Airport dining may have been scarce lately – not necessarily for lack of travel since borders reopened, but for lack of open outlets due to the impact of the pandemic on staff.
But I love nothing more than being able to have an overpriced little treat at the gate before my flight. Coffee before an early morning trip, lunch with a loved one landside before their flight – I’ve eaten my fair share of airport food, and while it’s never Michelin star level, the anticipation of a robbery makes it feel a bit more luxurious than what it is.
So I asked the Stuff Travel team what their favorite or most memorable food at New Zealand airports was.
It turns out that putting together a list was quite difficult. My request at our team meeting was met with side shuffles and avoidance of eye contact.
* London’s Heathrow Airport extends passenger cap until October
* “The hidden hero without a cape”: the man who brings people home from the airport for free
* From New Zealand with love: The sweetest homecoming story on TikTok
Oh good? Nobody had a memorable meal or snack at the airport? How about The Remarkables Lolly Shop in Queenstown for sweet treats? Family farewell coffees at Underground Coffee in Christchurch? Chicken and waffles from Orleans to Auckland?
I know airport food carries huge markups, but of course not all of them are completely forgettable. Or are they overshadowed by the journey itself? Great pre-flight meals shouldn’t just be for those who can afford premium lounge access.
I finally managed to collect a few submissions which you can read below – mostly from Auckland, except for two for Invercargill airport cheese rolls – but I’d love to hear from our readers: What are your most memorable airport meals in New Zealand? Comment below or email us at [email protected]
Best Ugly Bagels, Auckland Airport (International Terminal)
I’m an absolute sucker for cream cheese on a bagel. I could easily make this at home myself, but when I travel, Best Ugly Bagels is the only place I always stop if I need to refuel before a flight.
Exit from the domestic terminal can be a bit hit or miss, but I’ve never had a bad bagel from the Auckland international terminal. I always get a white rabbit – that delicious thick layer of cream cheese, topped with sliced tomatoes, freshly torn basil and a drizzle of lemon fennel oil – it’s *the chef’s kiss* – Juliette Sivertsen, director of travel information
Glamp Grounds Bar & Kitchens, Auckland Airport (International Terminal)
The camping-style setting on the beach seems a bit incongruous in Auckland Airport’s artificially-lit, temperature-controlled international terminal, but Glamp Grounds did a great job. The kind you might actually seek out if you weren’t stuck in post-security limbo with limited dining options.
Before a trip to Iran, which would see me give up alcohol for a fortnight, I enjoyed a glass of untrendy, buttery Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay with a meal that I hoped was healthy enough to balance it out: kūmara, greens and a portion of sticky pork belly pastry so generous that I didn’t need dinner on the plane (but I ate it with relish anyway). The place is temporarily closed, but hopefully not for very long. – Lorna Thornber, travel journalist
McDonald’s, Auckland Airport (international and domestic terminals)
Look, I’m not proud of it, but the time for culinary experimentation isn’t until you board a 12-hour flight. You want something proven, and for me the only airport meal that will do is McDonald’s.
For a weary traveler, the sight of those golden arches in the airport is a source of comfort and relief, knowing that no matter where you are in the world, the nuggets will have the same four shapes; the fries which are a perfect pale yellow. If I’m departing from Auckland International Terminal I’ll get a McNuggets combo before going through security, and if I get back early in the morning and have enough time before my connecting flight, I’ll head for the domestic flight Macca’s terminal for whipped butter buns – a welcome treat after an average airplane breakfast. – Siobhan Downes, Senior Travel Journalist
Wishbone, Auckland Airport
A decade ago, you couldn’t walk a block in central Auckland without passing a Wishbone store. At the time, I was a corporate girl with no financial sense and thought that heading to Vulcan Lane to spend $7 on a take-out sandwich was the height of adult glamour.
Times have changed and there are only two Wishbone locations left in Auckland, one being the domestic airport. Air travel has a way of increasing the appeal of a simple snack, and I’m often still tempted by those cheesy roast beef and fruit chutney sarnies as I walk through the terminal. – Tyson Beckett, stylist journalist
The Gipsy Moth, Auckland Airport (domestic terminal)
With young children in tow, we usually arrive at the airport a few hours before departure – a boring routine that only recently paid off after a travel comedy of errors. The Gipsy Moth in Auckland Airport’s Domestic Terminal is one of the best places to unload hand luggage and hang out.
We try to grab one of the tables in the corner with the soft bench seat. There are plenty of food options for little travelers including a drink and a scoop of ice cream, but I can’t vouch for the adult menu. For some reason, however, the beer tastes sweeter here when poured straight from the tap. – Stephen Heard, Travel Publishing Coordinator
The Wayfarer Cafe, Invercargill Airport
I had quite a few things to check off my bucket list for my trip to the Deep South and Rakiura/Stewart Island. Look for kiwis, grab a beer or six at the South Sea Hotel, and sample the dining experience that is cheese roll.
With some time to wait for transfer to the ferry, I browsed the dining options at the Wayfarer Cafe at Invercargill Airport and there it was, in all its crisp beige glory. Having nothing to compare, my initial taste of Southland sushi was sublime and more refined. It was love at first bite. I tried several other cheese buns on my trip, but you always remember your first one, and it was a banger. – Alan Granville, travel journalist
A second vote for Invercargill Airport
I’ve always wanted to try a Southland cheese roll and was disappointed that I couldn’t find one on our travels through the Southern South and Rakiura/Stewart Island in October 2020. When we arrived at Invercargill airport to catch our flight home, the only cafe they had there had an amazing cabinet of delicious baked goods including – yay – said rolls. They were so good that we came back for seconds (and, I believe, thirds). There must have been someone trapped in the back rolling them around because every time we thought we’d eaten the bare cupboard, others magically appeared. The perfect end to a great trip. -Rebecca Wadey, Ensemble
What are your most memorable airport meals in New Zealand? Comment below or email us at [email protected]