When I lived in Dunedin I used to complain about the lack of dating culture there. Meeting new people consisted of getting drunk, finding who you thought was a reasonably attractive male through the haze created by your friend gin and proceeding to enter into a close physical proximity to each other. He might ask for your number or you might awkwardly bump into him the next week at uni and that would be it. There is also the obvious end result of waking up the next morning to find them still unconscious beside you (Dad, if you are reading this, don't worry - these are other peoples accounts!). . .
It was a grim picture as you can very well imagine. Then Tinder came along.
Yes I know some may think it is a sleazy dating/sex app but I can honestly say I have never had a bad or boring time and I certainly haven't ended up chopped up into little pieces and thrown into a black rubbish sack. The first ever tinder date I went on ended up in me dating the poor guy for over half a year and even now he is still one of my very good friends.
I guess you could say I am a a born again Aucklander. My formative university years were spent in Dunedin so I am still new to the booming "yo-pro" scene up here.
With all my friends scattered all over the country I sought to meet new people. My first step was moving in with three total strangers that I found on Trade Me. After being a bit bummed from a breakup I turned back to Tinder for a bit of a laugh and a self esteem boost. After a couple of weeks I went on my second ever blind date. The week after that I went on my third. The week after that I went on another and so on and so forth.
I am sitting here counting on my fingers trying to remember how many I've been on (not even including second dates). I always go into them thinking ok, worst case scenario I end up thrown off the side of a boat in a plastic bag. I always snap my flatmates a picture of the guy's number plate to aid the search if in fact I do go missing. My friend also uses my 3G to stalk my exact whereabouts online. At the very least I get to practice talking to a total stranger for a couple of hours.
Now I know what you must be thinking, oh she is just one of those girls that goes on these for the free food. Hell no! I am a modern lady, I am all about the bill splitting. Unless of course the guy was in the running for a second date where I could foot the bill next time around.
So far in my dating travels I have stumbled across some pretty cool eats. I am all about the casual dining experience. It is far less awkward, meals are always on the cheaper side and the food in these places is fantastic. The more steam, chattering and clanging about in the kitchen the better I think. So here are my current date night favourites.
So in true Sophie fashion we shall start with dessert . . .
Takapuna Beach Cafe
22 The Promenade, Takapuna
During the warmer months (and the cooler ones for the more die hard fans), one can never go wrong with a nice stroll along Takapuna beach with dark chocolate and honeycomb gelato in one's hand. The ice cream moustaches you will get will be a sure ice breaker and at a cool $4.50 per scoop it is a pretty low risk date. Good for a quick weekend catch up if you are living on The Shore. You may even get to walk past the spot where I had my first pash as a 16 year old (parents please stop reading this).
St Heliers Bay Bistro
387 Tamaki Drive, St Heliers
Carrying on with the whole ice cream theme, a stop at the St Heliers Bay Bistro to get knickerbocker glories is definite must do. I was first taken here by my lady love Alix where she introduced me to the ever glorious knickerbocker glory. Two fabulous scoops of the gelato of your choice layered between hokey pokey, marshmallows and mind blowing butterscotch sauce pierced with a massive shard of dark chocolate at the top. Funnily enough when we got these we planned the ideal date together that involved getting these then walking to Mission Bay and back on a blustery evening. The week following I tested out this hypothetical date plan and I have to say I had a most enjoyable time. At $10 a pop, this is another fine outlet to visit.
267-287 Queen St, CBD
Can you tell I like gelato? It would appear I have a serious problem here. It was a good friend of mine, Sophie, that took me here for the first time just a few weeks ago. It was Friday so we went on a date with each other to get Giapo and go see our Lady crush, Angelina Jolie in Malificent. The week following I came back except this time with another gentleman from Tinder. The product is out of this world. Setting you back a cheeky $9.50 each (well thats if you are greedy like me and demand two scoops and a cone) the work of art you get handed at the end is well worth it. I would have to say the only problem is the location, once you do a couple of laps of Queen Street you start to run out of things to do. Unless you stop via sals for some post gelato pizza . . .
27 Tyler Street, Britomart
Usually a spot where my friends and I meet for a week night catch up, I went on my first proper date there the other night. This time we were propped up on the bar where we could watch the dessert wizards work their magic. I like being able to have something to watch while with someone, it always ensure you have something to point out and talk about. It is a cosy and intimate environment which can only seat a handful of people at a time. Pick from the cabinet delights or order something phenomenal from the menu, you will not be disappointed. If you go reasonably early (before 8pm) early on in the week you are pretty much guaranteed a table. You can't book so if you can't be seated immediately just pop over to one of the many nearby bars for a drink or too before dessert. They have recently lowered their menu prices so you can treat yourself for around $15 per person.
541 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
Going to places were my blonde hair stands out like nothing else is one of my favourite passtimes. Dominion road any night of the week is a humming parking nightmare lit up with resteraunts full of all thedumplings, noodles and curries you could ever imagine. To the newbie it is a rather daunting place to be but luckily I was with a bit of an expert. You must get the spring onion pancakes as well as their sweet syrupy counterparts. The dumplings as always are amazing and you are guaranteed to leave suffering one of the worst food comas of your life. After dinner we stopped via the Japanese sweet store and got a bagful of random treats which we ate and laughed at as we walked back down Dominion Road. Highly recommend.
Chop Chop Noodle House
Ponsonby Central, 140 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Riding on the wave of the Asian persuasion, Chop Chop Noodle is another lively date destination. I have to say this has been my favourite place so far. All the seating is around the bar which encompasses the food prep action. We were seated at the back by the hot plate and got to watch the monstrous portions of ramen get constructed. We were right in there with the action. The sophisticated surrounds of Ponsonby Central made me feel very grown up and the pork buns that we got served up were definitely a hell of a lot more swanky than the ones I pick up in a plastic bag at the night markets. I didn't think I would say this but the Korean fried chicken blew my mind away. It was the most amazing manipulation of chicken thigh I have ever experienced. A plate of that plus a pork bun each set ourselves up nicely for a food baby each. I really want to go back and try a bowl of their 12-hour organic beef brisket ramen. This may or may not be a hint (you know who you are). The staff are lively and so laid back. YOU MUST GO HERE.
Food Truck Garage
90 Wellesley St West, CBD
Funnily enough the guy at the counter guessed we were on an awkward blind/first date. The clattering atmosphere dispersed any awkward silences. The food is always good and you leave feeling good about yourself and not like your body is going to explode with dumplings and grease like my other dating favourites. Followed by a lovely trip to the top of Mt Eden to look at the city scape this is a another good to go date night spot.
120 Main Hwy, Ellerslie
I arrived here with a charming young Englishman and we proceeded to outstay most of the staff here. Surrounded by excellent tacos, spicy chicken and quesadillas the time flew by. It would seem a lot of people have birthdays on Tuesday nights but the rowdy birthday singing and candle lit tables made for a very entertaining atmosphere. Completely losing track of time we found ourselves sitting in the dark with the tables around us all packed up and the music turned off. The place was empty and we saw ourselves out which we thought was hilarious. It can be kinda of hard to hear what the other person is saying with all the carry on going on in the background but it certainly is fun, relaxed and wont break the budget.
105 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
Home of some of Auckland's best Sichuan Chinese cusine, this certainly isn't a first date location, unless of course you are comfortable sweating your socks off in front of your date. You have to order the super spicy crispy pork noodles at the top of the menu (Dan Dan Mian as I later found out) as well as the spicy dumplings. The place is packed so prepare yourself for a bit of a wait to be seated. We ended up getting takeaways and visited the local Asian supermarket to buy frozen pork buns and frozen onion pancakes to supplement out feast. We certainly didn't need them because dumplings and a single bowl of noodles was way more than enough. $25 for two people is a date night bargain indeed. Sure I gulped down a hell of a lot of water and sweated it straight out but it was delicious indeed.
Onehunga night markets
I certainly am saving my favourite place until last. Funnily enough I have never been on a date here. I have been with my best friend, I have been with my brother, I have been with random guy friends, I have been with my flatmates and I have been with my ex and his best friend. I am still unsure as whether or not I want to break the sanctity of this precious location. The hustle, the bustle, the steam, the smoke. The scraping of metal tools on greasy and sizzling hot plates, the shouts between stall owners and the small children that dart around your legs. The $2 barbecue pork buns here are the best so far that I have tried in Auckland. They are soft and doughy and sweet. They will instantly fill you with joy. Nothing you eat here will be healthy. It will all be doused in oil one way or another but who the hell cares the moment the crispy fried dumplings touch your lips. $10 later and you will be ever so thankful of your gall bladder. Holy moly it is just the greatest place ever. If your date turns out to be a bit of dud it would be pretty easy to lose them in all the foot traffic. Every Thursday, rain or shine underneath the Dressmart car park in Onehunga street food delights are waiting for you.
So there you have it, the first instalment of the best young dating locations in Auckland. If you have any suggestions give me a buzz or comment below, I love to check out new places.