Christchurch travel guide

From ambitious chefs to robust street art, post-earthquake Christchurch is a city alive with creative energy, writes Max Veenhuyzen.

By Max Veenhuyzen
The Tannery

The George
Close enough to the city for convenience yet far enough away for quiet, this elegant hotel is classic rather than cutting-edge, with a neutral palette and plush fittings. Although the hotel takes an old-school approach to service, its fine-diner, Pescatore, is on trend. From pairing paper-thin dried vegetable chips with pine-flavoured mascarpone to making a handsome arrangement of charry abalone and miso custard, Reon Hobson's cooking hits the mark for flavour and theatre. 50 Park Tce, Christchurch

Named for the building's past life, The Tannery houses some of Christchurch's best boutiques and features local talent, among them designers Alchemy Equipment, Chalkydigits and Wanderer.

Closer to the city centre, browse gift stores Hapa and The General Store for design-driven knick-knacks in Restart, the city's lively and colourful shipping-container mall. For the liquor cabinet, the domestic whisky selection at Whisky Galore is among the best in the country.

The exhibits at Quake City, at the Canterbury Museum, are as much a celebration of the indomitable Cantabrian spirit as they are a record of the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

While grey concrete continues to dominate Christchurch's landscape, the work of street artists - some commissioned, some not - brings colour to the city. Download the Oi You! Streetwise app and embark on a self-guided urban-art walk.

Or head to the nearby Christchurch Botanic Gardens, with a garden coffee stop at Ilex Café.

Chef Giulio Sturla's tasting menus are perpetual works in progress, featuring boat-fresh seafood in dishes such as char-grilled abalone in fish broth, and smoked mackerel with glassy blooms of fried kale. Outré wine choices underscore Roots' reputation as one of New Zealand's most progressive eateries. 8 London St, Lyttelton

King of Snake
Though it sounds like a straight-to-video triad movie, King of Snake's vibrant take on Asian food is hard to resist. While the menu sports familiar dishes and flavours, kitchen smarts ensure familiar dishes and flavours - sweet and sour pork, perhaps, and Penang beef cheek curry - are anything but ho-hum. 145 Victoria St, Christchurch

Harlequin Public House
From plump Mahurangi oysters to audacious combinations such as pork jowl with deep-fried clams and Kewpie mayo, chef Jonny Schwass knows how to show diners a good time. Well-priced wines and cocktails from bar manager Alex Jackman keep the mood buoyant at this bistro. 32 Salisbury St, Christchurch

Using beans direct from Samoa and roasting them daily, C One Espresso is one of the city's favourite caffeine brokers. It's known for its old pinball machines, edgy menus and sliders delivered at lightning speed via pneumatic tubes.

For a different vibe entirely, order a dram at whisky bar The Last Word, or a Cassels & Sons beer and wood-fired pizza at The Brewery.

Roots, Christchurch
Roots, Christchurch