Archive for the ‘Cafes & Restaurants’ Category

My Thursday morning walk was postponed due to drizzly weather, and Stephen and I ventured out by car.  With snowdrops the only things flowering in the garden at present I wanted colour inside, and thought I’d buy a cyclamen.  Oderings at Barrington had sold out of mini cyclamen, and I bought one with large blooms.  It was thoroughly pot-bound, so as soon as I got it home I repotted it in a larger container.

We stopped at The Colombo for coffee – a smoothie for me.  The Underground Coffee kiosk has a menu board with a wide selection, but all their meals and smoothies actually come from the café at the Colombo Street entrance to the mall.  It makes good sense for them to have this extra kiosk where you can sit and watch the passers-by.

Coffee Kiosk

There are some new shops in The Colombo and a sign indicating that an independent book shop will soon open there – a good spot for this.  One shop called Nordic Chill  stocks attractive items from IKEA, all clearly labelled ‘assembly required’.

IKEA furniture

I’ve read that IKEA has plans to open shops in Aotearoa, and this is an interesting taste of their merchandise.  I remember in the early 1960s my mother bought several kitset items of furniture, which she assembled herself.  It occurs to me there may be a career opportunity for someone to set up as an IKEA assembler.  When we once bought an office chair with arms from Warehouse Stationery assembly proved to be quite a challenge, and we thought afterwards it would have been worth the $10 charge to have someone else do it.

The flat pack furniture looks good.
Does it assemble as it should?

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The best hot chocolate in Christchurch can be found at the Mediterranean Food Company in Tuam Street.  We often go there for particular groceries, but I hadn’t been to their café for several years.  They now have a stall at the Riverside Market, but the Tuam Street shop is easier to access by car.  We wanted to get some of their superb focaccia bread but we were told we were too early and it wouldn’t come out of the oven until eleven o’clock.

Mediterranean focaccia

It was obvious we needed to have a coffee and hot chocolate while we waited, then we found they offer pain au chocolat, so we needed one each of those as well.

Morning tea at the Mediterranean café

After our weeks of rāhui it still feels like a treat to be able to sit in a café.  We’re very aware that our daughters in the U.K. don’t have this privilege.  Their cafés are still serving only takeaway food.

This afternoon I’ve walked for an hour, and done an hour’s exercise class, and hope that will counteract the effect of this morning’s pastry.

I’m mostly careful what I eat
and am allowed a chocolate treat

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An early morning appointment in Ferry Road gave us an opportunity to try the Gentle Giant for breakfast.  I hadn’t been there before, but had heard good things and we were not disappointed.  They conveniently have four car parks out the front, necessary in this busy area.  Because the day was warm and sunny (amazing in mid-June!) some people were using the outdoor tables, but we chose to be inside where the ambience is warm and friendly.

I chose poached eggs with mushrooms while Stephen had the homemade baked beans with bacon and egg.  My meal was fine, although the eggs were inclined to toll around on the plate.  Stephen pronounced his baked beans as excellent.

Our breakfasts

We tend to try and support cafes within the four avenues, but this one just past Fitzgerald Avenue was definitely worth a visit.

We’d easily become the client
of this informal gentle giant

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Keen to support local businesses we had breakfast this morning at Gold Aroma  in Colombo Street.  This Cafe/Eatery/Bar is the successor to the unlamented Mama Hooch, and during these difficult times it seems to be trying to serve a wide variety of clientele.  They open at 7.30am on weekdays and until late on several nights.  They had the misfortune to start just before lockdown/rāhui, and with the nearby Town Hall currently out of action business can’t be easy.

Breakfast at Gold Aroma

The seating is all on stools, with just one bench seat, so I was lucky there were no other customers when we went in (I do like some back support).  As the staff were slow to take our order, we went up to the counter.  Communication was a little difficult, but they did turn the music down when I asked.  We both had poached eggs on toast  with extras, and these were fine, although the toast was a bit crunchier than I’d choose.  I was pleased they use tea leaves rather than bags, and soon brought more hot water when I asked.  The decor is ordinary, presumably left over from Mama Hooch, with plastic greenery and a bare concrete floor.  It’s probably not a cafe we’d choose to go to again.

Afterwards we went to South City and finally got haircuts.  My hair actually wasn’t too bad, so I’ve learned that it’s quite possible to go eight weeks between cuts.  This time there were only half a dozen people waiting, and four hairdressers working.  Instead of the couches we used to wait on they now have a series of socially spaced chairs.  Whenever someone got up for a cut we all moved along one.  It was something like playing Musical Chairs, and I did wonder how often they sanitize them.  The price has gone up, now $21 for a senior woman’s cut, but I’m certainly not complaining, especially as another local hairdresser told me their cuts start at $85.

I’m pleased that they have cut my hair
and not to have to wait long there


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Today’s expedition had an air of normalcy to it.  We went first to South City, hoping to get an overdue haircut at our usual cheap walk-in cutting place.  The number of people waiting outside prompted us to leave this for another day – maybe even another week.  I’m lucky that my hair was cut just before rāhui and I’ve discovered that going eight weeks without a trim is manageable, but I hope I won’t have to go much longer.

The Warehouse insisted we use hand sanitiser, as did Ballantynes.  I totally understand the need for this, but hate the feeling of dryness it leaves on my hands.  At Ballantynes we purchased a couple of items that have been on our wanted list for a while which was satisfying, and we then chose to have morning tea in their Kin Café.  Of course this now means having to sign in for contact tracing, and they are practising the three S’s – Seating, Separation, and Single server.  Food that would previously have been in the cabinet is now on a printed menu.  While the club sandwiches were tempting, I decided to indulge in a plate of fries, something I haven’t eaten for at least a couple of months.  With table numbers reduced and all the extra restrictions, it would seem churlish to order only coffee, but some people will of course.  Ballantynes fries are a little upmarket, served with Marlborough sea salt and a spicy sauce, good value for $8.  Stephen, who’d had only a banana for breakfast chose bacon and eggs.  Interestingly our two drinks were delivered by two different serving people, but the second one didn’t talk to us, so perhaps she doesn’t count?

Brunch at Ballantynes

We returned home feeling we’d had a normal morning out, and I recorded where we’d been in my Covid Outing Diary, which I’ve been diligently keeping since Jacinda asked us to on 20 April.  Today there’s a new app for this, but it’s not available on my not-so-smartphone, and apparently doesn’t meet the legal criteria anyway.

At just after 3pm, I’ve been watching children walking home from school – just like any normal day.

Today our shopping expedition
included chips for my nutrition

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We celebrated the move to Alert Level Two by going out for breakfast.  One of our favourite local cafés is Table at Monks by the Margaret Mahy Playground.  Once we were up and dressed I phoned to check if they were open for in-house breakfasts, and was told yes.  It was exciting to know we could finally have a meal away from home.  We often went to cafés and restaurants during Cathryn’s first weeks here, but hadn’t eaten out since we were in Greymouth almost eight weeks ago.

When we arrived at 8am we were invited to sit at a table.  I asked if we could take their Press, which was okay, but I did wonder how they will clean it before someone else wants it.  The waiter asked if we had a cellphone, and I said no – that’s easier than explaining that my not-so-smartphone can’t download the app. for registration.  Instead we filled out a form that asked for name, address, phone number, email, date, and time.  This is more comprehensive than my experience in shops which usually just ask for name and phone number.

We relished our breakfasts (mushrooms and egg on polenta for me), the first meal Stephen’s had that he hasn’t cooked himself.

Mushrooms and egg on polenta

I didn’t feel I could ask the waiter to use my camera, so attempted a selfie – not my forté.

Breakfasting at Monks

We were at the café for about an hour and during that time no-one else came to dine in, although there were three takeaway coffee customers.  It may take a while for people to venture out, and I guess not many would go out for breakfast early on a misty Thursday morning anyway, especially as this will be the first day back at work for some.

It really was a special treat
to go to a café to eat

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On the first day of Alert Level Three Stephen headed out on a shopping mission, and I got him to drop me near St Michael’s pro-Cathedral.  I walked west along the river where a woman was feeding the birds, including these two black swans.

Swans on riverbank

The Botanic Gardens are open again, and a man was mowing the grass which has been left untouched for the past month.

Mowing the Botanic lawn

Probably it will have done it good to have a rest.  The Peacock Fountain looked sad and empty, but will soon be flowing again.

Empty Peacock Fountain

Down Park Terrace I observed the lamp standards which were part of the Scape Solidarity Grid project in 2013-4, including one donated by the Municipal Government of Wuhan, China.  A Friendship City Agreement was signed between the Mayors of Wuhan and Christchurch in 2006.

Lamp standard from Wuhan

Along Bealey Avenue traffic was much busier and at one point I could smell vehicle fumes.  This reminded me of how my daughter says cycling in inner city London is so much better at present because of lowered pollution.  The Affogato Cafe at the corner of Bealey Avenue and Colombo Street is now open for takeaways.  We’ve been wondering about getting a restaurant meal, and I see that Coriander’s and Cafe Valentino are both now offering deliveries.  We might wait a day or two for things to settle down, and then treat ourselves.

During my walk there were several occasions when I needed to press the pedestrian light button, using my elbow, so when I got home I put the jacket I’d been wearing into the laundry hamper.

This morning I heard Boris Johnson speaking on his return to work, and I thought again how lucky we are in Aotearoa.  Boris makes a speech, while Jacinda simply talks to us.  After all she’s done I could almost be persuaded to vote Labour in gratitude.

It seems strange now to sit in the garden and hear traffic going by and the distant sound of construction.  Piko is open again, and busy-ness is slowly returning.

The former normal’s gone for good.
What will replace it in our ‘hood?


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Our TranzAlpine trip had been booked over three weeks earlier, and we were confident it would go ahead.  On Saturday morning when we arrived at the station we were surprised to see two tour buses parked outside, and then to find very few people in the waiting room.  It turned out that the day’s Coastal Pacific train had been cancelled because of possible Covid 19 contamination, and those passengers were being taken to Picton by bus.  We were told that Tranz Alpine bookings were well down, but there were five passenger carriages on our train so social/physical distancing could be ensured.  The check-in person asked us to put contact details on the back of our boarding passes in case this was needed for Covid 19 follow-up.

Our carriage with approximately 50 seats had less than a dozen passengers.  The three of us were in a space with four seats and a table.  Across the aisle was a group of four tourists, less than one metre away!

Viaduct from train

Viaduct from train

I love train travel at any time and this amazingly spectacular route is always thrilling.  As we descended from Otira it started to rain, and the mist closed in in true West Coast fashion.  By the time we got to Greymouth it was raining steadily and we were glad our rooms at the Kingsgate Hotel were not far from the station.  Here the receptionist asked whether any of us had been overseas during the past month, and whether anyone was feeling unwell, and made a note of our answers.

Heavy rain reinforced our decision to have dinner at the Hotel.  The restaurant was not available to us because it was being kept exclusively for a Belgian tour group.  However the full menu was available in the bar area which had a good number of tables.  We were the only ones dining there and had the undivided attention of a sole barman/waiter.  The meal was excellent and we were happy to retire at 9pm.

Dinner at Kingsgate Hotel

We had heard Jacinda’s broadcast asking people over 70 to stay at home, and everyone to avoid non-essential domestic travel.  This means Cathryn’s North Island trip is cancelled, and she will fly home tomorrow.  It also means I can’t attend Te Reo classes or tutorials which are now moving online anyway.

Next morning we had breakfast at Sevenpenny, where every second table had a sign saying Permanently reserved – legal requirement – 1m physical distance, and we were asked to fill in a form with name, address, phone number, and email so we can be contacted if it’s later found someone with Covid19 has eaten there.  Lunch at Robert Harris had a similar requirement to register, and this is the last time we will eat out for the duration.

Signs at Sevenpenny Cafe

Sevenpenny was named after an effective consumer boycott in 1947 when local hotels moved to raise the price of beer from 6d to 7d.  The boycott led to local miners striking, and the nation reached crisis point with a shortage of coal nationwide which forced the Government to intervene.

Cathryn had introduced me, via her laptop, to The Crown on Netflix, and the prospect of having to stay home indefinitely induced me to buy a Vodafone TV box in Greymouth.  This is now all set up, so we have extra home entertainment.  We’ve learned today that the TranzAlpine service has been suspended until further notice, so our trip home yesterday was the last one for the forseeable future.

Among all this week’s sad news there are two encouraging items.  The first is that the Act changing abortion from a crime to a health issue has been passed.  The second is that a friend who has had severe ongoing leg problems has been told she is now eligible for the necessary prosthetic.  So good to have these rays of sunshine amid the gloom!

So glad we took the chance to roam
from now on we must stay at home

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I always liked the Lemon Tree Cafe, which was handy to my office (it’s in St Asaph Street, between Madras and Manchester) but it’s nearly four years since I’ve been there.  The cafe changed hands last year, but the nostalgic decor is intact, and makes a visit fascinating, even without the food, which is good too.

China displayed


Shelves of scales

I had a berry smoothie and a decadent raspberry danish – yum!  My friend’s tea was served in a bone china cup.  If you want a cafe with interesting antiques this is definitely the place to go.

If someplace different’s what you seek
this lemon cafe is unique


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A friend told me her sister said there was nothing to do in Tekapo, but I beg to differ.  Our motel unit looked out onto the lake, and I was content to sit on a chair on the verandah and gaze at the blue water and shadowy mountains beyond.  We were close to the Dark Sky Project (on the left of photo below), the motel manager said that what had once been a million dollar view was now a million dollar building, but we still had a view.

View from motel

On our first night I went out at 10pm hoping to see the Milky Way but there was too much light from the ground.  I wondered if it would be better at the lake edge, but wasn’t game to walk down there in my night attire.  From our verandah we could see lots of stars and easily identify Orion’s Belt.  On the ground below the motel there was an elaborate ground-level sundial, but its function has been obscured by the Dark Sky building.

The first night we ate at the Dark Sky Diner, adequate, but overpriced.  Next morning we had breakfast at Doughboys Bakery, where poached eggs and mushrooms for $10 was good value.  There are plenty of shops and a comprehensive Four Square supermarket, which opens at 8am, and stocks the Press.  One day we breakfasted at The Greedy Cow which offered exotic breakfasts – curried cauliflower with poached eggs for me, and huevos rancheros for Stephen.

Breakfast at Greedy Cow

The best dinner we had in Tekapo was at MacKenzies Café Bar and Grill.  I had monkfish, and Stephen chose a chicken breast on a stone grill (i.e. he cooked the meat himself).  They thoughtfully gave him two sets of cutlery, one for the raw chicken and one for the cooked.  One night we’d tried to book a table at a different restaurant, to be told that they were fully booked but if we turned up at 7 they might fit us in.  We duly arrived, and were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a table.  When I said that was too long and we’d go to the nearby Chinese Restaurant the staff member said “Don’t go there, you’ll get food poisoning and the service is terrible.” We did choose somewhere else, but I was amazed that someone would make what might be considered a slanderous comment to complete strangers.

We sampled more than one café
all quite close to our place of stay


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