I have a friend who moved to Christchurch. I've never been. I was hoping to get her a gift certificate to a restaurant for her birthday and am looking for recommendations. I'd prefer someplace that will likely have a credit card machine because I won't be able to go there to pay in cash. ;)
Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
your friend is in luck! last year i spent 2 months commuting to Christchurch (from Sydney) on a weekly basis, and was astounded at the standard of dining! the NZers (and I am an aussie and could be tried for treason saying this) are an innovative nation and their attitude to fresh produce is unbelievable - even my 4+star hotel (the millenium) had a great restaurant (and in the antipodean world the "hotel bistro" is to be avoided at all costs)!!!
cool and funky is minx www.minxbar.co.nz, and the food's pretty good too, although my colleague and I had to wait over an hour for any food (i think there was an accident in the kitchen) - this place gets great reviews, and is probably great on a date.
for me, top of the pops is the george hotel (a conde naste gold list best places to stay 2007 award winner) - they have 2 restaurants - "pescatore" and "50 on george". I went there as an end of project dinner with the client. pescatore is billed as their upmarket version - did not eat there as it was inappropriate for the client.
50 on george however is a bit more modest, has many common menu items with pescatore, has a brilliant wine list, the service was infallible (don't tell the pope!) and it was a sensational night. Probably one of the top 10 dining out experiences in a very long list.
this place is hip enough for the young (as I am) and sophisticated enough for the mature (as my clients were). (9/10(nobody has ever been awarded 10/10) http://www.thegeorge.com/50onpark.htm.
Christchurch is very proximate to the Marlborough wine region - NZ best wine producing area, notorious for sublime sauvignon blanc and pinot noir owing to its cold nights and winters. In Christchurch i thought the wine lists, and the general knowledge of wine by service staff to be excellent.
Recently in Sydney a friend of mine took me to a wine dinner for Herzog wines - these guys are in Marlborough and their story is fascinating. Hans Herzog comes from a family that have been making wine since 1482 (in Switzerland). His wife Therese had her own corporate career, but took on responsibility for the vineyard restaurant which earned a michelen star.
see their review: http://cuisine.co.nz/index.cfm?pageID=52852&r=9
which brings me to an alternative birthday idea and that is a subscription to cuisine magazine www.cuisine.co.nz (funnily enough given to me by the same friend that took me to the aforementioned wine dinner (not a kiwi)
this magazine comes out 6 times per year (i think) and has great information on NZ produce, and good recipes. In australia, my bible is "delicious" which gives inspiration all week 'round, but the cuisine magazine is more sophisticated, and definitely full of new ideas to try out on good friends/dinner parties.
I imagine my reply has now gone over a billion pages. sorry (I hope you are still with me), but I cannot tell you how impressed I was with Christchurch, and the general food "scene" in the area. depending one where your friend is working/living there is much more...
ps. not relevant for the birthday thing, but owing to tourism & educational 'exports' christchurch has great, cheap japanese food!