During New Zealand’s two-year border closure, there were some exciting developments in the Christchurch food scene. A fresh, vibrant group of young chefs, mixologists and cafe operators have created venues with exciting and thoughtful food, often with a sustainable and local focus. The much-anticipated Riverside Market complex also opened just months before the pandemic, so anyone who hasn’t visited Ōtautahi (as it’s known in te reo Māori) is in for a pleasant surprise.
Robert ‘Bob’ Fairs gained a stellar reputation as head chef at renowned and now-closed restaurant Roots. He recently opened his own place called Londo, a small, unpretentious space turning out food that Fairs describes as “fresh, local, simple and delicious”. The menu is designed for sharing, and Fairs has a gift for flavour and texture. A carrot dish becomes an event when served on romesco sauce, with generous handfuls of house-made dukkah and fresh herbs; beef tartare is served atop a punchy salsa verde, and garnished with pickled tomatillos and radish slices. Make sure you book ahead. Unit 6/2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch.
South Town Club
If you’re looking for breakfast and brunch that’s more imaginative than your usual spot, head to this easy-going, light-filled new cafe. Try Caribbean doubles – soft, house-made turmeric flatbreads filled with curried chickpeas, pickled cucumbers and mango chutney – or a chipotle, spring onion and cheddar cornbread topped with salted maple butter. “Lucky dip” breakfast dumplings have fillings such as bacon and gruyere; egg and chive; and Chinese five-spice and organic beef sausage. Bread comes from local bakers Bellbird, and the coffee is excellent (the business is half-owned by Coffee Supreme). If you’re looking for something cold, try the cascara – an effervescent soda made using the cherry part of the coffee bean. 10 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch
Tussock Hill Cellar Door and Restaurant
While the North Canterbury wine region is an essential part of any trip to Christchurch, sometimes time doesn’t allow for a trip out to the cellar doors. But family-run Tussock Hill Vineyard is just 15 minutes from the city, and recently opened a light, airy restaurant with spectacular views across Christchurch – and exceptional food. Chef Jackson Mehlhopt has trained under two of New Zealand’s finest (Vaughan Mabee from Amisfield and Giulio Sturla of Roots). Ingredients are sourced from the Canterbury region, unless ethical or sustainability issues require going further afield. Sourdough, for example, is made fresh daily with grains from Milmore Downs, a local organic biodynamic grower. The creative menu changes with the seasons, but the current line-up includes tangy shaved courgettes with Wairere buffalo stracciatella, barbequed and pickled beetroot served with corn custard, and barbequed Lumina lamb shoulder. 210 Huntsbury Avenue, Cashmere, Christchurch
Don’t be put off by the fact you need a password to get into this underground, speakeasy-style bar – it’s easy to find on their website. From the same owners as the ever-popular cocktail bar O.G.B, this spot is everything you want from a late-night joint: moody lighting, exposed brick, dark wood and small round tables. There’s live music, a bit of neon, and bartenders dressed playfully in prohibition-era get-up – which somehow escapes feeling gimmicky. While the vibe is fun and the service first-rate, the cocktails are what you’re here for. Nothing is too much effort – for example, rather than use syrups, fresh strawberries are sous-vided with lemongrass and rum for two hours at 75 degrees, then served under a warm coconut foam to create their Cat in the Hat cocktail. Sounds like science, tastes like a holiday. 236 High Street (down the laneway between Mecca and Lululemon)