New Brighton Good Life Guide: Matt Morris, The Urban Monk

Matt Morris from Urban Monk smiling to camera.

Meet Matt Morris of The Urban Monk, a fermentary providing nourishing sauerkraut to the people since 2012 and, more recently, opening doors on New Brighton Mall.

Words by: Johnny Gibson 

Photos by: Nancy Zhou & Johnny Gibson

I’ve lived in New Brighton since 2011 - I shifted out here soon after the earthquakes into a flat. Then I bought a house around the corner. I need to be by the beach. Seeing the huge expanse of water in front of me is one of the most awe-inspiring things. I love it. 

I actually do a few different things - I work full time as the Sustainability Manager at the University of Canterbury and then come back out to New Brighton to run the Fermentary.  But I also write books. So I’m quite busy. It was a no-brainer for me to set up shop in New Brighton when I finally decided that the sauerkraut needed to move out of our home! Perhaps some people may think that what we do is a bit niche for New Brighton, but honestly, I think it’s a good fit. And I wouldn’t want to set up anywhere else anyway. 

One of the best things about New Brighton is the strong sense of community. People are supportive and enthusiastic, and it feels like you can give anything a go and see what happens. There are loads of creatives out here, too, and that makes things pretty interesting.

I started The Urban Monk in 2012, but it didn’t turn into a fermentation business until 2014, and we didn’t start selling anything until 2015. The main idea for me was that I wanted to do something practical that would add value to the world. I was super keen on the food resilience movement that developed immediately after the earthquakes and thought I could do something related to that. But I wanted to make food that was certified organic, that would nourish people, and that was tasty. And I wanted to make something low-tech, traditional, and simple. So sauerkraut fits the bill. 

People sometimes ask me why it’s called ‘The Urban Monk’. For me, this sums up what I was really after at that time (and still am): a life of simple activities that make the world better. 

A view of the outside of Penguin Arms on a sunny day.

Penguin Arms on a Tuesday

3 Brighton Mall

Honestly, my favourite time in Brighton at the moment is The Penguin Arms on a Tuesday evening - open mic night. There is a small but reliable crowd of enthusiastic supporters, which feels like a kind of extended whānau. If pints have been involved, I have been known to stand near the mic myself and sing (sorry about that!). It’s a low-key time and one of the most wholesome and whole-hearted moments of the week.

A woman measuring out herbs at a counter.

West End Potions

101 Seaview Road

Down in Brighton’s West End (where we are), there are some treasures - the main one being Marshall's Health & Natural Therapy. Where would I be without their potions and lamps?

A green and lush park in New Brighton.

Fungi Walks

I don’t get much time to go on walks at the moment, but I particularly love walking home from the shop to South Brighton, either along the beach or the river. I crave quiet time, and it is so beautiful around here. It’s amazing to have two such incredible and very different spots to walk so close to each other. The river walk has been great this season partly because of the abundance of pine bolete mushrooms, which have nicely supplemented our meals. Thanks, nature!

NB Food Circut

I do the rounds when it comes to eating out, but I’m especially keen on Three Donkeys, Burger Joint, Chanakya and South of India. As a vegetarian, I tend more towards the last two because they have amazing vegetarian menus. Three Donkeys is fabulous, a super special experience with incredible food and a great team working there. I also appreciate (greatly) the presence of Southpaw at the Burger Joint (as well as the tasty burgers). And Chanakya is such a gem. We are lucky to have them in our neighbourhood as I am pretty sure they are the best at what they do in Christchurch. And there are loads of options for me there. 

A woman tending to crops at the New Brighton Gardens.

Community Crops & Resilience

136 Shaw Avenue

The most incredible gem in our corner of the world is the New Brighton Community Garden. Catherine, Lin and the team are spectacular and bring so much beauty, joy and a sense of purpose into our community. I don’t get down there enough, but I am completely blown away by what they achieve every time I do. It’s super cool that we are now taking our veggie scraps to the garden to be composted and turned into excellent food for our people. I think places like these are so crucial for building resilience skills into the DNA of our community, and I’d love to see more!  

Three women walking alongside a pool.

Time to Write & Process

Kitchen - 109A Seaview Road // He Puna Taimoana - 195 Marine Parade

Sometimes I drop across the road to the Kitchen if I just need some time out to catch up on writing. It’s comfy, quiet, warm and sunny, and I reckon it has a nice vibe. But if I want to process things, He Puna Taimoana is obviously incredible. Soaking in hot pools looking at the sparkling ocean? Heck yes. 

A view of an outdoor pantry.

Inspirations in the Pantry

46 Hawke Street

I’m really into the Community Fridge and Pantry at St Faith’s. What a brilliant idea, showcasing the generosity in our community. I’ve mentioned the community garden. But I’m also inspired by an initiative spearheaded through ChristchurchNZ, bringing some local businesses together to think about simple improvements we can make to the area. There’s more on this coming - but it’s so great that people will give up their time to make a place better. That’s inspiring to me.

The busy exterior of Home and Castle in Brighton on a sunny day.

Every Home is a Castle

53 New Brighton Mall

My favourite shop in Brighton is Home & Castle. I am constantly amazed at how they have EVERYTHING I ever want, even the most random things.

Two women working behind the counter at a cafe.

Dazzle & Dune

It feels pretty flash having a café as high quality as Dune just down the road from us! You can see how much love they put into everything they make - and it shows, with a massive buzz going on whenever they are open. It’s so amazing having this place open in that part of Brighton, and it is a brilliant daytime complement to Friday nights at Common Ground when the food trucks are on. Grateful to everyone who puts so much energy into making these things happen!

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Telling Tales

Books on shelves and seating area at Telling Tales, Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Igniting the love of reading in children is a magical gift and one that Telling Tales know plenty about.

Indigo & Provisions

Interior view of the historic windows and leather chesterfield at Indigo & Provisions, Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Fashion key icon.

Indigo & Provisions is a specialised fashion store inspired by traditional work-wear, heritage styles and high quality.

Soul Quarter

Chef preparing dish.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Restaurants key icon.

Soul Quarter captures the essence of a contemporary brasserie – great service, simple and seasonal dishes, and a splash of how you say, je ne sais quoi.

Kung Fu Dumplings

Alok laughing with customers at his food truck.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Christchurch may be a long jaunt from Kathmandu, but you won't have to go nearly as far for momo dumplings.