Any foodie worth their salt should be getting off the beaten track and trekking outside city limits for a slice of Canterbury’s culinary scene. Beyond the cranes and construction, rural Canterbury offers a huge selection of local produce, excellent eateries and hands on experiences. Think wine, cheese, truffles, pizza and chocolate. Not only is the food worth a little road trip, you’re guaranteed some true Cantabrians with personality and a passion for their product to boot. Put on your gumboots, skip breakfast and prepare your stomach for an outing of epic proportions. There’s a little something for everyone.
The move from the central city to rural Tai Tapu has only improved The Bicycle Thief. Now tucked into a gorgeous little villa, complete with courtyard green space, this place offers an idyllic getaway from the cranes and road cones in Christchurch. It’s also home to the best pizza for miles around. Grab a slice and a glass of bubbly and kick back to the sound of birds in the trees and sheep in the paddocks nearby. While you’re there, get a side of polenta fries - famous in Canterbury since - well, since the Bicycle Thief’s city days.
For a taste of the real Canterbury, locals know to head out to Ohoka for the weekly farmers market. Despite its smaller size, this market really holds its own in the busy regional market scene, and offers the very best in local produce and artisan flavours. From Bell Trees Honey to the Happy Cow Milk Company, you’ll find something to fall in love with. Plus, there’s tasting samples at most stalls, and what a great way to eat your way around the region? If you’re there in the colder months, we do recommend a pair of sturdy shoes as it gets wet and muddy but the foodie flavours are well worth the short drive from Christchurch.
Waipara is known for its incredible wineries. Black Estate not only makes some beautiful wines in the picturesque Omihi Valley, they serve up one hell of a delicious lunch. The menu changes frequently and focuses on local produce and simple, bold, flavours to die for. Sitting in the restaurant, you will find yourself sipping a glass of pinot with views of the vines and the stunning valley beyond. Not only is the food and wine spectacular, this place has to be on the list for home of the best Instagram travel snap. You’ll be the envy of anyone with a palate and a stomach.
The Lab is the country pub, and so much more. Built using salvaged materials and hoarded antiques, this place has character-plus. You’ll never go anywhere more pub-tastic! The atmosphere is second only to the beer. They brew on site, and offer craft beers from other local breweries and exotic brews from around the world. This is a “trust the bartender” scenario, where you absolutely must just put yourself in their hands and try whatever they throw at you. The food is top and the beer knowledge unparalleled. Plus the inhouse brewery specialises in cask-conditioned brews, so this is your chance to taste something a little bit special.
Time to get your hands dirty and expand your “how they did stuff in the olden days” knowledge. Pig in a Day is the aptly named workshop run by Preserved. Roll up those sleeves and learn how to make prosciutto, brine-cured ham, wet and dry-cured bacon, chorizo and salami. The practical part of the course involves making your own string of sausages - you’ll need to muck in for this bit and be cool handling intestines! For any foodie worth their salt, these are the life skills that will take your home cooking to the next level. If nothing else, this salt of the earth experience is what Canterbury food is all about. Once in a lifetime stuff!
They aren’t kidding when they say they’re famous. This pie shop is absolutely packed every weekend and frequently has lines out the door, despite its distance from the city. Here you’ll find the best Kiwi pies around and service with a big smile. Want the real deal? This is it. Flaky pastry, slow-cooked meat, strong cheese and the most savoury of gravies. You will not be disappointed, and will leave Canterbury knowing you’ve had a true Kiwi culinary experience. Make sure you leave space for one of their chunky little lamingtons as a post pie treat.
Historic, perfectly restored, and fully equipped with a master chef. Otahuna Lodge is a slice of pure Canterbury history, paired with an international reputation for cuisine. This is a cooking class you’ll never forget. The class offerings vary, but they all tie in to the lodge’s impressive edible garden so you’ll be working from estate to plate. You could book for a private dinner party, or you could sign up for a class and learn how they do it behind the scenes. Classes are extremely popular so you’ll need to book in advance. Go with an empty stomach - most classes eat what they cook, and you’ll want the space.
Black gold, white diamonds, cosmic muesli - truffles have inspired culinary lust for centuries. Limestone Hills, just under an hour from Christchurch, offers you the chance to hunt for your own and this has to be one of the most unique food experiences in the region. Truffle dog Rosie will sniff out the elusive little nuggets, showing off her impressive truffle training. Hunts are available seasonally (call to enquire) and are a fantastic way to hit the rural food scene at full tilt. You may even strike gold! Find out which local restaurants are serving Limestone’s truffles, and complete the full experience with a glass of wine.
The balcony at She Chocolat overlooks Lyttelton Harbour, but you’ll be too busy admiring your extreme hot chocolate to care. The chocolaterie is the ultimate for sweet tooth. Here you can taste a range of speciality, handcrafted local chocolates, desserts and weird and wonderful creations. The hot chocolate menu is easily the best around. Now is not the time to worry about your beach body. Get into it and indulge! If you’re lucky, there’ll be chocolate makers hard at work, putting on a show.
This little pitstop on the way to Akaroa has long been a must-do in Canterbury for the foodie wanting to know more about how proper food is made. Not only does the boutique factory offer a unique view of the cheese-making process, you can taste some creative, award winning cheeses made right there in front of you. In fact, it’s been made in Barry’s Bay since 1895. From October to May, the factory is in full swing, and if you’re a cheese fanatic, this place has the whole package. You can even buy some to take home or for your roadside picnic.