CHC Institutions We Love

Lots of people sitting outside at Smash Palace, Christchurch.

Still going strong after 10 plus years, and there's a whole multitude of reasons why.

Words by: Caitlin Brown

Photography by: Nancy Zhou

The buzz of a new cafe or restaurant in the garden city merits plenty of excitement, but we can’t help but feel an affinity for our tried-and-true spots--the ones that have already seen Christchurch through a multitude of triumphs and challenges, from rebuilding after the earthquakes to navigating COVID-19.

They’re the places that make you know you’re in Christchurch, the places you immediately take out-of-towners, and the places you’ve counted on time and time again. Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best of Christchurch’s legacy bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops that continue to stand the test of time.

Pomeroys

292 Kilmore Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

For many, walking into Pomeroys feels as comforting as coming home. Every beer lover can attest to the pride we feel over claiming this Christchurch institution, and after rebuilding in 2011, it’s remained the city’s go-to for a good pint. Of course, anyone who’s spent some time in this space, owned by Steve and Victoria Pomeroy, knows that their offerings go beyond the beer list. Their elevated pub fare never disappoints (shout out to that chicken burger!), and the cosy woodburner, live music, and killer outdoor seating makes it the perfect destination all year round.

Brew Moon

12 Markham Street, Amberley, Christchurch & Canterbury

Perched on the historic Markham Street in Amberley, Brew Moon is unbeatable for a slice of gourmet pizza, paired with a cold craft brew. But what makes this spot truly unique is the way it’s run—every member of the owner’s family has worked in the brewery extensively since they opened 19 years ago. In fact, three out of four family members have held the title of Head Brewer at one time or another! It’s a family-run business in the truest sense of the word, and you feel part of something special from the moment you walk in.

The Physics Room

Registry Building, 301 Montreal Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

A beautiful contemporary art space in the CBD, featuring works dedicated to celebrating new and innovative artists in New Zealand. Fun Fact: The Physics Room got its name from its first gallery site in the physics department of The University of Canterbury (when UC was based in what we now call The Arts Centre), so their move back to The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building is really a return home. Since 2018, they’ve created collaborative exhibitions with Aigantighe Art Gallery, Ashburton Art Gallery, Eastern Southland Gallery, and The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū.

Twenty Seven Steps

Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Ask anyone in Christchurch for a go-to dinner spot in the CBD, and chances are they won’t leave out this New Regent Street gem. On top of a menu that never disappoints, Twenty Seven Steps is also a team of genuinely good people who put sourcing seasonally and locally at the heart of their business whenever possible. A bit of advice from owner Emma Mettrick? “Never skip the soup—it’s always delicious!”

Ōtoromiro Hotel

52 Main Road, Governors Bay, Christchurch & Canterbury

For the last 150 years, Ōtoromiro Hotel has been a secret destination for those adventurous enough to drive over the hills. The gardens are lush with lilies, gladioli and dahlias, while the backdrop of Port Lyttelton glistens in the distance. “Back in the day, the hotel was renowned for its “pleasure gardens” and folk from Christchurch would arrive by ferry or horse-drawn carriage and come to Governors Bay to picnic on the grounds,” owner Jeremy Dyer shares. These days, you won’t find any horse-drawn carriages but you will find a brand new pool, open to the public as of spring 2021.

Absolution Tattoo & Body Piercing

The Art Centre, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

If you ask Naith, the founder of Absolution, his staff often ends up playing a much bigger role than “tattoo artist” while clients are under the needle. The team here listens to clients share everything from relationship issues with partners and flatmates, to nerves about impending proposals, all while bringing their vision for a unique piercing or body art to life.

The Caffeine Laboratory

1 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

The Caffeine Laboratory was first born 11 years ago in Shades Arcade, where founders James and Cynthia say they were supported by Cantabrians from day one. After the earthquakes the cafe was forced to shut down, but reopened 6 months later in the Cashel Container Mall. These days you can find the cafe on historic New Regent Street, continuing to bring amazing food and great coffee to people all around the city. James and Cynthia’s favourite way to experience the cafe? With a triple shot long black at 7:30am at an outdoor table (weather permitting). James admits that he would have The Caffeine Lab Double Wagyu Cheeseburger three times a day, if he could.

CoCA

66 Gloucester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

This modernist contemporary art gallery has been beautifully restored and renovated post the Canterbury-earthquakes, and re-opened its doors in February 2016, offering a dose of art, culture, coffee, and food in the heart of the city. Since March of 2021, their programme has been delivered in conjunction with Objectspace in the Ō Raki Mair gallery (upstairs) and with UC Fine arts for the Ō Papa gallery (downstairs). While the UC partnership is still in early stages, it’s currently delivered 3 exhibitions of UC alumni, including Post Black, The Near Future and Fading to the Sky.

Smash Palace

172 High Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Smash Palace may have started as a temporary bar on Bealey Ave in 2012, but it’s success led to it becoming a permanent fixture of the High Street, and you’ll find a consistent crowd camped out at the picnic tables just about any night of the week. The original Smash Palace bus-converted-into-a-bar is still there, but what most people don’t know is that the bus still runs. “We used to fire it up once a year but for the past few years the starter motor has been sitting on a bench in some bloke's shed awaiting a rebuild,” shares owner Johnny Moore. He also disclosed that he thinks the bacon sandwich is the undiscovered gem on the menu, and goes great with a Bodgie Hazy.

Head over Heels

250 High Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Mother and daughter team Mary and Greta Washington first founded the shoe shop Head over Heels in Timaru in 2007, but Greta attributes their success to a long line of shoemakers in their family before them (her great great grandparents were cobblers in Scotland!). “My Mum and her three brothers all had stores in the South Island when I was growing up so I guess shoes are in my blood,” she shares. These days you can find them working on an exclusive range with former Beau Coops designer Carrie Cooper. The collaboration brand, Abigayle, will be debuting a summer collection in November 2021.

The National

249 Moorhouse Avenue, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

The National contemporary art gallery first opened its doors in 2004, and the city has since seen it through several iterations. Though the gallery was destroyed in the 2011 earthquakes, founder Caroline Rilling remained committed to sharing contemporary art with Christchurch, and was never deterred by the obstacle of losing her previous space. After participating in several memorable pop-up exhibitions, the gallery planted new roots on Moorhouse Avenue, featuring a minimalistic vibe that allows its unique and innovative installations to shine.

Black Estate

614 Omihi Road, Waipara, Christchurch & Canterbury

Born in 2007, Black Estate is a family-owned and operated gem, perched in the heart of Waipara, boasting an elevated, minimalist interior, expansive views, and, of course, some of the best wine in the region. Owners Nicholas and Pen have at once created a winery, tasting room and restaurant, making it so that there’s really no occasion that doesn’t suit a visit to this laidback yet luxe destination. Plus, 90% of all produce is sourced directly from Canterbury, establishing it as an even greater pillar to the community.

Infinite Definite

246 High Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Owner-operators Jono and Sarah Moran founded Infinite Definite in 2008, thanks to a passion for New Zealand designers. This High Street clothing shop stocks more than 70 brands, ranging from established local designers right through to international names. The team keeps their ethical values at the heart of everything they do, choosing to work mainly with brands who use ethical practices to make their garments, ensuring that quality over quantity remains the key focus.

Tomi Japanese Restaurant

Edgeware Mall, 76 Edgeware Road, Saint Albans, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

A Christchurch culinary treasure since 2012 and local Edgeware gem, Tomi justifiably carries a strong return customer base thanks to their fresh raw fish sourced from the local fish market. Owners Mayuko and Joe have thoughtfully created a space that’s relaxed, inviting, and intimate thanks to wood-panelled walls and an open kitchen. Locals agree that it’s an ideal spot for a cosy date night or overdue catch-up with friends and family.

Stencil

The Colombo 363 Colombo Street, Sydenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Stencil has proudly become the city’s go-to for streetwear since its inception in the early 1990’s, and it’s easy to see why. As specialists in major sneaker brands and contemporary apparel classics, the team consistently brings high quality wares to the community that can see their customers through the every day. Hot tip: their shop in The Colombo regularly receives new shipments of the latest footwear collections, making it the perfect place to find just released lines (especially ones that often sell out).

Embassy

451 Colombo Street, Sydenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Embassy has been serving the Christchurch skate crowd with international and New Zealand based brands since 1999. Whether you’re in the market for skateboards, graffiti paint, artwork, or books, you’ll find all that and much more in their Colombo St. shop, plus a super friendly and knowledgeable staff that will happily navigate you to exactly what you need.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Frederick Woodwards Barber Shop

Two empty chairs at Frederick Woodward's Barber Shop in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Head to Woodwards for an old-fashioned barber experience like no other.

Frances Nation

Homewares on display at Frances Nation shop in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

A store devoted to celebrating beautiful, made-to-last daily wares from New Zealand makers.

Renaissance

Treatment room at Renaissance.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

From expert facial therapy to massages, and everything beauty and skin related in between, there’s a treatment for everyone.

Ramen Ria

Bowl of fresh ramen with sides.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Ramen Ria has all of the flavour and fun that can be found in some of Tokyo’s most well known, yet tucked away ramen joints.