After starting her career as a reporter at TV3 before moving to Los Angeles to work in events and PR, Claire Robbie retrained to be a yoga teacher. She has put her journalistic training to good use, researching various strains of meditation, and recently opened the School of Modern Meditation just off Auckland’s Karangahape Road.
Claire, who recently spoke with Stuff’s Carol Hirschfeld about the importance of meditation through times of stress, has lived in Auckland’s Westmere neighbourhood for five years, since returning home from LA.
“It’s central to the city but also still has a leafy, green neighbourhood feel,” says Claire, who lives with her son Jack, and near her parents. “There’s a lovely community of people here too, as well as the local cafes and yoga studios close by. It’s totally out of our price range to buy a house in this neighbourhood but we love it so much that it’s worth renting here for us.” She shares a few of her favourite local spots.
Favourite place for a drink - and what is that drink?
In Grey Lynn there’s a taproom called New Leaf that has the most delicious kombucha on tap. Since I don’t drink alcohol, if I meet friends out for a ‘drink’ I’ll order tea most of the time - so places like Amano that have an extensive tea selection are right up my alley.
Best place for breakfast?
My very favourite breakfast is at Seabreeze, just down the road from our house, and overlooking Meola Reef. Their green eggs are a delicious combo of perfectly poached eggs, lots of greens, dukkha and perfectly pan fried halloumi.
Where do you get your morning coffee?
I make coffee at home. My favourite is a pour over style so I use a Chemex to make the perfect brew. We drink Kōkako’s Aotea Blend and Ozone’s Organic Blend the most. I drink a bit of coffee - two cups a day at least, so I try and keep it organic if possible. Then I either add oat or organic dairy milk. If I get a coffee out, I’d try to get to Daily Daily or Eight Thirty in Ponsonby Central for an oat milk flattie. A lot of the time I’m more about the barista than the coffee.
The restaurant you’ve been going to for years?
Favourite restaurant to visit with friends?
East on Nelson Street in Central Auckland. This is a vegetarian and plant-based restaurant that has a lovely, fun vibe, absolutely amazing food and really really lovely staff.
For something fancy?
I don’t think I’ve been out for a fancy meal in a really long time. I find getting dressed up a bit of a chore these days so I love how most Auckland restaurants are pretty low key and casual, even the ‘fancy’ ones like Amano. Or we’d probably go to East and if it’s a really special occasion get the Matchamisu (green tea tiramisu).
Best ‘cheap eat’?
Warisan Uncle Man’s Malaysian, and Yeah Bowl on Karangahape Road. My meditation studio is up there and it’s one of my favourite places to eat and walk around in Auckland. I also really like going to the fancy ‘food court’ downtown in Commercial Bay. There are so many different things to choose from - Wise Boys, South American Oven has delish empanadas, Daruma Ramen is totally yum. The best part is that me, my bf Richie and son Jack can get whatever we feel like that day (we all have very different tastes).
Brunch on a Sunday: where would we find you?
Federal Deli with Jack and Richie, who are big pancake fans. So we get the grapefruit half with sugar, griddle cakes and bottomless cups of Good Joe’s Filter coffee. I miss the diner experience having lived in the States for so long so it’s a good way to scratch that itch.
Your local bar or pub?
I haven’t hung out at a bar or pub for a really long time. Since I gave up drinking five years ago, I socialise in different ways. I meet my friends for coffee, a workout or walk. If I go out in the evenings there’s usually food involved.
Favourite place for date night
My boyfriend and I have highly unusual schedules so that means we have to really prioritise doing things together. We recently decided to try and go away for the weekend once every couple of months. For one of those we had a really lovely weekend at Hotel Britomart, and felt like tourists in our own city. The restaurant in the hotel Kingi was amazing for brunch.
Your regular supermarket?
I am not a fan of big supermarkets - I always overspend and get too much. So I tend to get all my fruit and vegetables and dinner things from Grey Lynn Farro and then head to Williamson Ave Countdown just for the staples. I do lots of little shops throughout the week rather than one big one.
Where do you go for ‘special’, non-supermarket food or drink?
Farro - they have Daily Organics Kombucha, the best Daily Bread bread and things that make dinner much easier. Cooking isn’t my forte so I like to make things as easy as possible when it comes to food.
Favourite place for live music?
Something that I LOVE doing are the Morning People early morning dance parties once a month. You have to get up extra early and then get high on caffeine and dance your ass off. The perfect sober experience.
I also really love all the summer alcohol and drug-free festivals we have in New Zealand. This year I’ll be leading workshops and talks at Resolution, Revive and Earth Beat. These camping experiences have amazing live music and such a good atmosphere. I love taking my son to these too.
Favourite gallery or museum?
The Auckland Art Gallery is so beautiful - the building itself and the collections. Occasionally I’ll take myself on a cute little ‘date’ and wander around Albert Park, get a boba tea and then drift through the peacefulness of the gallery.
Where do you go for some relaxation or a beauty treatment?
I don’t do any regular beauty treatments, I am super duper keen on being as low-admin as possible. At home I do Frank Body coffee scrubs and hair masks pretty regularly but I think I’ve had a facial once in my life! I’ve even stopped dying my hair and am just watching the grey roll in...we’ll see how long that lasts.
One thing I do at least once a week is have Contrast Therapy at Hana Spa. This is a combo of infrared sauna and plunging into their ice bath. It’s as close to a psychedelic experience as you can get without doing any psychedelics... The mental and physical health benefits are endless - it’s really good for skin and detoxifying, as well as stress and anxiety.
Best kept shopping secret?
Favourite clothing store that never lets you down?
I live in activewear and have to say that Lorna Jane is my absolute favourite. Super comfy, stylish and durable. For events and special occasions I am a forever fan of Karen Walker. The Newmarket store is so exciting to go to, the staff are so helpful and I’ve been going there since I was in high school. So for nearly 25 years!
Where do you go for a workout?
Where do you go when you’re after local art or design?
Ornament in Pt Chevalier is the cutest homewares store ever. I’ve been collecting lots of pieces for my new meditation studio. Since we don’t own our own home I really try not to accumulate too much at home. Instead it’s been so lovely turning The School of Modern Meditation into my dream space.
If someone was visiting your neighbourhood or city for the first time, what’s the one place you would recommend they visit?
My meditation studio first to get a little bit of zen, before walking from Takapuna to Milford and back, along the waterfront rocks to the Takapuna Beach Cafe for an ice cream.