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Top restaurants and bars in Christchurch

This New Zealand city has rebuilt itself with community at its foundation – evident in its welcoming restaurants, wine bars and destination wineries. It’s an exciting time to visit, says Jo Bates

Momentum is gathering in Christchurch that will shake off any unwanted monikers associated with the earthquakes that have reshaped New Zealand’s southern city.

Nearly 10 years into its recovery, a new city and skyline are forming. The city changes daily as buildings are completed and heritage treasures restored. Neo-Gothic civic buildings and modernist gems were felled in 2011, but enough remain that the landscape is still aesthetically rich.

There’s much to do in the city itself, the ocean is a 20-minute drive east, and the North Canterbury wine region is less than an hour’s drive north.

Inati

Simon and Lisa Levy have created an absorbing dining experience at this restaurant they established in 2017. The couple met in London, Simon’s hometown (Lisa is from Hawke’s Bay, NZ), but they’ve become locals through their sophisticated eatery that buzzes like a London hotspot. A former head chef for Gordon Ramsay, Simon says that – aside from serving quality food and wine – their ethos is about breaking down barriers and building relationships (easily done at the bar-cum-chef’s table). The boeuf-nuts is a signature dish and the Our Collection wine list stocks some serious New Zealand vintages.

  • Address: 48 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central
  • Hours: Tuesday-Friday lunch 12pm-2pm, dinner 5pm-late, Saturday 5.30pm-late

Gatherings

Chef Alex Davies describes his innovative, immaculately executed, plant-based dishes as ‘an expression of myself, my values and who I am – I think it’s important to respect the environment we live in and honour the people who are doing things properly and looking after the earth’. The care is all there on the plate, and his intimate restaurant serves wines from Bell Hill, Greystone, Mountford and Rippon Valley, with more from Alfred, the wine bar next door.

  • Address: Carlton Courts, Unit 5/ 2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch 8014
  • Open: Wednesday-Saturday 6pm-11pm. Lunch available on Saturdays reservation only.

Alfred

Co-owned by Gatherings’ Davies and Omer Shadich, this unpretentious local bar serves natural wines. Shadich is the man behind the bar, and he likes to keep hard-to-source New Zealand and international wines at an approachable price, but there’s a top shelf for those with the budget. From Waipara to Georgia, he’ll lead you through his thoughtful selection.

  • Address: Unit 6/2 Papanui Road, 8013 Christchurch
  • Open: Tuesday-Sunday 3pm-11.30pm, Monday closed

Vesuvio

The brick-paved courtyard of this little Papanui Road local has seen numerous long nights thanks to its great live music and formidable wine list, with European greats alongside North Canterbury wines. The cocktails are classic, the food is delicious, and the calendar of happenings includes poetry, live music, vinyl nights and kitchen takeovers. Owner Matt Lingens is a stalwart of the Christchurch food scene and his staff know their wine.

  • Address: 4 Papanui Road, Christchurch 8014
  • Open: Everyday 3pm-1am

Gin Gin

Gin Gin exemplifies the pop-up nature of bars and eateries that evolved after the 2011 quakes. With buildings razed and nowhere to go, people felt a desperate need to connect and socialise, and places appeared in a makeshift, haphazard kind of way. This hole-in-the-wall bar further extends the theme with a rotating line-up of food trucks that pull up outside to serve delicious morsels. It boasts more than 80 gins (including local and New Zealand-made), and the wines focus solely on the South Island.

  • Address: 92 Victoria Street, City Centre, Christchurch 8013
  • Open: Tuesday-Wednesday 4pm-12am, Thursday 4pm-1am, Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 4pm-3am, Sunday 12pm-8pm, Monday closed

Riverside

Aptly named (the lovely Avon river runs close by), this seven-day farmers’ market gives the city a pumping new heart. Riverside brings together the region’s best food producers and purveyors in their first permanent home – no more shipping containers and Portakabins – a beautifully crafted building. As well as local-produce vendors, there are eateries with Greek, Vietnamese, Korean, Argentinian, Mediterranean and European cuisines filling the hall.

  • Address: Corner Lichfield St & Oxford Terrace, Christchurch
  • Open: Monday-Thursday 9am-6pm, Friday & Saturday 9am-9pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. Eateries, bars & restaurants open until late

Vino Fino

Weekly guided tastings with winemakers and Masters of Wine for a mere NZ$20 (about £10) are among the many good things here. Knowledgeable staff and a good catalogue of local, New Zealand and international wines complete the offering. They can also arrange overseas deliveries, should you find yourself fixated with a dazzling North Canterbury Riesling or two.

  • Address: 188 Durham St South, Christchurch
  • Open: Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm

BearLion Foods

Chef Alesha Bilbrough-Collins prepares quality deli fare with passion and flair. You’ll pick up on Ottolenghi influences (she worked at the Israeli-English chef’s restaurant in London before returning to Christchurch to set up BearLion). Bilbrough-Collins uses local, organic produce to prepare small-batch fare – stop in for picnic provisions and head to the coast.

  • Address: 78 Brighton Mall, New Brighton, 8061 Christchurch
  • Open: Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 8.30am-2.30pm, Thursday 8.30am-8.30pm, Monday, Tuesday & Sunday closed

Earl

This inner-city bistro has an inviting at-home feel. Only it’s so much better than home – the welcome is always warm, the chefs in the open kitchen are obligingly chatty and the washing up is taken care of. Earl serves modern Mediterranean cuisine at lunch and dinner and has a tightly edited wine list. There’s also the very tempting aperitivo offering from 3pm-5pm.

  • Address: 128 Lichfield Street, Christchurch Central
  • Open: Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-late, Sunday & Monday closed

Pinot Cave & Grater Goods

When musician Flip Grater returned from Paris to Christchurch with her French husband Youssef Iskrane, they felt bereft of the wine bars they’d left behind. So they established their own, Pinot Cave, in an old warehouse, where they host events with European flair: a mushroom festival, a tasting of Pinot Nouveau fresh from the barrel. They serve predominantly, though not exclusively, natural and vegan wines sourced from New Zealand and abroad. They also serve vegan food – their KFT, Kentucky Fried Tofu, has become a hit.

  • Address: 105 Orbell St, Sydenham, Christchurch
  • Open: Wednesday 10am-3pm, Thursday-Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm, Monday & Tuesday closed

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