Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eating in... Christchurch

I was so impressed with my visit to Christchurch. Besides the lovely gap-filler projects, that certainly communicate a sense of sensitive robustness, there were more than a handful of eateries I wanted to visit. One that I sadly missed was the Harlequin Public House by famous local chef Johnny Schwass, but I at least got to a few others. This included legendary Dimitri's Souvlaki, acclaimed Burmese restaurant The Bodhi Tree, the new-ish Cassel & Son's Brewery and Brew Bar and well-established local favourite Burgers & Beers.

Dimitri's Greek Food, Re:START mall

Dimitri's is set up in a food truck in Cashel Street's extremely well done Re:START mall.  A conglomerate of brightly-painted upcycled shipping containers, they are occupied with various retailers while a central sound stage provides live music. I was content soaking in the atmosphere as I waited, not long, for my lamb souvlaki and again as I tried to devour it as gracefully as possible. If you know what a turkish kebab is like, these are definitely messier (a fork is required) however ten times tastier. The generous pieces of lamb are so juicy and tender, and spiced just so that the accompanying tzatziki continuously provides a balance, and the fresh tomato and lettuce a lightness.

Regular lamb souvlaki goodness 

The Bodhi Tree (399 Ilam Road, Bryndwr), on the other hand, is best enjoyed in company. The renowned 'only Burmese restaurant in the country' serves up small dishes to share, which is lucky for me because they was so much on the menu I wanted to try. Without sounding pretentious, the famous tea leaf salad was a revelation. Beautiful light textures, with crunch, yet a rich flavour which reminded us of pesto (a good thing in my mind).  It was unlike anything I've eaten before. The shredded chicken salad (with salad greens, and a lemon, shallot, shallot oil, chilli and coriander dressing) and grilled eggplant (dressed in similar, minus the lemon) were the other standouts for me. I'll definitely be back there for the seafood dishes and more salads, eventually. Either that, or we'll just have to try make it to Burma/Myanmar.

Cassel & Son's (3 Garlands Road, Woolston) could be better raved about by my partner who is a big fan of their signature Milk Stout, but I really enjoy the vibe in there. They form the street face to the up-and-coming retail development The Tannery and have a large courtyard which hosts regular gigs. Food-wise they offer wood-fired pizza and other tasty-looking counter foods and menu items so that had me satisfied enough.

Image from Cassel's Brewery

Inside The Tannery however, I came across the Woolston Market. This had me in awe for their excellent boutique produce and fresh deli counter with gourmet meat goods and obviously hand-selected cheeses. On the other side of the shop, they had a beautiful display of sweet things which looked perfect for a mid-shopping high tea. I'm lacking the photos (I was too pre-occupied) but Christchurch-ers, if you love food: go here.

Burgers & Beers (355 Colombo Street, Sydenham) has been in the Christchurch scene for a while and as a burger enthusiast, my visit here was long overdue. On the day, however, I felt betrayed by my decision making as I tasted the deliciousness in my friend's burgers more than my own. I chose the Billy Beef & Blue which used a decidedly weak blue cheese mayo, as I failed to taste the flavour at all. A slice of actual cheese would have been favourable.

Billy Beef & Blue with fries
Friend #1 (in no particular order) chose the Billy Beef & Bernaise, who's combined flavour of the bernaise sauce plus the wholegrain mustard provided a sharp counter to the meatiness of the beef and friedness of the onion rings; while friend #2 selected the Sunday Roast with rosemary & garlic "sheep" (I assume, lamb?), minted pea pesto, roasted pumpkin mayo, lettuce and kumara crisps. Great concept and delicious result, however if anything, the kumara crisps dried the overall feel in the mouth slightly. Perhaps more mayo needed, but still a flavour sensation. The Big Bag of Chips & Gravy sent us all over the edge from sheer quantity and my personal commitment to never let good chips go the waste. I'd 95% confidently say that the seasoning on them was better than I've ever had on a chip. Big call.

Home breakfasts

Some heavy eating had definitely been had and I look forward to lighter meals as we venture to warmer climates over the holidays. Also time out of the car (Christchurch's fatal flaw) will make me feel a whole lot more balanced. Breakfasts have attempted to be my counterpoint: variations on smoked salmon, cucumber, asparagus, avocado and smoked butter on toast with a fresh orange, carrot, pear, peach, lemon and ginger juice. The luxury of being on holiday in my parent's house, without a doubt! Thanks parents. Overall, however, I did feel sad that I wasn't in Christchurch for a little longer to enjoy more of the new eateries. I'll look forward to going back in a few years time when I'm sure the offerings will only continue to try and outdo each other, but until then: bring on Asia!

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