Once I started seeking solo meals in Auckland I had entirely different selection criteria. I first focused on dessert and hence the dessert restaurant Milse. I'd read from An Auckland Vegan that they've got a few sneaky vegan options so I veered off-menu and asked what they could do.
What could they do? Only one of the loveliest desserts I've eaten in a long time (for around NZ$20 ~AU$18): a cobbled path of fresh mandarin and mandarin sauce, freeze-dried raspberries and papery licorice, poached cumquats and cumquat jelly, candied pecans, microherbs and flowers... all leading to a stunning balloon of mandarin sorbet.
The sorbet was secretly stashed with more of the same fruit and nuts. This is surely as delightful and clever as dessert gets - the two banes of the vegan sweet tooth, fruit salad and sorbet, tweaked and tweezered and transformed almost beyond recognition. Every typical flavour and texture had an exciting couterpoint: berries crunched, syrupy cumquats finished with pithy bitterness, and the sweet juicy mandarins were cut with coriander.
I was blessed with a seat overlooking the kitchen, and I could see that Milse is capable of much more besides. For the non-vegans there's an entire patisserie of macarons and chocolates, cookies and bars, gelato sticks, tarts, verrines and gateaux. Though they're much cheaper ($NZ2.50-8.00 ~ AU$2.20-7.20) than the a la carte items (NZ$17-21 ~ AU$15.20-18.80), these sweets seem to be made with just as much thought and care - feijoa and salted caramel gelato sticks looked like Magnums from another planet, the gateaux like post-modern sculptures in miniature, while the chocolates bravely paired banana with rosemary.
There's still at least one more treat open to vegans - the take-home chocolate bars (NZ$7 ~AU$6.30 each). I picked up a pineapple & chilli and an orange & cranberry bar to share with Michael. The chocolate is dark, sweet and smooth (reminding me most of Koko Black) and while the flavours were fun, they didn't quite meld as I might've hoped they would.
That's the closest I can come to finding a flaw in the Milse experience. Their seated space is intimate (unlikely to hold more than a dozen customers), the staff are charming and considerate. They don't accept reservations but do keep a waiting list - I passed 25 minutes wandering Britomart and was lucky that they held my seat even though my phone hadn't worked. For the more impatient or easily pleased, it's possible to purchase most patisserie items on the spot and enjoy them elsewhere. I'm kinda kicking myself that I didn't stop by for a sly gelato stick later in the week. Really, I'm kinda kicking myself that I don't spend more time in Auckland - Milse now ranks among my all-time favourite sweet spots.
It was these two posts from An Auckland Vegan that got me excited about Milse, but it's also won admirers on What's yummy in Auckland..., Ultimate OmNoms, Sweets & Brains, ouvertune, Auckland - A survival guide, the baking of..., A Rumbly Tummy, My Dining Journey, when food becomes our BFF..., Confessions of a Chopinholic, The Flâneur, Sparkles, Cheesecake Confessions and emma louisa. Only Touche Douche is unimpressed.
The Pavilions at Britomart, 27 Tyler St, Auckland
+64 9 215 8996
desserts NZ$2.50-21.00 ~AU$2.20-18.80
Accessibility: The entry is cobblestoned but otherwise flat. The interior is very cramped. I ordered at the table and paid at the door on my way out. I didn't see any toilets, I imagine some are available in the broader Britomart complex.