Auckland: A world of possibilities

As part of this year’s MEETINGS NZ, hosted buyers experienced some of Auckland’s cultural hotspots and newly established meetings venues.

By LAUREN ARENA 

I stare longingly at my bagel. It’s topped with cream cheese and strawberry jam and I ready myself for a taste explosion before taking a very eager first bite.
A good bagel is like a precious gem, difficult to find amid a sea of half-hearted imitations and wannabes. And right now I’ve got myself a beauty – crisp on the outside with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds and deliciously dense on the inside. No, I’m not in New York or Montreal – I’m in Auckland, the multicultural hub of New Zealand and the country’s largest, most populous urban area. More specifically, I’m at Best Ugly Bagels, a test kitchen and bagel café run by celebrity chef Al Brown in a newly developed industrial food hub in the heart of Auckland, known as City Works Depot.

Al Brown brings a sense of culinary glamour to the architecturally-designed sheds that make up the urban precinct and certainly has the bagel-making process down-pat. Keeping with the Montreal tradition, Best Ugly’s bagels are hand-rolled before being boiled in honey-sweetened water and then baked in a 15-tonne wood fired oven.

Along with Al Brown, there’s award-winning chef Michael Van de Elzen’s Food Truck Garage that serves up healthy fast food with a gourmet edge; Brother’s Brewery, a boutique brewery serving artisan beers and ciders (we recommend the beetroot-infused beer) amid vintage lounges and quirky furnishings; and the Dry & Tea salon, an elegant beauty salon where you can sip tea and snack on sweet treats while having your hair styled and your nails painted – a great place to spoil clients or treat delegates to a bit of pampering post-conference.
Scratch Bakers, a 24/7 bakery, is next door to the brewery and bakes rabbit or goat-filled pies alongside Three Beans Roastery, which serves single origin coffee as well as a few of its own signature blends.

Shed Five has also been repurposed as a hybrid venue that combines a motorcycle showroom with a trendy café. It’s not your usual pairing, but in this industrial setting it works. Together with its outdoor pavilion, Shed Five can accommodate large functions and catering among its vast collection of metal.
From here, a short stroll will take you to the Viaduct Event Centre along the harbour foreshore. One of the city’s newest purpose-built venues, the centre features seven rooms, including central Auckland’s largest banquet space with room enough to seat 1200 guests. The multi-levelled complex was designed and built to a five-star environmental standard, creating an impressive addition to Auckland’s vibrant Wynyard Quarter with its glass walls and expansive balconies; the centre certainly embraces its impressive waterfront location.

Also on the water, perched on the edge of Queen’s Wharf is the newly refurbished Shed 10. Dating back to 1910, the double storey cargo shed was recently transformed into a public events and cruise facility, breathing new life into the heritage building. The architectural approach to the refurbishment reflects the building’s historic significance.

For those looking to immerse themselves in local Maori culture, the Auckland Museum is the place to be, housing the world’s most extensive Maori and Pacific Island collection in one of New Zealand’s most iconic heritage buildings. Maori cultural performances, including the infamous haka war cry, take place daily amid the museum’s majestic columns and sacred artefacts, while its sprawling roof-top events centre offers picture-perfect views of the city below.

Another impressive event venue steeped in history is the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). New Zealand’s largest transport, technology and social history museum, MOTAT has a range of unique spaces on offer, including its multi-award winning Aviation Display Hall, which can host up to 800 guests for a cocktail event amid its collection of vintage aircraft. m