TwentySevenSteps

New Regent Street is an historical street in Christchurch.  Those of you in Europe may think 1932 isn’t very historic, but in Christchurch, post earthquake, it is!  It is a small street, with Spanish Mission architecture in pastel colours, and has always been a pretty street.  Last night I heard, however, in the 80s it was a bit of a dodgy red-light district (it is just a hop from Manchester Street – Christchurch’s known red light street).  I moved here in the mid80s so I didn’t know about that bit!  But when I started working in a business in Armagh Street, it was the street to come to to have a look at its antique shops and cafes.  In fact my favourite was Accent on Living where they did fabulous baked potatoes and yummy iced chocolates.

Now, 2015, it is reinventing itself again.  It would be fair to say the street struggled on re-opening after the quakes.  They were away from the Re-Start mall, the square was still cordoned off in parts, and there wasn’t much around them.  But the businesses have hung in there, to varying degrees, and with the Isaac Theatre Royal open again, and Victoria Street pretty much complete, things are getting busier!

The street still has antiques, clothing and jewellery shops, coffee shops and a restaurant or two.  With a couple more restaurants due to open, it has the potential to be quite an inner-city dining destination!

TwentySevenSteps was my chosen choice for dining.  It only opened a few weeks ago, after a few delays.  The staff were telling us of a few issues they’ve had – the beautiful arch windowed balconies for example, can be opened in summer, but no-one is allowed on them.  Beauracratic rules, and all that.  Also the renovation had many restrictions on it due to historic places by-laws.  HOWEVER!  They managed to get there and what a fabulous place it is.

TSS (sorry it’s too long to type all the time!) is bistro dining and I’d place it at the high end of casual dining, or the low end of fine dining.  In other words it had a lovely contemporary and somewhat casual vibe, but the food and service was high end!  This is the type of fine dining Joe Average can enjoy without feeling uncomfortable.

The six of us went up the steps (there aren’t 27 by the way… I’m thinking it must take you 3 or 4 steps on the halfway landing!).  The entranceway is clean, stylie and little chalkboard notices along the way inviting you upstairs etc add to the welcome.  Also, anywhere that quotes AA Milne is on to a winner in my book (“Halfway Up The Stairs” is chalkboard written at, guess, half way up the stairs!).

The interior is a combination of clean walls, dark wood (matching the beautiful arch windows) and vintage mismatched light shades and incidental crockery.  The complimentary house bread, which was delicious, was served on vintage floral saucers and plates and I noted later someone having a pot of tea from a massive vintage tea pot.  Our mains were served on modern crockery.  It sounds like a real hash up, but it just worked.

The service was pretty much faultless, really.  Our waitress was polite and informative, without intruding on our space.  One of the big ticks is no plates were cleared until everyone was finished.  This is so rare we find. It is so rude to clear away plates when people are still eating, so this was a big plus in our eyes, particularly for one of my friends who has a pet hate of this habit!  There was a hiccough with our dessert orders, it had seemed quite a wait and our waitress popped over to apologise – it was her fault and she wanted to know whether we still wanted to order desserts or not.  We weren’t in any rush and were enjoying everything so we weren’t going to miss dessert.  Full credit to her owning up to it being her fault (not putting the order in).

So between the six of us, three ordered the beef fillet, two ordered the fish and I ordered the lamb.  Every plate was scraped absolutely clean.  The flavours of the lamb were beautiful – served with the thinnest sliced onion rings I’ve ever seen (and delicate to eat), it was cooked with a Morrocon style flavouring, which wasn’t spicy and didn’t overbear on anything else, leaving the meat and the perfectly cooked vegetables to shine.  Everyone else commented their meals were great too.

On to dessert and we ordered a cheeseboard for two, gin-soaked berries in a bayleaf custard for two, one had the chocolate fondant special and I had the creme brûlée.  Delicous.  Although after my cutting back sugar, I only managed 2/3rds of mine.  Not for want of trying!

I would give TSS 9/10 – missing 1 point for the mix up with desserts, but the friendliness of the staff as we loitered around the bar while divvying up the bill (which is where we got into the conversation about fire restrictions/building issues), to the food and warm vibe it was one of my favourite destinations so far this year.

If you’re in Christchurch go!  If you’re visiting us, do check out  all of New Regent Street – both in daytime hours and in the evening.  There are a few more bars/restaurants due to open in the next month or two and I think it will be a real hub.  Once the debris of Armagh Street remains is gone, it will also be a lovely view to the river!

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