Table For One: The Best Solo Dining Spots In The Garden City

Sardines on toast on a table.

Go on, free yourself.

Words by: Julia Rutherford
Photos by: Nancy Zhou

The idea of eating out by yourself can seem uncomfortable, especially for those of us who get enjoyment out of a group dining setting. However, taking yourself out for lunch or dinner can be quite a freeing experience. You alone have the final say on where to go and what you want to eat, you can disconnect from the real world for a moment, not needing to talk to anyone, and you get to engage in everyone’s favourite secret pastime - good old-fashioned people watching.

Christchurch Ōtautahi is home to a buzzing hospitality scene, with a bunch of restaurants and bars providing the perfect environment for a solo diner. From a perch at the chef’s table or bar learners to finding a cosy corner with the hustle and bustle all around you for company, dining solo might just become more of a habit, something to look forward to and embrace.   

5th Street

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5 Elgin Street, Sydenham, Christchurch

A dinner reservation at 5th Street is one of the most sought-after in the city, due to glowing reviews and a stellar reputation. So dining alone might just be the workaround to getting yourself a booking. The chef’s bar is our pick if you can get a seat there. Watch them hard at work creating phenomenal dishes in front of your eyes and chat with them as you feast on their food. From the bar seating you also get a fantastic view of the restaurant as a whole, taking in the thoughtful decor, the plentiful plant life hanging from the ceiling and the buzz from a full dining room.

Photo by Jerome Warburton 

Tomi Japanese Restaurant

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Edgeware Mall, 76 Edgeware Road, Saint Albans, Christchurch

Hunting out neighbourhood hidden gems is our absolute favourite and they also make for a great solo diner destination. Tomi Japanese Restaurant in St Albans fits the bill perfectly. Take a seat at the bar and watch the fresh fish being prepared for sashimi (they are experts at this), and order some sake while you mull over your food choices. The great thing about Japanese cuisine and Tomi’s menu is there are lots of smaller dishes to try, meaning that as a solo diner, you can sample a great range of what is on offer.

Downstairs Bar

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16/22 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Downstairs Bar is a go-to spot for after-work drinks and weekend afternoon hangs. It also just so happens to fit the criteria for being an excellent solo dining spot. With more of a bar vibe than a restaurant, at Downstairs, you have the option of dining up at the bar or in one of the quieter corners if you prefer. Being the sister venue to the highly-regarded Twenty Seven Steps, you are guaranteed to enjoy the same level of service and delicious food here as well. Best of all, they take great pride in their wine selection and as you are dining alone, you have the final say on what is poured.

Black Burger

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96 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Found inside Riverside Market, Black Burger is solo diner perfection. The market itself provides plenty of seating options inside and outside, and with lots of activity going on all around, you definitely won’t miss a group dining situation here. Black Burger has its own bar seating so you can watch the burger masters at work. The LA-style cheeseburgers that come off the grill make our mouths water just thinking about them! Make sure you go all in and order a side of fries or onion rings, and wash it down with a milkshake.

El Quincho

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96 Oxford Terrace, CBD, Christchurch

El Quincho is also located in Riverside Market, so the solo dining perks from above can be applied here too. This impressive Argentinian BBQ joint knows a thing or two when it comes to the cooking of meat. One of the perks of dining alone here is you can let yourself become absorbed in watching these pros, and you don’t have to worry about keeping up a conversation. A word to the wise, turn up hungry as you’ll want to order everything on the menu, and it’s all insanely delicious, not to mention locally sourced and lovingly prepared.

Story

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8 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Story may be one of the smallest restaurants in town, but it packs a powerful punch. Its petite size makes it the perfect place to hide away and dine solo. Tucked on New Regent Street, the menu at Story changes with the seasons, celebrating global food culture and paired nicely with their wine list, dominated by local Waipara vintages. We recommend requesting a two-seater next to the window, giving you an excellent viewpoint of the activity on New Regent Street below - it is people-watching at its finest.

Soul Quarter

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219 High Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Soul Quarter is equal parts cosy and moody, creating a chic ambience and transporting you to the Louisianan, French, and South American influences of the cuisine served here. With split-level dining, the mezzanine floor is a solo diner’s dream, providing privacy and a great vantage point of the dining room below. Indulge in a cocktail whilst you peruse the menu, and instead of a main, why not order two entrees? Dining alone can often mean missing out on trying multiple dishes, so go against the grain here and create your own rules.

Ramen Ria

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3/112 Oxford Terrace, CBD, Christchurch

Slurping away on a bowl of ramen takes a lot of your attention and skill, so you most likely won’t even notice you’re dining alone. Visit Ramen Ria just outside Riverside Market for your solo ramen destination. Whether you feel like sitting out in the laneway watching the crowds flow in and out of Riverside or finding a spot at the long tables inside, there’s a seat to suit your mood. The range of ramen on the menu is extensive, and there’s always a special to capture your attention.

50 Bistro

50 Park Terrace, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

50 Bistro is the restaurant in one of Christchurch’s most luxurious hotels, The George, and being a hotel restaurant means there is a much higher chance of seeing fellow solo diners in the dining room. Whether you feel like a brilliant breakfast to start your day, a decadent high tea to indulge in or a sophisticated dinner, this award-winning restaurant covers all bases. Another bonus to being inside a hotel is there’s less chance of running into someone you know, and you can peacefully enjoy dining amongst visitors to the garden city.

Bar Yoku

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20 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

The Welder is home to a host of smaller eateries that deliver big on flavour and experience. Bar Yoku is one of these and a solo diner’s dream, with multiple seating options, from the dark and cosy interior of Bar Yoku itself to the communal dining space of The Welder. Inspired by the small laneway Izakaya of Tokyo, the menu provides lots of choices, including a range of Yakitori (meats off the grill), sushi tacos, sashimi and plenty more. The staff at Bar Yoku are attentive and will help guide you through the menu and your ordering if you are unsure. It’s also the kind of place that you can keep adding to your order if you find you are still hungry, or just can’t get enough of one particular type of dish.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Ramen Ria

Bowl of fresh ramen with sides.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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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.

Absolution Tattoo and Body Piercing

View of the counter at Absolution Tattoo and Body Piercing studio in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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A contemporary tattoo and body-piercing studio in the Arts Centre.

The Observatory Hotel

A Modern Gothic lounge design.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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The Observatory Hotel is a beautiful central location in Christchurch, allowing you to leave the car for your stay and explore the city on foot.

J Friend & Co

Close up of person pulling up fresh Honey comb oozing honey.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Find local honey with as little intervention as possible at Christchurch honey business, J Friend & Co.