Any visitor to Christchurch has a host of eclectic restaurant choices at their fingertips. Take a look at The Culture Trip’s guide to find the restaurants and cafes that will leave your palate singing, but keep your waistline just as it was before you sat down at the table.
The Shroom Room Cafe – the name just oozes character. Whilst not strictly in Christchurch – it’s just around the corner in Lyttelton – it’s close enough and brilliant enough for us to sneak it into our list, and when you go there yourself you’ll definitely forgive us. As you might expect, the emphasis is put on all forms of fungi, and the menu is totally vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. If you’re a sucker for some creamy mushrooms on beautiful toast for breakfast, then this is the place for you. It’s a hip and happening place, so if your visit coincides with the farmer’s market on a Saturday, then prepare to potentially wait for a table.
Situated within a gorgeous, turn-of-the-century villa, once home to the Station Master for the Riccarton Railway, Dux Dine has a surprisingly upbeat and contemporary feel. The interior of this award-winning venue merges the modern restaurant with its historical façade. Dux has strong relationships with local suppliers, artisan producers and growers, so their ingredients are fresh, seasonal and lovingly produced and prepared. Start with light prawn and crab dumplings followed by crispy tofu, red curry with jasmine rice, pizza, seasonal salads, or Akaroa salmon with fried caper berries, parsnips and carrot confit.
Maybe it’s a little controversial to include a chain store in our list of healthiest restaurants in Christchurch. But it can’t be denied that since the opening they’ve been a dependable haven for those in need of something quick and healthy to eat or drink. The juices and smoothies have been honed to a fine art over the years, so there is nothing to ever complain about there. The salads and acai bowls are the cornerstone of what the owners say is the largest gluten-free and dairy-free menu in Christchurch. They contain fresh vegetables and leafy greens and at the end of the day, you can’t get round the fact that you’ll live longer eating here than at any other fast-food joint. Their coffee isn’t to be sneezed at either.
If any restaurant on this list was selected for epitomising the diversity that Christchurch offers when it comes to places to get the old nose-bag on, The Lotus Heart might very well be it. Offering a totally vegetarian menu, the fine people of The Lotus Heart are dedicated to offering up locally and organically sourced fare in a spiritual oasis of an environment. For those of a vegan or gluten-free disposition, or for anyone on a raw food diet, this is an essential port of call.
Pot Sticker is what experiencing the cuisine from another culture is all about. It’s fun, relaxed and – most importantly – delicious. Named after the street name for fried dumplings, the boys and girls who work at Pot Sticker have dumplings down to a fine art. You can expect the dumpling dough to hug lovingly around freshly cooked prawns, veggies or free-range meats. What sets the dumplings at this establishment apart? The ingredients. There is nothing less appetising than a stodgy dumpling stuffed with some sort of unidentifiable substance. Happily, you’ll never have to worry about that at Pot Sticker. If you want our recommendation, get your vegetable dumplings steamed. Something else that you should do is get a crew together and book one of this restaurant’s private rooms. Here you have that extra bit of privacy and your very own dumpling master making them in front of your eyes.
The Twisted Hop Pub does exactly what it says on the tin. Here you’ll find a lovely, cosy establishment in the winter, but with a fine beer garden to enjoy when the sun is out. This gastro-pub has a micro-brewery on-site, in which they condition their ale in casks. So, you can pick up a pint or two of their home brew, or something a little more exotic from their extensive range of international beers. Yes, you may wonder what the dickens a gastro-pub is doing on our list of the healthiest restaurants in town, but life can’t (and shouldn’t be) all salads and juices. If you’re trying to shed some winter weight you can still eat healthily here – if you choose wisely – because the ingredients are all top drawer, without anything processed in sight.
There is something old-worldly about this shop, an almost apothecary air. Their trained practitioners prescribe and dispense the highest quality herbal and nutritional medicines, which sit on the shelves that line the walls. When it comes to the cafe, you’ll find menu items that are all made on the premises with a focus on fresh, local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. Although the majority of dishes are vegetarian and vegan, there is a lone meat dish to help lure in the more pessimistic carnivores. There are – as you’d expect – a range of delights made to accommodate dairy and gluten-free diners.
The Welcome Cafe is serious about not using MSG in their meals, and always strives to cater to gluten-free diets too. The eatery is also known for its large-portion sizes, an array of vegan mains, and a large assortment of vegetarian meals that embrace the finest flavours to come out of authentic Chinese cooking. Along with northern Chinese cuisine classics, they also offer a handful of vegetarian soups and curries from Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
Primarily a delicatessen, BearLion Foods is also open for dinner on Thursday evenings so that customers can see examples of dishes that can be whipped with all the incredible produce that is on offer in store. The food always comes out looking fantastic – although sometimes it’s tricky to know what it actually is that you are eating. Never fear though, because ignorance has never been so blissful. They’re adamant on never using refined white sugar or flour in anything they make, which satisfies the environment as well as their clientele. Perhaps our favourite aspect of the menu (and shop, of course) is their meat. All of it is sourced locally, with their sausages made with natural casings and without fillers, and their bacon is free from nitrates or preservatives.
Foremost in the commitment of Tutto Bene is to bring their diners an authentic and delicious taste of Italy. What’s more, they have recently added a vegan menu to their repertoire of outstanding Italian dishes. As no Italian meal is complete without cheese, you may think that this would be somewhat of a downer. Luckily, they purchase some excellent vegan cheese from Angel Foods. The restaurant evokes the old-fashioned, rustic Italian warmth and hospitality that made Italian culture and food so cherished. Tutto Bene will cater for any occasion and party type. Whether you’re seeking a romantic dinner for two or a filling family dinner, Tutto Bene is the place to be. Indoors or outside on their gorgeous terrace, you’ll have an unforgettable meal.