Planning to visit Canterbury! New Zealand’s largest region by area is bounded in the north by the Conway river and to the west by the Southern Alps. The southern boundary is the Waitaki river. Coastal and mountain experiences combine to make Canterbury a place where there’s something for every traveller.
In Canterbury you’ll find many worlds within one region. Popular tourism destinations in Canterbury include Christchurch City, Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs, Timaru, Lake Tekapo and Mt Hutt.
Let us know the best restaurants in Canterbury
Address: 478 Cranford St, Papanui
Phone: 03-352 7784
Operating hours: Lunch by reservation, dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $38-$41
Opened in November 2012 it’s a multi-headed boutique complex comprising a bar, a cook school, a kitchen shop and the dining room. Chillingworth Road is located into a prosaic mall on Cranford St. To visit the dining room you will have to pass through the bar and down a longish dark passageway to a door which opened to reveal a dark, cave-like room lit by chandeliers.
Chef Darren Wright’s Euro-style food has a strong local focus, seared scallops are served with tomatoes and beans grown nearby, and longline-caught groper comes from Wright’s father’s Akaroa fishing boat. For dessert there’s a rather excellent syrup-drenched orange and cardamom cake with a vanilla bean panna cotta. Their “Your Choice” five-course offer for $70 seems perfect – for that you order three courses of your choice plus receive a “tempter” and a “cleanser”. There is also a “Trust the Chef” eight-course option at $120.
A confidence booster from the “tempter”: a tiny teacup of spiced carrot soup with a dollop of yoghurt. Intricate presentation creates a feeling of an “event” with multiple shaped dishes and thoughtfully arranged food.
Address: 48 Worcester Boulevard, City
Phone: 03-365 0533
Operating Hours: Brunch/lunch & dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $25-$38
Fiddlesticks Restaurant and Bar is located on the corner of Worcester Blvd and Montreal St overlooking deserted boulevard and the closed Christchurch Art Gallery. The restaurant’s interior is lively, with most tables occupied watching rugby on television and enjoying. The site has an interesting history. Once it was the famed Le Bon Bolli, then it became Art Restaurant. Post-quake, it was re-launched as Fiddlesticks, with more of a focus on the bar operation.
The small, eclectic menu is tweaked European with a spot of Asian fusion. The menu offers “tasters”, as well as starters and entrées. It suggests combining two tasters to make an entré. The selection of starters, include delicious-sounding crisp goat cheese ($18.50) and duck liver parfait ($18). In drinks list offers a vast array of wine, bubbles and beer. Desserts were the most assured offerings of the evening.
A salted caramel delice with passion fruit sorbet, passion fruit syrup, cocoa toffee shards and popcorn are fun, playful and delicious. The flavours and textures work well, the tangy passion fruit balancing the richness of the delice. There is an interesting and satisfying Asian-style hotchpotch of black rice pudding, palm sugar ice-cream, deep-fried lychees and sour tamarind puree blobs.
Overall, the food is delicious, the service outstanding and, with elegant décor, Fiddlesticks feels just a little fancy without being pretentious and an inspired choice for a special-occasion dinner, breakfast or brunch.
FreeMans Dinning Room
Address: 47 London St, Lyttelton,
Phone: 03-328 7517
Operating Hours: Breakfast Sat-Sun, lunch Fri-Sun, dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $36, pasta and pizza $20-$25
Freemans is a very cool restaurant and offers simple, good food. It is the finest dining in the city. Inside it is a buzzy, casual and atmospheric spot that immediately lifts the spirits.
Back story is that Freemans owners Nick and Sarah Freeman had a tragic moment in the spotlight just before the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake, which wrecked the building, ending their dreams. Back in Lyttelton, the February 2011 quake collapsed the port township around Freemans, though the perky old wooden building survived to reopen 10 months later.
Menu is quite delicious. Discs of shredded ham hock, topped with melted gruyere is richly flavoured and tender, the lightly tangy Waldorf salad, the prawn starter, tempura-style deep-fried prawns are served with an anaemic, vaguely yellow saffron mayonnaise. The pork-fish theme in the mains and Marlborough king salmon versus braised pork cheek, and are hearty portions. Their tender pork cheeks has a rich glossy jus, mashed potato, red cabbage and a fennel and lemon salad all well-executed and well-balanced dish. Not to miss is the warm spinach salad studded with hazelnuts and bacon and panna cotta is quite stunning.
Gustva’s Wine Bar and Kitchen
Address: 3 Garlands Rd, Woolston, Christchurch
Phone: 03-389 5544
Operating Hours: Dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $29-$44
Gustav’s, a new addition to Woolston’s Tannery complex, has the feel of a stately homestead – the decor is traditionally English, with lots of wood, exposed ceiling beams, dark vintage-style wallpaper and, the pièce de résistance, a lovely cream-coloured Aga oven in the corner. Watching the chefs working over the Aga while you dine is lovely. Sitting over a drink at Gustav’s, you feel like you could be in one of Manet’s French bistro scenes.
The soft lilting tones of the background piano give the perfect finishing touch to the charming aesthetic ambience. Expect impressive attention to detail and friendly service, they have notably large and considered wine list, a fine selection of spirits, Cassell’s beer on tap. It is a classic comfort food in stately style.
Harlequin Public House
Address-32 Salisbury St, City
Phone- 03-377 8669
Operating hours: Lunch & dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $24-$34
Harlequin Public House in an old homestead villa at the corner of Salisbury and Montreal Sts. A beautifully restored old wooden villa is home to Harlequin Public House, the latest venture of well-known Christchurch chef Jonny Schwass.
The tightly packed bistro dining area is full, people are waiting for tables they can’t book and the noise and bustle are a physical embodiment of Schwass’s aim to create a 1920s-style joint. Inside it’s cosy and sophisticated, with wood panelling, high ceilings and low lighting. The food is hearty bistro fare – think grilled ox tongue with carrot, duck crackling and mint verde – and local produce is king, with the menu even featuring an “honours list” name-checking suppliers. Whole sections of the impressive drinks list are devoted to rum and gin, in addition to extensive beer offerings and a good cross-section of international wine labels.
“Puddings” features a very good chocolate tart – a tantalising soft, heady, dark, sweet mixture, complemented by a raspberry sorbet as well as a perfectly paired rum with raisin ice-cream.
Restaurant service is polished and knowledgeable. The wine list offers a good spread of Kiwi and overseas wines by the bottle. It is an exciting place to dine.
Pegasus Bay Winery
Address: 263 Stockgrove Rd, Waipara Valley, RD2, Amberley
Phone: 03-314 6869
Operating Hours: Lunch Thurs-Mon
With manicured lawns and beautiful gardens rolling down to a lake, this is a picturesque setting for lunch, either al fresco or inside the light and airy rustic dining room. In colder weather the open fire is particularly inviting.
The menu has a strong regional focus, with highlights including free-range pork cotoletta with cabbage and apple; and a generous serving of Golden Bay cockles with house-cured pancetta and preserved lemon. A late-summer dish of lightly battered zucchini flowers stuffed with provolone and feta with romesco is a vegetarian triumph of textures and flavours.
The understanding of ingredients is equally evident in an intriguing combination of smoked eel, Taleggio, chives and baby sorrel in a skilled frittata. An extensive selection of the superb Pegasus Bay wines is on offer, many by the glass, some in both current and aged vintages. There’s a strong Mediterranean influence evident in the food. The staff is welcoming with warm atmosphere, backed up by expert, attentive service, tempts for a family or friend outing dinner here.
Address: 50 Park Terrace, Christchurch City
Phone: 03-371 0257
Operating Hours: Dinner Tues-Sat
Price: Mains $44
Pescatore is a restaurant which is a part of the George a luxury boutique hotel. Located in the heart of Christchurch overlooking the picturesque Hagley Park and river Avon you will find peaceful atmosphere and sophisticated dinning.
You pass through the white padded doors into the dazzling Pescatore foyer, on the first floor of The George Hotel. The dining room itself is understated – it is the dining experience that dazzles. The Menu offers innovative, thoughtful and skilled foof, with textural contrasts. From the amuse-bouche of oyster beignet to the final flight of wafers, Beetroot marshmallow teamed with smoked quail is delightfully vibrant, while groper with creamed leek and mussel foam is masterful in its seeming simplicity. The shimmering sugar crust of the bubblegum sphere dessert cracks open to reveal a light mousse of intense bubblegum flavour, punctuated by nuggets of liquorice.
Service is a highlight, from professional wait staff who know the menu well and recognise the importance of making dining out feel special. A vast international wine list supports the bold dishes.
Address: 8 London Street, Lyttelton
Phone: 03-328 7658
Operating Hours: Dinner Tues-Sat
Price: Menus $85-$120
Intimate, highly creative and full of flavour, Roots takes the concept of serving ethical, local, seasonal food to its ultimate expression.
With its own vision and beliefs ethical local suppliers supplement what they gather/grow/raise themselves. Nearly everything’s made on site. Food is cooked fresh and the courses have their own magical twists and turns. Silky pumpkin gnocchi comes with aged goat’s cheese, coriander and an egg yolk sauce from Roots’ own chickens’ eggs.
Spinach puree has shiitake mushrooms and tender octopus piled on top, and is draped with two types of seaweed. A half-runny duck egg in a nest of broccoli florets and fried kale sits on top of cauliflower puree. Tender lamb neck has a supporting cast of onion – roasted baby onions and spring onion, caramelised onion and black “burnt onion” dust.
Root vegetables include tiny diced parsnip, beetroot, yams and celeriac, the tofu dessert and intense dark chocolate fondant made from a running-low stash of chocolate is matched with toasted coconut, an intense coffee ice-cream and kumara puree scented with cinnamon. The flavours and texture range here are immaculate.
Root’s chef Giulio Sturla’s intricate dishes dazzle with their flavours and textures. The small wine list is eclectic and eccentric, chosen for food-matching potential. Roots seats a maximum of 20, But is full of food experience.
Saggio Di Vino
Address: 177-191 Victoria St, Christchurch
Phone: 03-379 4006
Operating Hours: Dinner 7 days
Price: Mains $35-$52
Opened in 1991 Lisa and Yommi Pawelke’s Saggio di Vino’s is a culinary icon in Christchurch. Rebuilt and rejuvenated after the Canterbury quakes, it retains plenty of original character. The decor is dark, warm and club-like; the atmosphere calm and well suited to its mature clientele. The extensive wine list is of exceptional quality, if somewhat pricey. Food is traditionally European but makes excellent use of local produce. Beef carpaccio with lemon oil, diced onion and anchovies is a standout, while the loin of Lovat venison with rosemary gnocchi and red wine jus is very good indeed. The cooking is solid if somewhat staid, but the cheese trolley with properly matured cheeses is a hit. Their service is excellent.
The Bodhi tree
Address: 397-399 Ilam Rd, Bryndwr
Phone: 03-377 6808
Operating Hours: Dinner Tues-Sat from 6pm
Price: All dishes entree-sized $12-$17
The Bodhi Tree has reopened in humble new premises in the suburbs after losing its original home in last year’s February earthquake. The restaurant is sparse and functional, clearly relying on food rather than decor to create a Burmese atmosphere.
Eating Burmese-style is to share flavoursome dishes that enhance steamed rice, which is typically the main component of a meal. The ingredients are by and large easily recognisable, but the treatment and philosophy is excitingly different. It’s the place to take jaded palates and there must be plenty of those because The Bodhi Tree has been part of the Christchurch dining scene for 10 years and remains frantically busy.
All main dishes are entree size (and priced as such. The tea leaf salad is so famous in Christchurch and the mound of nuts, seeds and lentils is flavoured with pickled tea leaves. The overall effect is of amazing texture contrasts and an exotic salty-sour earthiness. The deep-fried split pea tofu came with a garlic and tomato sauce with a serious kick.
Some exotic Burmese dishes included spicy sauteed blue peas and shallots; shredded green papaya salad; a fillet of fish in a tomato, chilli and coriander gravy; shredded chicken salad; marinated lamb chunks on a skewer with a chilli mint sauce; and grilled eggplant. Impressively, each dish had a unique sauce treatment, providing individual hits of flavour on the rice. The dishes are not just sweet and/or sour or spicy or curried. The herbs and spices are used in a much more subtle way which is clearly the haute cuisine of Asian cooking. Some dishes taste more familiar, others totally exotic, especially when ingredients such as lemongrass are used. The few service staff it is uneven but gives each one a friendly treatment.
Share your experience with us and let us know any other restaurants that you feel best in Canterbury!