Distinction Hotel in Cathedral Square has something to smile about and we do too. Alex Ensor, a hatted chef who has just returned from the Middle East where he won the BBC GOOD FOOD restaurant of the year award, has joined the team and we are the ones that are going benefit from that.
Starting his culinary journey at Huka Lodge New Zealand before heading to Australia and working for world renowned chefs Guillaume Brahimi and Dietmar Sawyere, Alex has had more than 20 years’ experience in leading hotels and restaurants, all of which consistently won awards. With hats being the equivalent of Michelin stars in Australasia, Alex brings a wealth of experience and passion and the new menu at Distinction Hotel is benefiting from that experience.
Designed to be accessible, it’s refined dining without being fine dining. Seared scallops on creamy cauliflower puree, parsnip crisps splashed with apple and yellow curry oil, crispy skin corned Canter Valley duck breast with kumara puree, braised cabbage, sticky mustard seed dressing, smooth peanut butter parfait with dried fig puree, oven roasted salted peanuts, paillette feuilletine, are just some of the exceptional meals made using loyal local produce; that’s the way Alex wants it.
What Alex is excited about is bringing quality, good sized plates of food to the people of Christchurch. “We want everybody to come and experience Gumption. Our team are here because we are proud of what we do and that reflects in not only our service but our attitude toward preparing new and delicious food,” he says.
Gumption Restaurant & Bar is open 6am till 10am for breakfast, 5:30pm till 10pm for dinner. The bar has an all-day menu available from 11am until 10pm and all items can be enjoyed wherever the guests choose in either the bar or restaurant.
Reservations for Gumption can be made via the main hotel number
03 377 7000. Bon appetit.
Regenerate Christchurch has released its vision for Cathedral Square, emphasising that a return to its original purpose as a gathering place for local people and visitors must be front and centre.
Chief Executive Ivan Iafeta says while the vision for the physical regeneration of the Square is aspirational in terms of design, the social regeneration of the square is achievable sooner and should be prioritised.
The design for the square includes a series of interconnected spaces suitable for public events, with a combination of paving and green areas and more trees than in the past. There is an option for three enclosed pavilions connected by a lattice-style structure which Ivan says, would provide a year-round undercover area for markets and other activities.
Ivan says the greater regeneration will need to be delivered in stages as funding and other developments allow, but delivering a comprehensive programme of events, activities and festivals will re-establish the square as a gathering place.
“To be regenerated, the square cannot remain symbolic of the city’s loss and instead needs to be a strong symbol of the vibrant future of the centre of our city. The long-term vision will provide the impetus and drive for the public and private sectors to work toward a common goal.
“But it’s not just about new things. It is about people and we need to get on with making the square a place for the people again.”
Regenerate Christchurch’s long-term vision can be viewed at regeneratechristchurch.nz/cathedral-square and the organisation will now work with Christchurch City Council to develop a delivery strategy.
The central city is becoming a hotspot for local talent to realise their creative dreams, with historic buildings providing the inspirational canvas. Such dreams have been realised in the CBD’s grand Old Government Building, which opened in 1913 and now O.G.B is a perfect way to get a taste of old Christchurch, with staff in suspenders and newsboy caps.
Owner Nick Inkster talks about his motivation for setting it up, his plans for expansion and the city’s transformation.
What were you doing before you set up O.G.B?
I’m a carpenter by trade and was working in Western Australia’s oil and gas industry for seven years. After the earthquakes [of 2010 and 2011] I wanted to come home and give back by spending my hard-earned cash on something special for my home town of Christchurch.
What was the motivation behind opening O.G.B?
From the age of 21 my father told me he could see me building my own bar one day. I loved the concept of a bar where people meet, talk and socialise and where the bartender knows your name. I love old buildings so after the earthquakes I had my eye on one location in the city – the Old Government Building.
What drew you to the Old Government Building?
Cathedral Square. I love that it is the heart of our city and always will be. The Old Government Building is, I believe, Christchurch’s Buckingham Palace. I was always drawn to it as a kid when I used to bus into the Square from Dallington/Linwood growing up. So many of my customers, somewhere along their life, have come into contact with the Old Government Building. There are many, many stories, which is another reason why it is so special.
Can you tell us a little bit about your other projects, such as the restaurant opposite the bar and Frederick Woodwards Barber Shop?
Frederick Woodward was a local barber tobacconist who had Woodwards & Co back in the late 1800s/early 1900s in Cathedral Square. I’ve honoured him with a timeless, classic-style barber shop. The restaurant will undergo a Gatsby-style fit out in good time but for now we have a beautiful big grand piano that we have pianists play on every weekend.
Parlour is opening next to the O.G.B soon – what’s the vibe going to be there?
Parlour will be the best room in the house, the house being the Old Government Building. It will be a space to speak, bringing people together to generate debate and discussion. It will be where conversation is had, where the ladies can go to talk about the gentlemen.
Is our city different now to what you remember growing up?
It is very different but I’m excited to see it become a liveable city with farmers’ markets, apartments, residents and an awesome hospitality offering. I can’t wait to build more projects for the people of Christchurch.
The temperatures may have begun their downward descent, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock yourselves inside! We’ve gone in search of some of the hottest events around that will be sure to bring some warmth to your autumn.
Food, fun and flicks:
American Express is bringing the Openair Cinema festival of food, fun and flicks to Rauora Park from 15 March to 1 April.
There will be an array of alternative entertainment, live music and DJ performances before the latest and greatest feature films light up the big screen.
Better yet, you can bring along a ‘Doggy Date’! Pampered pooches will receive the VID treatment with a pawfect picnic platter of doggy delights and their own canine couch. Tickets start at $13 and are on-sale now at www.openaircinemas.co.nz.
Jump for charity:
Some of the country’s leading horse and pony riders are getting in behind the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation with the second annual Jump for Cancer Hagley charity event at North Hagley Park on 25 March.
St. Margaret’s College students will be collecting donations on behalf of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and food vendors will be selling everything from coffee and gelato to gourmet pizzas and potatoes.
General admission is free with VIP tickets available from www.eventbrite.co.nz. To find out more, head to the Jump for Cancer Hagley Facebook page.
Middle-aged man in lycra!
Following a sell-out premiere season across New Zealand, much-loved Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow remounts for a final ride into Christchurch in the acclaimed one man show, MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra), in all its lurid lycra glory for ‘Le Tour d’Isaac’, from Thursday 31 May to Saturday 2 June at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
Shining as the affable, yet uncomfortably relatable anti-hero in the one-man show, Hadlow commands the stage. With his energetic presence and childlike enthusiasm to the character, he breathes life into the cleverly crafted monologues to delight even the most stoic of MAMIL-phobes.
Colourful fun :
All the colour and fun of a carnival is coming to Cathedral Square on Saturday 24 February.
The popular Latino market is heading into the city from 4pm to 8pm on so you can enjoy a delicious culinary collection of Latin street food, live music, art and craft and, of course, the warmth of the local Latin community.
There will also be workshops, a dance floor and performances with Latin rhythms (including capoeira and samba do Brasil). So bring your most colourful clothing – and your dancing shoes – and prepare for a night of colourful fun.
A catwalk crusade:
Designers and celebrities are set to hit the catwalk on Thursday 12 April wearing the latest New Zealand fashion.
Guests at the annual M Factor Fashion Show will see collections from the likes of Annah Stretton, Augustine, Repertoire, Trelise Cooper and many more to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand and Ronald McDonald House South Island.
Held at 7pm on Thursday 12 April at The Transitional Cathedral, tickets are available at ticketmaster.co.nz and are priced at $75 for VIP, $55 for General Admission and $20 for children and students.
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