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City Guide: Penny Sage’s Workroom Manager shares her favourite places in Auckland

IMAGE VIA @COURTNEYMJ/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY KATE STREADER

I feel really comfortable here, I have a lot of memories in Auckland. I’ve seen the city through many eyes.”

Here at Fashion Journal, we recently launched our City Guide series with the intention of unearthing the hidden spots in Australian cities that only locals know about. There’s no gatekeeping here – this is a breakdown of the best bits of our cities. We want the underrated date spots, favourite restaurants, treasure trove op shops and the bars people will always want to go back to.

This week we’re exploring Aukland/Tāmaki Makaurau with Penny Sage‘s Workroom Manager, Courtney Milham-Johnson. Having grown up in the northern New Zealand city, Courtney recently moved back to her hometown after a stint in Melbourne.


Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.


“I have been back in Auckland for about a year and a half after escaping the Melbourne lockdown at the end of 2020, but it is also my hometown so I grew up here,” she says. “I love how familiar it is to me because I have spent many years here and have watched different suburbs flourish and change. I feel really comfortable here, I have a lot of memories in Auckland.

“I’ve seen the city through many eyes – childhood, teenage, uni years, young twenties. The fashion industry in Auckland is a small community – it has meant I have developed meaningful relationships and learnt a lot from people who are now close friends.” 

A local through and through, Courtney is on a first-name basis with the staff at her favourite bars and restaurants, though she also loves getting out of the city and exploring New Zealand’s lush coastline. Read on for her recommendations.

Drink

Bar Martin, 43 Martin Ave, Mount Albert

 

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A neighbourhood bar in Mount Albert, Bar Martin is an intimate spot to grab a glass of wine and some share plates.

“The owner has a great energy and an equally great wine list. The afternoon sun streams in, it’s cosy, it’s chic – love.”

barmartin.co.nz

Peach Pit, 352 Karangahape Road, Auckland

A busy little atmospheric bar, Peach Pit is Courtney’s knock-off destination.

“For [an] after-work drinky, happy hour (five ’til seven) bubbles every night! Served in lil’ vintage hollow-stemmed glasses. Cute!”

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Eat

Ockhee, 171 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

 

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When asked what’s the best place to eat in Auckland, Courtney confidently replies, “I think I speak on behalf of all of Auckland when I say Ockhee on Ponsonby Road. Paul Lee is the biggest sweetheart, he welcomes you in and feeds you well. It’s just straight-up yum Korean food, natural wines and vibes.

“Stand-out dish is the bul baek – marinated pork with ssam (which is lettuce), cabbage and vegetables to make fresh bite-sized goodness. Love the tofu mountain, fried chicken and chun sa chae noodle salad – steamed seaweed noodles in the tangiest dressing.”

ockheedokey.com

Mr T’s Baked Goods & Eatery, 210 Onehunga Mall, Auckland 

 

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Owned by a married couple, Mr T’s Baked Goods & Eatery serves freshly-made traditional Vietnamese fare and baked goods.

“[The] best Vietnamese and bakery – the banh mi is unmatched,” says Courtney. 

mr-ts-bakery.com

Satya, 515 Sandringham Road, Sandringham

 

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You’ll find Satya “tucked away from the street front down an unassuming alleyway, in the heart of Sandringham”.

“It’s street food, it’s sharing plates, it’s my comfort food. My favourite dish is the chilli fish and paneer! Oh and the spiced negroni,” says Courtney.

satya.co.nz

Shop

Penny Sage, 6a Kirk Street, Grey Lynn

 

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Working with natural materials, Penny Sage produces all its pieces produced locally, working with New Zealand makers. “Biased opinion but, of course, the Penny Sage studio store [is a must-visit],” according to Courtney.

“Our store showcases our garments but also a curated offering of things we love – home, beauty and accessories.”

pennysage.com

Public Record, 76 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

 

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Offering homewares, art, furniture, fashion, and more, Public Record represents Japanese and New Zealand makers, artists, and designers creating thoughtful, long-lasting pieces. “A purposeful catalogue of timeless treasures,” as Courtney puts it.

publicrecord.shop

Go Jo Recycled Store, 1/1 Riverbank Road, New Lynn

 

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Specialising in vintage fashion, Go Jo Recycled Store is a long-time favourite of Courtney’s.

“I have known and shopped at Jo’s since I was in high school and there’s nothing I like more than sharing her shop with as many people as I can. My go-to second-hand pieces are always from her, she has an eye and cares for clothes like nobody else.”

gojorecycledstore.co.nz

Date

Omni, 359 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

 

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Courtney’s “perfect date spot”, Omni’s menu is centred around seasonal, local produce cooked over Binchotan (Japanese white coal). The wine list also calls on independent producers, with a focus on low-intervention wines.

“The lighting/mood is calming and the best thing to do is not overthink it, order the set menu and settle in,” says Courtney. “Jamie has never suggested an average wine to me and John is incredibly talented in the kitchen. ALWAYS ORDER THE DESSERT – it’s a soft and chewy burnt butter cake with this cold, creamy topping. My description is not doing it justice but, wow.”

atomni.co.nz

Apero Food & Wine, 280 Karangahape Road, Auckland

 

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Serving traditional French food using local, sustainably-sourced produce, Apero’s offering focuses on simplicity and quality.

“Apero on Karangahape Road gives a feeling of dining in the owner’s house – honest, consistently good food,” says Courtney. 

apero.co.nz

Celebrate

Madame George

 

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“Madame George is my go-to for any occasion of significance worth celebrating. Pull up under the heaters on a long table out front for a pisco sour or a house negroni – we love a stamped ice cube. The MG team are the best hosts and have the most fun, they will absolutely celebrate with you.”

madamegeorge.co.nz

Indulge

Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant, Cnr Pakenham St & Custom St West Viaduct Harbour, Auckland

When it comes to indulging, there’s one place that always hits the spot for Courtney.

“Grand Harbour for yum cha lunch, is there anything more indulgent?” she says. “Plum wines, shumai dumplings, lounging around a lazy Susan.”

grandharbour.co.nz

Courtney’s ideal day

“Making the most of being able to go from the burbs to the beach in a matter of minutes, I’d start my day slowly with a coffee and then my sister and I would take my guide dog pup-in-training, Buffy, over the North Shore to walk the coastal track from Takapuna to Milford. She loves running through the rock pools, swimming and socialising with all the other pups.”

 

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“We’d then head to the Northcote Tavern for a humble afternoon beer and fish and chips lunch, a pub since the 1850s and a beautiful historic building. Then chill into the evening – maybe a Cambridge Road wine or two.”

R&R

“I would go to Piha. A small seaside village on Auckland’s west coast. It’s wild and rugged and feels isolated in the best way. If you enjoy getting out in nature, there are lots of walks, waterfalls and coastline to explore. I love the Kitekite Falls walk.”

Where else?

 

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Star Wines and Everyday Wine for yummy organic and natural wines, Cazador Delicatessen for charcuterie, Florets Bakery for coffee and sandwiches.”

Keep up with Courtney here

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