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Review: King of Snake

Eschewing street frontage and the obligatory rubbernecking gawkers it attracts, Stealth Hospitality’s flagship (and the literal King of its popular empire) King of Snake epitomises off-the-grid nonchalance, with its no-fuss entrance via an unassuming alleyway. Equal measures chic sophistication and rock star swag (note the now iconic skull wallpaper in the bar!), this post-quake bar raiser has become the measuring stick of cool. It’s a flawless union: a slick fit-out, top-of-the-game Asian fusion fare, and that elusive hybrid of über professional, efficient and disarming Kiwi charm/service usually reserved for the country’s luxury lodgings.

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With primo cocktails a given, King of Snake’s legendary namesake elixir is top-shelf lightning-in-a-tumbler magic, and not to be missed. Bitingly potent, it’s a harmoniously-blended firecracker of fresh ginger, chilli-infused Belvedere Vodka and citrus liqueur. It’s the perfect primer for, and distillation of, executive chef Stuart Langsford’s celebrated Asianic menu without borders. The diligent front of house team give us the King of Snake rundown: lots of exotic flavours, designed to share, and plenty of fun – all the ingredients for an unforgettable night out.

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We start with the deservedly-famous spinach leaf, a tightly-coiled flavour bomb of roasted coconut, peanuts, garlic, chilli and lime. The first bite lights up my tastebuds like a pinball machine, ricocheting around my palate and firing up the sweet, sour and salty zones to converge in a star-seeing king hit. Crunchy, fresh, feisty and obscenely moreish, it effortlessly seduces. For entrees we double tap crispy offerings squid with garlic and peppercorns (tender, crisp and, when dipped in the chilli sauce, eye-wideningly delicious) and pork belly, plum sauce and Sichuan pickled cucumber (beautifully rendered, crackled to perfection and humming with the piquant cumbers).Already impressed, we’re blown out of the water when the mains arrive. The painstakingly prepared crispy pressed half duck with caramelised mandarin sauce is an immediate favourite – delicate, moist and decadent, with the edgy-sweetness of the mandarin and restrained seasoning allowing its crispy hero to soar. The Penang curry meanwhile marries melt-in-the-mouth tender beef cheeks with a velvety, punchy curry, which also rocks soft-boiled eggs with melting yolks and a crunchy scattering of fish crackling for a next-level textural surprise. Surprising also is the liberal use of fresh coriander (which, for some reason, is sorely lacking from so many Christchurch ingredients lists) in the stir-fried exotic and common greens.

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Our dessert order of lime pudding from the menu’s cheeky and apt ‘Happy Ending’ section sees a rich, silky custard tingling with lime and citrus segments gently soothed by the addition of fresh coconut milk and hit home with a sensational yam biscuit crumb. The near professionally-cleaned bowl that makes its way back to the kitchen says it all – long live the King!

145 Victoria Street
03 365 7363
kingofsnake.co.nz

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