Some people look at large renovation projects and recoil. Others embrace them, like Christchurch-based hoteliers Francesca Voza and James Sumner. The duo undertook a full interior overhaul on an 1860s heritage building to create their boutique accommodation, Eliza’s Manor. After just seven months open (and much of that with the borders closed), it’s doing a roaring trade in both room bookings and people stopping in for a meal, high tea or cocktails.

“It’s been fun, even with the hiccups that come with working with a heritage building,” Voza tells Broadsheet. “It’s not like a new build. The building doesn’t work for you, you work for the building! It’s a bit like owning a cat – we love it, feed it, give it everything, but it’s still the boss.”

Eliza’s central address means that, while it feels like an oasis away from modern life, it’s easy to visit for a Christchurch weekend stay – or even just a flat white and a half-hour breather in the plant-surrounded courtyard.

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It feels like a bygone era inside, with an impressive kauri wood staircase in the foyer along with heavily patterned carpets, gilded-frame artworks, stained-glass lamps and velvet armchairs. Quirky and contemporary touches such as brass, animal head wall hooks and amusing artworks keep it fun, rather than being too “wealthy older relative’s stuffy front room”.

The eight rooms are all decorated differently, with Queen Anne-legged chaise longues (some original, some replicas), Victorian-inspired pastel floral wallpaper, stained-glass windows, heavy curtains in rich tones and antique side tables. There are plenty of modern, comfortable touches such as electric blankets, flat screen TVs, a pillow menu and large, deep baths waiting to absorb your stress.

Voza and Sumner are well known in the South Island for their hospitality background that began a decade ago in New Zealand. As backpackers, they started with a single food truck in Wānaka – originally a way to stay in the country they’d become so fond of (both are half English, half Italian). They went on to open the Francesca’s Italian Kitchen restaurants in Wānaka and Christchurch, two pizzerias in Timaru and Dunedin, tapas restaurant Kika and more. While they are no longer involved with those businesses, they still have popular Christchurch cafe Miro, which they opened when they moved to the city two years ago.

The hotel’s restaurant is a sister venue to Miro, offering what they describe as “modern New Zealand” food – riffs on Euro classics such as confit duck leg and beef short rib, made using as many local and from-scratch ingredients as possible. They even cure, age and smoke their own bacon.

The house itself has had many lives since 1861 – according to the in-room guide, it’s been a family residence, a children’s home (in the influenza pandemic of 1918), a boarding house, a maternity hospital and more. It became a bed and breakfast in 1981 and has been accommodation of some sort ever since, having passed through several owners. Like everyone, it suffered in the devastating Christchurch earthquakes.

The Manor is now climate positive with a heavy focus on sustainability, reducing waste and being kind to the environment. This includes everything from efficient energy systems to the honeycomb on the cheeseboard, which comes from their own bees.

Voza and Sumner are thrilled at the interest from both locals and guests. “High tea is a firm favourite – we are booked out every week,” says Sumner. “We also have a lot of locals coming into the bar for cocktails. We love that it’s a space that is being used as much by people living in Christchurch, as in-house guests. People love that we are so close to the city, but it feels like you are in another world. We have many guests who don’t leave the manor for the whole of their stay.”

Eliza’s Manor
82 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch Central City

Phone: 03 366 8584
elizas.co.nz

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