(Australian Associated Press)
It’s during a conversation with a random character on Auckland’s busting Queen Street that I first hear about the world’s coolest ice-cream shop. I mention I’m on the lookout for the sweet stuff. “Oh,” my new friend coos nonchalantly. “You must be looking for Giapo.”
A few minutes later, I’m sitting in what I guess is technically called an ice-cream parlour, but with diners more like participants in a science-cum-art project.
Giapo’s ice-cream flavours, cones and tubs are strange and quirky creations. The cups and cones are sculpted from chocolate, spices, seeds, freeze-dried titbits, dipped in gold or candied fancies or even shaped like the famed Auckland Sky Tower. Or if you prefer, you can have your creamy hit served up in Yorkshire pudding or Rewena – Maori bread.
“For us, it’s a leap of faith,” Giapo tells me as he shows me some of his creations using a 3D printer, a mould, and a table setting for the world’s only 16-course ice-cream degustation.
He explains how Masterchef George Calombaris popped in by accident last week, and begged Giapo to come to Melbourne to embark on a shared project. But Giapo declined, saying he wanted to focus on Auckland.
“I want to make New Zealand a landmark for ice-cream.”
He then proudly shows me his newest creation – an ice-cream cone shaped like a spaceship. Another diner chips in: “have you told Elon Musk about this?” referring to the Tesla mastermind.
“Yes,” Giapo replies, “but unfortunately he was not interested.”
Giapo is an example of something that is happening across Auckland – it’s becoming a true international food destination, as I discover on the Big Foody tour with hilarious British expat Elle Armon-Jones.
“My name is pronounced Elle,” she explains, “like the supermodel, but without the body”. Elle’s food tour of Auckland is a great introduction to the city – by literally eating it.
“We’re sitting on a bucket-load of volcanoes, which means we’ve got incredibly fertile soil,” she explains.
She says while New Zealand only has 4.5 million people, the country grows enough food for 45 million, with 95 per cent of its dairy also getting exported.
But the overload of food in Auckland also has another great side-benefit – the city has some of the best farmer’s markets you’ll ever visit. Elle takes me to La Cigale Market at Parnell, introducing me to delicacies such as kumera/sweet potato Maori bread that is sweet, juicy and dense.
But it’s the Manuka honey that grabs my attention first. I’ve noticed it being sold all over Auckland, sometimes for hundreds of dollars per jar. But is it really as good a