A hearty spread at Earl, in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied

The Christchurch hospitality scene is "regrouping in spectacular style"

Jo Bates eats her way around Christchurch and finds a dining scene revitalising itself.

There’s so much going on in the Christchurch hospitality scene that it’s hard to keep up with new openings and offerings. It has been a long road to recovery for the southern city, but Christchurch has regrouped in spectacular style, and there’s a celebratory feel in the air. New bars, cafes, restaurants, well-being hubs and markets are opening their doors, and there’s never been such variety. The city is spoiled for choice — they deserve it — and ready to show off the best of the region’s produce and southern hospitality.

Earl

Near the corner of Lichfield and High Sts, Tom Newfield has conjured a local bistro with a Melbourne feel — a smart move for this growing, inner-city neighbourhood. Earl is the kind of place the hospo pro would frequent, which is handy, as he lives close by. There’s an ease to the inviting bistro, where guests are welcomed into an open-plan dining area. Adding to the casual, at-home feel is the kitchen — there’s no head chef or hierarchy, but a co-operative approach that appears seamless. With the kitchen open to the dining room, diners chat with the chefs as they prepare modern Mediterranean dishes — such as courgette, feta & herb doughnuts — that are garnering Earl a fast following. Word is also spreading about Earl’s Aperitivo, which runs from 3-5pm, with a smart and select few dishes including market fish crudo, classic meatballs, and confit leek bruschetta with chèvre and walnuts. The bistro is named for the Earl of Lichfield, but there’s nothing entitled about this place — it’s simply a great local that’s roomy enough so you don’t feel as if you are dining with your neighbours.

Earl
128 Lichfield Street
Christchurch Central City

Lux Espresso

Lux Espresso is so well loved and known that it needs little self-promotion — it doesn’t even have a website. But for the uninitiated, there is an Instagram account that will lead you to the path of temptation. The cafe is housed in one of the city’s best-known Brutalist buildings — also home to the Centre of Contemporary Art — which makes it hard to miss. Floor-to-ceiling glass faces the street, and light pours into the space that features a curved counter lined with Japanese tiles. It’s the goodies on top of this counter that keep regulars calling ahead to secure their favourites and returning for more. The gluten-free cheese and herb scones sell out fast, as do the glazed ham and cheese schiacciate, and locals phone ahead to secure their lunchtime ‘Nourish’ box, which contains layers of roast and fresh vegetables, grains, and additions such as homemade hummus and avocado. The fresh, contemporary food might be artfully crafted but it’s not fussy — just seriously good quality. Lux also has its own exhibitions, so in tandem with Coca, you can really double down on art, as well as food. Charge yourself with an Allpress coffee before contemplating contemporary art at the gallery.

Lux Espresso
66 Gloucester Street
Christchurch Central City

Riverside Market

Every city should have one — and now Christchurch does: a central farmers’ market that’s open seven days a week, bringing together purveyors of the finest local fare and produce. The recently opened Riverside Market is home to 40 fresh-produce stores, including organic greens, artisan cheese, patisserie, fresh and cured meat, fishmongers and a deli. The market celebrates what’s local and sustainable and has a long-term plan to be zero waste. Pick up fresh produce for a picnic or stay awhile and dine from a veritable United Nations of cuisines — from Greek to Argentinian and French to Vietnamese, there are approximately 30 eateries to choose from. The fresh-food market is located at street level, while an upstairs gallery houses eateries and a cooking school, with outdoor bar and dining areas to open in the near future.

Riverside Market
96 Oxford Terrace
Christchurch Central City

READ MORE: Where to eat when visiting Dunedin

This piece originally appeared in the November-December 2019 issue of Metro magazine, with the headline 'Off the beaten track'.

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