Jesse Mulligan For Viva

Jesse is the Eating Out Editor for NZ Herald - Viva, reviewing a different Auckland restaurant each week since 2015.  Prior to that he was restaurant reviewer at Metro magazine, during which time he judged a number of Restaurant of the Year, Cheap Eats and Top 50 Cafe competitions.

Along with Restaurant Hub, Jesse is pleased to present the Critics' Choice Award, based on his personal choice, according to the places he visited during 2017.



Best Overall Restaurant

MASU - Auckland CBD

From the moment it opened, at any time of day, on any day of the week, Masu is a beautiful and unrivalled eating experience. Extra points for making a five-star restaurant out of sushi, a meal most of us eat for $10 on a regular basis. It’s the small things at Masu, like the way they line up their chopsticks with a laser pointer at the beginning of service, but it’s also the big things, like how they offer a full list of wine and sake. “It must have taken you a while to learn about the sake list,” I said by way of small talk to the young white woman who was serving us. “Not really, I was the one who wrote it,” she said, effortlessly destroying me and my prejudices in the nicest way possible.

Everything on the menu is Japanese-beautiful, but try the miso cod if you can. And if you wake up on Sunday morning and feel like taking another bite out of the weekend, head to the Masu brunch, great value even if you buy a glass of bubbles to go with it. Immerse yourself in this vibrant atmosphere and Book a table now.


Giraffe - Auckland CBD


Tiny, personality-filled neighbourhood eateries are all very well but it takes
something really special to do a successful restaurant at scale. That’s what
Simon Gault has achieved at Giraffe, which is in a big-money slot at the
Auckland Viaduct but, nonetheless, makes you feel like you’re dining with
a family, particularly if you sit up at the bar and chat with the chefs. Plus the food is fantastic, packed with flavour and crammed with superfoods. Giraffe gets my vote for Best New Opening of 2017. Book a table now.

Clooney - Auckland CBD


It was a big year for Clooney, a phenomenal restaurant which was both reborn and euthanised in 2017. I awarded it a perfect 10 when I visited in March, praising Tony Stewart’s bravery and leadership in taking the restaurant into new territory with an international chef.

The era of that chef is now over and Stewart has revealed Clooney’s new incarnation (see page 29). We haven’t eaten there yet but as it is widely acknowledged as Auckland’s most beautiful dining room, presided over by one of our most esteemed restaurateurs, it won’t fail to be anything but spectacular. Book a table now.

Ampersand Eatery - Remuera


Mikey Newlands created incredible food at Bracu but was perhaps a little more experimental out there than the situation required. Now at Ampersand he has hit his straps, creating the food he loves with a level of time and dedication very few chefs would be able to provide.

The restaurant floor is run with crisp professionalism by co-owner Amanda Rogers,
and that the two of them have created such a brilliant dining experience in this unlikely Orakei location is a credit to both. Book a table now.

The Blue Breeze Inn - Ponsonby


There’s no better way to enjoy Ponsonby Rd than at an outdoor table at Blue Breeze Inn, where the food is great and the atmosphere is next level. The combination of lighting, music, service and customers creates a party you don’t want to leave.

You’d say it was serendipity but owner Mark Wallbank and his chef, Che Barrington, created the same magic at Moochowchow and Woodpecker Hill too. There’s no greater luxury than turning up at one of their restaurants and leaving your fate happily in their hands. Book a table now.