Cheap eats: The 30 top meals for $10 in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington gallery

Eggs benedict with bacon at Wellington's Preservatorium Cafe and Cannery.

Eggs benedict with bacon at Wellington's Preservatorium Cafe and Cannery.

Where once it was all about the $5 lunch, standards need to be pretty low these days to satisfy that allowance. Gone is the five-dollar hollah, but the 10-dollar dine is still very much doable.

AUCKLAND

Korean pancakes at No.1 Pancake, Corner Lorne St & Wellesley St, Auckland Central

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Crispy Korean-style pancakes piled with fillings for $4.50 a pop means there's often a queue, but the service is quick and friendly. There are eight kinds including a Hawaiian ham, pineapple and cheese special, but our money (and not much of it is needed!) is on the 'Beef N Cheese' - bursting with lean beef mince, chopped cabbage, carrots, melted cheddar and their special bulgogi-inspired sauce.

Kimchi fries at Coreano, 130 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

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Another Korean offering but this time uniquely (unusually?!) fused with Mexican fare, Coreano are a roving food stall currently settled in Ponsonby's Street Food Collective. Something like the Canadian poutine (but at the same time very different!), their kimchi fries ($10) are definitely a meal unto themselves; seasoned french fries topped with slow-braised pulled pork, sauteed kimchi cheese, sour cream, onion, coriander and a Korean take on salsa roja.

Yakitori and salad at Ken's Yakitori, 89 Karangahape Rd, Newton and 55 Anzac Ave, Auckland Central

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Ken's was New Zealand's first char-grilled yakitori bar, and has been serving up tasty little skewers cooked before customers very eyes for 18 years now and counting. With around 25 skewer choices (prawn wrapped with pork, $6, is a cult favourite) ranging between $4.50 and $6 (with two to a plate), those in the know then ask for a generous wodge of complimentary cabbage, designed to be dipped in moreish miso mayonnaise ($3). That's grilled meats and salad for $9 max.

Vegetarian combo plate at Mukunda's, 268 Karangahape Rd, Newton

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Another K Rd institution is Mukunda's, a Hare Krishna vegetarian and vegan restaurant where the 'Combo Meal' includes a generous helping of dhal soup, veggie curry, pakora and basmati rice with chutney and halava dessert for just $8.50 (or $6 for students). Those with extra hunger can add a roti bread or 'curd steak' and still come in at $10.

Cheeseburger and fries at Better Burger, 31 Galway St, Britomart and 19 Vulcan Lane, Auckland Central

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Based around the idea that a good burger doesn't need to be fancy, Better Burger is the cheapest contestant in Auckland's current gourmet burger wars, and we're making the most of it! The fries ($4) are handmade and the classic cheeseburger ($5.50) ingredients - Angus beef pattie, cheese, red onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles and sauce - are locally sourced and organic. If you're at the Britomart branch and fancy something stronger than a shake, you can bring your beer from Britomart Country Club over.

Chicken heart sisig at Nanam, 126 Symonds St, Royal Oak

Adventurous foodies keen to try something different should head to Nanam for assemble-your-own sisig, a tasty combination of spiced tender chicken hearts, pork chicharron (Filipino-style crackling), lettuce, spring onion and water chestnut salsa. Fresh, flavourful, totally new to our tastebuds and just $10. We like.

Chicken roll at Bird On A Wire, 234 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, 40 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna, and spots throughout Auckland Central

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A more familiar approach to chicken, the classic Bird on a Wire chicken roll ($10) is a fresh crusty bit of baguette (big enough to make it a challenge to fit in your mouth) sliced open and stuffed with free range shredded rotisserie chicken, cos lettuce and a homemade tarragon mayo. 

Pizza and sides at Il Buco, 113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby and 35 Vulcan Lane, Auckland Central

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Another Auckland institution, we're always pleasantly re-surprised to re-discover that their traditional Roman pizza is sold by the slice at just $6 a square. Add your choice of four suppli (risotto balls), potato croquettes or stuffed mushrooms ($1 each!) and you've got yourself a $10 meal fit for a Roman emperor. They have more than 30 pizza toppings on rotation including genuinely delicious vegetarian and vegan options. 

Vegetarian curry meal set at Shubh, 520 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

Sandringham is where it's at for Indian cuisine, and vegetarian Shubh is undoubtedly one of the best. Eye-wateringly cheap (curry and rice for $5), the food is humble and delicious, with a real home-cooked feel. There are 20 kinds of curry on offer, featuring a surprising variety of lentils, chickpeas and beans, plus cauliflower, potato, spinach, okra, eggplant and more.If you feel like really treating yourself here, go for the meal set ($7) with any two curries, two roti to sop them up, rice, yoghurt and pickles. 

Egg and cheese crepe at Le Garde Manger, 466 Queen St, Auckland Central

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This traditional French creperie was for many years located in Kingsland village but now sits opposite Myers Park at the steep end of Queen Street, and still boasts their famed galette, a savoury buckwheat crepe, which for $9.50 can be whipped up with egg and cheese. Extras (smoked salmon, mushroom, leek fondue etc) can be added for no more than $3.

WELLINGTON

You don't have to look far in the capital for an assortment of $10 feeds, and getting your money's worth and satisfying the hunger is still doable at this price. We've picked out 10 of the best.

Eggs benedict at Preservatorium Cafe and Cannery, 39 Webb St

We start the countdown with the most important meal of the day and, arguably, the king of all breakfast meals: the creamy and gluttonous eggs benedict with bacon. And Friday is $10 bene day at this spot. Admittedly this option is not for everyone, but if there is one thing that makes bacon (or spinach) better it is hollandaise sauce, and lots of it. Of course opting for spinach takes away some of the guilt, but for a tenner, could the day start any better?

$10 lunch box at Fidel's Cafe, 234 Cuba St

This Wellington institution needs no introduction, but its $10 lunch box does. A new addition to the Fidel's menu, this wholesome box features a savoury pastry with a choice of fresh salads on the side. Flavours change daily and both meat and vege options are available, so you can tailor this to your own preference. 

Beef meatball sub at Meatballers, Lower Cuba St, Saturday 5pm-11pm

One of the Wellington Night Market's many offerings, this stall is doing delicious things with meatballs; crushed on a brioche burger with slaw, thrown in a bowl with sauce and even spiced with barbecue glaze and sprinkled with dukkah, and all for $10. But their hero item has to be the meatball sub. Classic beef and thyme meatballs, rich tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, served on a toasted long roll. Straight ballin' is their motto, straight delicious is their food. 

Dumplings at House of Dumplings, 117 Taranaki St

Exactly what it says on the tin – they do dumplings. The dumpling queen herself, Vicky, has a reputation for making exceptional pot stickers from recipes passed down to her, so if you haven't tried them already, shame on you. They have seven flavours available, all handmade in house. Our pick has to be the Shanghai pork and savoy cabbage with lashings of "Mum's sauce", or chilli oil for a kick. Five of these is never enough.

Pizza slices at Tommy Millions,142 Featherston St 

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This pizza parlour just opened its second store, proving that Wellingtonians love pizza by the slice. And for good reason. Tommy's does New York-style pies in classic flavours and at just $5 a slice for either margherita or pepperoni, take two for your $10. Straddle the meat/vege fence or side either way. Our pick is one of each. Just enjoy this little taste of New York right in the city. 

Vegan burger at Thorndon Chippery, 10 Murphy St

Summer's coming and so too is the craving for fish and chips. It's no secret the ever-popular chippery does exceptional fish in a variety of batters, but for our top 10 , we're picking the vegan burger. A quinoa patty with chipotle seasoning, guacamole, salad and beetroot relish. Even the most carnivorous of customer should give this one a go. And while there's no fish in this meal, I doubt you buoys and gills could find a better vegan burger for this price. If you do, let minnow.

Super falafel at Phoenician Cuisine, 245 Cuba St

The lunch rush never lies, and middays at Phoenician Cuisine are packed. More than just your average kebab shop, this place has a loyal following and a queue out the door for their authentic Lebanese plates. Spoiled for choice with $10 options, the super falafel is our pick. Hummus, extra garnish and extra falafel served with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins and tahini sauce all wrapped in a warm pita. You'll be rapt you came.

Eggplant pizza at Little Beer Quarter, 6 Edward St

Tucked away down one of the city's many alleys, the Little Beer Quarter is one of the capital's boutique elite, offering craft beer galore and a delicious $10 lunch menu to match. There's something about pizza and beer that are irresistible together and LBQ's eggplant pizza is a great chaser for craft beer. Grilled eggplant, caramelised onions, haloumi, olives and rocket. Never has drinking down an alley been so appealing.

Tacos at Rogue and Vagabond, 18 Garrett St

It wouldn't be a countdown without Mexican featuring, and Rogue and Vagabond's $2 taco Tuesday means five soft or hard-shell tacos for a single blue note. With $4 and $6 options available by adding toppings, if quality rather than quantity is what you prefer, you can mix and match how you like to get the most bang for your buck. The top choice has to be the $6 beef brisket. Make up the 10 with a couple of $2 chicken. Job done. 

Pie of the day at Five Boroughs, cnr Roxburgh & Majoribanks streets

We started with breakfast, so we'll finish with dessert. Five Boroughs has brought the flavours of New York right to Wellington City, and with it the portion sizes. Their pie with whipped cream and toppings belongs on this list. The pie changes every few days so you can keep coming back. It's too good to keep to yourself, but far too good to share. Plus this isn't a special, so you can have it every day of the week if you so desire.

CHRISTCHURCH

Restaurants these days will sell you a steak for $40 without any sides. So how good a meal can you buy in Christchurch for a quarter of that? Very good, it turns out. Ewan Sargent reports.

Eggs on Toast from C1 Espresso on Tuam St 

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The under $10 entry ticket for urban, uber-hip C1 Espresso is eggs on toast, which costs $9.90 and is one of the best scrambled eggs breakfast you'll find in Christchurch. C1 is all about the coffee and vibe and quirky fitout (like the vacuum tubes that deliver sliders to diners' tables), but the food is also really smart. You get two eggs – surely there were more? – that flow like just-set lava on toasted foccacia. The seasoning is spot on and the old-school roasted half tomato adds the right acid kick. It's a simple, plain and satisfying start to the day.

Bocadillo at Mosaic by Simo on Lincoln Road

Boca – what? Yes, something really different. This a strange but completely delicious hybrid wrap comes from the Mosaic crowd in Lincoln Rd. You choose the meat/salad/sauce combo that appeals, it's put inside a wrap that's folded up, brushed  with oil and press-grilled until it's brown and crispy. I got the tagine lamb, all the salads – coleslaw, beetroot, carrot, red onion – plus two sauces, spicy hot harissa and hummus and tahini. Lots of big flavours going on here, mint, spice, yes, even the beetroot. It must be pretty healthy, but the main thing is it's seriously filling.  $9.50 for the large one.

Sushi rolls from Sushi Time at South City Mall

Sometimes it's only minutes before lunch that you realise it's a sushi day. Once that thought lands, there's no going back. My go-to sushi roll is salmon and avocado from Sushi Time at South City – and I have to walk 1km to get it. Not all sushi rolls are equal. The hint of sesame in the nori, always excellent rice and salmon that seems a little bigger and fresher swings it. That combination of decent nose-tickling hot wasabi, soy sauce and sweet tangy pink ginger can't be beaten. $8.50 for an eight-pack.

Dumplings from Potsticker at The Colombo Mall

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These are the tastiest and plumpest dumplings in the city, made fresh right in front of your eyes behind a window. Potsticker dumplings are definitely "a thing". The queue snaking back from the counter at midday, the long wait, the electronic pager you are handed to call you back when they are done …  all make that clear. There are three pork choices, a chicken and a beetroot (yeah, right). Get the classic pork and garlic chives. Get all three sauces – vinegar, soy and chilli oil – and get them steamed (everyone else seems to go for pan-fried). A six-pack costs $9.50 here at The Colombo and $10 at the swankier Potsticker in the new Dux Central in Poplar St. You could eat 12, but six is fine for a guilt-free big flavour hit.

A sandwich from Canterbury Cheesemongers at the Arts Centre

A cheese sandwich? Really? Yes, yes, but not like any cheese sandwich you've tasted before. At Canterbury Cheesemongers you can walk into a special cheese-friendly room full of cheeses from around the world and point to any. A chunk will be sliced off and put it inside the city's best ciabatta rolls that are made on site, along with some lettuce and a chutney. You pay $3 for the bread and salad, plus whatever the cheese comes to. Sandwiches typically cost $6 to $8 with 50g of cheese. But if you've got $10 – this is the time to get 75g of that big biting French blue and walk away in rapture.

A beef chipotle wrap from Loco's Tex-Mex foodtruck

It's not hard to spot the Tex-Mex food truck because it sticks out like a sore (but very tasty) thumb wherever it is parked up. It has lots of spicy burrito and co options, but the killer meal is the beef chipotle wrap for $10. You can get extra hot sauce added for 50c to $1, which blows our budget, but it doesn't need it. Tell the guy you want it spicy. He asks out of 10? You call for an 8. It will be perfect. The beef has a fantastic smoky chilli chipotle flavour, you also get garlic mayo, cheese, a fist full of greens and fresh salsa, all in a lightly warmed 10-inch tortilla. Don't get caught by the drips down your front at the end – but you will anyway.  

Kottu Rotti from Ceylon Kitchen at 620 Colombo St

Mostly we buy fillings inside bread. At the tiny Ceylon Kitchen shop the filling is on top of, under and all around the bread. Kottu Rotti stars chopped up flatbread mixed with vegetables and spices in a Sri Lankan twist as the splintering of Asian food styles continues. You can get beef and chicken for $2 more, but that busts our budget. The $10 meal is vegetables only and you'll feel better for it. It's delicious, spicy, hearty and a big serving.

Southland Cheese Rolls from Bun Runners Cafe on Fitzgerald Avenue

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Next to oysters, cheese rolls could well be the deep south's greatest contribution to New Zealand cuisine. You won't get a feed of oysters for $10, so step up the rolls. Bun Runners cafe sells their version for $5 and two of these will put paid to hunger pains for a long time. Purists may well frown at melted cheese on top, arguing it should be just melted butter, but the gooey onion and melted cheese hit inside is all there. 

Ramen bowl from Dragon's Den Colombo St

Every Wednesday you can get a bowl of some of the best ramen (Japanese noodle soup) in Christchurch for $10 at the Dragon's Den Social Lounge in Colombo St. What's in it changes from week to week, but always the broth, the heart of the soup, is a savoury masterpiece. Varying meats include pork, beef and chicken, plus the usual half egg and greens. It's a complete experience. Of course they'd love you to buy a round of cocktails to celebrate. That's your call.

Pastrami toastie from Urban Gourmand New Regent St

One of the best toasted sandwiches you'll ever eat.  Jeremy Hines will hand you from his foodtruck a butter-basted, toasted ciabatta roll filled with layers of quality grilled pastrami, a handful of melted cheese, an amazing relish, and all held together by a toothpick that pins a plump, tangy gherkin on top. All for $8. It is perfect street food. The small and often-changing menu has other options, including Haast whitebait caught by his sister, that cost more. But try the pastrami first. 

 

 - Stuff

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