Competition is a wonderful motivator, and if Canterbury’s earthquakes have done one thing, it’s allow the culinary cream to rise to the top. There’s still a patchwork of rubbly carparks to navigate (watch for potholes) and a few street signs missing, but beyond the construction and road cones, are some world class foodie experiences that’ll stick in your mind (and your Instagram) for years to come. You’re going to want to pace yourself, get your fat pants out and throw the diet to the wind. You may leave a little heavier than you arrived, but airlines don’t charge people by the kilo.
Posh Porridge is a Christchurch classic and you must join their growing following. For years, they’ve been serving up little bowls of extravagantly accessorised slow cooked, organic, steel cut oats. Flavours change weekly, and include the likes of whisky-soaked raisins, maple roasted granola and vanilla custard; spiced apples and toffee sauce with brandy snap and hazelnut crumble; or black raspberry, oaty crumble, Tim Tam smash and freeze-dried cherries. Drool. If Nigella and Heston Blumenthal made a breakfast baby, this’d be it. Grab a patch of grassy riverbank and listen to the buskers while you eat - a truly Canterbury experience. Guard your bowl, those ducks will chase you for it!
It is rare to find a cafe where you’re yet to have a bad coffee. On this score, Park Ranger delivers. If you’re a shameless caffeine addict, a refueling stop at this Riccarton gem is an absolute must. Not only is the interior decor beautifully organic - think hanging herbs, gorgeous wood features and greenery in every corner - you can soak it all up, secure in the knowledge that your desperately needed caffeine hit will be spot on. Owner Rob (look for the crazy hair) turns locally roasted Underground beans into pure heaven. Oh, while you’re there, grab a savoury scone (trust us).
Crack the glass door on the cheese room at Canterbury Cheesemongers, and breathe in the cool, earthy air laced with just a hint of what’s inside. Stacks, chunks, wedges and wheels of cheese from around the world. You want the creamiest brie? Done. The sharpest cheddar? They have it. The richest, stinkiest blue you’ve ever tasted? Yep, they’ll get your sinuses tingling. And what’s more, they’ll slice off a few chunks, stuff it into freshly baked ciabatta (widely recognised as the best in New Zealand), toast it, and hand it to you on a paper plate to eat in the sun outside. This is the best cheap lunch in the city, hands down.
Friday Street Food Market
People who say Christchurch has no nightlife, don’t know the real Christchurch. If you fancy a smorgasbord of Canterbury’s best food truck fare, an evening browsing the vendors under the gaze of the ruined Christ Church Cathedral is not only memorable, it should be on every foodie’s Christchurch to-do list. The trucks and stalls vary slightly week to week, but you’ll typically find everything from dumplings to gourmet burgers, Mexican to Japanese, noodles to churros and options to spare. A favourite with locals, this is your chance to soak up some central city atmosphere and leave with a full tummy.
Damn! That’ll put hairs on your chest! The good and passionate folk at Christchurch’s famous whisky shop will have you tasting like an expert in no time. True experts in their field, these guys take enthusiastic amateurs (or sceptics) and turn them into lifelong converts. Whisky is on-trend, so taking your knowledge to whisky snob level will pay off at any swanky party you ever attend. Plus, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for an industry steeped in true flavour appreciation. The annual tasting calendar is packed with experiences that are often sold out in a flash, so it’s wise to book in advance.
As a kid, and, if we’re honest, as an adult, we’ve all tipped back our cereal bowls and gulped down the sugary milk left behind at the end. The talented gelato lovers at Rollickin’ have taken this childhood memory, and turned it into a scoop of something sentimental. Grab a table next to the giant monkey on the historic New Regent St, and order yourself a cone of the best cereal milk gelato in town. They’ll happily line up the flavours for those who can’t choose, and will ply you with tasters until you’re convinced you need to eat them all. And you probably will.
With little in the way of heritage architecture left in the city, you can’t beat O.G.B for atmosphere and flair. The bar and eatery occupies a nook in the restored Heritage Hotel, overlooking the Christ Church Cathedral. From the knowledgeable staff in braces and caps to the carefully curated snacks menu, evening drinks and live music is the way to go. For the discerning drinkers, the liquor selection is premium and the mixologists know their stuff. Live on the wild side, put the menu down, and leave your cocktail order in their capable hands. These guys have an uncanny knack for knowing just the right tipple.
Pot Sticker Dumplings
Plenty of places make dumplings. None make them like Pot Sticker. These guys live and breathe authentic Chinese dumplings, employing specialist Chinese chefs and using the best ingredients. You can’t go past authentic Chinese eats in a heritage Christchurch building. Top of the list at this restaurant, should be the xiaolongbao - or soup dumplings. Chubby steamed twists of dumpling dough hide a savoury filling and a rich broth. Scoop onto a spoon, nip a hole in one side and suck out the soup before devouring the rest. Pair with an ice cold beer, and roll yourself out the door later.
Mediterranean Food Company
A woodfired slice from this mediterranean-inspired deli/restaurant is as close as you’ll ever come to the real deal this far south. Pizza here is not only a specialty, but a true calling. The restaurant takes one wing, the deli and imported food shop, the other. Diners enjoy the very best fare from global ingredients sold just a few feet away. Pizza is thin-based, crispy and puffed up in all the right places, golden with bubbled mozzarella. Order any flavour without regret, but think twice before passing by the funghi, smeared with truffle oil - equal parts earthy and rich. In the local pizza industry, you won’t find better.
The Backstreet Cafe
These bad boys are milkshakes with freak factor, and then some. If you can steel your self control, resist the lineup of gorgeous cakes and donuts (this will be challenging), and save your sweet tooth for a shake, well...to be honest, you might be an instant diabetic, but you will be happy! A Freakshake is a sinfully creative tower of sugar, served in a jar, piled high with temptation - donuts, chunks of brownie, salted caramel sauce, lollies, whipped cream, brandy snaps, cookies (the list goes on). Indulge, pass out on the couch, then book a juice cleanse. Best outing for your sweet tooth without leaving the city limits.
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