Christchurch is celebrating the Riverside Markets proof that the city's producers are back in business, writes Alexia Santamaria
Everyone loves a good weekend market. What could be nicer than buying fresh produce direct from the growers while enjoying a hot coffee, buttery pastry or enormous bacon sandwich?
Chat to the farmers, growers and makers, take home some freshly smoked salmon and artisan cheese to go with afternoon drinks and you've got a pretty amazing way to start your day.
But markets are a bit more than that to the people of Christchurch. When supermarkets closed in the wake of the February 2011 quake, local markets were the only place some could buy food. They also became a place where people could congregate, laugh and cry in incredibly tough times when they'd lost so much.
So the opening of the magnificent Riverside Markets complex this month is more than a celebration of a new commercial enterprise. It's a celebration of a city getting back up on its feet; of producers in this part of New Zealand having a central place to sell their wares — and a celebration of locals coming back into the central city after a long period in the suburbs that became their hubs when the centre of town was little but rubble.
Here's a rundown on Christchurch's new "place to be" plus other markets worth visiting, the next time you're in beautiful Ōtautahi.
Overlooking the Ōtākaro (Avon) River, the brand new 3500sq m, seven-day-a-week indoor market brings together the region's best artisan produce — from the salami at Cured to the produce at Cultivate, gozlemes and turkish delight at Izmir Delight, the doughnuts at Donut Dispensary, quail and heritage eggs and so, so much more — there's even a Brewer's Collective for craft beer fans.
There are 40 market stalls and 30 food vendors — including five rooftop bar restaurants. If you've ever been to Little High Eatery in High St, you'll need no convincing to check out Riverside. The same people are behind it and quite a few of the crowd favourites from Little High have brought their new food ventures to Riverside.
There has been a huge commitment to helping smaller businesses — The Riverside Collective, inside the market, is a 70sq m space that gives up to 21 artisans the opportunity to sell their wares at one time. The idea is that businesses can lease a smaller footprint to showcase their products, and sharing the running of the space will allow them to still generate business at markets around Christchurch on other days.
The Pacific Island upping the stakes when it comes to food
Alongside the market is Riverside Lanes, with more than 15 retail boutiques, including Alchemy Equipment, Bourbon Rose, Beehive Collective, Shopology, Flower Addict, Hugo Boss, Otautahi Tattoo and the famous She Chocolate.
Dotted through the main complex (with the bigger outlets upstairs) are plenty of places to grab a bite on the run, or sit down over a wine, craft beer or cocktail — Indo Tempeh for Indonesian Vegan and Vegetarian dishes, El Quincho for Argentine barbecue, Seoul Tiger for Korean, Bacon Bros Burgers, Kathmandu Momo House for Nepalese and much more. It's a food complex to make other major New Zealand centres jealous.
There's even a wonderful cooking school if you want to shop, cook and eat Canterbury's finest seasonal produce and — although you may not notice — there are touching reminders of pre-quake Christchurch throughout Riverside, including a heritage clock from the old Moorhouse Ave railway station and salvaged windows and timber from Lyttelton wharfs. In celebrating a new city full of possibility, the old Christchurch — and all it lost — has definitely not been forgotten.
Even though Riverside is looking bright shiny and new, Cantabrians aren't about to abandon the other local markets that have supported them for so long. If you're there on the right day, make sure you check out these great spots.
This welcoming local Friday market, just half an hour from the city centre has some excellent producers. Even though it was drizzly on the day we visited, we spent ages chatting to the very passionate Michelle Deveraux from Saveur de Sel before buying some of her gorgeous citrus-thyme and lavender salt. And it was a "no cooking tonight" dream come true to take away a ready-to-eat Spanish Tortilla from Spanish Foods — and a cheeky Beesting from Jerry & George Artisan Bakers for the road.
Lyttelton and Christchurch Farmers Markets
Both these Saturday markets are incredibly popular and for good reason. The Lyttelton Farmers closes down London St from 10am-1pm. People go mad for Vics croissants and bread, olives and dips from Volcano Market — try the Thai mango salad if they have it — and often take home a bottle of wine from the Boneline (a wonderful vineyard in North Canterbury. I can personally vouch for their rosé).
Christchurch Farmers Market is pretty-as-a-picture, set at Riccarton House right by the river, perfect for picnicking with your purchases while listening to the live music. If you have a sweet tooth keep an eye out for a delicious bowl of Posh Porridge or Christchurch's famous morning buns from Grizzly Baked Goods, and there's plenty for savoury fans too.
Opawa Farmers market
One of the original post-quake markets, Opawa is great if you're looking for Sunday morning fun. Next to a park, you can spread out on rugs and eat al fresco plus stock up on bread, veges, pesto, delicious kombucha from Mauriora and so much more. Try the delicious vegan burgers and hotdogs from Fernando, too.