Karen Walker’s Auckland

New Zealand’s most celebrated fashion designer’s eponymous business has expanded to include eyewear, jewellery and homeware, and is stocked in 700 stores worldwide

One of the smaller bays near Takapuna Beach
One of the smaller bays near Takapuna Beach | Image: Mark C O'Flaherty

After a pumpkin pizza, Friday is an early night, so that I can go to yoga at 8.30am on Saturday. I’ve done it for 12 years now, and it’s so much more than just physically rewarding. After my class, I play tag-team with my husband, Mikhail: I look after our daughter, Valentina, four, while he does the 10.30am session.

Close by is Takapuna Beach, where we like to walk along the main sandy stretch, although I prefer the smaller bays. They are very Mediterranean, with immense black rocks. We also like the Takupana Beach Café, overlooking the water. It’s a very Kiwi contemporary, big-white-plate kind of a place, with lots of joggers and dog-walkers – the “senator on vacation” crowd. There are also loads of kids because of the ice cream, which is made on the premises: I have double chocolate, Mikhail has vanilla and Valentina might have cherry-yoghurt.

After the beach, I head up the street for a manicure at Lucy & the Powder Room. I’ll get a buff and a shine, and perhaps a facial – I call it “general panel beating” – before heading to the shops. I like the mixture of found objects and new books at Flotsam & Jetsam. The owner, Cameron, has a great eye for that perfect book: maybe it’s about cooking, maybe it’s Jeff Koons at Versailles. You might also find, say, a pair of stuffed kiwis next to some tiny vintage lead soldiers. I also like Hawkins & Scuffell, for British and French antiques, and Milly’s Kitchen, which has everything for cooking, from huge pots to dinosaur cookie cutters.

We spend the afternoon by our pool. Valentina will stick on her armbands and play for hours, while Mikhail and I do a jigsaw or read. I like mid-20th-century classics or biographies, with perhaps a bit of Vanity Fair thrown into the mix.


For dinner we go to Sunday Painters, which is like being in someone’s house. It’s a little bit French-country-kitchen, with mismatched ceramics, a video of a guy reading poetry on loop in the toilets, and a George Michael record playing in the background. I love the mushroom pithivier with walnut mousse and champagne sauce. It’s phenomenal. We might also have a glass of Central Otago pinot gris at Golden Dawn – a speakeasy kind of place, festooned with lights.

Sunday morning starts with avocado on toast and the papers at Dizengoff – an icon of the Auckland coffee scene. Then, to blow off the cobwebs, we’ll go to Bethells Beach. While Takapuna is all Pacific blue with white sand and palm trees, Bethells has black sand, seals sunbathing and 4m-high pounding, majestic surf. You really get the wind in your hair. There’s a little caravan in the dunes – Bethells Beach Café – which was established by the caterers for the local film crews, and it does fantastic coffee.

If the weather isn’t great, I’ll go to the Auckland Art Gallery, which has a room full of CF Goldie’s 19th-century paintings of the Maori, and Parsons Bookshop, for its big selection of books on Kiwi artists. I am a big fan of Michael Parekowhai’s work in particular. I bought a photograph of his 11 years ago. I saw it in the window of a gallery and stopped the car; I immediately fell in love with it.

I’ll round off the afternoon by buying something at Cook the Books. The doors on my cupboard of cookbooks won’t close any more, but I keep buying them. I’m a big fan of Donna Hay because her recipes are fast and idiot-proof. Once I’ve chosen a recipe for the evening, I get ingredients at Bhana Bro’s – my local grocers – and start cooking. I’ll have a glass of wine while I make dinner, Mikhail will give Valentina a bath and then we’ll eat. And have another glass of wine. Ideally it’ll be a very early night – I like to be in bed with a magazine by 8.30pm.


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