West Auckland’s street food scene
West Auckland’s Te Atatu Peninsula has community spirit in spades and a monthly gourmet food and craft market that’s in full swing for its second summer season
If you stroll down the main street of Te Atatu Peninsula’s town centre on certain Fridays, you’ll hear – and smell – Te Atatu Night Market before you see it. The satisfyingly smoky scent of barbecue fills the air, kids in cute costumes race past on the footpath and the addictive cadence of a live jazz beat is in your ears as you round the corner to the heaving car park-turned-dinner destination of Te Atatu Peninsula Community Centre.
You won’t find candy floss and deep-fried carnival hotdogs in this corner of West Auckland – there are hot chips, but the crew at Double-Dutch Fries hand-cut their spuds on the go, transforming the humble potato into a cone of hot and salty deliciousness topped with creamy mayo, tangy tomato sauce and finely chopped onions within minutes. That’s the vibe around here in a nutshell: simple yet super-tasty dishes made fresh from local ingredients, and with something for everyone from culinary adventurers to fussy littlies.
Te Atatu Peninsula resident Serena Kearns started the market a little over a year ago with a feeling that locals wanted something easy, casual and no-fuss to take the worry out of end-of-the-week cooking. The market quickly became known for its hand-picked gourmet street food stalls, innovative flavours and original, handmade goods, which attract over 2000 visitors at a time, from the Far North down to the Waikato and everywhere in between.
“Every single food vendor has been tried and tested,” explains Serena. “Sometimes the food looks good on Instagram and tastes terrible in real life; that can be awkward, so we secret-shop first.”
The market provides a platform for local makers and producers to sell their wares, but also supports several charitable initiatives, including the local cat rescue, the local foodbank, and social enterprises such as Make, Give, Live (buy a hand-knitted hat and another is given to someone in need) and Project Library, which collects books for an impoverished school in the Philippines.
“This is a huge part of our ethos,” says Serena. “The goal was to offer one free stall per market to a charity, but we always end up with around four or five.”
Cognisant of the takeaway nature of market dining, Serena works hard to maintain an eco-friendly stance. “We have Boomerang Bags at the market. They take fabric that would normally go to landfill and will whip you up a shopping bag on the spot out of an old T-shirt or similar,” she explains. All food containers are compostable or recyclable and those left behind at the market all get composted rather than ending up in landfill. Future eco-friendly plans include a move towards bokashi bins for food waste and organic matter.
This summer sees the arrival of some new vendors including pink vegan truck Otherwise and British food stall Grub, whose spin on classic English dishes is bound to attract a crowd (think Yorkshire pudding wraps with slow-cooked meat, roast veg and gravy, and cauliflower cheese). Not to mention the new bar set-up, which is expected to be in by December.
While there are plenty of chairs and tables in the midst of the market, we suggest getting a group together, bringing a picnic rug and settling in among the trees in the adjacent park to soak up the sweet sounds and vibrant atmosphere. Bring your dog, bring the kids and, most importantly, don’t forget to come hungry.
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