Update Oct. 2010/Feb. 2011
Sadly closed at the moment, due for safety concerns after the September 4 earthquake - but relocated to High Street.
Hagen Lemmer, the owner, has worked in a million different jobs before he opened this café in Poplar Street, just a short stroll from High Street, and he offers authentic German cuisine the way he has learnt from his mother ("Mutti"). Most of the specialties origin from the East German region of Thüringen where he comes from, the home of Thüringer Bratwurst and Thüringer Klöße (dumplings), served with a juicy roast, a lot of sauce and Sauerkraut. The menu changes daily but there is always "Wurst" (sausages and smallgoods) available, as on the Butcher Plate.
On most days there are delicious cakes available: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake), Sachertorte (which originates from Vienna and is a rich but still fluffy chocolate cake) and Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel).
Of course you get German beers (very nice Weißbier = wheat beer) and wines with your meals, and the coffees are nice.
Café Bismarck has the cosy yesteryear atmosphere of the coffeehouses of the early 20th century. Hagen, the owner, designed, built and decorated everything himself to a great standard, and do not miss to have a look at the ladies' toilet which is a spectacular design mixture of Hundertwasser and Gaudí style. In good weather conditions there is plenty of seating outdoors on a spacious deck.
The price comparison further down is very difficult: Coffees and cakes do not cost more than anywhere else in the city, whereas the meals are slightly above average and some of the imported beers are expensive. However, there are always some specials. Last week (May 2009) a big glass of beer from the tap cost NZ$ 6, so not more than at any Kiwi pub, and you got a glass of house wine, even an imported white one from Germany (Rivaner) for NZ$ 6. You will struggle to find a glass of wine in Christchurch at a comparable price.
The whole area around Poplar and Ash Streets has become a very nice and very peaceful precint to hang out, a Russian restaurant is next door and other bars and eateries just across the street.
Open Tue - Sat 11am until late (which can be 3am on a Saturday night).
Favorite Dish: Sorry - Thüringer Rotwurst (blackpudding smallgood)... A taste of home :-) My Kiwi husband would not even try a mouthful of it LOL
Anyway... Many New Zealanders are regular costumers and after being afraid to taste several dishes at the start they have got used to this rustic kind of cuisine and now really love it. They even eat rabbit roast, and Hagen assures they were so delighted that they nearly ate the bones... There is a lot more than blackpudding... ;-)
Update Oct. 2007
Finally they have a website, just added this and email.
Update May 2009
The restaurant has been extended by an additional dining room (Bismarck-Zimmer) and partly refurbished. Still a very, very nice atmosphere, good service, friendly people, good food and drink. - The delicatessen shop part has been taken out of the café, as the owner does not find this part of the business sustainable any longer.
On photo 3 you can see Hagen in one of the fabulous ladies' toilets ;-)
Heading into Poplar lane for a drink one evening, we entered Bismarck and instantly felt the cold atmpsphere. The owner, Hagen, was yelling and having a go at a waitress, which instantly brought the mood down. Secondly, after making our orders, he enquired where we were from. When we responded Serbia and Russia (for our two respective groups of three), we were told that he cant stand our cultures and has a special hatred of Serb culture and Serbs in general. Shocked at this racism, we asked for an apology after which the owner, Hagen, told us that if we didnt like his attitude we would be asked to leave. Terrible, racist owner and a cold atmosphere. We never went back since, and have made sure none of our travellers in Chch went either.
Shame on you, Hagen. Racism and bigotry at its best in your establishment.