If you don't live in Christchurch, it's hard to imagine just how great the hospitality scene looks is in the post-earthquake city.
As out-of-towners, we all visualise different scenarios; but on a recent visit I was thrilled to find so many interesting, modern, vibrant eateries, all bustling midweek.
Little High Eatery
Little High is a huge modern marketplace filled with indoor and outdoor shared seating and fun decor, where you can eat from one of eight different local family-run businesses. It's comparable in vibe and style to Auckland's Ponsonby Central, but the difference is here you can eat anything, anywhere - like a food court, but a million times cooler. Better still, drink options include fabulous cocktails and a broad selection of wine and craft beer. There is something for everyone, from hipsters to toddlers, with bao, Venezuelan BBQ, sushi, pasteles, dumplings, donburi, Caribbean food, arepas, Thai noodles, Sichuan cuisine and Bacon Bros famous burgers.
Inati - To Share
Inati is a special dining experience, for many reasons. Firstly, because Christchurch was so ready for something of this quality, and secondly, because Simon Levy and his wife Lisa took a punt on a city that's still rebuilding to make their culinary dream a reality. Simon was head chef at Gordon Ramsay's The Warrington and has worked at top London institutions including Claridges and The Ivy. I advise sitting up at the counter and 'trusting the chef' (although you can order a la carte too). The duck parfait in a cone; salt roasted baby beets, hazelnuts and goats cheese meringue; and bresaola, pickled cherries and pumpkin seed crumble were sublime when I went, but the seasonal menu changes regularly.
If you're a fan of modern Asian food in a funky environment, head directly to one of Potsticker's two locations. The team there are obsessed with dumplings and make their pillowy packages of goodness using free range meat and without MSG. Dough is made fresh every morning and dumplings have cute, quirky names like Little Pig'n'Chive and Cluckin' Good Coriander. They also do excellent bao and salads, if dumplings aren't your thing - but you're kind of in the wrong place if that's the case.
There are so many reasons to love C1 Espresso, especially if you have offspring. After their original premises were destroyed in the quake, they reopened in the old High Street Post Office and have cleverly retained the pneumatic post pipes and repurposed them to fire food orders out instead of mail. As a kid, there's not really anything better than having your sliders or curly fries (contained in a metal cylinder) shot round transparent tubes in the ceiling from the kitchen before ending up near your table for you to collect. And as the name would suggest, the team are passionate about coffee too, with some excellent (sustainable) regular and cold drip options.
With made-from-scratch flavours like Pop's Lemon Pie (fresh lemon gelato with lemon curd and butter crumbs), Peanut Butter & Jelly and Black Forest (decadent dark chocolate gelato, kirsch-soaked cherries and vanilla sponge) a stop at Rollicking Gelato should be a mandatory part of the Christchurch experience. Their statue of a gorilla on a park bench has very quickly become the site of countless selfies. But what makes Rollicking even more extraordinary is the owner Jed Joyce started it as a cart, when he was just 15 - only a few years ago. His energy, youth and love of good food are evident in the menu with all gelato additions (sauces, curds, jam, cake chunks etc) made in house.
Alexia Santamaria is a freelance food and travel writer.
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