Update February 2012
Since the earthquakes I had gone to Merivale Mall as often as never before. So it came as a real shock when it was closed this month due to safety concerns. Obviously the upstairs concrete floor is deemed dangerous. While repairs and strengthening is discussed the shops remain closed. At the moment re-opening could happen as early as April - but nobody really knows.
We had a house in the elegant suburb of Merivale for a year before I moved to NZ, and from there the Mall was at walking distance. I already liked it back then – but now this shopping mall is a lot bigger and better, and surrounded with a lot of really nice cafés and restaurants. I had to go to the physio next to the Mall for weeks and weeks at the end of 2007 and so had the chance to rediscover the Mall and the whole area.
Merivale Mall is much smaller than the big malls, and does not compare to Westfield Riccarton, Christchurch’s mega mall. But it still has about 40 shops.
I especially love the clothes shops in Merivale which are really totally different to all those chain stores in the big malls. You find clothes you do not see there, everything is more unique and distinctive, and much more personal. The focus is clearly on fashion and lifestyle.
Also the number of shoe shops is impressive. And you have Christchurch’s best camera house, a sushi bar where you can compose your own box or plate (that is why there are biiiig queues around lunchtime…), a chocolates stall, a very nice homeware shop with all my German WMF products LOL
The only thing I recommend NOT to do is to arrive around noon and plan to have lunch at one of the nice places right in or around the Mall. The cafés and restaurants are crammed at this time, and I often had no other choice than to have a coffee and a muffin at McCafé across the street if I wanted to be at the physio on time. But with some experience you can either arrange different times for your appointments, or just eat a little later when all those hungry people are back at work.
Mall hours are 9am to 6pm (Mon – Thu), until 8pm on Fri; Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 10am – 4pm.
February 2012 - New site, old delights
The loss of Copenhagen Bakery in Armagh Street was a bad consequence of the February 2011 earthquake. The bakery and café was located in the cordoned-off Red Zone of the CBD. The building is still standing - but...
Now they have re-opened on the site of a former petrol station in the suburb of Bishopdale. This is miles away from its former site and - bad for me - at the very other end of the city, closer to the airport than to Lyttelton where I live. The good thing about this is that I cannot go there every day, so I cannot ruin my waistline ;-) But as I have seen on my first visit is that many, many people love Copenhagen Bakery as much as I do, and make the journey through the city. It was fascinating to see the convoy of cars headed for this place already before lunchtime, and the big queues like in the good old days where most people could walk to their Armagh Street site.
The new place is larger but it is as well visited as the old one. I gather the people are so delighted that Copenhagen Bakery is back that they go the extra mile. Well, just like me. The people at my table had also been regulars at the CBD site. It has also been heart-warming to see the pre-quake staff there, it was just like coming home :-)))
Let me recommend Copenhagen Bakery for a break. It is not just a bakery but a café where you can sit down for a lovely break, and the prices are surprisingly moderate.
Their bakeware is an absolute delight. Not just Danish and German breads, wholegrain and sourdough, not just the innumerous kinds of bread rolls... Their cakes and other pastry are mouth-watering. With their pies they win awards all the time, the walls of the bakery are plastered with gold medals. At the moment my favourite is the Malaysian chicken pie. Hubby prefers the traditional pies like mince or steak and cheese. The selection is huge.
If you go there during the lunch break you will encounter the longest queues of the whole of Christchurch - but they dissolve miraculously quickly, as a lot of staff are serving the customers, be it people eating in or taking the culinary delights away. Coffee arrives faster than in most other cafés I go to, and in winter they additionally serve hot soups with bread, and, of course, you can order a heated pie. The biggest task is to make a choice, there is just such a lot of delicious bakeware. I never leave without taking a bread, or rolls, or pies, away and enjoy them at home.
What to buy: Award winning pies; try the unusual ones like chicken/apricot or Malaysian curry.
Half-dipped coconut drops, fruit tarts.
European multigrain bread.
Rye rolls and "torpedos".
Mon - Fri 7am - 5pm
Sat......8am - 4pm
Closed Sunday & Public Holidays
Earthquake update 2011/2012
Despite having lost his unique shop Colin Johnson and his delicacies have not been lost to Christchurch. He opened shop at the Re:Start Container Mall (Cashel Street) in the city centre. This surely does not compare to the yesteryear feel of the old shop but the man himself is the same, and he marvels about having straight shelves now, and the goods he sells are as fantastic as ever. But as great as it is, Colin Johnson is determined to rebuild at the old site in Colombo Street as soon as this area is open again.
If you step into Johnson's Grocery on Colombo Street, you feel like stepping back in time. If you are after something and do not get it at Johnson's - well, then you will probably not get it anywhere in Christchurch.
The shop itself is like a long and high hallway, with shelves from the floor up to the ceiling, an antique counter, and some additional tables which are crammed with the most delightful groceries from around the world, and other things are stacked on the floor. There is not a lot of space for several customers at a time.
The grocer needs a ladder to reach all the treasures that are neatly stored on the shelves, and he really knows exactly which thousands of goods he stores in the shop, and where they are. You ask, and within seconds you get your item.
Like in the good old days the grocer - in a clean apron, of course - weighs out sweets from the jars on the counter, or slices cheese from the block. If you ask for a certain kind of tea, he can tell you which one you probably might like best - he seems to have tested them all!
The window is used as an additional shelf, with stacks of tea tins and boxes. Outside some blackboards are leaning against the window, informing the customers about the new arrivals like Jaffa cakes, wagon wheels and toffees, and specials. Even if I do not need anything, every time I pass I just have to stop and have a look at this amazing place.
The grocery opened in 1911 as Leigh and Co. Stan Johnson bought the business in 1949, and his son Colin has been working in the shop since 1957 - and he is still there today, the friendly man with the neat apron!
Sometimes I think this shop is as much a tourist attraction as it is a grocery. It is just the best one I have ever seen. It makes me think of the grocery in the village where I grew up, and which closed down when the lady-owner died. In Germany we called such groceries where you got everything "Tante-Emma-Laden" - Aunt Emma shop - for its familiar atmosphere. So Johnson's would be a kind of "Uncle Colin Shop" LOL
What to buy: Swiss chocolate, Italian amarettini and vinegar, French snails, Scottish marmalade, English sweets, German biscuits, Turkish delights, Sri Lankan tea, coffee from Colombia... Mustards, vinegars, condiments... Just every grocery you can think of! I think it would be the perfect place for homesick people who could feel less homesick when getting groceries from home...
The shop is open Monday to Saturday.
Photo 2 shows the new after-earthquake shop in the Re:Start Container Mall in Cashel Street.
Like Baker's Delight, Brumbys is a bakery franchise with a great range of breads and other baking products.
It originates in Australia and is now quickly spreading in New Zealand, so my list of shops in Christchurch will probably be already incomplete when it is going to be published.
Just keep your eyes open, and when you spot one, remember that I told you to taste the extraordinary pane de casa. It is better than the language mix - as "pane" is the Italian word for bread, and "de casa" Spanish for "of the house". Italian would be "di casa"... (I am always amazed what lingual daredevils we have in the English speaking world LOL but this is another story ;-)
Anyway. This bread is similar to ciabatta - just even more deliiiiiiicious. Incredible! No wonder that they permanently run out of it. This, again, makes me wonder why they do not just bake more of it. When you try it late in the day it is as hopeless as on weekends if you do not go shopping early. I have started to buy it on the way to the gym early in the afternoon on weekdays, and at this time of the day I have never been disappointed.
As we have discovered the pane de casa in the early days I cannot say a lot about other breads they offer. Once when they had run out of it I tried the Californian sourdough bread which is rather fluffy - cannot recommend it at all. But they also have dark varieties and breads with a lot of grains which normally would be my first choice. Just not there. The pane de casa is too deliiiiiiiiicious ;-)
Actually there are shops at:
Hornby Mall (Main South Road)
Barrington Mall (256 Barrington Street)
Eastgate Mall (Linwood)
Edgeware Mall, St. Albans (72 Edgeware Road)
What to buy: Pane de casa!
What to pay: NZ$ 4.50 per loaf.
If you miss healthy bread with grains or lust for a delicious apple walnut scroll, an Italian inspired Pane di Casa loaf or white bread sticks, savoury or sweet Danishs (with custard and apricot...) or traditional fruit loafs: They have it all. And how delicious!
The product range is a delight, and the quality of the products is a delight. We have never had a reason to complain.
The bread style is a compromise between the - I call it the weightless "cotton balls" NZ style and the heavy dark German breads. They are not as heavy as the gluey German full-grain breads but they weigh more than the normal NZ loafs which shrink to half their size if you squeeze them.
The sweet product range is clearly European inspired, everything light and not tooooo sticky, and all the locals are delighted that there are also traditional buns on offer which are covered in a centimetre of white and pink icing ;-)
The outlets (may vary, as some close down and others open):
Bush Inn Centre, Cnr Riccarton / Waimairi Rds, Upper Riccarton
Avonhead Shopping Centre, Withells Rod
Northlands Shopping Mall, 55 Main North Road
The Palms Shopping Mall, Cnr Marshlands / New Brighton Rds
Tower Junction, Blenheim Road/Whiteleigh Ave, Riccarton
What to buy: Cape Seed Loaf, Pane di Casa, Apricot Danishs, Apple Scrolls...
What to pay: NZ$ 3.00-4.50 for a loaf of bread, 2.20-3.00 for scrolls and Danishs.
Bearing Gifts is located at Colombo Street in the city centre.
You could buy some bears and other soft toy back home as a souvenir.
You could also purchase bear making materials to make your own teddy bear.
The Cathedral Square Market, situated next to Starbucks and near the i-Site centre, is open from 9am to 4pm Wednesday through Saturday. These dates (and hours) may change to accommodate cruise ships. The Market boasts close to 70 stalls selling a treasure trove of products to visitors.
Find wood carvings, jewellery, clothing, sheepskins, possum skins, healthcare products and more. A variety of food stalls sell anything from German sausages to Asian dishes.
What to buy: Some of the more eye-catching products include beautifully designed Alpaca jumpers and pendants carved from greenstone or cow bone in traditional Maori designs.
What to pay: The jumpers were selling for $59 and the pendants averaged out at about $60.
Obviously, as a rugby fan, I was as close as possible to Mecca when it comes to my sport. Canterbury, New Zealand would be done a disservice if you said they were merely fans. Rugby is definitely the national past time, and therefore you will find many different places around town that sell rugby souvenirs. Some of the high priced Tax-Free shops get a large tourist demand, and the specialty shops like Canterbury of New Zealand also get a good amount of traffic. I however found a great little rugby shop just off Cathedral Square with much better pricing on their jerseys and whatnot.
What to buy: I chose to buy an Otago Rugby jersey, which was last season's official uniform for about 60% off the price of the current jersey. What a steal! Most jerseys go for 150 NZD, and I got mine for about 45.
What to pay: 45-150NZD per jersey.
During our trip to the main Cathedral Square, we noticed alot of unique shopping items. It appeared some people were here from as far as Mongolia, selling their wares with unique items that didn't seem to scream New Zealand to us. For the most part however, one clear voice came out from all the vendors. It was from the guy I will just have to call the Mad Hatter, for lack of a real name. He did a very good job of calling out how cold I looked without protection on my head, built rapport by talking about rugby since I had an Italian Rugby Jersey on, and then continued to close the sale by offering me a killer deal on a hat to cover my cold head.
What to buy: A hat
What to pay: Originally $10NZD, I was able to negotiate it down to $5NZD
New Regent Street was the type of small street that was the forerunner to the big Mall type complexs seen elsewhere. A number of different shops lining either side of a small inner city street give you a wide variety of places to eat, drink and shop - or maybe just have a browse. The tram has one of its stops down here so you can drop off here for a coffee and relax with something to eat and watch the world go by bewfore jumping back on the tram.
What to buy: Shops sell items as varied as 2nd hand books, Coffee, Antique maps, Indian Food, Mexican food and Holidays.
Eating cookies can be addictive. Take this as a warning before you read my tip about a visit to the Cookie Time factory shop. Yes, the Cookie Time cookies are proudly made in Christchurch.
Already the building, painted over and over in chocolate chip cookies, is worth a look. But of course, you are not there to photograph a cookie façade. You are there to buy cookies at a low price, so you can eat more for less.
The cookies are about 30 cheaper than in supermarkets and dairies. And they always have special offers. Then you can really make real deals. For example, they often offer two bags for the price of one, and they always have bags of broken cookies at very low prices.
I absolutely love the apricot/yogurt cookies, and the fruity bumper bars with chocolate chips. (Yes, I know, all of them have at least one million calories… That is why I exercise regularly, so I do not look like the Cookie Time munchers in the near future…)
They also sell memorabilia and t-shirts. A good thing about Cookie Time is that they have founded the Cookie Munchers Charitable Trust. With this they raise funds for the Dyslexia Foundation. The Cookie Munchers are the red monsters that you see on all Cookie Time wrappings – and a giant one in front of the Factory Shop.
The typical Kiwi guy in a checkered shirt does not just wear any kind of shirt. He wears a Swanndri. This brand is as Kiwi as the Kiwi bird and gumboots. Clearly part of the Kiwiana items which make New Zealand.
Swanndri exists since 1913 when a Taranaki tailor named William Broome developed a work shirt with a secret waterproofing. Remember, he lived in Taranaki where it rains a lot more than here in Christchurch… ;-)
The work shirt, made from one hundred percent pure New Zealand wool, soon became the choice of Kiwi guys for its durability and practicality. The fabric keeps you warm and dry in winter and cool in summer. William named the shirt the Swanndri, because of the way the water ran off the back like on the back of a swan. Until today the original design remains unchanged.
In 2004 the two senior Alliance Textiles managers Julian Bowden and Gerard Kilpatrick bought Swanndri together with their friends Bryan Pearson and George Cowper. They grew the business and then sold it to Longbeach Holdings in November 2007.
The building of the headquarters and outlet store in Christchurch, next to Tower Junction, on Whiteleigh Road/Clarence Street (off Blenheim Road) is painted in an original Swanndri check, so immediately recognisable.
Trading hours Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm, Sat and Sun 10am – 4pm
In the city centre you find a Swanndri Retail Store in 123 Gloucester Street.
Christchurch retailers who sell Swanndri products:
Ballantynes, City Mall (Cashel Street)
DF Souvenirs, 730 Colombo Street
Protector Safety, 238 Annex Road, Sockburn
NZ Safety, 161 Waterloo Road, Hornby, and: 546 Moorehouse Ave, City
Clarke's Saddlery Ltd, 191 Manchester Street
What I like about Borders is that it is so big that you have space even to sit and browse through a book you are interested in, and do not have to step back and forth all the time for other browsing customers.
They have a great choice of books and CD's, many directly imported from the USA - which is interesting for New Zealanders. For overseas tourists the big selection of NZ books about plants, birds, history, hiking, and travel guides is impressive - although I want to give you the tip to check the bookstore at the airport for bird books, they have a fabulous selection. Although Whitcoulls and also PaperPlus have nice stores, Borders surely is the biggest bookshop in Christchurch.
Also the magazines section is impressive and inviting.
If you are exhausted from browsing you can have a coffee right in the shop. The café area (made of Gloria Jean's beans) in the righthand rear corner of the shop is quite big - as are the prices for coffees and cakes. I recommend Coffee Culture next door. This is not only nicer, you also get the large coffees in real cups and bowls and not in cardboard cups... Borders is good if you cannot get a seat at Coffee Culture.
As Borders is right outside the Westfield Riccarton Mall you can also have your coffee in the many cafés inside the Mall.
Regardless of this, Borders is a fabulous shop for those things it is primarily meant for: books.
Monday - Wednesday 9am - 7pm
Thursday - Saturday 9am - 10pm
Sunday 10am - 7pm
DressSmart is an outlet shopping centre right across Hornby Mall. They advertise with savings of 30 to 70% off normal retail prices, and often you can make really great bargains.
The most famous brands they sell are Barkers, Hallensteins, Rodd & Gunn, Jeans West, Just Jeans, levis, Puma, Diesel, Andrea Biani, and also Sunnies Direct, Modern Bags and Watch Smart.
I think CD's are not cheaper than anywhere else.
If you are exhausted from looking around there are also some food outlets but really in a limited number.
Open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm.
Hornby Mall on the opposite side of the road is rather a small mall, compared to Westfield Riccarton, Northlands, The Palms, Eastgate etc. but actually they are expanding and also modernising the complex.
Good bus connection from the city centre (Bus Exchange) and Riccarton Mall, especially the MetroStar. Also buses #83 and 84 pass at Riccarton Mall AND Horby, just make bigger detours between the malls.
What to buy: Clothes, shoes, sunglasses, bags and suitcases.
Although Fazazz is a great shop if you want to purchase a Ferrari or just admire stunningly beautiful vintage cars I have relocated this tip from the shopping category to the Things to Do list. Please check there.
What to buy: Perhaps a Rolls Royce or the red Ferrari... ;-)
What to pay: From 18,000 to 450,000 NZ$ when I was there the last time LOL
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