Before I moved to India, I spent years discovering the best Indian food at home in Auckland, New Zealand. Now that I’ve spent over a year eating all around India, I can tell you exactly which restaurants serve authentic Indian food and which serve unauthentic but still great food.
Clearly from the list below Sandringham is the place to eat the best Indian food. That’s because Sandringham has become a little India, probably because of the large Hindu temple there. The fragrant incense burning in the shops makes Sandringham smell a bit like India too. Start exploring Indian food in this city fringe suburb!
For Something Authentic
Paradise, Sandringham – Hyderabadi Cuisine
Different types of BBQ’d chicken skewers in India. Photo by Travis Wise.
If there’s one place you should visit, it’s Paradise. There’s a reason why there are queues outside both their restaurant and takeaway shops most nights. It’s simply the best Indian food at reasonable prices in Auckland. They specialise in Hyderabadi food, but they still serve a great Butter Chicken that’s available in Kiwi or Indian style.
Hyderabad is the capital of the newly formed Telangana state, previously it was part of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabadi cuisine is influenced by Muslim cooking and therefore famous for its varieties of spicy meat curries, BBQ’d skewers and biryanis. Muslims really know how to cook flavour packed meat!
For an authentic Hyderabadi experience order: Chicken or Mutton Dum Biryani, a BBQ’d chicken dish such as Chicken 65 or the much hotter Harab Hara Chicken, along with the hard to find delicacy, Haleem (a spicy meat stew, available weekends only). If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to try Haleem, go for a Butter Chicken (Indian style) – it’s as close to Butter Chicken in India as I can find.
Other must-try dishes are Tandoori Chicken, Onion Pakora, Lollypop Chicken, Chilly Prawns, and Fried Fish which you’ll see hanging in the kitchen window as you enter.
If fall in love with Haleem as I did, the nearby Hyderabadi Kitchen in Mt Roskill is the only other restaurant in New Zealand which serves it. It’s worth a visit too.
Haleem and Paya from Hyderabadi Kitchen. Photo © Karl Rock.
Jai Jalaram Khaman, Blockhouse Bay – Indian Street Food
My all time favourite, Dahi Puri from JJK. Photo © Karl Rock.
JJK, as it’s known, has been around forever. It’s owner-operated home cooked Indian food. I started going there over 10 years ago when a Parsi friend of mine took me there for Chaat (Indian sweet and spicy street food). Back then I was just after the perfect Dahi Puri which JJK delivers. But then I started eating my way through their menu of Mumbai street foods.
What JJK lacks in atmosphere and decor it makes up for in flavour. They have a minimal menu which I always admire about a restaurant because it usually means they focus on a few things and do them well. Unlike the bulk of Indian restaurants who try to pack every dish from the bottom to the top of India in their menu.
Start with Dahi Puri and Pani Puri then finish off with either a Dabeli (a Gujarati veg burger) or their spicy Pau Bhaji (bread with mashed mixed veg curry). It all tastes just like India.
Mumbai Chaat, Sandringham – Indian Street Food & More
If Blockhouse Bay is too far away for you, then Mumbai Chaat is an OK alternative for a large variety Indian street foods.
Dahi Puri from Mumbai Chaat. Photo © Karl Rock.
Halal Butcher, Sandringham – Butcher with Flavour
If you want the tastiest meat to BBQ at home, then this is the place. Choose your meat then your marinade. My favourite cut here is the massive beef ribs, one rib is enough for the biggest appetite.
Rasoi, K Road – South Indian
I ate so often at Rasoi during my University years that the owner now calls me Mr India. Truth be told, the people who run Rasoi are not from India. They’re Fijian Indians from Labasa, Fiji. They don’t serve traditional Fiji Indian food either. They serve the best South Indian food and sweets in New Zealand.
Rasoi’s Samosas, Pau Bhaji, Masala Dosa (the longest I’ve ever seen), and Bhel Puri are all to die for.
Long Masala Dosa. Photo by kevix@home.
For Traditional European Indian Curry
While people rave about the below three restaurants, they don’t exactly serve authentic Indian cuisine. Rather they serve Indian food adjusted for European taste buds. That’s why they’re so popular. The flavours are less spicy and more creamy. It’s basically toned down Punjabi food that we love so much. There’s nothing wrong with that either, I enjoy it too.
Satya, Around Auckland – North & South Indian
Butter Chicken, unfortunately, the pinnacle of Indian food in the West. Photo by Calgary Reviews.
You can’t go wrong at Satya, and that’s probably why it was the most recommended Indian restaurant in Auckland for years until Paradise came along. They do a spectacular Dahi Puri which is different to the Indian type!
Little India, Around Auckland – North Indian
Butter chicken and naan. Nothing more to say.
Punjabi Dhaba, Around Auckland – North Indian
Punjabi Dhaba does one dish better than the rest. That’s Chicken Lollipops. They’re addictive! It’s special chicken drumsticks with the meat all pulled to one end then deep fried with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce. Just try it.
For Something A Little Different
Cassia, Auckland City – Modern Indian
Some kind of abstract paneer? I don’t know. But I want to eat it anyway. Photo by Cassia.
Cassia is the only “Modern Indian” restaurant I’ve heard of. It’s ritzy. It’s weird. Its food is abstracted and deconstructed. It’s more like art than cuisine.
The chef at Cassia, Sid Sahrawat, takes Indian cuisine and does all weird and wonderful things with it. It’s a bit of an experience in experimentation. So if you have a few dollars to spare (it ain’t cheap!) and want to experience something different, head to Cassia for something unique.
Monsoon Poon, Auckland City – Thai, Malaysian, Indian
Monsoon Poon is one of my favourite restaurants. Their menu is a mix of the best dishes of Thailand, Malaysia, and India. And they do it well! Their food is incredibly flavourful and rich.
Make sure you have a starters platter, the Button Chicken, and the very hot Firecracker Chicken (not Indian, but amazing anyway).
Firecracker Chicken. Photo by Monsoon Poon.