The Christchurch food scene might surprise and delight you!
Updated 2019 – I’ve added three more Christchurch restaurants and removed two (as one was a pop up and is now gone, and sadly the amazing Roots in Lyttelton has closed).
What I love about the rebuild and restoration of Christchurch is the passionate entrepreneurial chefs and cafe owners and the Cantabrians who have come back to start their own businesses in the city as it recovers from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
They’re all mates too, it seems, recommending each other’s places or even consulting on menus, and the locals are keen to support them as the city is united in its recovery.
Here are seven great restaurants in Christchurch I have eaten at, from boho cafes to Maori cuisine to the farmer’s market, and I can recommend them all.
Photos first and reviews below…
If you’re looking for where to eat in Christchurch, start with these…
1 Amazonita is located among the new row of restaurants and bars along Oxford Terrace (formerly The Strip), facing the Avon river with a tram track and cobblestoned street in front of it.
You’ll find e-scooters, cyclists and even cars are allowed along this street and it’s great to have the buzz and vibe back here in newly built buildings. Amazonita’s decor was designed by a New Zealander and its inspiration is taken from Spain, but you’ll sit under hanging green foliage and I just love the artwork on the ceiling which is carried through to the menu.
I tried the beef cheek and cream sauce parpadelle pasta, but the Portuguese seafood stew comes with squid rings and baby octopus and mussels in a tomato sauce with chorizo and bread and was deemed very delicious – and lighter than my meal if you’re not after a big one.
2 Twenty Seven Steps is on New Regent Street, which was closed off for a while after the earthquakes, but the little colourful street of wooden buildings are alive again with restaurants, bars and boutique shops and the tram line runs through here too. It is very near the still broken and fenced-off Christchurch cathedral.
Note: it’s actually only 25 steps up to the first floor (unless you count the two paces to the second set of steps. Which I guess they do!)
We started with big hunks of complimentary pumpkin and feta bread, then I had the fish of the day which was turbot with a large crab ravioli and a potato croquet and salad. It was lovely but as I had eaten the Amazonita meal for lunch I struggled to finish my plate! However we all know the pudding stomach is separate and as luck would have it, four of us had just enough room to share two amazing desserts: passionfruit rice pudding with roasted coconut and a rhubarb crumble with custard.
They do two sittings per night so you’re stuck with 6.30pm or 8.30pm – however rock up whenever and you might just be lucky.
3 Posh Porridge at the weekly Riccarton Farmer’s Market is the sole reason some people come here! At $10 a bowl is not a cheap brekkie, but it’s how they serve it.
Your dollop of porridge is heaped in a compostable bowl with your choice of toppings. I chose stewed rhubarb and apple with coconut crumble then added my own extras. Choices are dried fruits and chocolate, honey and various types and milk and cream. Whiskey soaked raisin porridge is also a popular choice 😉
4 Maori cuisine: I met the totally cool Jade Temepara, owner of Kakano Cafe and Cookery School. She is a Southland girl (35, still a girl to me!) with the tell-tale rolling ‘r’ of Invercargill and hails from the Kati Mamoe Ngai Tahu iwi (yes she had to spell that for me!). Her people have the rights, and only them, to harvest the ti ti bird, better known as muttonbird, from Stewart Island.
Things have changed since the tales of my husband gnawing his way through the greasy bird on marae visits. Jade reckons it’s not as fatty these days. It’s possibly the way she cooks it though. I loved it! If you popped into her house you’d probably also find seaweed flapping on the line to be served in the cafe.
5 For a surprisingly unique brunch menu go to The Monday Room on the corner of Moorhouse and Madras. I loved their imaginative ham hock croquettes served on a pea and avocado mash with a couple of poached eggs. The crispy cauliflower fritters with dukkah and eggs was also fab.
But they are even more renown for their cocktails and desserts, so either go back at the end of the day, or plan a date night.
6 Hello Sunday in Elgin St, Sydenham is so popular with their all-day brunch concept that on the weekends the line out the door can be an hour. I had the fresh crab Japanese crepe which was amazing. The building itself has had a very incarnations from post office to Sunday School, but don’t be fooled, that’s not how it got its name!
7 Gentle Giant had only been open six months when I popped in and is the baby of Korean chef May Shin, her second cafe in town. Her dishes have cool twists too and I have it on good authority her green tea made with rice is the best in town. I had eggs bene with crispy salmon and a pesto potato cake and we also tasted her salmon and cream cheese on a soft and chewy pretzel roll. Amaze!