Because of its size and ethnic diversity, Auckland tops the country when it comes to dining options and quality. Lively eateries have sprung up to cater to the many Asian students, and offer inexpensive Japanese, Chinese and Korean staples. If you’re on a budget, you’ll fall in love with the city’s food halls.

Self-Catering

You’ll find large supermarkets in most neighbourhoods: there's a particularly handy Countdown at the bottom of town and a New World by Victoria Park. Self-caterers should consider the Otara Flea Market and Avondale Sunday Markets for cheap, fresh vegetables, and La Cigale for fancier fare and local artisan produce.

Foodie Enclaves

The city's hippest new foodie enclaves are Britomart (the blocks above the train station) and Federal St (under the Sky Tower), and recent openings have resurrected and reinforced the culinary reputation of Ponsonby. The Wynyard Quarter and the former City Works Depot on the corner of Wellesley and Nelson Sts are also up-and-coming areas. Easily reached by train, Orakei Bay Village in the city's eastern suburbs is another emerging precinct.

Cafes

Aucklanders demand good coffee, so you never have to walk too far to find a decent cafe, especially in suburbs like Ponsonby, Mt Eden and Kingsland. Some double as wine bars or have gourmet aspirations, while others are content to fill their counters with fresh, reasonably priced snacks.

Ponsonby & Grey Lynn

Auckland’s busiest restaurant-cafe-bar strip is so damn cool it has its own website (www.iloveponsonby.co.nz).

Newton

Karangahape Rd (K Rd) is known for its late-night clubs, but cafes and plenty of inexpensive ethnic restaurants are mixed in with the vintage clothing stores, secondhand boutiques, tattooists and adult shops.

Auckland's Multicultural Menu

Around 30% of New Zealanders live in Auckland, and the country's biggest city is also the most ethnically diverse. With immigration – especially from Asia – has come a cosmopolitan restaurant scene, and savvy Auckland foodies (and a few of the city's top chefs) keenly explore central fringe neighbourhoods for authentic tastes of the city's multicultural present and future.

Head to Dominion Rd in Balmoral (catch bus 267 from stop 7058 near the intersection of Queen and Wellesley Sts and get off at stop 8418) to be surrounded by Auckland's best Chinese food.

A few blocks west (catch bus 249 from stop 7022 in Victoria St East to stop 8316 on Sandringham Rd) are some of the city's best Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants. Our favourite is Paradise, specialising in the Mughlai cuisine you'd find on the streets of Hyderabad.

At the city's bustling night markets – held in a different suburban car park each night of the week – scores of stalls serve food from a diverse range of countries, from Argentina and Samoa, to Hungary and Turkey. Most convenient for travellers is the Thursday Henderson Night Market. Catch a western-line train from Britomart to Henderson and walk 650m to underneath the Kmart department store.

If you're in town around late March or early April, the Auckland International Cultural Festival offers a very tasty peek into the city's ethnically diverse future. Online, Cheap Eats (www.cheapeats.co.nz) scours Auckland for the city's best food for under $20.