Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

Pop CultureApril 1, 2024

The Spinoff’s unofficial celebrity eating tour of Aotearoa

Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

Alex Casey scours the entertainment headline archives to assemble this definitive guide to eating like a celebrity in our fair nation. 

Originally published in 2018; now updated with all-new celebrity restaurant endorsements.

Just like a seeing a teacher buying bog roll at the supermarket or a chimpanzee riding a Segway in dungarees, there’s something not quite right about seeing a big celebrity eating at a local restaurant. Because if celebrities eat at normal places down the road, then it means they’re just like us. And if they’re just like us, then we must all possess the same capacity to be incredibly famous and rich and talented. Right?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that I once saw Don Brash eating a strawberry sundae by himself at the Newmarket Burger King.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it happened. And it got me thinking, there must be so many instances where a dazzling person of profile has gone to a classic local dining spot. With approximately one thousand big stars crawling the country at this very moment (Jack Black! Jennifer Coolidge! Steve Buscemi!) the time is right to revisit some of our iconic eateries that have been sprinkled with surprise stardust over the years.

The greatest cave in the world (tribute)

Let us begin with the most recent, most enthusiastic, and most heavily bearded local restaurant endorsement. This week Jack Black told Newshub that he’s been exploring Auckland with Jason Momoa (more on him later) and going to “some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.” The greatest nosh in the wo-orld? The Cave on Queen Street, Auckland. “Dude that was so good, deliciousness on a stick,” he said. “And the ambience, with the Japanese lanterns.”

Jason Momoa drinks Guinness in The Cave

This is far from the first time Momoa has visited The Cave. For starters, I saw him there as part of his neverending tour around the country last year. Momoa also recently made a Guinness ad, shot around central Auckland. The ad begins with The Cave, an extremely Japanese restaurant, serving Momoa an extremely Irish beer, before he runs to the Viaduct where people are drinking Guinness on the street (in blatant disregard of the 24 hour liquor ban in the CBD). 

Meatball madness

Speaking of Momoa sinking piss at the Viaduct, locals were left clutching their meatballs last year when Momoa and a bunch of All Blacks visited Baduzzi. Momoa ordered “a lot of seafood” and “ate heaps of fresh pasta, venison meatballs, lamb meatballs, T-bone steaks”, the owner told Stuff. He also ordered a magnum of 1998 Sassicaia wine (which he later signed) and an off-menu bowl of aglio e olio.

Billy Joel outside Baduzzi.

If Baduzzi feels like it gets a lot of celebrity heat, it’s because Billy Joel “started the fire” the year prior. The singer’s band members were reported to have dined at the restaurant “non-stop” in the week leading up to his 2022 concert, with the piano man himself making a “quiet visit” early on a Friday night before his big Saturday show. Owner Michael Dearth said that he was “super friendly” and ate prawns and steak

Small town snackage

Gracing the Wairarapa with the biggest celebrity appearance since Kate Winslet went shopping at Pagani in Masterton, Ed Sheeran rocked up to Featherston restaurant Brac and Bow around in January last year and ordered two pints of Castle Lager and some fries. Duty Manager Debbie Sinclair described it as a “dream come true” to meet her idol, who she remarked looked “like Ed Sheeran” when he first placed his order.

Sheeran is reported to have delivered a cheeky a “shhh” before settling down for a quiet drink between his whistle-stop tour of giving people surprises. After posting a picture with Sheeran to the Brac and Bow Facebook page, hundreds of locals expressed their enthusiasm for the visit. “I would have waddled my very pregnant bum down to meet him,” wrote one. “Welcome to the beautiful Wairarapa young man,” wrote another. 

Ed Sheeran at Brac and Bow, Featherston

Further up the country in Hastings, Dale McDonald told Hawke’s Bay Today that he saw Benedict Cumberbatch steal a bag of Burger Rings from the Camberley Dairy. When confronted about the allegation by Jono and Ben, Cumberbatch was confused. “Remind me what boogarooms are? I stole?” he said, humanly. He did, however, confirm that he ate a steak and cheese pie on his travels around the country. 

Elsewhere in the regions, Cumberbatch’s Power of the Dog co-star Kirsten Dunst was spotted enjoying dinner with husband Jesse Plemons at Oamaru’s Cucina in 2020. The pair ordered pasta, ribeye steak and cocktails. “They sat with everybody else in the restaurant,” the manager told Stuff. “They didn’t get their picture with anyone, nobody talked to them, just the staff.” Fargo? Sounds like more of a Fair Go for these two. 

Superstars at the supermarket

Not technically a restaurant, but I’d be absolutely stark raving mad not to include on this list the time Harry Potter went to Auckland posho favourite Farro Fresh. Spotted buying upmarket groceries at the Grey Lynn branch, the boy who lived had a decent basket which suggested he was cooking later that night. Upon closer inspection, it appears he purchased a bottle of cream and Little Bird Crispy Flats ($9.95 per 70g).

“That works out at $140 a kilo,” The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire said aloud in the office at the time. “That’s just a fact.” If that’s what Potter pennies will get ya, well buckle up and think hard about the time that Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber went to The Warehouse in Maclaggan Street, Dunedin. As reported in the Otago Daily Times, Schreiber and Watts purchased a fan at the place they call “the red shed”. 

The Pitt and… The Pit

The date was February 22, 2015. The place was: Pita Pit on the Viaduct. The celebrity was: Aubrey Drake Graham. Mark my words, Drake having a huge one at Pita Pit is one of the top three funniest things that has ever happened on this melting fireball we call home. According to Sirovai Makatoa, who shared the below photo on Facebook, Drake shouted everyone in The Pit their lunch.

I asked Drake expert Elle Hunt what Drake would have ordered. “Something very lettuce-heavy, with olives.” When pressed as to why, she mused that, “Drake has a strong compulsion to be seen doing the right thing.” After his presumed lettuce feast, Drake gave a shout out to his favourite food-sack joint on stage. “You know, Auckland has some of the nicest people in the world. And I just want to thank you because everybody’s so nice.”

“I see people on the street, I see people at Pita Pit, y’know?”

While we are on the topic of Pits, it’s time to talk about the Pitts. Specifically, Brad. On July 25, 2010, Pitt dined out at Miramar’s Tulsi restaurant, a spicy sojourn that would change one student magazine office forever. “He dined in a corner booth, ordering chicken korma, butter chicken and a garlic naan,” reported Stuff. Not long after, Salient magazine bought the naan on Trade Me, and it hangs, framed, in their office to this day.

An artist’s impression of Brad Pitt at Tulsi

“The framed naan features a grease patch, coriander and authentic chunks of garlic stuck to the glass. It currently appears to have no mould, although it is hard to tell how long it will remain fungus-free.”

Desserts for the divas

For songstresses whose melodies are sweet as mānuka honey, a delicious dessert is the cherry on top after a hard day’s trill. And the most important celebrity dessert outing to ever happen in Aotearoa can be summed up with the best four word combo I’ve ever heard: Cher went to Giapo. “I knew instantly it was Cher, but seeing her in Giapo caught me off guard!” said Giselle, a Giapo employee on their blog.

Cher at Giapo

The blog explains that Cher “calmly” said that she was there for “ice cream”, choosing chocolate and coconut chocolate chip after a few considered samples. But what the mainstream media won’t tell you is that… she went back for more. “This isn’t very well known, but she went back the next night as well,” said an unnamed sauce/source. “Cher stayed in the car and sent her bodyguard in. Same order. Cher loves chocolate.”

As a wise woman once said, if you just “believe” then anything is possible. Last year Cher made her own ice-cream in collaboration with Giapo.

If fancy gold-leaf gelato is a bit too highbrow, then you could always head over to Mission Bay to KiwiYo, where Carly Rae Jepsen was spotted one afternoon hoeing into a self-assembled frozen yoghurt. “That was a great day,” remembers a fellow yoghurt enthusiast, “a lot of smiles.” According to some very blurry images, it looks like she has opted for a Pina Colada flavour, topped with caramels. Talk about a party for one.

Burgers for the bourgeoisie

A burger is a classic of the genre, and nobody knows this better than hat-wearing celebrity Donavon Frankenreiter, who happily noshed down on some greasy grub at Auckland’s notorious caravan of dreams, The White Lady. No seats, just milk crates? For this surfy celeb it clearly “don’t matter”. Around the corner, I once watched magician Dynamo’s order (no sauce, no cheese – wtf) being prepared for him at Better Burger.

Up the road at Burger Burger, perhaps after indulging in a Pita Pita petita, Drake was spotted munching down on burgers in 2015 with his entourage. “One of the group helped themselves to my potato skins,” an anonymous source told The Spinoff. “They then dipped it into the accompanying truffle aioli and said it was ‘delicious’.” American rockers Everclear were spotted at Burger Fuel Ponsonby in 2017.

Most recently, Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian took refuge from enraged Christchurch Blink-182 fans in Auckland’s vegan burger joint Wise Boys last month. “They came in and asked about our burger patties and what they are made of,” Wise Boys boss Luke Burrows told Newstalk ZB. The pair ordered burgers, onion rings, and chipotle aioli, with Barker later posting that it was “so good”.

Sources told The Spinoff they also went into a dairy and bought “some drinks”. 

Travis and Kourtney at Wise Boys. (Image: Instagram)

Big guns at bakeries

In 2016, Scarlett Johansson was in Wellington filming Ghost in the Shell, and gorging herself upon chocolate cake after chocolate cake in Moera. Sharing her review on E News, Johansson said “there was this incredible place in Wellington called Zany Zeus that had the best piece of chocolate cake I’ve had in my entire life”. Stuff reported that she would frequently make the 35-minute drive to purchase the cake.

ScarJo and the Zany Zeus cake in question

A mere 32 minutes away from Zany Zeus is Scorch-O-Rama in Karaka Bays. It was there that The Hobbit stars and their beloveds enjoyed afternoon treats, including Miranda Kerr (who posed with the pāua shells) and Billy Connolly (who noshed on a lovely bit of muffin). “He had a blueberry muffin and a coffee and sat in peace,” said Cat Bridges, who worked there at the time. “Everyone pretended he was just anyone else.”

All aboard the sushi train

Life is hectic when you are a busy celeb, so sometimes wrapping up all the necessary nutrients in seaweed is the only way to go. Just ask mayor Len Brown, spotted on the wall at Newmarket’s Bruce Lee sushi, with his own custom roll. In fact, for all your favourite local celebs, look no further than any branch of the Bruce Lee chain, who have rolls dedicated to every crucial New Zealander from Dei Hamo to Drew Neemia.

I also have it on very good authority that Justin Bieber dined at Ponsonby Japanese restaurant Cocoro on his last visit to New Zealand, as well as visiting SkyCity’s The Grill. Rest assured, he remains a man of the people, as demonstrated through this tight clench on a takeaway St Pierre’s miso soup on a local balcony in 2015. All washed down with an ice cold bottle of L&P, we can only hope and (s)pray


Whether it’s ?uestlove at the KFC Ponsonby drive-thru or David Beckham tucking into Nando’s on Courtenay Place, there’s no denying that celebs love a spot of tasty chook. It’s what happens with the scraps that differentiate them from us. Talking to Stuff, Nando’s worker Jody was shocked when admirers scrounged through Beckham’s scraps after he left.

“He ordered a whole chicken, corn, coleslaw and fries… and he gave it all a really good go,” she said. “There were only the chicken bones, a few chips and some corn for the fans to take away.”

A cheeky Nando’s for a cheeky chappy

Nando’s remains an evergreen celeb favourite, with Drake, Sam Smith and YG all placing enormous orders while touring here (35 x burgers for Sam Smith’s posse and 17 x large chips. If the chicken of the sea is more your style, you might find yourself hobnobbing with The Rapture at Wynyard Quarter’s fish market, enjoying a snapper with Beyoncé at Soul Bar, or oysters with a dressing gown-wearing Cardi B at Saint Alice.

Megastars from the Mediterranean to the Middle East

Travel back to the future with me, all the way to the mid-90s when Michael J Fox was here filming The Frighteners. Kate McDermott was working at Vivace on Auckland’s High Street at the time, and remembers receiving a call asking if they could close the bar. They couldn’t, but that didn’t stop MJ on his big night out in Spin City.

“He was wearing a cap and I honestly thought he was a 12-year-old kid when he walked in. They stayed for a couple of whiskies.”

An artist’s impression of Michael J Fox at Vivace

For a taste of Italy, Twitter user Mrs Chippy recalls spotting performance poet John Cooper Clarke at Coco’s Cantina. “He was a little incongruous,” she remembers. “He looked like he hadn’t eaten anything at all for years.” Nick Cave is also a fan of Coco’s, enjoying the chicken so much that he asked for the recipe. I also saw Bono at La Porchetta once. I made that last one up, but it sounds real, no?

It’s no secret that the Foo Fighters go absolutely ballistic for Fatima’s, with the NZ Herald reporting a 18-year love affair between Dave Grohl and the delicious chwarmas at Fatima’s in Auckland. According to owner Kirsty Senior, Grohl even name-checked them during a headlining slot at the Big Day Out. “Have you guys fucking eaten at Fatima’s? We don’t have that good shit back home. You should all eat it.”   

Further downtown, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay made waves at Ima Cuisine way back in 2012. The NZ Herald reported that he chowed down on their signature shakshuka dish – made with homemade sausages. I think we can all agree: sosig. Seven years later he would return to downtown Auckland, this time on a Lime, and nosh down on a tuna, ginger, cucumber and yuzu dish followed by a pineapple dessert at Cassia

Cillian at Lillian

An appropriately poetic entry from the Oppenheimer star: Cillian Murphy went to Lillian in Grey Lynn last month. Destroyer of worlds < destroyer of tasty pizzas.

Keep going!