Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Delightful Christchurch heritage pit stop

If looking for something different for a relaxed, albeit stylish lunch, the OGB Bar and Café at 28 Cathedral Square takes some beating. Established in the Old Government Building OGB) of 1913, it is one of the finest heritage sites in the city. It was for many years the Ministry of Works. These days it is the Heritage Hotel along with other businesses, including the OGB Bar and Café.

It is dubbed Speakeasy-style, a name belonging to prohibition days when patrons spoke quietly in public about premises selling illicit alcoholic beverages.

These days there’s no need for secrecy.  And going by the patronage, supporters are not keeping quiet about this place with views of heritage tramcars gliding past the windows.

The bar and café was the first to open post Canterbury earthquakes of 2011. Indeed the entire building, stylishly clad with Oamaru stone, needed considerable repairs and strengthening. It is claimed some of the original stonemasons helped out during the aftermath of the earthquakes. The bar and café was the idea of Nick Inkster. He added a convenient coffee bar window opening onto a courtyard.

I went there with my Christchurch-born son visiting from Perth. I doubt I could have made a better choice for that something different occasion.

We ordered a beer, one of the popular Christchurch craft brews. Our choice was Three Boys IPA. It was poured into a large jug-style glass, possibly more than a pint. It was not as cold as I was expecting. Thus it was highly suitable for the cosy bar when outside the grey autumn day was decidedly dismal. We accompanied it with a Ploughman’s platter we shared. Platter comprised cheese, ham and gherkins along with some interesting spreads for the toasted bread. We also ordered a basket of excellent wedges.

To say the heritage ambience was appealing is an understatement. That, the beverage and food choice, combined to make us feel we had enjoyed something special, a big step above average.

Not only is it an ideal lunch stop, it is ideal for other times of the day. Just drop in with good company for a relaxing drink. In addition to craft beer, the wine list is impressive.    

Friday, 17 March 2017

Street art highlighted by Lonely Planet

Street art is one good reason to visit Christchurch, New Zealand. A new Lonely Planet guide, Street Art highlights Christchurch as a Street art capital along with 39 other countries. Authors tell us street art is a feature of almost every city, from Aachen to Zwolle. Christchurch is a standout. It was an idea following the 2010-11 earthquakes that trashed many buildings leaving a host of unsightly blank walls.  They were not unsightly for long. Legal murals associated with the city’s RISE festival (a first for New Zealand) began with Melbourne street artist Rone. His Worcester Street work featuring fashion model, Teresa Oman, was an immediate hit.  
 Others soon followed including murals by mostly New Zealand and Australian artists. Canterbury Museum staged a highly successful street art exhibition featuring the work of Banksy and other international street artists. Many works were humorous, attracting a smile from passers-by. Some, such as the Seb Humphreys nude on Calendar Girls building (tasteful in my opinion) were controversial. All were spectacular.

  RISE festival commissioned a dozen artists to paint giant murals. The final work, Dancer’s last bow on the rear of Isaac Theatre Royal, by Bay of Plenty artist Owen Dippee, is arguably the most popular. 

Interestingly, the idea did not remain with walls of demolished buildings. Murals began to appear on the blank walls of new buildings. Seems street art in Christchurch will flourish into the future. All good for a, literally, bright future. Riding the Christchurch heritage tramway (operating daily) is a good starting point for a street art experience.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Quaint survivor of earthquake and wild fires

The Christchurch Port Hills fires, fiercely burning for several days from late afternoon on February 13, 2017 wiped out the best part of 2000 ha of scrub and forest. They jumped roads and threatened hill-side suburbia. It was a relief to discover the fire little more than licked a much enjoyed historic building, the Sign of the Kiwi sitting on the crest of Dyers Pass Road.

Designed by pioneer architect, Samuel Hurst Seager and built by eccentric (slightly) conservationist Harry Ell in 1916 and  1917 it became one of Ell's distinctive Port Hills' road houses.

The Sign of the Kiwi was closed following damage from Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. It had re-opened on January 23, 2017 following a $1 million rebuild programme. It was re-opened in time for its centenary commemoration. The historic building is owned by Christchurch City Council. The café is leased to cyclist Janice Thornton. When a youngster hill walker I was a regular hiker arriving at Sign of the Kiwi. Not long before the recent fires I joined companions for a revisit for morning coffee and date scone. We walked from Victoria Park. Pleasingly, the café was humming. Seemed it was quickly making up for almost six years of lost patronage. Te coffee and scone scored top marks. Reconstruction has been well done. I was delighted to see William Shakespeare’s quote from The winter’s tale above the entrance:

  Jog on, jog on, the footpath way, And merrily hent the stile-a;

A merry heart goes all the day, Your sad tires in a mile-a.