Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | January 26, 2009

Kiwi Dhabas

Typical Street Cafes

Typical Street Cafes

New Zealand has a very vibrant café culture. Cafes are common in downtown of Auckland as well as in the adjoining suburbs. By Café’s, I don’t mean expensive restaurants but eateries where you generally to grab quick meal or drink. In India, we would either call them dhabas in North or may be compare them with numerous eateries in Kolkata.

The streets of Auckland have too many Café’s on either side of the road. Typically most of the eateries have seating arrangements made either in open or in enclosures. The menu card is generally of four pages with a separate drinks menu. The waitresses normally give you enough time to choose your dish. To aid you, most menus have the composition of a particular dish explained in them and of course the waitress would be happy to help you, if you want to know more about the ingredients. As regards to prices, the Café’s are not expensive and most Café’s ensure you get value for money for the food you ordered. The way you would be served a dish would certainly make you feel, you are eating in a five-star restaurant in India. Additionally, you may feel you have always eaten more than what you paid for the particular dish. During weekdays most Café’s have a separate lunch menu that is cheaper to attract office-goers, thus enabling you to decide whether you shall come back again or not.

Chingri Machh

Battered Prawn

The Café’s are mostly busy. People here have a huge affinity towards eating out under the sun. This is something unique to the culture of the place. While we Asians have taken on to computers, television etc, a typical Kiwi would tell you, he does not use computers beyond office hours, he communicates with his friends / family, either by catching up for a beer or phone, he reads by visiting the library and when it is sunny he would definitely be outside his home unless he is required to mend something in the house. Therefore, on weekends most of the public parks and beaches are busy with people on picnic. Those who don’t bring food from home, throng the Cafes.

Beer battered fish and chips

Beer battered fish and chips

Now coming to the most important aspect of these eateries – the food. While most of the Café’s sell Continental food consisting of meat, chicken, amazing seafood. To go with your food, you shall have a choice of drinks.

As far as drinks are concerned, New Zealand is famous for its wine. Buying a bottle of good wine from the supermarket is cheaper than buying a pack of cigarettes. Most Kiwis’ unless it is very warm and sunny, prefer drinking wine to beer. For the first time ever, I had sparkling wine at home this summer. (The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne, named on the region of France where it is produced). Kiwi sparkling wine is very good.

Coffee is very good here and is very popular too. Not many Kiwis’ are tea drinkers but you get very good quality coffee in almost all the shops. Supermarket also sells good coffee. As far as the beer and whiskey are concerned, they aren’t expensive either but since people get such good wine here, I see most people drinking wine.

Street Musicians

Street Musicians

Additionally, on weekends you would typically find street musicians playing around these Café’s. That makes the ambiance much more pleasurable. Tipping is not a part of culture here but that does not stop waitresses to always smile and wish when they serve.

Thai - Pineapple Prawn Curry

Thai - Pineapple Prawn Curry

Cafés selling Asian food are not very common. Though you get Asian food quite easily (and that too cheap), but Asian eateries are housed inside malls and food courts. This I guess is typical to Asian culture of preferring the shadow rather than sun. That does not mean that the Asian food available here is bad.

The Kiwis indeed love their food and drink. Thankfully, unlike many things here food and drink are not very expensive. While you walk around the streets of Auckland, it is almost certain that the smell of food and coffee shall tempt you to indulge.

My friends from Melbourne and Munich don’t think much about the Café culture in Auckland. However, since I am yet to visit either Melbourne or Munich, my comparisons are with Indian cities of Delhi and Kolkata. Kolkata, too has a Cafe culture with places like Decker Lane shops, Anadi’s Cabin, Coffee House, Nizam, Aminia and numerous roll shops. I still have fond memories of those places.



  1. I want to deviate a little bit from the topic Tanmoyda. What I want to say is that I am truly amazed by the kind of enthusiasm that you have. You have even taken the trouble to observe and say how many pages the menu cards have. It is amazing that you have such a varied range of interest and that you feel like writing about them very frequently. It is also a great thing that you have time to do all these in the midst of your job schedules. Your blog had even motivated me to find out how work life in Auckland is and how different it is from other countries, specially India. I would expect a new blog post on that from you. I had also talked about this with people in high managerial positions in a company here and they said me that the work load and environment is very methodical over there and they do not impose work pressure. I really want to get a job over there after my MBA and a few years of experience here. I am very much concerned about my photography. I fear it will be murdured by the tremendous work pressure present here. What do you say?

  2. I am also very thankful to you for voting my picture. I hope you have liked it. I think this post on ‘dhabas’ was inspired by my picture. I am not blowing my trumpets. But I am happy that my picture can mean so much, if at all it did.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I shall reply to you in a email very soon. Your picture helped me to add the line on Kolkata. However, my post was planned long before. I was clicking photographs of food from the day I landed. 😀

    Your picture however was beautiful and it deserves to be voted. Though I am amazed to see so many of you click such beautiful pictures. Though I don’t like photographers using software to make pictures look beautiful.

  4. That is a problem with digital photography. Post-processing is always permitted. Previously it was done in the darkroom. Now we use Photoshop. It is perfectly al right to use Photoshop. But a photographer can at the most dodge, burn, clone or change the colour mode. But going beyond it to the extent of adding and eliminating objects is thoroughly objectionable. One must simply give subtle digital touches to his pictures. But it is a tragedy that many photographers, as you have pointed out, manipulate images a lot with many digital tools.

  5. How is it, do you think, that even their roadside eateries and their surroundings are so clean?

    Obviously it is not because of small populations. Japan, with a large and very dense population, is also spankingly clean. So…?

  6. I shall soon write about the cleanliness aspect of this country. Some of the Asian countries (Singapore) and some of the European ones (like Germany) have forced people to become clean with stringent penalties. However, in countries like NZ cleanliness is a part of their culture. Whereas, migrants from Asia (China / India) and students are responsible for making the city a bit dirty sometimes (just by throwing cigarettes on the street), but that does not deter the city council to clean-up the waste bins and streets from time to time. However, throwing food left over or having open waste bins is virtually improbable.

  7. Tanmoy, you have written extremely well on the street foods of Auckland. Additionally, the pictures you posted are “delicious”, they look as if they have been picked out straight from a cookbook. At least one thing is now certain-you are not missing Bengali food that much. Anyways, do write something about the actual “Asian” dhabas and post some pics if possible, in Auckland.

  8. Anadi’s cabin. 🙂 Good to see you remember all those. Tanmoy, it is very delicate post. 🙂 I feel hungry, was thinking of skipping breakfast.. now I guess I need to go. Battered fish was the one, oh my god…. water came in mouth.

    These in fact you can put in a coffee table book.. will be a very good read.

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