At most fine-dining restaurants, table manners are the bare minimum. But at Simon Levy’s Christchurch restaurant Inati, his personal sign of success is to witness someone lick their plate. So when a diner brought a dish to his lips on opening night back in 2017, the British chef was ecstatic.
Co-owned by Simon and his wife Lisa Levy (who looks after front of house), the couple aims for Inati to feel like an extension of their own home – and many regulars have become close friends.
There are smaller, more conventional tables available at Inati, but the heart of the restaurant is a chef’s table that can accommodate 19 diners at once. Stools at the shining brass bar face onto the kitchen, where staff can talk to customers throughout their meal.
Food-wise, don’t expect home kitchen fare – Simon was trained in classical French-style cooking and worked in London at institutions such as Claridge’s and The Ivy, plus The Warrington (when it was owned by Gordon Ramsay). Inati’s point of difference from many other fine diners is that the dishes are intended for sharing – the restaurant’s name is a Māori word that means "to share".
The menu is sectioned into the origin of ingredients; earth, sea, land and nectar are labels for vegetables, fish, meat and fruity desserts. Most dietary requirements can be catered for.
Inati’s owners source their produce meticulously, prioritising buying from producers they have a personal connection with. Take the Clearview Estate Reserve Semillon wine on the extensive drinks menu; Lisa grew up near the Hawke’s Bay winery and worked there. Almost every element has a story, and the staff are schooled on sharing the ingredients' journeys from origin to plate.
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