Lyttelton is just over the hill from Christchurch but the portside town sometimes feels a world away with its own distinct vibe and fiercely passionate locals. There is plenty to discover from secondhand stores to high-end dining not to mention a pumping farmers’ market. If you find yourself over that way, here are our top picks.
Ask the co-owner of Super, Sahni Bennett, how she describes her restaurant and she’ll say, “I don’t know”. Look on the website and it will say, “Super is a restaurant. Restaurants have menus.” Intrigued? You should probably just go there and take a look for yourself. You’ll find neon lights, gold cutlery, plants growing along the ceiling, beautiful Japanese pottery, old wooden windows and stylish tables. Super opened in February in Norwich Quay, right beside Lyttelton’s busy port. The kitchen serves up fresh eats with a Japanese twist.
In a quaint, two-storey building on the main street of Lyttelton, a small restaurant is turning out some of the best food in the country. Giulio and Christy Sturla, the couple behind award-winning Roots, are driven by a simple philosophy: to serve good food using fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients. Roots offers degustation menus crafted with the ever-changing natural environment in mind. Much of the restaurant’s produce is harvested from its own urban garden, farmers’ markets and organics specialists. This is supplemented with foraged foods from Banks Peninsula.
Wunderbar is iconic to Lyttelton and is known for its quirk factor with fascinating décor. Think velvet wallpaper, doll’s head light shades and elusive hidden toilets. It also boats great views of the port and has an extensive calendar of live music with a regular line-up of local artists and touring acts. It has Guinness on tap and a well-stocked bar.
Civil & Naval
Civil & Naval has an intimate, nostalgic vibe owing to its rustic fit out and location in a historic building that once housed a tailor shop of the same name. With a wide range of great beers, awesome tapas menu and a cosy courtyard, it is a great hang out in Lyttelton. Laurence Aberhart even photographed it back in the day. Civil & Naval has been open for about four years and owner Louis Dyer, who was just 21 when it opened, says it is coming into its own as a neighborhood bar. Louis says the tailor who used to work in the store passed away the day he signed the lease. “I like to think he was handing it over.” Hot chips seem to be popular with punters, with Louis saying 60 kilograms of spuds were cooked up in a day during a recent public holiday.
It’s easy to while away a morning or afternoon in Lyttelton checking out its cool, wee boutique shops. Pop into secondhand store London St Books for a dose of nostalgia, visit record store Spookie Boogie to find music, limited edition T-shirts and original art or drop by the Harbour Co-op – a community and staff-owned co-operative store that supports local, organic, fair trade and wholefoods producers. There’s also Sweet Thursday, which always has the most interesting window displays, and Henry Trading, an “independent miniature department store”, right next door.
Lyttelton Coffee Company
Situated within a 1921 heritage building, the Lyttelton Coffee Company serves up wholesome food with a focus on sustainability. With great service, it is a fantastic spot to enjoy a brew while enjoying views over the harbour. The roaster sits in the middle of the café and is put to work most nights of the week. Lyttelton Coffee Company supplies beans to over 30 cafes in the city, so it’s fair to say they know what they are doing when it comes to coffee.
Lyttelton Bakery and Glamour Cake
Bree Scott is the mastermind behind Glamour Cake and is riding a wave of sugary success following a national baking award in 2014 and incredible success selling donuts and other treats out of her father’s bakery in Lyttelton. Brandy snap donuts, cookies and cream donuts, custard square donuts, lollycake cheesecake and mint chocolate cheesecake are examples of her amazing creations. “If you are planning a special trip across town to check out Glamour Cake, Saturday is usually the best day to visit,” Bree says. “The shop is fully stocked with treats like donuts, freak shakes and lots of different flavours of cheesecakes and cakes.”
Lyttelton Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday from 10am to 1pm, London St comes alive with food stalls, music and the bustle of people buying fresh produce or simply catching up with friends and enjoying a coffee or two. The market has a commitment to local food with more than a dozen stallholders from Lyttelton and a whole swathe from under 20 kilometres away. It has been running since 2005 and is a not-for-profit enterprise by Project Lyttelton Inc.