One of the best things about summer is the longer days. Not only do the evenings stretch on into balmy bliss, but the mornings are fresh and light and awake even before you are. It’s so much easier to creep out of bed early on a Saturday when it’s bright and sunny outside and you know you’re going to get coffee, a crumpet and a bargain box of avos for your efforts. And crawling back into bed hours later is never more satisfying than after a day topped off with dumplings and red-bean waffle cakes.
There’s one kind of adventure in particular that Auckland’s gentle summer mornings and long, warm evenings particularly lend themselves to, and that’s strolling around any one of the city’s numerous local markets. Early morning, late morning, night-time, coffee, pastries, gözleme, seasonal produce, crafts, trinkets, baby clothes, pet clothes, phone cases, plastic jewellery, fake tattoos, noodles, dumplings, ice cream – name your preferred combo of any or all of the above, and there’s an Auckland market that will cater to your needs.
Here, to get you started, are the local favourites of some of our favourite locals. (And aucklandmarkets.co.nz offers a thorough guide.)
AVONDALE MARKET WITH JEMMA AND JAMIE
Avondale Racecourse, Ash st, Avondale
The Avondale markets are a neighbourhood treasure, and they attract a fair crowd from all over Auckland. It’s definitely not the flashiest, trendiest market around, and it’s not where you head for an excellent (or indeed any) coffee, but then that’s part of the charm. This place is about fresh produce, fresh fish, seedlings, plants and flowers, and second-hand goods. It’s one of the few places Jamie and I know that deals lavishly in oyster mushrooms, where you can get three large bunches of stock for only $10, and where you can find tables teeming with fresh-cut watercress or mountainous clusters of plump grapes. It also has an impressive array of used mechanical goods and tools, as well as some clothing and footwear.
Operating every Sunday, irrespective of the weather, it’s best to get to the Avondale markets early (by which I mean before 10am, if possible; 8am is ideal). It does get steadily busier throughout the morning and finishes up at midday, so if you’re not a big fan of crowds I suggest you try to prise yourself out of bed on the earlier side of the day. Being a local market, the offerings are entirely seasonal, and at the moment are characterised by the summery goodness of asparagus, tomatoes, avocados and the beginnings of stone fruit, while a couple of Sundays ago I even chanced upon a cart piled high with lychees. Together with the usual suspects of apples, pears, broccoli and carrots, you can also find the more costly options (mangoes, pawpaw, dragon fruit) swaddled in individual casings, and the more ‘exotic’ options – by Auckland standards anyway – of bitter melon, daikon, and Chinese greens including choy sum, gai choy, kai-lan, yau choy and Shanghai bok choy.
Everything is fresher and cheaper than the supermarket, with the added bonus that the stallholders are friendly and enthusiastic about their wares. If you’re a little more on the canny side, it’s a good idea to do a full loop of the marketplace to eye up prices and produce before making your choice. I never seem to learn this trick and regularly find myself buying the first thing that comes my way, only to find another stall selling the same product. I’m sure it is bigger, better and cheaper than what I just bought . . . so I buy that too. As a result, I’ll admit that, on occasion, I’ve been known to have a fruit bowl overflowing with avocados that leads our house to live off guacamole by the end of the week. Not that I’m complaining. The experience, quality and cost mean that I’m always back at the markets the following Sunday to replenish my diminishing stores.
LA CIGALE WITH COURTENEY
Saturday 8am–1.30pm and Sunday 9am–1:30pm
69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell
La Cigale was a favourite of mine long before I lived in Parnell, and a major reason why I was so happy to move just round the corner. I used to go with my flatmates, order a Nutella crêpe and pretend I was in Paris. Now it’s my local I don’t seem to frequent the crêpe section quite so much; instead I come for fresh fruit and vegetables, and to discover new local producers.
So many talented makers have had their start at La Cigale, from Bluebells Cakery to The Raw Kitchen. Over the years I’ve become a die-hard fan of Genevieve’s duck liver parfait, Sam’s gorgeous bircher muesli, Pucka and, most recently, the Midnight Baker’s stunning Freedom Loaf. I’ve ordered countless smoothies from The Organic Mechanic, eaten an embarrassing number of Amandine pastries and, if I’m honest, more than my fair share of Salash Delicatessen dry cured meat samples.
Aside from many lazy weekend mornings spent people-watching while waiting for coffee, and quite a number of unnecessary European cheese and wine purchases, I also have La Cigale to thank for my obsession with gözleme from the Turkish Bazaar. I come down with my market bag in hand, intending to pick up some seasonal produce and get out of there, but I’m drawn to that stall every time. Gözleme is a traditional flatbread filled with spinach and feta or a spicy lamb mince, then rubbed in butter and cooked over a convex griddle. It’s messy and supremely delicious, and on occasion I’ve found myself sitting on the ground in the car park, stuffing it, piping hot, into my face.
GLENFIELD NIGHT MARKETS WITH JOEL AND KIMBERLEY
Westfield Glenfield, Corner Glenfield Road and Downing Street
For the hungry, the curious and the intrepid we seriously recommend the Auckland Night Markets. Why, you ask, do we love these markets so much? Well, Joel has an affinity for both meat on a stick and modestly priced novelties, while Kimberley will try literally any food at least once (including, on one particularly memorable occasion, a whole cupful of questionable-smelling fried baby octopus).
During the week, the night markets rotate location all over Auckland, but since we’re North Shore locals our market is the one that pops up on Sunday nights in the covered carpark of the Glenfield mall. It might not be typically romantic, but arriving for the first time is a riotous sensorial delight. This isn’t a quiet stroll perusing quaint organic relishes – oh no. This is a snapshot of Auckland as it is, bustling and bursting at the seams. Depending on the night, the vendors of anywhere between thirty and fifty deliciously scented stalls, from every corner of the planet, will greet you with cries to come and try whatever it is they’ve got on offer. Here you’ll find everything from quick street snacks, meals cooked from scratch in streetside woks, fresh fruit, knock-off watches to a million different rings and necklaces. If you’re introducing visitors to Auckland for the first time, this is a must. Busy, exciting, diverse, it’s Auckland in an evening.
Our advice is to take a lap of the stalls first, to check out what’s on the menu. Then dive in, and be adventurous. We can’t really recommend one particular stall, because that would go against the spirit of these markets – our approach is always to make sure we try something we’ve never eaten before, and we haven’t failed yet. Joel’s three-course meal tip: start with a food eaten off a stick, then a noodle-based main, then go for a dessert. You’ll need cash – you can get it when you arrive from the ATM on the first level of the mall. And make sure you go hungry, because no matter what you’re going to leave stuffed.
GREY LYNN FARMERS’ MARKET WITH REBEKAH
510 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
Farmers’ markets can have a reputation for being expensive and a bit fancy, but I go to my local because there are plenty of bargains to be found. Sure, there are lots of specialty goods to splurge on, too – ginger syrup, small-batch cheeses, homemade sauerkraut, complicated pastries – but usually I shop just for produce.
I always start at a stall near the door called George’s Gardens. They give me a big paper bag and I load it up with whatever’s cheap that week – potatoes, leeks, carrots, silverbeet, rhubarb. Then I head to a stall on the back wall near the coffee cart that sells mostly greens – rocket, spinach, giant packets of herbs for
Mostly I love the ephemerality of the Grey Lynn market. There’s no guarantee what will be there on any given Sunday. When watercress was in season, you could buy huge sheafs of it for $1, but that only lasted a couple of weeks. Once I splurged on a box of tamarillos from George’s that were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Another time I bought a carton of tiny eggs from a man I’d never seen before (straight from his bantam chooks, he said) but he hasn’t been back since.
I always keep an eye out for the honey lady, and if she’s at the market that morning, I buy two or even three jars because I’m not sure when she’ll next take a stall. Her honey is collected from different areas in Auckland (one of them is Grey Lynn) and it’s far more fragrant than supermarket honey, but for the same price. Sold.
TAKAPUNA SUNDAY MARKET WITH TOM AND RACHEL
Takapuna Central Carpark, Corner Anzac Street and Lake Road
Oh, Takapuna, how you’ve changed in recent years. Now you have fancy new boardwalks and brightly lit beachfront restaurants, but your Sunday-morning market remains an old-school gem that’s always worth the visit. While new kids on the block are busy pushing non-fat, low-lactose triple-shot flat whites and full-fat eggs bene, this market provides a connection to real artisan suppliers of cured meats, fresh pasta, manuka honey and a wide array of fruit and veges, along with some clothing and antique stalls – but, if we’re honest, we’re unlikely to get up early on a Sunday to buy clothes. We’re just not those people. Food, on the other hand, is a whole other story.
A wise person once said: never shop on an empty stomach. This is never more important than at a weekend market. An 8am Sunday market foray can very quickly turn into an expensive exercise if someone gets hangry while trying to decide between a jar of thyme honey or manuka honey . . . or both. Tip: find food before you really get into your shopping! This is where Takapuna will really set you up for the day.
Our favourite stop for pre-empting hangriness is Kraken Crumpets, a food truck that’s now a regular here and worth a trip all on its own just for breakfast fuel. Auckland has survived the cupcake and the cronut; now it appears the crusade of the crumpet has begun. Kraken Crumpets are nothing like the cardboardy ones you buy from the supermarket – no, these are lovingly crafted, light and fluffy, with a really homely feel to them.
And the crumpets themselves are only half the fun: the toppings are where Kraken’s Hamish and Amy really push the boundaries, with delicious results. There are, of course, all the standard fixtures – jam, honey, golden syrup and Nutella – which take us back to being young, enjoying crumpets on the couch while watching weekend cartoons.
Then there are the ‘premium’ toppings, which turn the crumpet into a work of art. These premium options change every week or two, making it impossible to resist returning to try the new combinations – in the past, we’ve enjoyed apple crumble with mascarpone, banana and caramel, and brie and apricot. You’ll probably require a fork to finish off the mountain of tasty toppings that you don’t manage to consume with the crumpet itself. Trust us: no better culinary platform exists from which to begin your market explorations than Kraken Crumpets. Have a crumpet and you can rest assured that your market purchases will be unswayed by the cloud of hunger.
THE GENERAL COLLECTIVE MARKET DAY WITH FRITH AND AMY
20 Cawley Street, Ellerslie
Amy and I have been going to the General Collective Market Day since early last year – it’s held quarterly, with a special-edition Christmas market in Ponsonby, and exact dates can be found on the website closer to the time. It recently moved to larger premises at the C3 church building on Cawley Street, which is just as well because the stalls are multiplying at a rapid rate – back when they started just over a year ago they had only five stalls, but the market now peaks at 115!
It’s free entry, and there are door prizes or raffles made up of goodies from various stallholders. It’s our favourite market because not only is it super local, which makes it easy for us to wander down to from home, but the stalls are a perfect mix of snacks, art, hipster tchotchkes/vaguely useful homewares, jewellery and adorable baby clothes (for which we have yet no need). We especially like that it doesn’t feel pretentious in the way that inner-city or inner-suburb markets sometimes can.
General Collective is super kid-friendly, too. At their regular market days, as well as the plethora of kid fashion, there’s also face-painting, little blackboard-coated tables for colouring, and activities to keep ’em entertained. This year they ran a kids’ market day, which was a collaboration with the Ellerslie Spring Fairy Festival, an annual event attracting families from all over Auckland.
Our personal favourite stallholders – we’ve got a few! Amy is obsessed with Toodles Noodles, and I’m in love with The Candy Apple Wagon. We also love Olivia Bezett’s artwork and Claybird Handmade Ceramics. At the last market we got an amazing terrarium by Vidabela, as well as a ridiculous(ly cute) reversible bandana for our cat, Daniel, from 4 Ur Paws . . . we’re pretty sure it was meant to be for a small dog, but we’re convinced he loves it.
This content initally appeared within The Seasonal #02 SUMMER