Five of the best Auckland restaurants for Christmas lunch (that can still fit you in)
So what if Auckland's bastions of Christmas lunch are already fully booked and some have been since June? You - the disorganised non-cooker - need not fear.
The hundreds of dollars you've saved per family member by not dining at one of the swanky CBD venues could (almost) cover flights to Samoa.
Here's a selection of open and welcoming festive feasting alternatives that still have room for you - but we do recommend swiftly booking a table. Otherwise you'll be doomed to KFC (get it drive-through and head to your favourite Auckland shore for beach cricket and sandy fried chicken).
1. Grand Park - Gate B, Alexandra Park Raceway, Greenlane West, Greenlane.
There's no actual rule stating we must eat glazed ham and then pavlova for Christmas lunch. Don't be a hackneyed stereotype; head to this Chinese joint for some deep-fried stuffed crab's claw, plump juicy dumplings, and chicken feet to celebrate the birth of Christ.
* Five of the best vegan eateries in Auckland
* Five of the best picnic spots in Auckland
* Five of the best coffees in Auckland
* Sign up to our newsletter to get the most out of living in Auckland
While Grand Park's $350 'shark fin and egg' dish will do your Samoa fund no favours, set menus start at just $45 per person. You get served an enticing array of nine different yum cha dishes, plus tea, that will stuff and satiate.
2. Deco Eatery - 418 Titirangi Rd, Titirangi.
What would Jesus do (on his birthday)? Not snaffle Christmas mince pies, that's for sure, and God forbid he should touch ham. Jesus would eat hummus. And perhaps a nice fish, grilled with lemons and olives. You could too, if yum cha feels a bit off-season. Titirangi's Turkish delight will be open on the big day and is preparing a "special Christmas menu".
It will feature delectable Middle Eastern dishes, to be eaten in Deco's airy space atop Medeteranian-blue tiles while gazing through native bush out onto the Manukau harbour.
3. Satya - 271 Karangahape Rd, City Centre.
The generous folk at Satya - a South Indian staple - throw a free, no questions asked, Christmas lunch and dinner every year. Their bold curries, soft naan breads, and crispy dosas, eaten amidst colourful draped fabrics, have won over Auckland bellies, but it's their attitude that's earned our love.
Satya doesn't take bookings for Christmas day - everyone is welcome to enjoy their selection of curries with a drink on arrival. Lunch is from 12pm until 2.
4. City Mission - Viaduct Events Centre, 161 Hasley St, City Centre.
If you don't want to stray too far from traditional Ango-Saxon Christmasness, why not go the whole hog and volunteer at the City Mission's lunch? Santa does. Alexis from the Mission says it's where carols compete with laughter, where families, the homeless, and lonely come together, and where 300kg of ham with 240kg of kumara go towards feeding 2,000 people.
"The atmosphere is almost a bit magical - everyone is just delighted to be there," says Alexis. "It's a reminder of what Christmas spirit is really about" (giving, Google tells me). Volunteers need to register ASAP.
5. Waitakere Estate - 573 Scenic Drive, Waiatarua.
All hope is not lost for something schmancy with bubbles, however! While the city hotels' sumptuous Christmas banquets have long been booked out, Waitakere Estate - off the beaten track but still super luxe - has space.
Majestically perched atop a lushly forested hill, they're serving a five course Christmas lunch for $125 per person. Treat yourself to salmon with squid ink caviar and sorbet, followed by horopito lamb rump and finally some homemade Christmas pud with brandy anglais and fruity mince pies.