Shafeeq Ismail's Favourite Christchurch Food Spots

A man wearing casual clothes sitting down and smiling to camera.

Chef Shafeeq Ismail gives us an insight into some of his favourite food spots in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Words by: Johnny Gibson 

Photos by: Nancy Zhou 

Shafeeq's food journey started in his country of India, where he studied at a cooking school for two years before cutting his teeth in big hotels for a further six. He then moved around the globe for cooking jobs in the Middle East, Spain and more before settling in Saudi Arabia, working for Wolfgang Puk at his steak house. 'He's a crazy dude', says Shafeeq. 'Cooking is a great trade for travelling. You can do it anywhere in the world and don't need to change anything.' His global culinary adventures stopped when he came to Christchurch after his wife received a scholarship here. Shafeeq worked at Regatta on Avon (previously Tiffany's) before moving to Town Tonic for three and a half years and then taking the plunge into the world of business ownership, opening Story in 2018 and then Odeon in 2022.

Rangoon Ruby

819 Colombo Street, Christchurch Central

This place offers a different style of cuisine for Christchurch. Back in the day, it was Bodhi Tree. Their food is very consistent and not too pricy. It's real craving food, like the shredded green papaya salad. And you can't forget the tamarin sorbet topped with chilli.

Bar Yoku

20 Welles Street, Christchurch Central

Bar Yoku is a great place to take someone for a quick lunch—friendly people with great energy. There are many different items to order; I like the soft crab shell. It's also the best spot in winter, with a cosy indoor/outdoor vibe.

Table Bloom

472 Tuam Street, Phillipstown, Christchurch

A small patisserie for online orders and pick up from their window or at the Saturday Market. Owner Julie is very experienced. She has something like 15/20 years of experience in high-end restaurants. We sell their gluten-free chocolate fudge brownie at Story; it's a heated-up live lava cake! All the gluten-free options are excellent, too.

Odeon

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

I'm biased, but Odeon always takes me to some different place, like Marrakesh, but it also feels homely. It's a relaxed space. We've set a standard of honest service and talking to the customer. Every month, the food changes. The Feed Me option with the wine match is the best.

Gatherings

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5/2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

A non-pretentious and intimate space. They are great people at Gatherings, very hardworking. One of the Chefs, Finbar, used to work at Story. Finbar thinks a little similar to me with the ingredients he uses. I really like his palette: nice acidy, spice and sourness that you usually find in Asian cuisine, which makes sense as to why it's popular with Asian people, too. They go there for the excellent seafood.

Londo

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Unit 6/2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

It was very courageous for Bob to start a restaurant at 23, he's a machine! His cooking style is a little more refined; it's always good vibes and down-to-earth service. It's also open on Sundays, which is hard to find.

5th Street

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5 Elgin Street, Sydenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

I used to love the old Hello Sunday crew. Back then, they were doing things differently. It was fast service and good energy. Then they started 5th Street; they do everything themselves. It's honest, tasty food and not too much pretentiousness. Ideal for a big group dining. It was a great transition from Hello to 5th Street - from breakfast and brunch to dinner. They did that well.

Southern Asian Restaurant

545 Colombo Street, Christchurch Central

This place is a bit of a chef's secret spot. It's well priced, a place to try lots of different things: Chicken with Szechuan Pepper, a stir-fried eggplant dish, cumin and chilli lamb, and salted fish fried rice. I still remember the flavours, which means it's good!

The Last Word

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Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

I don't drink, but The Last Word is a relaxing place to sit upstairs, look out the window and reflect. Alex and the team will make something creative for me to drink when I get there. A lot of the businesses down New Regent Street have a great relationship. It's a strong community that has grown together and come a long way.

Lyttelton Coffee Co.

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29 London Street, Lyttelton, Christchurch & Canterbury

I like that this Lyttelton café really relaxed and not too polished. They also do triple-shot coffees. James from the now-closed Caffeine Lab used Lyttelton Coffee Beans and did triple shots; he hooked me.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Empire Chicken

Table of fried chicken and sides from Empire Chicken in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

A fried chicken establishment to rival the big dogs.

Downstairs Bar

Dark moody image inside Downstairs where their is bright feature lighting.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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What do you get when you marry the cosy vibes of an intimate pub with the sophistication of an inner city wine bar? You end up with the best of both worlds and the result is Downstairs on New Regent Street.

Movementor Pilates

An empty pilates studio.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Movementor is a well-known Pilates studio situated within the Beckenham hub at the corner of Christchurch’s Colombo and Tennyson Streets.

Recycle Boutique Christchurch

Staff picks rack.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Recycle Boutique challenges the status quo as one part designer boutique, one part second hand shop and one part sustainable shopping option.