavors–G picked the Giapo and I picked Edmond’s chocolate banana cake. After patiently shaping the ice cream onto the cone, they were majestically topped–mine, for example, was dipped in dark chocolate and then macadamia nuts were dipped individually in white chocolate and placed carefully around the ice cream, the hot white chocolate melting into the already hardening dark chocolate shell; then the white chocolate covered macadamia nuts were sprinkled with candied seeds (I forgot exactly what) which stuck only to the liquid on the nuts; lastly, a small coin of chocolate cake was placed on the very top and drizzled slightly with more chocolate.

The purposeful construction of each artistic cone was time consuming and beautiful. And each cone we had was so good, there is no way to describe it or compare it to anything. The second day G had their take on Hokey Pokey (honey comb) with afghan cookie, I had avocado and rose apple. (We got two flavors). Amazing. Oh, and only NZ$10.

The Angus Steak House: Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. No other steak could ever be as good as these were. And if they got any bigger you’d have hooves on the plate. Again, this was a restaurant that served only one thing. We went in and it was explained that we should go to the meat bar and select our steak. There were several different cuts and several pieces of each. G and I asked someone to explain the difference. They showed us a picture of a cow and we clarified that we wanted advice on which to eat. The guy chuckled and said pick this if you want this and this one if you want this. We both selected massive (the smallest size available) Scotch fillets. We took them to the chef who asked how we wanted them cooked and if we wanted garlic sauce. He then told us to go to the salad bar at our leisure and make a salad. We enjoyed our salads, but our mouths watered for the steaks. When they came to us they were still massive. They were served on scalding hot cast iron plates which kept the meat warm throughout the meal and also allowed you to brown the meat to crisp up each bite–simple genius. And then the flavor. Amazing. So amazing. Unbelievably delicious and amazing. Despite my best efforts, I reluctantly had to give in to letting Georges finish my last few bites.

We were so impressed with our food. We marveled at the Kiwi way of specializing restaurants and doing a kick ass job at one very specific thing.

Overjoyed with satisfaction and still in shock at how good that food could have been, we began our walk home. G stopped suddenly on the sidewalk and pointed to the sign above us. The Gateau. I didn’t understand. He just kept grinning and pointing. I looked in the small shop and saw it was some kind of cafe, but I didn’t get why he was pointing and grinning. Finally, I asked what gateau means and he explained it menas to The Cake House. Another specialized restaurant. Could we possibly be so lucky!?!!? Could we discover the best cake to top off our night with perfect ice cream and perfect steak??!?!

Obviously we had to try. We selected a chocolate mouse slice and a cookies and cream slice. They were delicious. Absolutely delicious. So light and refreshing and the absolute perfect end to our meal.

In Auckland we ate. We ate very, very well.

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