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Café Society

Finding good food and coffee in the city

If ever there was a city on the move, it’s Christchurch. Constant upgrades as we continue to rebuild have resulted in blink and you’ll miss it cafés opening up in and around the CBD, in laneways and in new fitouts on the daily – you almost need a new map for each visit. From the latest hot spots bringing some serious international cool like newbies Uncommon (pictured above), Unknown Chapter, Bunsen and Park Ranger, through to the city’s leading institutions like Procopé Coffee House, Under the Red Verandah and C1 Espresso, places worthy of a road trip and GPS workout, cafés taking charge and roasting their own beans like Underground Coffee Roasters (pictured below), and to the hippest dens, Cityscape delves the city’s constantly evolving and ever creative café scene, where quirk joins homemade wholesome goodness and the cutting edge of café cool.

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Café Compass

No matter where you find yourself around Christchurch, an excellent cuppa and some tasty eats are never far away. Read on to spin our café compass and find the city’s best spots. CITY CENTRE The rejuvenating city centre is pretty much bursting with awesome cafés and crazy good coffee fixin’s, with a whole range of different vibes that range from the busy work-day buzz of Blax Espresso Bar to the relaxed and stylish Boulevard Café & Bar, the sun-drenched swank of Table At Monks (conveniently located near the Margaret Mahy Family Playground), where the lemon multi-seed waffles with roasted apple are things of delicious beauty, and the minimalist chic of Kadett in St Asaph Street (tap the affogato with Kahlua ice cream for an epic pick me up). On Durham Street the industrial cool of Underground Coffee Roasters is home to Christchurch’s only fluidised air roaster and some of the city’s finest pain aux raisins, while super cute MADE Espresso Bar on Cashel Street turns out honest, wholesome and simple fare (FYI their Florentines are the bomb!).

Housed within the stunning Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA), Lux Espresso’s local and organic delights (including their legendary sea salt and olive oil chocolate brownies!) join ethical and consciously sustainable products, while tucked away in the BNZ Centre is funky-as-all-get-out boutique coffee bar Little Brews Espresso. Try the industrial sophistication/Tex appeal of Three Cows in Victoria Street, and suss out neighbours The Grand Café at Christchurch Casino, who turn out some primo high teas, and micro roaster Black & White Coffee Cartel, which teams a slick fitout with sweet and savoury offerings. Seriously good java (courtesy of Lyttelton Coffee Co.) also resides at the two-storied slick of New Regent Street fave The Caffeine Laboratory (Their super-creative delish daily doughnuts are almost too pretty to eat – almost). Pick up a bangin’ cup of joe from Muffin Break on the commute when you touch down at the Bus Interchange (and 10 other locations around the city) and tap the latest creation from their Muffin Lab.

Along Tuam Street you’ll find self-roasters Magnitude Café & Roastery, where their jump-starting house blends (including the bodacious Blue Mountain) are served alongside Oreo shakes and housemade baked goods. Healthy eating reigns supreme at The Herb Centre (pictured below) on Kilmore Street – this wholefoods leader teams seasonal vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free eats with health-promoting drinks like ginger tonic and herbal tea blends (including turmeric latte) – it’s all served in a charming hardfloor cottage or leafy garden setting. And if a more traditional coffee is in order, Switch coffee is still in the house!

the herb centre

Down the road you’ll find Little Poms (next door to sibling institution Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, pictured below) – their tasty and nutritious fare features house-made nut butters and almond milk and go-to brunch offerings served alongside craft beers, wine and local C4 coffee. Locally roasted coffee is also a calling card at Tap N’ Grind on Manchester Street, with Vivace Espresso served up alongside gourmet delicacies like coconut-crusted French toast with caramelised cinnamon pineapple (yusss!).

Check out the re-burgeoning Arts Centre as it bounces back post-quake with a trip to Bunsen, who have resurrected former venue Le Café’s world-famous-in-Christchurch chicken nachos.
In Cathedral Square discover the sandstone charms of O.G.B Bar & Café – grab a takeaway coffee from the handy Square-side coffee window or kick back in the prohibition cool at this swanky affair and order in a New York-style bagel, and make plans to come back later that night when it turns to a buzzing bar. Avon River views and Atomic coffee is where it’s at for stylin’ Therapy on Hereford Street, where you’ll find such culinary delights as croque monsieur, rice noodle salad, some next level slices (you’ll want to acquaint yourself with their lolly cake – just sayin’) and real fruit smoothies. Head to the multi-coloured brick-walled cool of happening Coco Espresso on Barbadoes Street and enjoy an epic coffee and something from the bodacious cabinet selection of sweet and savoury treats (we’re looking at you, super tasty behemoth pork and apple sausage roll). Along Tuam Street tap the charms of Trenches Restaurant, Bar & Events where, on the ground floor of the RSA, you’ll find a tasty range of counter-style food and breakfast, lunch and dinner menus filled with classics. Also worth ferreting out in the city are Luciano Espresso Bar, 245 Espresso, Honest Café and Laneway Espresso.

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NORTH Head north to find Merivale’s Café Metro along Papanui Road; it’s an art-inspired café serving seriously good Blackbird coffee alongside an extensive selection of teas (13 types!) and some of the city’s finest pies. In Burnside, sustainable style joins one of the country’s leading sustainable cafés at Untouched World’s Native Garden Café. The menu is a celebration of all that’s fresh, seasonal and organic, balancing sensational cooked-to-order breakfast, brunch and lunch items alongside decadent cabinet fare. Other Burnside favourites include Sevantis Restaurant & Café, who are renowned for their fancy high-teas and some of the city’s finest eggs benny, and the high-ceilinged industrial cool of Gusto Restaurant & Bar, where wicked cabinet fare meets an Italian-inspired menu, bodacious weekend brunches and a justifiably famous happy hour.

In Strowan (Normans Road) you’ll find Rocksalt, a chill-vibed café/bar hybrid and home of a legendary (and some swear hangover-curing) big breakfast and Allpress Espresso. Joe’s Garage serves up hearty fare and coffee in Redwood (there are outlets in Riccarton, Sumner and Wigram too), including their legendary and curiously named ‘teddy best’ which sees prime free-range chicken breast, caramelised onions, tomato and rocket with seeded mustard aioli served up on golden ciabatta.

For something a little more exotic, the chef’s signature dishes at Garden Hotel’s Garden Bar Café (GBC to its friends) in Shirley include the unforgettable braised pork belly served with homemade steamed ‘lotus leaf’ buns, and they add live music to the mix in the evenings. Good karma comes with your coffee at St Albans’ Ris’tretto where the suspended coffee movement joins tasty café eats and designer cakes, while nearby The Origin turns out specialty teas and coffees alongside pure vegetarian cuisine. Try Papanui’s Rose Café on Papanui Road, where freshly made cakes and savouries are served alongside savoury dishes and a selection of antiques for sale, and Bishopdale’s Café Raeward (pictured below) on Harewood Road where locals flock to enjoy freshly-made cabinet fare and an epic menu – get here early to avoid missing out.

raeward cafe

WEST Addington has become somewhat of a café hot spot. On Wrights Road Milieu Café’s lunch menu satisfies with hearty classics including lambs fry and bacon and the creamy, chunky goodness of their signature seafood chowder, served alongside locally-roasted Hummingbird Coffee. For fresh, fast and healthy fare, Lot 55’s new menu is worth seeking out at Horncastle Arena. Don’t miss popping into Bernard Street’s Little Merchants either for seriously good self-roasted coffee, including newbie Rwanda-sourced Rugali, and some guilt-free sweet treats!

In Riccarton, Café Sismo on Riccarton Road is a relaxed hangout offering a range of delicious home-baked goodies, including their signature Brioche French toast – and if you’re not feeling like a coffee, their chilli hot chocolate has a cult following. Tackle Ground Floor Café’s steak manwich or their tangy Moroccan eggs on Riccarton Road, and head out to Russley to Passenger & Co for primo chilli scrambled eggs.

For a bit of history, head to the gorgeous gardens of Fendalton’s historic Mona Vale Homestead & Pantry (pictured below), who serve quite possibly the city’s finest high teas, which have to be seen (and tasted) to be believed. Indulge in the fine selection of Dilmah’s exclusive tea range or celebrate with a flute of French bubbles – Veuve Clicquot anyone? Continue further west to discover the aeronautical chic and cosy surrounds of a former Air Force officers’ bar at the swanky Harvard Bar & Café on Henry Wigram Drive, near the Air Force Museum of New Zealand – it should be your first stop before or after a visit to the heritage attraction.

Mona Vale homepage

SOUTH Take a trip to the foothills of Cashmere for the goodies on offer at taste @ twenty, where locally-roasted Hummingbird Coffee is served alongside some of the city’s finest baked delights. In Sydenham’s boutique shopping centre The Colombo you’ll find the fluidised hot air roasted charms of Underground Coffee, where single-origin-brew-infused cheesecakes meet fine savoury fare alongside their famed coffees. For a quickie on the go, they also have an outlet in the centre’s food court pumping out their primo brews, including their legendary fair trade and organic offering Beatnik for serious coffee drinkers.

Head out to Halswell to the industrial slickness of renovated 1880s homestead White House Black (pictured below) to discover an eclectic menu including quinoa porridge with coconut cream, fresh berries, honey and candied pecans. Tucked away in the industrial area of Hillsborough, you’ll find the off-the-grid cool of Castle Rock Café on Mary Muller Drive. Definitely worth seeking out, this banging cafe turns out the likes of pumpkin, cashew, goat’s cheese and rocket tarts and a weekly-changing burger, while up the hill at Cashmere’s Emperor’s New Clothes on Dyers Pass Road, locally-roasted Supreme coffee is combined with killer views, rightfully famous date orange scones and café classics done right.

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EAST Looking for a seaside escape? The Cornershop Bistro on Sumner’s Nayland street brings a touch of Euro-chic, with chef Rod Cross’ eggs benny and brioche French toast being the stuff of legend. Salt on the Pier’s beach and pier-front offering teams stunning views of the South Pacific with a killer menu. In Ferrymead hook yourself up with a caffeine fix and dose of ‘good honest food’ at the off-the-grid charms of Dispense Espresso (pictured below), where you can also pick up housemade preserves ranging from jams through to chutneys and more. Modern eatery Ten 27 in Ferrymead serves up some outstanding coffee and seriously sophisticated plates from its contemporary menu, as well as the unmissable John’s mum’s fudge (or simply JMF to those in the know). Also on Ferry Road, this time in Waltham, you’ll find Gentle Giant’s diverse offering.

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Institutions

Christchurch’s institution cafes are popular for a reason; think great food, possibly even better coffee, and some seriously sweet surroundings.

The legendary C1 Espresso works out of the old High Street Post Office and will fire your sliders at you via pneumatic tube, Futurama-style! On Madras Street the coffee alchemists at Black Betty rock house-brewed Switch Espresso in slick surrounds. Inner city triple threat Supreme Supreme is a chill, multitasking café that tags in a coffee training school and wholesale venue, serving up their own coffee and an outstanding range of pastries.

Head to The Villas on Montreal Street – this local icon’s spectacular renovations absorbed the house next door! Relaxed bistro dining with a touch of class is the order of the day at Brigittes in the heart of Merivale, where the mushroom crepes take some beating. Watch the magic happen at the open plan bakery goodness of Vic’s Café on Victoria Street. Also on Victoria Street (and Fendalton Road), Procopé Coffee House sees Hummingbird Coffee join free range eggs and free-farmed bacon on the menu, all served up in their swanky digs. And take in the views and cabinet food to die for at The Cup on Hackthorne Road in Cashmere.

Addington’s Oddfellows on Disraeli Street is next door to its sibling roastery operation Hummingbird Coffee. In Burnside, the café arm of Terra Viva’s garden centre has been wowing taste buds since 1997. East of the central city in Linwood, iconic Tancred Street cottage Under the Red Verandah (or UTRV to the locals, pictured below) charms with its sunny courtyard and wows with an exciting menu (go for the brunch scramble; you won’t be sorry) and exceptional coffee. Take a quick trip through the tunnel to discover the industrial, casual cool of self-roasters Lyttelton Coffee Co., while the recently re-opened Sign of the Kiwi on Summit Road have made a welcome return to the café scene.

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Dens of Cool

Like a bit of atmosphere, style and street along with your caffeine fix? There’s plenty on offer for those looking for a side serving of quirk, funk and/or chic.

Hello Sunday’s former church on Elgin Street in Sydenham houses a multi-award-winning brunch and daytime dining hotspot turning out inspired eats – including kung pao pretzel rolls – and seasonal treats. Uncommon on Tuam Street has swag for days, and serves up some seriously tasty café eats, including the jaw-slackening breakfast board, which features their well-famous eggs slow-poached at 63-degrees for 45 minutes (and quite possibly the city’s best hot chocolate!). Effortless cool also prevails at Unknown Chapter, who roast their own specialty beans and belt out an intoxicating blue cheese polenta.

Head to Waltham to discover the under-the-radar charms of The Exchange's (pictured below) open kitchen at XCHC on Wilsons Road. Forget about menus though, as they stock their impressive cabinet fare (think free-range, vegan, organic et al) with fresh food made daily and all sourced from local suppliers. For an industrial edge you can’t beat the speakeasy swank of prohibition cool Mama Hooch on Colombo Street.

Sophistication and share plates abound at Addington’s Town Tonic (pictured below) on Bernard Street – this sleek eatery serves up the freshest local fare by way of genius chef/owner Jamie Bennett alongside organic coffee, craft beers and fine wines. Neighbouring Addington Coffee Co-Op’s wares come with a side serving of good karma; roasters of Jail Breaker coffee out of a former mechanic’s workshop, the café is a local fave and their banana bread is the stuff of legend. On Riccarton, Road Park Ranger’s rustic aesthetic and artisan focus is quickly becoming a go-to-fave (along with their ham & 3 cheese toastie and sea salt + coconut sugar hot chocolate, which are winning over even the most discerning of taste buds!).

In the central city, Dose Café’s alt-cool urban adds a Japanese edge to the menu, which stars the likes of karaage fried chicken and ricotta pancakes washed down with Lyttelton Coffee Co’s finest. Channelling seriously quirky cool, the team at Spooky Boogie in Lyttelton combine primo coffee (from neighbouring roasters Lyttelton Coffee Co.), cakes, and cookies with local art, collectibles and some serious vinyl.

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Worth The Trip

Sometimes you need a change of scenery and a road trip is called for – and the lunch at the end of a nice little journey (whether by bicycle, car or motorbike) only tastes even better. Take in the 1890s charm of Lincoln’s The Tea House, where they take tea very seriously with their own tea bar. Also in Lincoln, on Robert Street, The Lincoln Pantry combines gourmet goodies with organic Atomic coffee in upcycled rustic surrounds – organic wholefoods cosy up against nutritious cabinet fare, and nifty picnic baskets can be packed with yummy delights carefully chosen to reflect your budget and dietary requirements. Five more minutes’ drive will take you to The Store @ Tai Tapu’s foodie showcase of local producers and artisans – including the super healthy breakfast trifle and their show-stopping cheese rolls – alongside Underground Coffee. There’s also a nice sideline in giftware at Gifts @ The Store – a funky store within The Store.

Just 20 minutes north of Christchurch in Pegasus Town you’ll find the chic sophistication of Flat White Café Bar (pictured below), where fresh daily salads are joined by the tasty likes of French toast with bacon, banana and candied orange, and bacon, egg and rocket bagels with a tangy capsicum and apricot chutney – their Friday night dining is also achieving cult status around these parts. Cruise around to Governors Bay where local chocolatiers She Universe’s café works the trifecta of stunning views over the Harbour, tasty eats and epic coffee and, quite rightly, real Belgian ice and hot chocolate. Continue over to Diamond Harbour and kick back in the sunshine with the seriously good sharing plates and meals at Preserved Eatery and Cook School which feature housemade bacon, sausages and other porcine delights, along with locally caught seafood.

Take the turn-off and keep going to the bustling Little River Café and Store, which is renowned for spectacular food, organic coffee and a sun-drenched courtyard. Head north of the city to discover Rangiora’s Kingsford Kitchen, which showcases the Continental Catering empire’s boundless skills with food – think fresh, contemporary, creative and flavoursome, then take it up a few notches and you get the idea. FYI – their pies are magic.

Further afield, Pukeko Junction Café & Deli in Leithfield is a popular travellers’ stop for gourmet food that’s all made in-house, including the just-try-to-stop-at-one salted ginger finger, while further north Amberley’s Nor’Wester Café has a well-deserved reputation as one of the region’s best; relax in the dappled sunlight under the enormous palm tree in the courtyard with the plaudit-winning pulled pork sandwich and beverage of your choice. Stay on the road north to enjoy a languorous lunch amid the vines at Waipara Hills and Pegasus Bay Winery for some wine-matched goodness.

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Something More

Sometimes cafés are part of a bigger offering. Such is the case for Café Raeward on Harewood Road, where an epic café offering utilises Raeward Fresh food market’s fresh seasonal produce. Riffing on corner stores of old, taste @ twenty on Colombo Street in Cashmere combines fresh market and local produce with gourmet goodies, preserves and more alongside banging home baking (you’ll want to road test the tan square, trust us), cabinet fare and an exceptional catering offering. At Decant Vintners & Epicures on Mandeville Street, tasty offerings include beetroot, feta and caramelised walnut salad – pick up some European wines and spirits to go. Discover more gourmet goodies at Quay Café, The Lincoln Pantry (pictured below), The Store @ Tai Tapu, and Mediterranean Food Company, or pick up some kitchen skills at Preserved Eatery and Cook School, get your car washed while you enjoy a cuppa at Carwash Café, or enjoy tea and cupcakes (and some to take home, of course) at The Cupcake Collection on Colombo Street in Beckenham.

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Soul Food

Your daily café fix needn’t mean ditching your health kick – you can treat yourself without the guilt. Pure Café eschews sugar, salt, additives and other nasties, The Herb Centre offers the tastiest, nutrient dense vegetarian food going, and BearLion Foods focuses on ‘real food’. Lot 55 (pictured below) at Horncastle Arena are all about fast, fresh and healthy eats, while The Origin rocks pure vegetarian fare. Out in Lincoln The Lincoln Pantry Teams artisan provisions with organic and wholefoods.

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Café Sensibilities

Not quite cafés, these places rock awesome daytime menus and killer coffee all the same: Baretta Bar & Restaurant, Clink Restaurant & Bar, The Cornershop Bistro, Rogues of Rotherhams, Fiddlesticks Restaurant & Bar, JDV, The Monday Room, No.4 Bar & Restaurant, Rocksalt, Strawberry Fare, Town Tonic, The Pedal Pusher, Belgian Beer Café Torenhof, Trevinos Restaurant & Bar and Valley Inn Tavern.

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