Best of Auckland / Food & Drink

Romance your first date at these non-awkward spots

Picture this; you’ve swiped right, the banter is flowing, you’re exchanging numbers and you know it’s coming. The first date. Who will suggest it first? How will it go? Could this be the first day of forever? The excitement is palpable. But amidst the exhilaration, there is room for error, there is the chance of making a huge mistake…choosing the spot for your first date can set the mood for how your little romantic exchange will end. So if you want to take that first step on the path towards the altar you better choose wisely.

Firstly, absolutely no one wants to commit to a dinner on the first date unless you’re certain you’re going to like the person. Imagine ordering your entree and having them launch into their Ted Talk on the highs and lows of bitcoin. So just because you can never be too safe, you’re always best to opt for a location where you can sneak in a few drinks, decide you can actually tolerate the person enough to share a meal, and then casually drop in just how hungry you have become and see where the night takes you! Then there’s also price to consider. Are you shouting the evening or splitting the bill? Do you want to flaunt your dollar bills or play it cool? The choice of restaurant, bar or activity can not only define how the other person sees you but it’s also the menu you’re stuck with reading if their chat turns out to be a bit shit. Choose at your own peril.


In need of some social lubricant to loosen you up for the big day? Nothing does it better than a Margarita Jug from Mexico. You can share it to break the ice and give the whole experience a more festive feel and you can impress your date with your extensive knowledge of Tequila. One of the best parts about Mexico is that it is always packed – though this could seem like a bad thing, when you’re on a first date, a bit of atmosphere is exactly what you need. With a menu designed to share alongside speedy service, delicious food and a downright cool vibe, Mexico is a low key spot for wine-ing and dining. If the date isn’t everything you thought it would be, at least the dinner and drinks won’t break the bank and you still get to leave with a belly full of delicious fried chicken. Mexico could prove to be the numero uno destination on your journey to love.

Location: Britomart, Ponsonby, Ellerslie

Porch Bar & Eatery

There’s nothing like a bit of people watching to help break through an awkward encounter. Porch Bar is the perfect waterfront spot with ample people watching, a great view and plenty of dogs passing by to distract your date when you’ve run out of weather chat. It is an ideal setting for a casual and laid back first encounter. You can sit outside on the bar leaners and catch that evening sunshine over a few wines as you nervously embark on the journey of first date conversation. If you do decide you like the person, they have an epic bar snack menu to keep the date going and if you think they might actually be the one, they have a mega dessert selection too. As Porch is located in the affluent suburb of St Heliers, you can casually mention that you live just around the corner and lock them in for life with a promise (or a lie) of a beachfront retirement. Porch has an Espresso Martini for just $16 and a Chilli & Ginger Mojito that would spice up even the most boring of dates!

Location: St Heliers


You barely know this person, how can you be expected to know what is going to work on them? Not sure what kind of cuisine they like from the two second chat you had on the internet? Fair enough! You know what is never awkward, and easy to get out of in a hurry if things turn south? Coffee. Just because it’s a ‘date’ doesn’t mean it needs to be at night. Why not suggest meeting at coveted Auckland brunch spot, Odettes for a coffee and croissant and give it half an hour or so to see if they spin your wheels or not. If not, you’ve lost $5 and a sleep in but if it turns out that you like them, then Odettes is a great venue to get a read for next time. You can sit outside and watch the Les Mills crew track in for their post-sweat sesh calorie load and casually drop in how fitness is your passion, or you can tuck yourself away in a cosy corner inside to talk about literature and your favourite Netflix murder mysteries. Odettes has it all. It also offers the chance to progress to a delicious brunch if your coffee goes well, and quite frankly, breakfast dates are underrated. Nothing says ‘i’m a cool person to potentially marry’ more than confidently ordering the Odette’s Herbed Scramble like a seasoned pro.

Location: City Works Depot


Now I know I said don’t start out with a dinner straight off the bat but it’s hard not to if you’re heading to Cotto. If you want to ease into things but can’t bear to miss out on the delicacies that come out of the Cotto kitchen, why not start off with a couple of drinks and a serving of Cotto’s famous spinach, goats cheese and sage dumplings to share. If your date doesn’t like them, then that’s your answer right there. Cotto’s menu is definitely first date friendly with options grouped by price, you can choose snacks and starters from the $6 menu if you’re keeping it relaxed or progress to the $22 main selection if you’re picking up what your date is putting down. Cotto does a mean Whisky Sour for $16 and a cheeky Aperol Spritz for just $14. 

Location: K Road

Duck Island

Not every first date has to be a dinner and drinks. If you’re not ready to commit to a full seated conversation over cocktails, then why not start with a stroll.  Head to Duck Island and then you can judge your date on their selection of ice cream flavour and you;ll know straight off the bat if you’re compatible or not (watch out for anyone who chooses Vanilla, most likely a serial killer.) With your carefully selected flavours in hand you can take off for a brisk walk along the hustle and bustle of Ponsonby Road, and if things go well, you can point out your favourite restaurants along the Ponsonby strip as you casually test the waters for date number two.

Location: Ponsonby Road


Ok, so you’ve picked a winner. You’ve got a date you’re really excited about, you can feel the winds of destiny sweeping you off your feet and carrying you towards your future. Where do you take them that is bound to impress and make sure your love doesn’t get thrown in your face? Amano. It literally means ‘love’ in Italian so how can you go wrong? Amano has the most incredible mood lighting to set the scene to your new found romance, a drinks list long enough to kill a bit of time if you need it and a dinner menu that is sure to guarantee a proposal. It’s a bit more expensive than your regular first date spot but if they’re worth it, they’re worth it. Share a burrata, bond over the delicate deliciousness of the chargrilled octopus and seal the deal with a shared love of the lamb ragu pappardelle. You will leave with a full heart and an even fuller stomach. The only problem you’re going to have is how to beat it with date number two! 

Location: Britomart