Christchurch is experiencing a gastronomic explosion at present. After the devastation of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, which saw many of the city’s best eateries either destroyed or closed down, Christchurch is reasserting itself as a place of eclectic dining experiences. Christchurch has always been a place where you could find quirky and adventurous restaurants, and many of the city’s new crop of cafes and restaurants have risen from the rubble of older establishments. In many cases, restaurateurs have re-invented and improved on their original premises; others are brand new and offer cutting edge cuisine. But whatever you are looking for – be it a fine dining experience or a mean feed – your Christchurch accommodation is only going to be a few minutes away from an exciting new eatery. Here are a few suggestions to get your mouth watering.
If only for the brilliant pun of its name, this place is worth a visit. But if you add the sumptuous flavours of Latin America, as interpreted by award-winning chef Mark Sycamore, and a liquor selection bringing the exotic mixes of Havana and Rio to Victoria Street in Downtown Christchurch, you have a recipe for heaven on Earth. With décor that brings to mind a cantina - high chairs, and elbow-height tables - as well as conventional table seating, the food at Tequila Mockingbird is food designed to be share and to be enjoyed with unashamed gusto. On the menu you will find such delectables as Fundido (Cuban bread), Chilean Empanadas, Wakanui Beef Cheek Asado Negro, and Pão De Queijo (Jalapeno cream cheese with Brazilian puffs). For a sweet, sweet dessert, try the Churros ( a sort of long doughnut) with chilli-infused chocolate, or the Cake des Tres Leches made from three different types of sweet milky syrup and smothered with passion fruit. Along with a large selection of cerveza (beer) and wine, Tequila Mockingbird’s bar staff are skilled in the fine arts of mixing cocktails built around the flavours of rum, tequila and vodka. Try a Pisco Sour made with Pisco spirit and citrus juices, or a Calprioska of limes sugar and vodka. Phew….after all that you are going to need a siesta!
Bamboozle Oriental Kitchen and Bar
If the reviews posted on-line by appreciative and enthusiastic diners are anything to go by, Bamboozle, in the seaside suburb of Sumner, might just be Christchurch’s next big thing in the dining stakes. Located on Sumner’s main street, Bamboozle Oriental Fusion Kitchen and Bar is owned by chef Phillip Kraal, a well-known figure on the Christchurch restaurant scene. When the earthquake destroyed his inner city Crumpet Club restaurant, he saw it as an opportunity to launch the Asian fusion restaurant he had been planning for some time. So out of adversity comes triumph and at Bamboozle you are going to be hard pressed to decide which sumptuous flavour you will try next. On the menu are traditional Asian dishes such as soy-glazed whole chicken, bami goreng, and shredded chicken salad. But Asia also intersects with Europe in dishes such as steamed pork buns with a Caesar-style stuffing of bacon, garlic, parmesan and anchovies; and wontons with camembert and hazelnut fillings. You will also find mussels in curry, pork belly, and gurnard fried in black bean sauce. Your biggest challenge at Bamboozle will be choosing what to eat…oh and making sure you leave a little room for dessert!
Freeman’s Dining Room
On the other side of the Lyttleton road tunnel, the port town of Lyttleton is another Christchurch suburb which was badly hit by the earthquakes. However, with the indomitable spirit typical of restaurateurs, chef Nick Freeman has kept Freeman’s Dining Room operating through it all. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, this is a great place to come for a snack or a meal before or after a session of exploring the waterfront. On the menu you will find a selection of light and tasty pizzas, with toppings such as cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, chillies and anchovies, and the mouth-watering Florentine combination of spinach, mozzarella and egg. Other mains include the sea-sidey [sic] beer battered fish and chips, a crisp Caesar salad and, for colder days, Cumberland sausages with mash and beans. On the dessert and coffee front, you can try a Tiramisu, or a chocolate and almond torte. Sitting beneath the shade sails out on The Deck you will have great views of the harbour and you can listen to live jazz every Sunday while you watch the busy harbour and the shifting patterns of light and shade on the distant hills of Bank’s Peninsula. Shiver me timbers, this is the place any jolly jack tar (sailor) would be happy to spend his shore leave at!
Passengers and Co
Now this place is something a but out of the ordinary. Located in an industrial unit on Russley Road, a few kilometres from the airport, Passengers and Co is operated by the good folks who run the Christchurch Farmer’s Market. In keeping with the fresh food tradition of the market, all the ingredients are sourced from the growers and vendors who supply the Farmer’s Market. Now that’s the way to guarantee freshness! Even the churned butter is homemade. The restaurant’s location has been chosen for it’s proximity to the myriad businesses which have had to relocate to the suburbs because of the earthquakes. Beyond the green steel pillars framing the main entry, the interior is all ultra-modern, with black, white and green décor interspersed with mosaics and feature lighting. The all-white tables are each numbered with black lettering. The menu is decided each day depending on what is available fresh from the market suppliers, but you can always guarantee that there will be something to take your fancy. The restaurant is open weekdays from 7am – great for a sneaky early coffee – and offers a three-course set menu on Thursday and Friday nights from 6pm. So pop along to Unit D, 92 Russley Road for a unique dining experience…and don’t forget to bring a passenger!
St. Asaph Street Kitchen and Stray Dog Bar
This place is about as hip and funky as it’s possible to get outside of San Francisco. Re-animated from the destroyed ruins of the famous Arts Centre eatery called Le Café, which was once the coolest place to hang out in Christchurch, the SASKSDB has relocated closer to the city’s heart and gotten a whole lot bigger. But that’s not to say it has become any less cool. On the contrary, the core team which ran Le Café for 25 years has been augmented with some fresh new faces and developed a menu with something for everyone: from a hungry visitor to a bookish student of Kerouac. According to their website, the café is “once again a global mish mash of cultures,” and their menu reflects “who and where we are…a little bit Thai Chinese Korean Asian Indian, a little bit Canterbury old school English, modern Australian, and of course some American thrown in because everyone likes deep fried.” It’s hard to choose which part of the breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu is the most attractive. Certainly you would go a long way to find a better fish curry or prime beef cheeseburger. Suffice to say, the best bet is to just wander along to 236 St. Asaph Street any time after 7am, any day of the week, and find out for yourself!