Best of 2023: The Neatest Newcomers of Christchurch’s Food Scene

A large window looking into Kokomo cafe and restaurant in Christchurch.

Sandwich shops, spritz bars, the return of old favourites, churches converted into pubs and open fire cooking. This year was arguably one of the most exciting times to be dining out in Christchurch Ōtautahi, as we were treated to an influx of new cafés, delis, wine bars, pubs and restaurants. From flashy riverside venues to humble hidden gems, here are 17 notable newcomers who opened their doors in 2023.

Estelle

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19 Southwark Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Tom’s sandwich shop welcomed a new sibling earlier this year. Not wanting to split the family up, Estelle is just a few steps away on Southwark Street. With chef Will Lyons-Bowman at the helm of the kitchen, the concept is simple but triumphant – really yum things on toasted Grizzly bread.

Estelle invites customers to try things they may never have had elsewhere (or since their childhood). Smoked fish and pickled rhubarb, nostalgic mince on toast and sumac strawberries and labneh are just a few top-tier options. Salads, cloud-like maritozzi, espresso chocolate cake and cheesy garlic knots grace the cabinet – paired perfectly with a Prima coffee brewed by expert baristas.

The Church Pub

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124 Worcester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

When Inkster Company decided to convert the gothic renewal building on Worcester Street into a pub, the only appropriate response was hallelujah. As the former home of the Trinity Congregational Church constructed in 1875, stained glass windows, grand high ceilings and old church pews give this spot some serious history and character. They’ve expanded the menu since the building’s bread and wine days, with pub classics done well and 14 different beers on tap. Enjoy the sun-soaked courtyard this summer, pop along to the quiz night every Monday or check out their socials for regular live music events.

The Lil’ Brew Espresso Bar

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186a Main Road, Redcliffs, Christchurch

Inner-city openings have dominated the newcomer list, but Redcliffs has gained a new local café by the beach – and boy is it cute. The Lil’ Brew Espresso Bar is housed in a heritage building with a warm and natural interior where the sunlight streams in just right. Great coffee, pastries from Bellbird, salads, sandwiches and vegan slices are sure to lure you in. However, it’s the strong neighbourly spirit that will keep you coming back, with kids tables and play areas, Cocomutt Ice Cream for your four-legged friend and a gift shop upstairs.

A flat white in a blue cup on a table.

Supreme Supreme

10 Welles Street, Christchurch Centralhttps://coffeesupreme.com/blogs/locations/supreme-supreme

Christmas came early to Christchurch this year, with a 10/10 return for 10 Welles Street. Supreme Supreme is back in their original digs with the iconic tomato sauce red and bright white branding hard to miss. Unsurprisingly, coffee remains king here – but the food comes pretty close to the throne. The menu is simple but delicious with all day breakfast options like egg ‘n’ cheese breakfast muffins and pancakes with whipped butter and maple, hot sandwiches from 10am, and plenty of yum sides to customise your eggs on toast.

Akin Café

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235 High Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

From the couple who brought us Lux Espresso and Doubles, Akin on High Street shares similar familial traits. The Japanese Scandi café is front-page material, with a mix of clean industrial features soothed with deep green accents, natural wooden tables and vases of eucalyptus dotted about. Grab a cup of first-class coffee and a baked treat on the way to work or linger on the weekends for a relaxed brunch. Eggs benny is available for creatures of comfort, but we recommend branching out with a warming bowl of shitake mushroom congee, crème brulée toast with kaya mascarpone or Asian braised beef cheek with garlic fried rice.

Olympia Espresso

183 Papanui Road, Merival

October saw the arrival of a neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall that may have slipped under your radar. Olympia Espresso is a small haven for specialty coffee lovers, neatly tucked away in an architecturally designed space next to Merivale Mall. The coffee is from Supreme, the pastries from Bellbird and we hear whispers of sourdough toasties coming soon.

Kokomo

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24 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Kokomo brings a new coastal dining experience to The Welder, in a green and brightly-lit space. Open for brunch, lunch, after work drinks and dinner, this newcomer is one your tastebuds can depend on at any time of the day. Inspired by New Zealand, Pacific and Asian food cultures, the menu is a fun discovery of fresh and interesting dishes, including paua donuts, bulgogi croissants, prawn Benedict and scallop katsu to name a few. Fans of Wellington’s Flight Coffee will be delighted to know that Kokomo is Christchurch’s first eatery brewing with their beans.

The Victoria Free House

779 Colombo Street, Christchurch Central

October saw the opening of The Victoria Free House, replacing what was once The Permit Room on Colombo Street. UK-born owner Luke Dawkins (previous co-owner of gin gin) pulls on his own childhood nostalgia of growing up upstairs of his parent’s pub to create an undeniably British establishment. Dawkins has teamed up with Shafeeq Ismail (chef of Story, Odeon and Central Deli Sandwiches) to fill the pass with Scotch eggs, beer battered fish and onion rings, smoked fish pie, chips (naturally) and more. The interior is expansive, with dark wooden paneling and warm low-lit lighting, keeping it cosy while you enjoy a pint and a bite with mates.

Muy Muy

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44 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Welles Street has had a surge of new and notable eateries this year – and Muy Muy certainly adds to the district’s buzz. Converted from a warehouse space, this colourful Central American spot has quickly captured the hearts of margarita fiends. The extensive menu of tapas and shared plates makes for great group dining, with taco platters, nachos for a crowd, fresh ceviche, zingy guac and more. There’s over 10 margarita cocktails to be discovered, as well as Mexican beers and tequila flights for the strong. Daily live music is just another reason to stick around.

Bar Franco

The Crossing, 166 Cashel Street, Christchurch Central

From the creators of Miro comes a brand new Mediterranean oasis on Cashel Street. Bar Franco opened on October 1st, offering a multi-level experience with a spritz and negroni bar on the first floor and a spacious dining room upstairs. The smell of fresh citrus lingers in the air, vibrant blue tiles and velvet seating are reminiscent of dazzling Amalfi waters, floor to ceiling windows welcome the sun, and terracotta feature walls and copper lighting add warmth to the space. Come with your favourite people and share plates of focaccia, juicy melon wrapped in salty prosciutto, goats cheese croquettes and plump balls of burrata before moving on to pastas, elegant mains and indulgent desserts. Sicilian ice cream sandwich anyone?

Central Deli Sandwiches

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8 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

During the day, New Regent Street’s Story transforms into a sandwich shop, much to the delight of nearby offices. Just when we thought his bow couldn’t fit another string, Shafeeq Ismail turns sandwich artist to transport lunchtime goers to India, Tokyo, New York City and beyond. Slices of bread are filled with chaat masala, pastrami made in house, katsu chicken, and bacon, egg and hashbrown for a closer-to-home option. A new special is introduced each week to keep your tastebuds well-travelled. Swing by on weekdays or sit outside in the weekend sun with a cheeky pint or glass of local wine.

Mashawe

1 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central

On the corner of New Regent Street, you may recognise this interior from its past life as The Caffeine Laboratory. But that’s about where the similarities stop. Ahmed Igneam opened Mashawe Mediterranean BBQ earlier this year, and it quickly became the city’s hottest new spot to gather for fresh and flavour-packed food in a fun and laid-back setting. Made to be shared amongst friends and family, the menu features plates of smoky barbecued meats and seafood, mouthwatering shawarma, generous servings of hummus, baba ganoush, labneh, falafel and more goodness.

Two people sitting outside Christchurch Arts CEntre.

Frances Nation Wine Bar

To make the most of the warmer days, Frances Nation has introduced a new wine bar offering every Friday. From 4pm, the team will be pouring a range of local wines, ciders and beers – featuring The Bone Line, Vita Wines, Lilli Cider, Three Boys and more of your favourites. Cheese and pickle toasties, cheese boards, bowls of Proper Crisps and more tasty snacks are also available, as well as local food truck offerings. While we love sunny days on the terrace when the fickle Christchurch weather brings rain and chilly winds, the Arts Centre foyer makes a cosy plan B.

NOKI

6 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch

In the former home of Sun Dog Diner on Papanui Road, NOKI injects some extra interest and diversity into Christchurch’s brunch and lunch scene. Aotearoa classics sit alongside worldly dishes from India, Korea, the Philippines and beyond. The cabinet features an evolving selection of baked goods, including donuts and kimchi cheese scones, fried chicken and slaw sandwiches, and tofu vermicelli noodle salads. On the menu, there’s rice pudding, Indian-inspired smoked fish kedgeree, and eggs benny amped up with Korean beef brisket (Chadolbaegi). Enjoy your favourite brew or try NOKI specialties like sweet yuzu tea and maple matcha.

 

Tiny Door

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Guthery Centre

Plenty of big doors opened in 2023, but one proved that tiny can still be mighty. Tiny Door at the Guthrie Centre is New Zealand’s first hole-in-the-wall takeaway food experience, handing out orders through a bright blue door of Alice in Wonderland proportions. How does it work? Scan the QR code by the door to select a dish from a range of local hospo heroes and wait for a hand to appear out the door with your order. The menu changes regularly but has starred Bar Yoku, Glamour Cake and Smokey T’s. Keep an eye on social media or sign up to Tiny Door’s weekly newsletter for upcoming menus.

ROCA

134 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch Central

Where there’s smoke, there’s Mediterranean food cooked over fire coming from the kitchen at ROCA. Opening in September along Oxford Terrace, this is the fifth venue from Mexicano’s Group, joining King of Snake, Monarch Cocktail Bar, Mexicanos and TDL. It’s no surprise then that the fit out here is seriously impressive, with a marble bar encircling the open kitchen, adding fiery drama to the experience. Start with oysters on ice and Champagne, before digging into a selection of beautifully burnished flatbreads, wood-fired beetroots, smoked fish rillettes, Canterbury lamb and more. ROCA is open midday to midnight 7 days a week and offers a 4-course Sunday long lunch.

Spartan

2/574 Colombo Street, Christchurch Central

When you uncover a hidden gem, sometimes it’s tempting to keep it to yourself. But Spartan is a family-run Greek restaurant that deserves to be shouted about. Open every day from 10am, Spartan’s menu ranges from Mediterranean-inspired brunch to traditional dinner options that will take you to blue and whitewashed streets. We recommend going in a large group so you can try a bit of everything – from pita bread loaded with fresh tzatziki and skordalia, herby dolmades and grilled octopus to moussaka, souvlakis and slow-roasted Greek lamb. You’ll find Spartan on Colombo Street, just opposite South City.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Bohemian Bakery St Martins

The sunny exterior of Bohemian Bakery cafe.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Bohemian Bakery’s St Martins shop provides the south of the city with all of the carby goodness familiar from the bakery’s other locations.

Dispense Espresso

Man making coffee behind blue coffee machine at Dispense Espresso in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Dispense Espresso’s owner, Hamish Bell, knows a thing or two about what makes a café great.

Bohemian Bakery Sumner

Bakery interior with shelves of breads.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Located in sunny Sumner, Bohemian Bakery is an Eastern European-inspired neighbourhood bakery.

Greystone Wines

A woman in a white shirt holds a bottle of Greystone Rose Pet Nat against the vineyard's green backdrop at Greystone Wines.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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A day exploring the magic being made by Greystone Wines in Waipara is a day well spent.