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foodie philosophy

No-fuss foodie philosophy: Q&A with Sarah and Nick Freeman

Sarah and Nick Freeman put Lyttleton’s London Street on the culinary map when they opened Freemans in 2006. Now they’ve brought their simple, no-fuss foodie philosophy to the heart of Beckenham with The Birdwood, which opened earlier this year.

foodie philosophy
Metropol sat down with this dining duo to discuss their culinary journey and their latest offering.


How did your culinary journey begin?

Nick is from Poole on the south coast of England and I am from Christchurch. We met 20 years ago at a Christchurch hotel and both shared a love for great food and hospitality. Nick ran fine dining restaurants in London and quickly developed a passion for Italian cuisine.

You put Lyttelton’s London Street on the map with Freemans, now you’ve opened The Birdwood. What sets the two apart?

The Birdwood offers all day dining with our eatery on one side during the day and our wood fired pizzeria on the other, which kicks off in the late afternoon. Our philosophy is exactly the same as Freemans, good hospitality. We believe the recipe is simple, make people feel welcome, serve great food and go above and beyond their expectations.

Why do you think people have connected so strongly with what you have created here?

The Birdwood is a place where we want people to feel like they are part of our culture and our family. We love knowing their names, what they like to drink, what school their children go to and how their day has been. There is nothing nicer than chatting away to a customer perched at the bar waiting for their takeaway pizza while they relax after a busy day.

What are the key things that set the Birdwood aside from other dining options in the city?

Our strong focus on family. It is a place where inviting booth seats in the pizzeria encourage families and their kids to pile in, eat some amazing pizza, have a few wines and feel like they have had some quality time together. We spend a lot of time as a team perfecting our craft and talking about ways to give a great hospitality experience.

What are some of your favourite menu options?

In the eatery we do a great brunch. Creamy mushrooms with a crumbed egg on soft polenta is definitely a favourite. We roast our coffee in house and our takeaway coffee window is a little slice of Melbourne on the streets of Beckenham. In the pizzeria, of course pizza! Hand-made and hand-stretched sourdough bases that are given time to rise with good quality ingredients make, we believe, the best Italian pizza in Christchurch. We also hand-make our pasta which is a real hit with our customers.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?

The people we interact with every day. We are blessed with a team of people who inspire us. We respect their skill, their craft and their tireless commitment to be the best at what they do. Our customers fill our space with energy and love. This is a job we love and it is a real joy to wake up and come to work.

Fermented Favourites

Fermented Favourites: Get some culinary culture in your life

We throw out milk that has ‘turned’ and purchase sour cream; we slice off the mouldy parts of the cheese block before paying top dollar for blue cheese and toss the stale bread then buy breadcrumbs by the bag. Don’t even get me started on the price of fungi – those delicious little spores we know of as mushrooms and truffles.

Fermented Favourites

So it’s a rather surprising fact then that bacteria, fungi and yeast – three things we traditionally try to keep out of the house – are some of the most popular ingredients to make their way into the kitchen.
Whether it’s a step back to times gone by or just a classic case of DIY daring, more and more people are making their own sourdough starters, kimchi, kefir, kombucha teas, sauerkraut and, if you peek in the odd hot water cupboard, don’t be surprised to find buckets of mushrooms growing.

As the global food revolution pushes for sustainability, we’re getting back to basics and it’s seeing us get a bit crafty in the kitchen, delighting the senses with culinary creations that have their roots many centuries – and even cultures – ago.
So just what is the big deal? We’ve broken it down for you. At their simplest, fermented foods have been through a natural process where microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts or moulds) break down complex molecules into simpler substances. This is believed to enhance the foods’ nutrient value.
Pre-refrigeration, this fermentation process enabled foods to be preserved and last longer. But its popularity continues based on a number of perceived health benefits.
The good bacteria – probiotics – found in fermented foods are believed to improve digestion, boost immunity, promote healthy weight and increase gut health. Fermented foods, like yogurt and kimchi, are rich in these probiotics; the good bacteria that develops during the fermentation process.

Keen to get some fermented foods in your life? Why not start with kombucha – a fizzy fermented tea – natural, probiotic yoghurts and sourdough bread, or serve sauerkraut as a dinner accompaniment alongside your sauces and mustards.
Or why not make some yourself? Making your own fermented foods is an easy and enjoyable investment in gut health.
Get a sourdough starter up and running, sucking in some natural yeasts, some jars of salted cabbage fermenting away in the cupboard, transforming into sauerkraut, or create kombucha tea from a ‘scoby’ (an acronym of symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
So when you want to get some culinary culture in your life, why not think outside of the box?

Alex Ricketts

Getting The Last Word: Q&A with Alex Ricketts

At the heart of New Regent Street’s The Last Word is an extensive whisky collection – more than 360 at last count. Owner Alex Ricketts gets ‘The Last Word’ in on this tempting tipple.

Alex Ricketts


How would you describe The Last Word to a stranger?

The Last Word is an intimate and beautiful whisky and cocktail bar that feels as comfortable as having a drink in a close friend’s home. It is a table service only venue, is open late in the evening and the emphasis is on looking after people and doing things properly.


What motivated you to buy the bar off its previous owners?
The Last Word was a bar that I thought had a wonderful feel and combined with the opportunity to work alongside our friends at Whisky Galore was enormously appealing. Now it feels like an extension of me.


What do you think The Last Word does best?
Whilst The Last Word has a huge focus and a loyal following for its whisky selection (over 360), what it does best is welcome and look after people from all backgrounds who enjoy a quieter, considered environment and the opportunity to learn about what they’re drinking along the way.


How did you come to have such an interest in whisky?
It’s a difficult one to pin down. My personality is such that once I learn a little bit about something, I want to know more. Whisky is a wonderful combination of history, science, commerce, romance and legend.


What do you like about New Regent Street and being based there?
New Regent Street is one of the best streets anywhere. We have wonderful neighbours and cultural opportunities all around us. We feel right in the centre of our new city whilst having the honour of being on Christchurch’s only historic street that remains post-earthquake.


Can you describe the fit out, the atmosphere at The Last Word?
The fit out is fairly classic, with some items of furniture that people remember from their childhoods. We have cards and some board games along with an eclectic selection of old books and magazines. The atmosphere is warm and a little dark with the emphasis on conversation and a little escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

A golden elixir

A golden elixir: Recipe

You’ve probably been told at least once or twice to drink a glass of warm milk before bed. Now this advice has been given the Midas touch, with the golden sheen of turmeric.

A golden elixir

Turmeric has gone seriously mainstream this year, based on the powerful medicinal properties of curcumin, which research suggests contains strong anti-inflammatory properties.
A warm, slightly spicy, bold and earthy flavour with a hint of sweetness, it makes the perfect sans alcohol nightcap. So what is this clever bevvy? Popularly known as Golden Milk or Turmeric Tea, it is packed with turmeric; a ‘healing spice’ used to help anything from sore throats, colds, the flu, and stomach aches to wound healing and treatment of abrasions and skin issues.
We sought out the instructions for how to make this golden elixir for yourself.



2 cups milk of choice such as almond, pecan, coconut, or dairy
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon powder
A pinch of ground black pepper
A small piece of fresh, peeled ginger root or ¼ tsp ginger powder
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup or to taste



Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth, place into a small saucepan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until just before boiling stage. Serve hot.


A Garden City icon: Spagalimis

In August 1978, ‘You’re the one that I want’ with Olivia Newton John and John Travolta was at the top of the charts, Rob Muldoon was our Prime Minister and we won five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. It was also the year that we were blessed with the opening of Spagalimis Pizza – an iconic heritage brand in pizza in the Garden City.

Since 1978, Spagalimis has been bringing us pizzas to delight our taste buds, like the New Yorker, featuring authentic pepperoni with special sauce and cheese or the Cappricciosa, with mushrooms, fresh sliced tomatoes, capsicum and black olives.
Constantly providing quality pizzas that have had families, couples, work mates returning time and time again to sample from a range of vegetarian, beef, pork, seafood, lamb and chicken pizza.

Now situated on the heritage site of Ironside House on the corner of Salisbury and Montreal Streets built in 1899, there’s just nothing like having a classic pizza in such a nostalgic environment. Perhaps you want to sit outside with the al fresco dining and admire the Jubilee Clock, enjoy a beverage or two from the comprehensive wine list, or a cocktail or two with mates in the bar area.
With parking just off Montreal to make it easy for family groups, there’s plenty of great reasons to try the classic flavours of Spagalimis pizza in the Garden City today.

No.4 Bar and Restaurant

Winter Warmers: No.4 Bar and Restaurant

No.4 Bar and Restaurant is a premium establishment in the heart of Merivale. Housed in a converted 1920’s villa, it offers exceptional indoor and outdoor dining and refreshments.

No.4 Bar and Restaurant

On these cooler evenings, the inside is cosy, warmed by a roaring fire, and the courtyards are heated. When the beautiful summer weather kicks in, what could be a more perfect end to the day than al fresco drinks with friends?.
And what would a friendly neighbourhood establishment be without a delicious and varied menu that caters to all tastes, including gluten-free meals? If there is a function on the horizon, it’s the perfect venue for a cocktail party, birthday, anniversary or corporate event with space and catering for all tastes.

Open seven days from breakfast ‘til late, the No.4 menu includes favourites such as chicken wings, turkey schnitzel, salads, shared platters and, of course, a range of prime Canterbury beef.
It’s comfort food time and beef cheeks in No.4’s wonderful madeira sauce or perhaps the pork belly, Malaysian kumara and apple curry or a Denver venison leg with a celeriac and juniper rosti, black pudding crumb, carrots and beetroot are great options to warm you up and give you something to enjoy amongst friends.

Renowned for its generous and varied platters, No.4 has gained a reputation for exceptional dining. Look out for daily specials, such as $12 Tacos on Tuesday, $10 cocktails on Thursday, the Boss’s shout on Friday and much more.
Drop into No.4 at 4 Mansfield Avenue, Merivale.
Visit for the full menu and other details.

Top Truffles

Top Truffles: The Perigord black truffle

Last July I found myself on the side of a hill, nose down in the dirt with the delightful truffle hunting dog, Sophie and the team from Amuri Truffiere by my side. Truffles have a unique taste, one not easy to describe but one that adds something special to a dish.

Top Truffles

With the Perigord black truffle a delicacy worthy of its prestige, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to head to The Tannery for this year’s Truffle Festival with Chef Michael Maguire.
Five dishes were prepared. The first – roasted groper with green herb and truffle crust paired with Waipara Hills equinox Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – offered a wonderful way to start and made a fantastic pairing.
Next was the petite baked potatoes with truffle butter, crème fraiche and beef carpaccio, with the Waipara Hills Equinox Pinot Gris 2015. But then it came, the quintessential BBQ bone marrow with roasted carrot, red onion and truffle toast with the Waipara Hills Equinox Chardonnay 2015.

Wood fired pizza was up next with truffle honey and ricotta, Pinot Noir 2014 and desert was the vanilla, honey and panna cotta with caramelised figs and poached pears and the Waipara Hills Equinox Noble NV.
With truffles selling at $3 a gram and a 1.5kg truffle being found in North Canterbury this week, the industry is thriving and chefs and great restaurants have the opportunity to present a wonderful truffle experience like The Tannery and Amuri Truffiere’s Truffle Festival opening.

Wigram Brewing Co

A winters’s ale feast: Wigram Brewery Co

Flavour sings over winter at Wigram – whether it’s cooking with a stout or porter or pairing them with your favourite cheese board, the winter fare is accentuated by the stunning range of hearty beers at Wigram Brewery.



Wigram Brewing CoWigram Brewing CoWigram Brewing CoWigram Brewing CoWigram Brewing Co

With sumptuous darks and their rich, malty, earthy flavours that add such depth to stews, BBQ marinades and even chocolate cakes and puddings.
Chocolate notes, brought out by the complex dark beers, balancing sweetness with malty, nutty flavours, dark ales pair well with cheeses. Yes, even baby cheeses love beer.
Drop in to see head Brewer, Andy. Have a tour of their brewing facilities and really immerse yourself in what Wigram Brewery is all about. With 15 great beers available at the brewery and the team there to explain each one, why wouldn’t you drop in on Monday to Saturday? It’s the best way to get to know this local brewery.

If you can’t pick up your favourite winter supplies from your local New World Supermarket. If it’s too cold and the snow drifts are keeping from leaving the warm fire, then if you’re in the Christchurch Metropolitan area, email them at or phone 03-343 4493 for a local courier to deliver to your door.
I’m sure when you’re cooking with beer this good, you’re in for some great meals but I’m pretty sure if you put aside a pint or six to drink with your scrumptious meal, that will be great too!

Magnitude Café and Roastery

Culinary Magnitude: Magnitude Café and Roastery

Spoiler alert! Apologies to the early adopters wanting to keep this place on the down low, but this is a secret begging to be shared. Magnitude Café and Roastery is the hotspot your taste buds and seasonal hunger pangs should discover asap.

Magnitude Café and Roastery

The winter feature is the Signature Baked Potato. Made to order and eat in or take away – the selection changes daily as staff come up with genius flavour combos, but popular Mexican and Meatlovers are keepers.
The small breakfast menu is now joined by a new bagel menu. The choices include classic smoked salmon, plus the mouth-watering bacon, mushroom and blue cheese. Scones and muffins are made daily, while Hillyers Bakery supplies the pies plus breads, filled onsite with options that include vegie and gluten free.
Also new is the smoothie and protein shake menu – banana peanut butter is to-die-for. Happy hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays 11am to 12pm means regular hot drinks are just $2. Freshly roasted coffee includes the house blend which is French, plus six other roasts. Coffee is bagged available to buy as well.

Owned by David Humphrey of Stewarts Coffee Dunedin fame, Magnitude has a modern rustic feel and a golden glow that supports the toasty warmth. It’s beautifully spacious for anyone not keen on a crush and ideal for business meetings with its large tables, free Wi-Fi, and many plug points. Open Monday to Friday 7am to 3pm at 2/314 Tuam Street, off-street parking completes the package.

Casa De Sanchez

Sublime Spanish Tapas: Casa De Sanchez

There are plenty of reasons to stop and take a look at Casa De Sanchez on the main road just before Amberley. Its ambiance is soaked with a gorgeous Latina-American feel, the menu is full of the most sumptuous tapas and a range of treats and the team is friendly and knowledgeable.Casa De Sanchez

Feeling like I was having lunch at a gentlemen’s hacienda in Mexico, I savoured the ceviche – raw fish in lime juice – which is a must-try – and the polenta fries and jalapeño and queso croquetas; rich croquets with just enough kick.
It’s a definite must-see if you’re in the area or looking for an excuse to drive to North Canterbury. Using the finest of local produce and wine – and we all know the area is a cornucopia of epicurean delights – the menu by head chef Merv is bristling with things worth trying. Doc Sanchez, owner and Latin guitar aficionado says, “We want people to walk in and have great service, fantastic food and enjoy a wonderful environment”.

Well he doesn’t get that wrong, with cocktails served by bar manager Olivia, a Californian fluent in Spanish, to Toots and Woody, the rainbow lorikeets in the expansive garden area and live music on a Friday and Sunday.
Open from 11am until late, Casa De Sanchez is my pick for a great dining and entertainment experience. PS, you can drop in for huevos rancheros, a scrambled egg burrito and other wonderful breakfast options to take away from the food van parked out front from 7am-10.30am every day! Este es un restaurant de primera!