When I first moved in to this neighbourhood two years ago, I was chuffed to find I had a greengrocer’s-cum-general store at the end of the street that sold fresh, tasty fruit and vegetables as well as other bits and bobs you’d find yourself needing of an average day – milk, bread, cheeses, yoghurt, Nippy’s ice chocolate , addictive homemade vegetable samosas. Not long after we moved in, a nuclear bomb must have gone off somewhere without my knowledge. Suddenly everything in this store started to look wilted, the end of one fridge was piled with items way past their expiry with about 10 cents taken off to to entice you to risk your life eating them. I’d get to the till and worry I was supposed to produce coupons, not cash – surely, fresh, tasty produce was being rationed this end of Eden? Well, they didn’t want coupons in fact, they wanted cash, and more cash than even the evil supermarkets were asking. Things were looking a sickening shade of desperate, and that’s how they’ve stayed since. My local friends and I know it as “the Survival Store”: sometimes needs must and I venture in there while out on a stroll, hoping I might spy a bunch of asparagus that’s not just a green-coloured dental floss, a peach that’s not about to turn to dust.
Yes, it was a bit of a setback in my dream of being able to feel locally smug – to have everything I wanted within walking distance. Yes, I do have to drive to get decent fruit and vegetables, and I’ll stop pissing around now and give you short list of greengrocers’ and markets that I reckon are worth driving to, or at least calling into if you’re in the vicinity. As always, my list here is based on quality AND price. I’m not about frequenting produce purveyors that think it’s okay to charge ten times the wholesale price, just because they can (and there’s plenty of them around my area, thanks).
1. Avondale Markets, Avondale Racecourse, Sundays 6am-12pm – the best fresh produce market in the city.
2. Otara Markets, Newbury St, Otara, Saturdays 6am-12pm.
3. La Cigale, 69 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell, Saturdays 8am-1.30pm, Sundays 9am-1.30pm
4. Art of Produce, 36a Crummer Rd, Grey Lynn – a wholesaler that is open to the public selling at around retail minus 15 percent-ish. Everything fresh, with chillers super-cool. Also sells Italian cheeses and (coming soon) prosciutto. A lot of the stock is apprently (unlabelled as such) organic. When I popped in the other day the lovely owner threw some free nectarines and apples into my bag without me even knowing, awww, sweet! I found green papaya here, which he says they stock regularly. Only place I know other than Avondale to find it.He tells me they also sometimes get Thai shallots which I shall now stalk them for.
5. JHC Fruit and Vegetables, 401-417 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket – it ain’t flash, but this place has a great range of goods. All the fresh fruit and veg you could want plus Asian groceries. Most of the stuff here is crisp and fresh, there’s the odd brown banana but they discount that kinda thing by more than 10 cents. They have a few more interesting things like fresh lemongrass, and I bought my bamboo rice steamer here.
6. Wesley Community Centre Markets, Wesley Community Centre carpark, Sandringham, Tuesdays and Friday mornings. Like one aisle of Avondale, which believe me is a good thing if you don’t have all morning and don’t fancy crowds. I like that they only really seem to be selling what is in season, and often have different prices for different grades of each thing – last time I went there were three differently-priced eggplants, depending on their sheen and plumpness. Nice one.
7. Royal Fresh, Royal Oak Mall, Royal Oak. Discovered this place while shopping at Pick & Scab (or Pak & Chav?), who are racketeers when it comes to produce prices. Everything at Royal Fresh, across the carpark, is much cheaper and the same or better quality. Thought their globe artichokes were well over-priced last year, sort it out! I like that they have lesser-seen seasonal things like Jerusalem Artichokes and Kohlrabi.
So that’s my short, by no means exhaustive, list. Sure, there are plenty of other places I could rave about that do great fresh produce, but if they’re over-charging for it, what’s to love? This list is thus far very central-centric – I know there are fab places out Kumeu, Coatesville, Clevedon way, I stop at those fantastic orchard shops whenever I’m passing through. How about you? Where do you trust for fresh produce at a fair price? Let me know any other great places you frequent, or know about, in the Auckland region.