If you enjoy sensational, succulent seafood, then make sure you visit Auckland Seafood Festival this long weekend. My sister and I hit Auckland Seafood Festival on opening night and we had a truly delightful time. We both love seafood so we shared a bunch of things we both enjoy. Arriving shortly after opening, there were no queues so we didn’t have to apply any strategy based on length of the queues. Last year I gave crayfish a miss because the lines were horrendous. Nothing like that this time around.
We started with oysters and the Bluff farmed oysters at Sanford Oysters looked good to us. These were freshly shucked and served with malt vinegar and lemon (6 for $22).
We had a little browse and then hit up Besos Latinos for some Peruvian ceviche ($14) and seafood empanadas ($10). The ceviche really hit the spot and the empanada (fried fresh to order) reminded us of a seafood pie.
Always popular at Auckland Seafood Festival are Auckland Fish Markets’ crayfish tails. This year they had grilled half cray tails in two sizes (medium $20, large $30) with your choice of coriander & lime butter, wasabi butter, dill & lemon butter, confit garlic butter or smoked butter. We had smoked butter and it was DIVINE.
With our hunger satiated, we headed to the Soundshell area with two bars, plenty of bean bag seating and a stage sandwiched between a gorgeous sunset and a view of the harbour. Perfection. At this point – just after 6pm – the festival the festival was just beginning to get busier as we enjoyed our cold drinks. The music by Two Many Chiefs trio was spot on, playing jazzy pop classics with a funked up tone.
Moving on, in search of more seafood delights, we passed Black Stag Deli and were impressed with the sides of salmon smoking over hot coals.
Hard to pass up beautifully cooked salmon, we enjoyed a bun filled with hot smoked salmon, crème fraîche, fresh dill and red peppercorns ($10). The creamy sauce and fragrant peppercorns really let the subtle smoke of the salmon shine. This was quite substantial and pretty much filled any belly space we had left.
We bumped into my cousin and her boyfriend and caught up over Virgin Clevedon Oyster Shooters ($4) from Clevedon Coast Oysters. The most delicious shot I’ve had in a while.
We left the festival satisfied and got away with spending just $45 each. Pretty happy with that. One could certainly spend more without trying too hard!
What we missed
We left before 8pm which meant we missed the Soundshell main act: Che Fu! I should have studied the schedule more carefully. Don’t make our mistake!
Looking back, I’d have liked to try House of Dumplings’ Japanese Sake Salmon with Fennel Dumplings / Smoked Eel, Karengo, Watercress & Crème Fraiche Dumplings / Paua, Mussel, Fresh Coriander & Squid Ink Dumplings / Prawn & Garlic Chives Dumplings (4 dumplings for $10).
Sanford Mussels had a generous offering for $10 and others who had this sang its praises. I’ve eaten lots of mussels lately so I gave this a miss but if you’re craving mussels, definitely get in on this one.
In other years we’ve enjoyed the scampi ($20) but this year we opted for crayfish. They are both good, but you will probably choose one or the other. No judgement from this corner if you get both.
We completely missed the cooking theatre, although there was only one demo on Friday night. If you like cooking seafood at home, make sure you check it out, there might even be free tastings!
The AWOP card system in place was easy to use and understand. This system is pretty standard at festivals now. Don’t worry about putting too much on your card as you will get a full refund on your way out and it’s easy to top up with EFTPOS or cash. There were plenty of AWOP people around the festival as well as the clearly marked card bank to top off from.
I really liked the festival layout this year with the Soundshell next to the water overlooking the harbour. There didn’t feel like as many stalls this year and restaurants seemed a bit underrepresented, but that’s fine, we have other restaurant-heavy festivals and this one is really about the seafood. Buying seafood directly from their suppliers is a treat and you can feel free to pick their brains about their product. There were over 40 stalls, each with several dishes to choose from. There are even a couple of vendors that don’t even sell seafood – for those who are bringing along family who don’t eat seafood. There is something for everyone and you will not be going hungry!
There was a distinct lack of scallops this year, something that I’m sure will be missed by others. A shame because we are in the heart of scallop season and I haven’t been gorging on scallops this season. Hopefully the generous portions of mussels and the many varieties of oysters will make up for the lack of scallops.
It can be tricky to eat certain seafood dishes when there isn’t enough seating but this year there is heaps of seating.
There are no barriers surrounding the wharf so please keep an eye out for runaway little ones. This is a family-friendly event and kids who don’t like the more adventurous seafood dishes may still enjoy fish and chips, crepes, churros and other sweet treats.
Auckland Seafood Festival tips:
- A food loving friend (a fork buddy)
- Bring your tickets and cash/EFTPOS
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and/or a hat
- Possibly an umbrella if the weather looks concerning
- ID if you have a baby face and would like a drink
- Hand sanitiser (if you like to use your hands), extra napkins may be useful
- Phone or camera for all that drool-worthy food porn
- Expect to spend $40-60 per person. We spent $45 each including 1 alcoholic drink.
- …and of course, a healthy appetite!
For more information including ticket sales, vendors, menus and entertainment schedule, visit Auckland Seafood Festival’s website www.aucklandseafoodfestival.co.nz. The festival has 4 more sessions over the long weekend.