Auckland – Fresh off the jet pt. 2

February 3rd, 2010 in Cities and Attractions by Paul 1
Auckland skyline


So what do you do when you’re still on US East Coast time waking well before sunrise on a local holiday in Auckland? Go for a walk to one of the hipper neighborhoods to check out the vibe! Perfect strategy. We actually waited until the rest of the city was alive, however, or so we thought. We left the hostel well before noon, much to the surprise of the young neophytes still shaking off their hangovers from the previous night of drinking in the hostel bar.

We made our way up to Karangahape Rd, or K Road to the locals. We had looked through our guidebooks and found a restaurant that immediately caught our eye. Southern Indian cuisine, Dosa specifically, for around $7 NZD. If you’ve never had Dosa (or sometimes spelled Dosai) you are missing out. Dosa is an Indian crepe made out of chickpea flour. There are several variations of this delicacy, but I’d have to say that my favorite is Masala Dosa. Now that too comes in several variations, but let’s keep it simple. Masala Dosa takes the crepe and stuffs it with a spiced potato mixture. It is usually accompanied by a side of Sambar, or spiced vegetable/lentil based soup. The combination of all of these flavors is amazing.

Did I mention it was a public holiday? We trekked up Queen St. to K Road only to find that nearly every shop and restaurant was closed. Perhaps they opened later in the day. But two starving, jet-lagged backpackers can’t wait to eat. We wandered back down K Road toward Queen St. and found another Indian restaurant, Satya, just opening its doors. A quick check in the Lonely Planet showed that Satya was also mentioned, as well as one of its signature dishes, Dahi Puri. As we took our table we noticed a xerox copy of a notice on the wall, “View Dahi Puri eating contest on Youtube.” Ok, we’ve got a guide book, menu and now a photocopy telling us to eat Dahi Puri. We ordered a couple basic curry lunch specials at a lovely $6.95 NZD which included rice and a papadum, and an order of Dahi Puri for $7.95 NZD. I’ve had a lot of vegetarian Indian food in my life, but Dahi Puri was a new one for me. A spiced potato mixture sits atop a chickpea cracker, topped with fresh yogurt, tamarind sauce and chopped cilantro. A different, and delicious combination. The curries were basic and yummy. I would definitely like to go back and try more of the menu. Lunch specials abound in Auckland, and it’s a great way to sample some delicious eats without breaking the bank.

After lunch we wandered back toward downtown, and some of the shops had opened. We poked around some vintage shops and cool boutiques. I think we only got a small glimpse of the K Road on a sleepy holiday. I’ll bet this place is happening on a Friday or Saturday night as it’s lined with restaurants, bars and shops. We also passed by Alleluya Cafe, which was buzzing. Had we not been full of Indian, we would have definitely stopped here for a bite. Plenty of coffees and vegetarian dishes to choose from at reasonable prices.

Hopped a Link bus to the Auckland Museum to check out the Maori exhibit. The exhibit had tons of hand carved relics and even a full size Maori meeting houses within its halls. It was an amazing look into the history of the indigenous people of New Zealand. Some of the installations made no qualms about revealing the controversy around the colonization of New Zealand, a theme that seems to follow every land that is colonized by a foreign “civilized” people. The rest of the museum includes natural history, which showcases some of New Zealand’s wildlife, a hands on room for kids, a WWII exhibit and some other standard museum fare. The museum should definitely be seen during any visit to Auckland for the Maori exhibit alone.