“I feel really comfortable here, I have a lot of memories in Auckland. I saw the city through many eyes.
Here has fashion magazine, we recently launched our City Guide series with the intention of discovering the hidden places in Australian cities that only locals know about. There’s no scrutiny here – it’s a breakdown of our cities best bits. We want the underrated hangouts, favorite restaurants, treasure shops and bars people will always want to return to.
This week we explore Aukland/Tāmaki Makaurau with Penny Sage Workshop Manager Courtney Milham-Johnson. Growing up in the northern New Zealand town, Courtney recently returned to her hometown after a stint in Melbourne.
Interested in hearing how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.
“I’ve been back to Auckland for about a year and a half after escaping Melbourne’s lockdown at the end of 2020, but it’s also my hometown so I grew up here,” she says. “I love how familiar it is because I’ve spent many years here and seen different suburbs flourish and change. I feel really comfortable here, I have a lot souvenirs in Auckland.
“I saw the city through many eyes – childhood, adolescence, university years, young people in their twenties. The fashion industry in Auckland is a small community – that means I’ve developed meaningful relationships and learned a lot from people who are now close friends.
A local through and through, Courtney goes by her first name to the staff at her favorite bars and restaurants, though she also enjoys getting out of town and exploring New Zealand’s lush coastline. Read on for his recommendations.
Bar Martin, 43 Martin Avenue, Mont-Albert
A neighborhood bar in Mount Albert, Bar Martin is an intimate place to enjoy a glass of wine and a few plates to share.
“The owner has great energy and an equally excellent wine list. The afternoon sun comes in, it’s cozy, it’s chic – I love it.
Peach Pit, 352 Karangahape Road, Auckland
A bustling and bustling little bar, Peach Pit is Courtney’s favorite destination.
“For [an] alcohol after work, happy hour (five to seven) bubbles every night! Served in small vintage hollow stemmed glasses. Cute!”
Ockhee, 171 Ponsonby Road, Auckland
When asked where the best place to eat in Auckland is, Courtney replies confidently: “I think I speak for all of Auckland when I say Ockhee on Ponsonby Road. Paul Lee is the greatest darling, he welcomes you and feeds you well. It’s just delicious Korean food, natural wines and vibes.
“The standout dish is bul baek – marinated pork with ssam (which is lettuce), cabbage and vegetables to make fresh bites. I love the mountain of tofu, the fried chicken and the chun sa chae noodle salad – steamed seaweed noodles in the tangiest dressing.
Mr T’s Baked Goods & Eatery, 210 Onehunga Mall, Auckland
Owned by a married couple, Mr T’s Baked Goods & Eatery serves freshly prepared traditional Vietnamese dishes and baked goods.
“[The] best Vietnamese and bakery – the banh mi is second to none,” says Courtney.
Satya, 515 Sandringham Road, Sandringham
You’ll find Satya ‘tucked away from the street in an unassuming lane in the heart of Sandringham’.
“It’s street food, it’s plate sharing, it’s my comfort food. My favorite dish is chilli fish and paneer! Oh and the spicy negroni,” says Courtney.
Penny Sage, 6a Kirk Street, Gray Lynn
Working with natural materials, Penny Sage produces all of its locally produced pieces, in collaboration with New Zealand manufacturers. “Biased review but of course the Penny Sage studio store [is a must-visit]“, according to Courtney.
“Our store features our clothes, but also a curated offering of things we love – home, beauty and accessories.”
Public Record, 76 Ponsonby Road, Auckland
Offering homewares, art, furniture, fashion and more, Public Record represents Japanese and New Zealand makers, artists and designers creating thoughtful and enduring pieces. “A useful catalog of timeless treasures,” as Courtney puts it.
Go Jo Recycled Store, 1/1 Riverbank Road, New Lynn
Specializing in vintage fashion, Go Jo Recycled Store has been a longtime Courtney favorite.
“I’ve known and shopped at Jo’s since I was in high school and there’s nothing I love more than sharing her shop with as many people as possible. My favorite second-hand pieces are still hers, she has an eye and takes care of clothes like no one else.
Omni, 359 Dominion Road, Mt Eden
Courtney’s “perfect date spot”, Omni’s menu centers around local, seasonal produce cooked in Binchotan (Japanese white charcoal). The wine list also calls on independent producers, favoring low intervention wines.
“The lighting/ambience is soothing and the best thing to do is just not think about it too much, order the menu and settle in,” Courtney says. “Jamie never suggested an average wine to me and John is incredibly talented in the kitchen. ALWAYS ORDER THE DESSERT – it’s a soft and moist burnt butter cake with that cold, creamy filling. My description doesn’t do it justice but, wow.
Apero Food & Wine, 280 Karangahape Road, Auckland
Serving traditional French cuisine using local and sustainable produce, Apero’s offering focuses on simplicity and quality.
“Aperitif on Karangahape Road feels like dining in the owner’s house – honest food that’s always good,” says Courtney.
“Madame George is my go-to for any important occasion worth celebrating. Stop under the heaters on a long table out front for a homemade pisco sour or negroni – we love a stamped ice cube. The MG team are the best hosts and have the most fun, they will absolutely celebrate with you.”
Grand Harbor Chinese Restaurant, Cnr Pakenham St & Custom St West Viaduct Harbour, Auckland
When it comes to indulging, there’s a place Courtney always likes.
“Grand Harbor for yum cha lunch, is there anything more indulgent?” she says. “Plum wines, shumai dumplings, lounging around a lazy Susan.”
Courtney’s Perfect Day
“Making the most of being able to get from the suburbs to the beach in minutes, I would start my day slowly with a coffee, then my sister and I would take my guide dog-in-training, Buffy, to the North Shore to roam the coastal path from Takapuna to Milford She loves running in the rock pools, swimming and socializing with all the other puppies.
“We would then head to the Northcote Tavern for a humble afternoon lunch of beer and fish and chips, a pub since the 1850s and a beautiful historic building. Then relax into the evening – perhaps a Cambridge Road wine or two.
“I would go to Piha. A small seaside village on the west coast of Auckland. It’s wild and rugged and feels secluded in the best way. If you love getting out into nature, there are plenty of walks, waterfalls and coastlines to explore. I love the Kitekite Falls walk.
“Star Wines and Everyday Wine for delicious organic and natural wines, Cazador Delicatessen for cbutcheryFlorets Bakery for coffee and sandwiches.”
Follow Courtney here.