The rebuilding of this South Island city has sparked a renaissance among its bar and café scene. From early morning coffee to last drinks, we’ve got you covered with this round-up of the best restaurants in Christchurch.
The best breakfast: Grizzly
Start your day with a visit to cute artisan baker and café Grizzly, tucked into a street-side corner of The Welder, a group of warehouses in the hip South Town neighbourhood where wellness-minded businesses congregate. Not only does Grizzly serve a mean bean from local roasters Embassy, its selection of baked goods is second to none. We’re talking pimped-up croissants (hello, leek and parmesan) to incredible sourdough taking smashed avo to the next level with the help of cucumber pickles.
The best brunch: Child Sister
Its prime position opposite the enormous Margaret Mahy playground, a two-hectare icon of the post-quake rebuild, means Child Sister (277 Manchester Street, Christchurch) rarely has a quiet moment. That might also have something to do with a two-speed menu that deftly caters for harried parents (classic eggs Benedict with all the sides and a great pesto hash hits all the comfort buttons) and the food-curious with a great line on Korean-influenced brunch fare, including a kimchi rice omelette. And rest assured there’s nothing childlike about the stylishly reclaimed warehouse, with its soothing neutral tones and gorgeous timber veneer central bar.
The best coffee: Coffee Embassy
Swing by roastery and espresso bar Coffee Embassy, housed in a former mechanic’s workshop close to the city centre, and check out its changing roster of beans along with innovations including creamy-capped nitro coffee (coffee infused with nitrogen for an extra-smooth finish) on tap and a barrel-aged cold brew.
The best market: Riverside Market
Riverside Market is Christchurch’s new food mecca, a bustling market hub complete with 40 fresh food stalls and 30 ethnically diverse eateries. Occupying a prominent corner near the Avon River, it encompasses a whole world of food, from a sushi train to excellent Greek souvlaki. Cute hole-in-the-wall coffee shops lurk in laneways and the top level is all about bars and restaurants with broad balconies perfect for watching the action below. There’s even a jazz club that gets the crowds bopping every Thursday evening.
Image credit: ChristchurchNZ
The best aperitivo hour: Earl
The chic mid-century stylings of Earl are hard to go past when choosing a spot to get the evening started. The kitchen opens for dinner service at 5pm so grab a seat at the bar overlooking Rauora Park and get stuck into a punchy little menu of snacks including single, perfectly grilled prawns drenched in chilli-spiked ajo blanco and creamy chicken parfait and cherry jam “sandwiches”, chased by a blush-hued sundowner. In fact, it’s so good you might want to stick around for a full dinner from the brasserie-style menu.
Image credit: Charlie Rose Creative
The best vibes: 5th Street
Run by a bunch of young locals who built the restaurant from scratch, 5th Street is the word on the hospo street for night-time dining excellence. As iconoclastic as Christchurch itself, this warehouse decorated in brocade and greenery hums with the energy of switched-on waiters delivering some of the most exciting food in the city. Our tip: book ahead for a seat at the bar where you can get stuck into sticky fried chicken (finger-lickin’ good in pungent chilli sambal) and charry broccolini on whipped hummus with a punchy black olive salsa (this joint is extremely veg-friendly) while chatting with your friendly local mixologist and sipping a tequild-driven basil cucumber smash.
The best dinner: Twenty-Seven Steps
Inhabiting a character-filled heritage terrace, Twenty-Seven Steps has restaurant classicism knitted into its very fabric with a fit-out of bentwood chairs and bench seats, elegant arched windows and a blackboard menu that changes regularly with the Canterbury micro-seasons. The food is no stranger to bold flavours but finds a point of balance in dishes such as a savoury baked blue cheesecake with the sweet note of Manuka honey or a proudly regional Canterbury beef fillet with truffle butter and Yorkshire pudding.
Image credit: Kate Claridge
The best nightcap: The Last Word
Did someone say last drinks? Head to The Last Word, an intimate two-storey drinking salon tucked down the pedestrian-only precinct of New Regent Street. A comprehensive list of 320 types of whiskey will please the sternest aficionado but it’s not all aimed at lovers of a wee dram: within this intimate salon lies a world of creative cocktails as well as a wine list bedded in the depth and breadth of New Zealand’s acclaimed vinous scene.
Image credit: Nancy Zhou/ChristchurchNZ
The best pub: Welles Street
In a backstreet in the super-hip South Town precinct, this very modern iteration of the pub has transformed a previously derelict warehouse into a crowded hipster barn where local craft beer dominates the 18 taps, long tables accommodate rowdy groups and a giant TV screen keeps rugby fans happy. The Welles Street menu is a mix of pub classics and Greek favourites (yes, that includes souvlaki and chips) and if sport isn’t your thing you can grab a seat in the leafy, street-facing atrium for some stellar people-watching.
Image credit: Anna Frances Pearson/ChristchurchNZ
The best Asian: King of Snake
The Christchurch answer to Sydney and Melbourne’s cultish Longrain, King of Snake is a sensory whirl through the cuisines of south-east Asia, with a strong suit in Thai. Start your evening in the lantern-hung Victoria Street dining room with an Asian-accented cocktail (the signature King of Snake packs ginger-chilli heat along with vodka and Grand Marnier) before segueing to snappy snacks (hit the deep-fried oysters with wasabi mayo) and luscious mains such as a duck jungle curry that’s fragrant with kaffir lime.
The best bar: Mr Brightside
The incredible view of Cathedral Place across to the Southern Alps from this rooftop eyrie atop the Art Deco Public Trust building is just one reason to visit Mr Brightside. Another is the besuited lift attendant waiting on the ground floor to push the button for you; yet another is the mix-and-match list of New Zealand artisan gins, mixers and garnishes, and the soul-affirming buzz of a crowd embracing one of Christchurch’s newest venues.