An up­mar­ket food court on Christchurch’s High St

Taste - - Contents - STORY Nick Rus­sell PHO­TOGRAPHS Kate Clar­idge

The chain-link fence that once blocked lower High Street in Christchurch fea­tured a hand-drawn sign say­ing “limbo land” – a show of frus­tra­tion at the slow pace of the earth­quake re­cov­ery. Those days are thank­fully over and it’s look­ing more like a land of op­por­tu­nity for out­stand­ing bars and eater­ies. Up­mar­ket food court Lit­tle High Eatery ar­rived on the cor­ner of High Street and Tuam Street in May this year, at the heart of Christchurch’s 3.6-hectare cen­tral city ‘in­no­va­tion precinct’ of tech, re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses. Housed within the re­stored Mcken­zie & Wil­lis build­ing, Lit­tle High Eatery has eight lo­cally owned and op­er­ated restau­rants with freshly roasted cof­fee and treats from A Mouse Called Bean, mod­ern Ja­panese from Sushi Sol­dier, au­then­tic Ital­ian from Base Wood­fired Pizza, Thai street food from Noodle­monk, gourmet burg­ers from Ba­con Brothers, Latin Amer­i­can flavours from Caribe Latin Kitchen, South Amer­i­can-style bar­be­cued meats from El Fogón, and flavour­some Chi­nese food from Eight­grains.

A few of the eater­ies come from the RE:START con­tainer mall that helped keep the hos­pi­tal­ity and re­tail side of cen­tral Christchurch alive in the early stages of the re­build; this area is now be­ing de­vel­oped into a farm­ers’ mar­ket.

Other ven­dors, like Venezue­lan-born Richard Cas­tro of Caribe Latin Kitchen and El Fogón, moved up from Queen­stown to help com­plete the food of­fer­ing at Lit­tle High. Richard started his Caribe brand in Queen­stown but added El Fogón when he ar­rived in Christchurch.

Richard says that to make sure each of the eater­ies at Lit­tle High was unique, all the own­ers

Or­der your Oreo freak­shake at Base Pizza, espresso mar­tini at A Mouse Called Bean, Eight­grains have your ly­chee mar­garita, and a glass of Chilean red is wait­ing at El Fogón

sat down at the start and agreed to sell dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, right down to their drinks menus, and they co­op­er­ated on pric­ing so you pay the same for tap beers at each spot. The obvious ad­van­tage for cus­tomers is you get a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence at each of the eater­ies: or­der your Oreo freak­shake at Base Pizza, espresso mar­tini at A Mouse Called Bean, Eight­grains have your ly­chee mar­garita, and a glass of Chilean red is wait­ing at El Fogón. The drinks re­flect the back­grounds of the ven­dors and match the style of cui­sine, from the bao buns and dumplings hand­made by the mother of Eight­grains owner Mia Zhao, to the au­then­tic stuffed corn­meal arepas at Caribe.

“I took all the nice Kiwi pro­duce and meat and matched it with what we do back home,” says Richard of the food at Caribe and El Fogón. “We make every­thing, all the sauces and breads, by hand in the same way we do back home.” At Caribe, que­sadil­las are the most pop­u­lar item as they are fa­mil­iar to Ki­wis but Richard is pleased that the sig­na­ture street food of his home­town, arepas, are gain­ing trac­tion. Caribe also boasts some of the best chur­ros in Christchurch.

In a neigh­bour­hood with Josh Emett’s Madam Woo, French bistro St Ger­main, C1 Espresso and the newly re­lo­cated The Mon­day Room there’s no short­age of ex­cel­lent eat­ing haunts. But Richard says that even af­ter Lit­tle High’s ‘hon­ey­moon pe­riod’ the place is still packed, to the ex­tent that a planned ninth eatery has been put on hold to al­low for more seat­ing.

Luke Bil­brough of Ba­con Brothers is an­other who’s de­lighted at the pop­u­lar­ity of Lit­tle High. “Week­ends are in­sane; we go non-stop from 9am to 12pm,” he says. To keep the party go­ing dur­ing the week, Ba­con Brothers en­gage in some quirky mar­ket­ing with their ‘Tinge of the Ginge Thurs­days’ where red­heads get a dis­count or ‘Tin­der Tuesday’ where you turn up and hug a date to get two burg­ers for $20.

Com­ing to Lit­tle High from the Christchurch Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, Ba­con Brothers were keen to keep the lo­cal con­nec­tion and get their burger buns from an­other mar­ket stall­holder, Le Panier. Nat­u­rally, ba­con fea­tures in many of the burg­ers and they get that from lo­cal butcher Peter Timbs Meats as well as Ashby’s Butch­ery in Green­dale. They’ve even en­listed lo­cal graf­fiti artist Wongi Wilson to help dec­o­rate their eatery space. Their burg­ers are named af­ter em­ploy­ees, such as the best-sell­ing ‘Big Jim’ (chicken, ba­con and av­o­cado) and they also cel­e­brate ‘lo­cal heroes’ with spe­cials like their chicken, ba­con and brie burger called ‘Mike the Milk­man’. Mike’s the bloke who de­liv­ers milk to A Mouse Called Bean next door.

While parts of High Street are still be­ing re­paired, the invention and ex­cite­ment com­ing out of Lit­tle High Eatery sug­gests there are fun times ahead for food­ies in the cen­tral city. ○


The busy din­ing room at Lit­tle High Eatery.


Clock­wise from top left: Caribe Latin Kitchen’s sig­na­ture mar­garita; Caribe’s Camila Napoleone and man­ager Ram Hari Ma­ciel Vera; Eight­grains’ best-sell­ing mixed dumpling plat­ter; Eight­grains’ man­ager Shaili Pandya.


‘Andy the Elec­tri­cian’ burger with a side of fries and deep-fried cau­li­flower at Ba­con Brothers. James ‘Big Jim’ Raw­sthorn and Luke Bil­brough of Ba­con Brothers.


Scenes from Lit­tle High Eatery.

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