Monday, April 28, 2014


executive summary by darmansjah

Preparing for my trip to New Zealand’s South Island, well-meaning friends advised me to allocate just a day for Christchurch, because after all, what could a city do in just under two years, following not one, but two devastating earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 Plenty, it turns out. While a portion remains cordoned off in the Red Zone – iconic architectural attractions such as the Cathedral and Arts Centre remain closed indefinitely – the indomitable Kiwis are rebuilding their beloved city brick by arduous brick, this spirit of hope displayed most brilliantly at Re: START.

Though in this case, bricks were not used, but rather, shipping containers. We park at Lichfied Street and proceed to walk through luxury department store Ballantynes towards Cashel Street, all the while trying to conjure a mental image of how an entire shopping area could possibly consist solely of boring rectangular storage solutions, stacked and sexy. With a start, I realize I have in fact just walked into a container store – and a few minutes later emerge to find the ‘pop-up mall’: a colourful, Lego-like, boxed-up maze of 40 boutique shops housing well-known retailers like Head Over Heels, Trelise Cooper and Toi Toi. Stopping to get my morning caffeine at Hummingbird Coffee, I find a comfortable crowd already enjoying their cuppa while basking in the sunlight-drenched alfresco area, where regular live music shows and street acts will liven up this funky shopping precinct when weekend arrives.

A 30-minute drive north out of Christchurch takes us towards Waipara Valley, a fast-growing grape region home to award-winning vinery Pegasus Bay. A family-run enterprise, founder Ivan Donaldson planted the first vineyard in the Canterbury region in the mid 70s; the winery now produces mostly Riesling and Pinot Noir varieties. Wine tasting is a truly decadent experience here, where knowledgeable staff will walk you through your Cabernets (toasty-flavoured black currants) to Gewurztraminers (great with curries) with great flair. Holding my choice red, we proceed to the cozy cottage-like restaurant where restaurant manager Juliana has already prepared a lunch feast, the gigantic Pegasus Bay Platter for two possibly the tastiest antipasto platter I’ve tried. Winner of ‘NZ Winery Restaurant of the Year’ by Cuisine Magazine for five years straight, it was tough trying to put more into our bursting tummies. Thankfully, a sensible scenic post-meal walk around the lush, expansive blooming vineyard amidst gentle winds finally put some bounce back into my stride.

Don’t miss a trip to the Riccarton Market, located 15 minutes from central Christchurch and the biggest of its kind in new Zealand. Open on Sundays, over 250 vendors sell everything goods and art, to plants and fashion. 

Step into a negative 30 degree Celsius climate even during summer at the International Antartic Centre, with cute little Blue Penguins and exciting outdoor rides on the all-terrain amphibious vehicle – the hagglund.

For more information on Christchurch, log on to

Where to eat PESCATORE Set with the luxurious boutique hotel of the George, patrons come here for the restaurant’s scenic views of Hagley Park, and also in anticipation of the chef’s creative interpretations on food, taking inspiration from classic cuisines to the latest food techniques. Ours was the middle menu, starting with a ham salad consisting of onion, beetroot, apple and prosciutto. They were masterfully dehydrated, every bite a wonderful intense burst of flavor. The Canterbury lamb trio was succulent, before ending off with 7 lemons, a refreshing zing to your meal (from US$89).

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