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Inside Auckland's Secret Rooftop Restaurant

. Wednesday, 1 May 2019 .




NEO has been Auckland's best-kept secret for the past few months.




I stumbled upon it one rainy Friday night when I went for an after work catchup with some friends. One of them suggested this place on Queen St that I'd never been to but have walked past several times. I've seen people dining on the balcony and had always wondered how the heck do I get up there? But still. I was promised this place had good happy hour deals so off we went.




Even in the pouring rain, we chose to sit outside. The area was completely covered and they had outdoor heaters. We were good. I can't remember everything we ate or the drinks we had except that I had a cider and some buttermilk fried chicken, but what I do remember was how obsessed I was by the interiors. The arched mirrored wall behind the bar, the funky but muted wallpaper, the outdoor area (seriously - dining with a view of Dior and Prada will never get old)... I had to find out more! So I did what any millennial would do: I looked on their social media. Imagine my surprise when I realised all their accounts weren't liked or followed by anyone I know! Ummm what? This place was literally untapped territory. It is one of the most picturesque, highly-Instagrammable spots in the city, accessible especially for commuters with Britomart just a stones throw away.




There was absolutely no way that I was letting this go to waste. Coming up here immediately made me feel like I could be in Paris - perhaps because of the lush greenery against old buildings that screamed 'Europe' - and thought that the rooftop area was going to be even more beautiful in sunlight.






I was actually the one who approached NEO for this collaboration. I just knew that I had to experience more of the place, try more of the menu (spoiler alert: the food is divine. They have swedish meatballs in the menu too, and if I remember correctly, that was the thing people asked me the most when I was at the IKEA NZ launch earlier this year. But more on the food later), and learn more about who NEO is.




Luckily NEO is owner-operated and Mariann was gracious enough to host me and do a collaboration. So on Saturday, I took my very tired and hungry self, and one of my best friends for a day of catch-ups and food. I was listening to Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place" on my way there and it turned out to be the perfect soundtrack to what I was about to experience.



 




Interior designer Jess Blair from Jess Interiors (@jessinteriors on Instagram) worked her magic on the place. Every detail is intentional – from the murals to the lush but discreet plants inside that add life to the place, makes for the perfect casual dining experience. I like the way they’ve fitted the restaurant too – there’s cosy corners everywhere and you can either sit on the booths looking out to Queens Arcade (and the DJ booth) or seating near the mural or facing the outdoor area. The first time I was up here, I actually kept taking photos of the bar. There's something about the design, the booze display, the marbled benchtop - it's so luxe yet so chill at the same time. You're in a very nice place without the pretention or stuffiness. I'd go as far as saying this is THE spot to impress someone on a first date.



 



And we haven’t even talked about the real star of the show yet – the food! One look at the menu and it’s clear where NEO’s influences come from. It’s exciting to see Scandinavian dishes so accessible and as soon as I saw the wagyu meatballs I just knew I had to have that. Their menu and pricing is straightforward too - $15 for starters, $20 for small plates, $25 for larger portions. We started with a small plate of the duck croquettes and a coffee. Unlikely pairing, probably. But it was early in the morning (12:30 on a Saturday lol) and I was feeling the effects of a big night out. Perhaps this was the perfect antidote to a hangover – coffee and something fried. The croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Almost like I was eating deep fried risotto or mashed potatoes. It was delicious! I think I won’t share a plate next time because it’s so good. Sorry, friends.




We got to try a fizzy concoction with a simple syrup, the perfect drink for sitting outside on a lazy day. Then it was time for more food! It was so hard to decide what to order first – there were so many choices, so many types of food I’ve never tried before. There was a running joke when we first started that we could stay all day and actually, we pretty much did, lunch turning to cocktail hour. Anyway, the food. We ended up ordering the dill seasoned potatoes, poached eggs, garlic yoghurt, and burnt sage butter from the brunch menu and then the wagyu meatballs with sour cream, rutabaga, and lingonberry as well as the lam shoulder, sweet n sour dill cream, pappardelle dish. I didn’t actually take a lot of photos of it because I was so excited to eat (actually, that’s a lie, I took a while) but just look at them! I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite dish but right now all I want to eat are those meatballs and the pasta so maybe that’s my answer. I definitely need to do another long lunch up there and try more of their menu – maybe I’ll bring my entire family so I can eat off their plate and try more things. We love a strategy! LOL. Also we were so full we didn’t end up getting dessert so that’s another one for next time.







I honestly cannot get enough of that outdoor area! We were seated right across from Dior andwe kept pretending we were rich ladies who lunch. That outdoor area is also so 'gram worthy not only because of the surrounding buildings but because it gets really good light for some next level selfies.


 


We did, however, move on to one of the cosy couches in the corner for some cocktails.

I had the Emerald Fizz – gin, glera brut, lime, cucumber, mint which is indeed as refreshing as it looks. Simon had the Berry Dangerous fix because he looooooves Campari and this one had that, some gin, cherry brandy, strawberry, lemon, and orange bitters. If you thought the place was so Instagrammable already then you need to see the cocktails! That orange peel carving. The vibrant colours against the marble! Get yourself up at NEO stat for happy hour – they do great deals on craft beers, bottled beer and wine/prosecco 4:30 – 6:30 pm on Saturdays. The cocktails are pretty reasonable for the design and size of the glass considering Auckland prices can sometimes skyrocket when it comes to pretty drinks. These are $18 each and they also have three other concoctions I have yet to try but the Neo Pineapple Daiquiri sounds like a bit of me.




Mariann said she wanted the place to feel like an oasis, somewhere you can escape to that makes you feel like you’re hidden away somewhere without having to leave the city. From where I was sitting I could hear the hustle and bustle from the ever busy Queen Street. A musician was in the corner playing a tune that sounds familiar but I can’t quite place, there was chatter, the occasional honking from the buses. I saw lush greenery against old buildings (Queens Arcade itself has been around for 90 years), the stretch of the main CBD Skyline, Commercial Bay in one corner. Being up at NEO makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into the city’s best-kept secret and I just can’t get enough.


NEO

Level 1 Queens Arcade

34 - 40 Queen St




This post was created in collaboration with NEO




NEO has been Auckland's best-kept secret for the past few months.




I stumbled upon it one rainy Friday night when I went for an after work catchup with some friends. One of them suggested this place on Queen St that I'd never been to but have walked past several times. I've seen people dining on the balcony and had always wondered how the heck do I get up there? But still. I was promised this place had good happy hour deals so off we went.




Even in the pouring rain, we chose to sit outside. The area was completely covered and they had outdoor heaters. We were good. I can't remember everything we ate or the drinks we had except that I had a cider and some buttermilk fried chicken, but what I do remember was how obsessed I was by the interiors. The arched mirrored wall behind the bar, the funky but muted wallpaper, the outdoor area (seriously - dining with a view of Dior and Prada will never get old)... I had to find out more! So I did what any millennial would do: I looked on their social media. Imagine my surprise when I realised all their accounts weren't liked or followed by anyone I know! Ummm what? This place was literally untapped territory. It is one of the most picturesque, highly-Instagrammable spots in the city, accessible especially for commuters with Britomart just a stones throw away.




There was absolutely no way that I was letting this go to waste. Coming up here immediately made me feel like I could be in Paris - perhaps because of the lush greenery against old buildings that screamed 'Europe' - and thought that the rooftop area was going to be even more beautiful in sunlight.






I was actually the one who approached NEO for this collaboration. I just knew that I had to experience more of the place, try more of the menu (spoiler alert: the food is divine. They have swedish meatballs in the menu too, and if I remember correctly, that was the thing people asked me the most when I was at the IKEA NZ launch earlier this year. But more on the food later), and learn more about who NEO is.




Luckily NEO is owner-operated and Mariann was gracious enough to host me and do a collaboration. So on Saturday, I took my very tired and hungry self, and one of my best friends for a day of catch-ups and food. I was listening to Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place" on my way there and it turned out to be the perfect soundtrack to what I was about to experience.



 




Interior designer Jess Blair from Jess Interiors (@jessinteriors on Instagram) worked her magic on the place. Every detail is intentional – from the murals to the lush but discreet plants inside that add life to the place, makes for the perfect casual dining experience. I like the way they’ve fitted the restaurant too – there’s cosy corners everywhere and you can either sit on the booths looking out to Queens Arcade (and the DJ booth) or seating near the mural or facing the outdoor area. The first time I was up here, I actually kept taking photos of the bar. There's something about the design, the booze display, the marbled benchtop - it's so luxe yet so chill at the same time. You're in a very nice place without the pretention or stuffiness. I'd go as far as saying this is THE spot to impress someone on a first date.



 



And we haven’t even talked about the real star of the show yet – the food! One look at the menu and it’s clear where NEO’s influences come from. It’s exciting to see Scandinavian dishes so accessible and as soon as I saw the wagyu meatballs I just knew I had to have that. Their menu and pricing is straightforward too - $15 for starters, $20 for small plates, $25 for larger portions. We started with a small plate of the duck croquettes and a coffee. Unlikely pairing, probably. But it was early in the morning (12:30 on a Saturday lol) and I was feeling the effects of a big night out. Perhaps this was the perfect antidote to a hangover – coffee and something fried. The croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Almost like I was eating deep fried risotto or mashed potatoes. It was delicious! I think I won’t share a plate next time because it’s so good. Sorry, friends.




We got to try a fizzy concoction with a simple syrup, the perfect drink for sitting outside on a lazy day. Then it was time for more food! It was so hard to decide what to order first – there were so many choices, so many types of food I’ve never tried before. There was a running joke when we first started that we could stay all day and actually, we pretty much did, lunch turning to cocktail hour. Anyway, the food. We ended up ordering the dill seasoned potatoes, poached eggs, garlic yoghurt, and burnt sage butter from the brunch menu and then the wagyu meatballs with sour cream, rutabaga, and lingonberry as well as the lam shoulder, sweet n sour dill cream, pappardelle dish. I didn’t actually take a lot of photos of it because I was so excited to eat (actually, that’s a lie, I took a while) but just look at them! I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite dish but right now all I want to eat are those meatballs and the pasta so maybe that’s my answer. I definitely need to do another long lunch up there and try more of their menu – maybe I’ll bring my entire family so I can eat off their plate and try more things. We love a strategy! LOL. Also we were so full we didn’t end up getting dessert so that’s another one for next time.







I honestly cannot get enough of that outdoor area! We were seated right across from Dior andwe kept pretending we were rich ladies who lunch. That outdoor area is also so 'gram worthy not only because of the surrounding buildings but because it gets really good light for some next level selfies.


 


We did, however, move on to one of the cosy couches in the corner for some cocktails.

I had the Emerald Fizz – gin, glera brut, lime, cucumber, mint which is indeed as refreshing as it looks. Simon had the Berry Dangerous fix because he looooooves Campari and this one had that, some gin, cherry brandy, strawberry, lemon, and orange bitters. If you thought the place was so Instagrammable already then you need to see the cocktails! That orange peel carving. The vibrant colours against the marble! Get yourself up at NEO stat for happy hour – they do great deals on craft beers, bottled beer and wine/prosecco 4:30 – 6:30 pm on Saturdays. The cocktails are pretty reasonable for the design and size of the glass considering Auckland prices can sometimes skyrocket when it comes to pretty drinks. These are $18 each and they also have three other concoctions I have yet to try but the Neo Pineapple Daiquiri sounds like a bit of me.




Mariann said she wanted the place to feel like an oasis, somewhere you can escape to that makes you feel like you’re hidden away somewhere without having to leave the city. From where I was sitting I could hear the hustle and bustle from the ever busy Queen Street. A musician was in the corner playing a tune that sounds familiar but I can’t quite place, there was chatter, the occasional honking from the buses. I saw lush greenery against old buildings (Queens Arcade itself has been around for 90 years), the stretch of the main CBD Skyline, Commercial Bay in one corner. Being up at NEO makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into the city’s best-kept secret and I just can’t get enough.


NEO

Level 1 Queens Arcade

34 - 40 Queen St




This post was created in collaboration with NEO

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