Christchurch's Sweetest Treats: Where to Find the City's Best Desserts
This may be a bold statement… but the best (and often most overlooked) meal of the day would have to be dessert. While some may argue that it doesn’t qualify as a meal, we would very much counter this, and our evidence lies in the many sweet sensations you can find around Christchurch Ōtautahi. One of the greatest qualities dessert has going for it, in our humble opinion, is you can eat it any time of the day. From a decadent pastry with your morning coffee to a treat-yourself-ice-cream moment to a lavish creation enjoyed post-dinner.
Words by: Julia Rutherford
Photos by: Nancy Zhou
Dessert needs vary depending on the occasion, and these have been taken into consideration when narrowing down our list of the best and neatest around town. Whether you need a take-home situation to wow guests at a dinner party, a gift for a friend, or perhaps it’s the deciding factor on where to go for lunch or dinner, you’re sure to satisfy your sweet tooth at these Christchurch dessert hot spots.
Sweet Soul Patisserie
1/79 Cashel Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
When you enter Sweet Soul Patisserie, you are immediately transported to Paris, from the elegant and refined decor and attentive service to the delectable desserts awaiting you in the cabinet. The French art and skill of patisserie are on full display with picture-perfect tarts, eclairs, madeleines and more. Pair your pick with a barista coffee or go all in on the French way and order a glass of champagne. Located in and amongst the hustle and bustle of Cashel Street, with Riverside Market and The Terrace mere metres away, Sweet Soul is a calm oasis, providing you with the ultimate people-watching spot from their mezzanine level. Escape your busy day for a moment or two and indulge in these heavenly creations.
Top tip: their desserts travel incredibly well, so if you don’t have the time to sit down and savour these sweet treats, pick something up for dessert night at home. You’re sure to be the hero in your household… if you share, that is.
5/132 Opawa Road, Opawa, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
If your idea of a perfect dessert is a scoop or two of authentic Italian gelato, then you must make a beeline to the leafy suburb of Opawa and discover The Gelato Lab. This gelateria is popular among the neighbours and those living further afield who have their finger on the pulse of where to find a darn good gelato in the ‘03. Made on-site, the flavours are ever-changing, and there are always dairy-free options in the mix. So whether it’s a post-hill walk treat or scooting down after dinner just before they shut up shop for the day, it’s always the right time for a Gelato Lab cone.
Bohemian Bakery and its three locations around Christchurch (City Centre, Sumner and St Martins) are very beloved and popular and known for their excellent sourdough bread, flaky pastries (including vegan options) and range of sandwiches. But it is their desserts that have won us over time and time again, with light-as-air eclairs, melt-in-the-mouth cheesecakes and the piece de resistance… their Portuguese tarts. As one of the only places in the city you can find these custardy delights, do yourself a favour and add a few to your next Bohemian order. One of the best things about the desserts at Bohemian, is you can pick these up in-store - but you are at the mercy of how many other people have had the same idea that day. We recommend ordering online to avoid disappointment and ensure your Bohemian sweet dreams are fulfilled.
Speaking of ordering ahead, no list of the best desserts in Christchurch would be complete without a mention of BUTTER. While there is no physical space to go to, BUTTER operates out of a cloud kitchen and owner/pastry chef Corentin Esquenet makes some of the most incredible caneles, tarts and madeleines. They look just as sensational as they taste, and make for the perfect gift, an addition to a dinner you are hosting or quite simply if you need a sweet little pick-me-up to cheer up your day. It may require a little bit of planning ahead to order, but it is completely worth it!
Francesca's Italian Kitchen
149 Gloucester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen is a popular lunch and dinner spot in the centre of the city and with their authentic take on Italian-style dishes, it’s not hard to see why. Their pizza, pasta and risottos are amazing but what takes the cake… their dessert menu! While it’s tempting to fill up on the mains, resist and you’ll be so glad you did. For the coffee lovers and traditionalists, it has to be their tiramisu with layers of house-made mascarpone, ladyfingers and coffee goodness. Or if you like your sweet treat with a bit of an acidic kick, the lemon tart is unlike any other in the city - think classic Kiwi lemon meringue pie with some Italian flair. There are also other classics such as a single-serve cannoli, gelato and affogato, there is no wrong choice at Francesca’s.
J'aime le Macarons
Merivale Mall Shop 6C/189 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
Are macarons your Achilles heel when it comes to desserts? Then you need to pay a visit to J’aime les Macarons in Merivale and sample their colourful creations. Light, airy and with the perfect crisp outside, these macarons are seriously delicious. With a range of flavours available, you’ll quickly find a favourite, or perhaps a few! It pays to order ahead to ensure you don’t miss out, especially if they are for a special occasion. There are also other sweets to entice you at J’aime les Macarons such as cupcakes, caneles and brownies, ‘om nom nom’ is the only way to describe it.
614 Omihi Road, Waipara, Christchurch & Canterbury
If you like your dessert served with some of the best wine North Canterbury has to offer, all whilst taking in stunning scenery, then Black Estate is the pick for you. Whilst you may not immediately think of the vineyards north of Christchurch when it comes to dessert, you may need to rethink your thinking after a visit to Black Estate. Just like their main food menu, the desserts are ever-changing, driven by the availability of local and seasonal ingredients. What is guaranteed is a delicious flavour bomb no matter what is on the menu, and there are always a few dishes to choose from, including a cheese option if a savoury dessert is what floats your tastebud boat.
76 Malcolm Avenue, Beckenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
By day The Birdwood in Beckenham is a busy and buzzy neighbourhood cafe, with groups of people brunching, lunching and catching up over coffee. If you are searching for a good dessert in the daytime, their cabinet often contains cakes and other sweet treats that are hard to resist. By night, the cafe is closed and it’s the Pizzeria’s time to shine with pizza, pasta and the all-important desserts flying out of the kitchen. It’s very much an Italian-influenced dessert lineup here with tiramisu, pannacotta, affogato and gelato leading the charge, plus a few other delightful options thrown in for good measure.
15 Wakefield Avenue, Sumner, Christchurch
Utopia Ice is a colourful sweet destination by the beach in Sumner.
Appealing to everyone in the family, from the littlies right through to those young at heart, Utopia’s big seller is their small-batch, made-from-scratch ice cream. Using local and organic ingredients is at the centre of everything they make, and at any given time, there are plenty of vegan options available, too. Alongside their popular ice cream, they also have freshly baked waffles if you want to take your dessert up a level - a move we fully endorse.
35 New Regent Street & 98 Cashel Street, Christchurch
Rollickin' Gelato needs no introduction for most Christchurch dwellers, as it’s a city institution. Both their Cashel Street and New Regent Street locations are humming throughout the day, 7 days a week, with good vibes and tasty gelato flowing. A cup or a cone of gelato makes for a fantastic dessert but Rollickin takes things up a notch in this category with their hot dessert options. Think decadent brownies, sticky date pudding and cookie pies, complete with playful, tongue-in-cheek names and served with your favourite scoop of gelato… it doesn’t get any better!
28 Riccarton Road, Riccarton, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
On a gorgeous afternoon or evening, the alfresco dining area at Dux Dine is a real gem. Located off busy Riccarton Road, the calm oasis awaiting you at Dux Dine is in stark contrast to the traffic mere metres away. This restaurant ticks all the boxes for a multitude of occasions and luckily that also includes being one of the best places for dessert in the city. The menu is full of classics with elevated and fresh twists, we’re talking creme brulees, sundaes, parfaits, tarts and more!
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