On Auckland’s 175th birthday, we gorged ourselves on seafood.
Every Auckland Anniversary Weekend, which takes place at the end of January, the ASB Auckland Seafood Festival is held on the waterfront in the city. We had always wanted to go but were usually out of town that weekend (seeing as Auckland’s birthday is always celebrated on a Monday, and we get the day off work – hurrah!). However this year, we decided to stay in town and visit the Seafood Festival.
The festival takes place at the most appropriate place in the city in terms of seafood – on the wharf where the city’s fishing boats dock. The views back towards the city and the Viaduct Basin are spectacular, as well as out into the Waitemata Harbour where the Anniversary Day sailing races were being held.
We walked in the entrance flanked by fish on ice that you could purchase, tasted some delicious smoked snapper, and then became a bit overwhelmed.
There was SO. MUCH. CHOICE.
Over thirty different vendors were cooking all sorts of wonderful seafood snacks – from ceviche to oysters, and from fish tacos to crayfish (New Zealand’s lobster). We didn’t know where to start! So we went and got a beer from the Monteith’s Beer Garden while we mulled over the choices. The beer garden had some great kiwi beers on tap, as well as rustic bar leaners and umbrellas – the perfect combo for a sunny summer day!
First we decided to have some scallops with garlic butter and crushed macadamias – decadent and delicious. New Zealand scallops can be quite a bit smaller than their North American counterparts (which we had tried recently at Whistler), but they pack in a lot of flavour and are super creamy. So good!
After satiating our hunger for a little while, we headed to the cooking theatre to watch a celebrity chef demonstrate how to cook a seafood laksa and seafood nasi goreng. It looked and smelled freakin’ delicious, and we were lucky enough to be able to try some at the end of the demo. Yum!
With our stomachs rumbling, we headed back outside to the vendors and got in line for crayfish. Crayfish is a delicacy here in New Zealand, and can be phenomenally expensive in restaurants – quite often you’ll pay about $100 for a whole cray! It was much cheaper at the festival, with a crayfish tail (cut in half and cooked in garlic butter) for $30. It was both Shaun’s and my first time eating crayfish, and we were impressed! It’s quite fleshy and creamy which was unexpected, and the garlic butter made for a nice flavour. We aren’t sure if we would ever pay through the roof for it though…
Next it was back to more shellfish. I’m not a huge fan of oysters (it’s the texture…) but Shaun quite likes them, so he slurped away at a few. We also had a pan fried snapper and slaw taco (really good) and some octopus and prawn takoyaki balls, which were pretty interesting (although a little undercooked unfortunately).
The end of the festival was spent in the beer garden with a couple of drinks, listening to live music in the hot afternoon sun. What an ideal day! We’ll definitely be back next year – provided that we are in Auckland!
Note: entry tickets to the ASB Auckland Seafood Festival cost approximately $25, and then you pay per item you want to try. Most of the food on offer is under $10, with the exception of the more pricey crayfish.
Thanks to ASB Auckland Seafood Festival for sponsoring our attendance at the festival. As always, our opinions are our own no matter who is footing the bill.