The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The view of Christchurch from the Crowne Plaza

Our trip to New Zealand was nearing its final stages. After driving through Hanmer Springs we arrived at Christchurch and checked into the Crowne Plaza Christchurch. We're given a great room with a welcome plate of goodies including a macaron (how did they know? :) ) with the room situated on one of the top floors which means... yes access to the Club Lounge for pre dinner drinks and food and access to the internet. A very nice welcome indeed.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Denheath Custard Slice

I take a moment to scoff down an item that I searched all over the city for, a Denheath custard slice. The lovely Rosa from Cakes by Rosa had taken the time to write out a Christchurch foodie guide for me and she recommended that I try these legendary New Zealand custard slices. I take a bite into the square custard slices topped with sweet dessicated coconut. Wow. The custard is moussey and light but still firm and the whole thing is quickly and rapturously downed by me. And then regret as I know that this square of deliciousness is out of my reach when I get back to Sydney.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Club Lounge

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Complimentary nibblies at the Club Lounge

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Complimentary nibblies at the Club Lounge

We go downstairs and avail ourselves of the goodies on offer in the Club Lounge. They're generous in size and range and I can see people having enough here and forgetting any dinner plans. Not us though, we've got a booking at The Canterbury Tales downstairs in the hotel, one of Christchurch's best restaurants and winner of South Island's restaurant of the year in 2006 amongst numerous other accolades.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Complimentary nibblies at the Club Lounge

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

We're handed our menus from Prem our friendly yet polite Mauritian born waiter. He's eager to ensure that we have a great time tonight and nothing is a problem at all. The menu features New Zealand produce in an innovative fashion with some unusual meats such as Ostrich. We're excited, it sounds delicious and imaginative.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Amuse Bouche: Smoked salmon and fennel salad, onion

Our first bite of smoked salmon with a fennel and onion salad in a clear glass scoop, is heavenly. New Zealand salmon is divine and we savour this.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Vine ripened tomato consomme, balsamic onion, basil

This intensely flavoured cold consomme is strong in tomato with basil ice with a flavour burst from the balsamic pickled onion on a stick.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Clevedon Coast Oyster organic apple air, seaweed salad

The Clevedon Coast Oyster is indeed beautifully presented with foam which here is called organic apple air, or a delicately perfumed, sweet apple foam. It's a juicy oyster with a delicate foam head. And apparently Clevedon Coast oysters have the highest hypotaurine levels ever recorded (good for heart disease and cholesterol).

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pomegranate Seared Tuna, date terrine, salted orange, pancetta

The strikingly beautiful Pomegranate Seared Tuna, date terrine, salted orange, pancetta is one of those items that you simply must taste together, for together they meld together beautifully but apart they're curious bedfellows. I wold have liked a bit more date terrine for the balance though.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Clearwater scallops, saffron cappellini, flying fish roe, candied citrus butter

A most unusual dish where the candied citrus butter is not sweet but as strong as a citrus curd the fat perfectly cooked scallops are paired with slices of grapefruit, pink grapefruit and orange slices. The textures are interesting with the flying fish roe being firm bubbles of saltiness that complement the scallops and the saffron cappellini is gorgeous.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Cleanser:Summer fruit cleanser

The Summer fruit cleanser is deliciously fruity with apple strawberry and mint with a moussey texture with a hint of chervil.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Chai poached ostrich, chargrilled yogurt, melon slaw, raita dust

The Chai poached ostrich was one of those dishes we were highly anticipating. The ostrich is a not a particularly moist meat but it was very tender and sat on top of a rough hewn melon slaw and baby beetroot leaves topped with a thinner than thin yogurt wafer. The green dust to the side is a raita (yogurt and cucumber dip) dust and indeed dipping a pinkie in, it tastes just like raita.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Tarakihi, jersey bennys, avocado, mango smoked prawsns, rum raisin paste

The menu's choice of Barramundi was not available and was replaced by the New Zealand fish Tarakihi. After chatting to our waiter, he tells us that they're moving to more local produce in response to demand from diners. The rum and raisin paste works surprisingly well with the minted jersey benny potato layer. The prawn and the mango salsa are great although they could operate as a separate dish on their own and are delicious in their own right.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Refresher: blackcurant sorbet

The spoonful of blackcurrant sorbet is like Ribena for adults flavoured with ground fennel seeds.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Cervena, confit kumara, gorgonzola, radicchio, sultana, sangiovese

Our last savoury plate is one that they're obviously proud of. It's artistically presented with the very tender cervena (venison) sliced thinly and seared lightly on the outside but undoubtedly pink on the inside. The sultanas are crusted in egg white and sugar but aren't overpoweringly sweet but I don't know if I quite understand how they work with the rest of the dish. The gorgonzola and raddichio poached in sangiovese are a great pairing with the gamey venison matching it with richness.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Kapiti tuteremoana, poached baby fig, blackcurrant jelly, cumin lavosh

Our cheese plate comes with a bit of everything with the Kapiti tuteremoana, a 4 year aged cheddar from Kapiti in the North Island. It goes well with the soft poached baby fig and cumin lavosh with a touch of sweetness from the blackcurrant jelly.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

Candied hazelnut and raspberry nougat glace on a sweet white wine and quince jelly, vanilla sauce.

The final course of candied hazelnut and raspberry nougat glace on a sweet white wine and quince jelly, vanilla sauce is a mouth watering end to our meal. The flavours meld wonderfully and harmouiously and despite the fac tthat we've eaten 11 courses prior to this, we finish it.

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Christchurch born and bred Sous chef Anthony Page comes out top talk to us and he tells us of the upcoming menu changes, for example, in late April there will be more game featured on the menu. He cites some difficulties with the seasonality with some products being available for only 3 weeks at a time and having to create menus that last for a season but says that cooking for such an innovative restaurant with the resources of Canterbury Tales is exciting. Certainly, perhaps, but eating there is much more exciting.

The Canterbury Tales

Crowne Plaza, Christchurch

Corner Kilmore & Durham Streets, Christchurch, New Zealand

Tel: +64 (03) 365-7799

NQN and Mr NQN stayed and ate as guests of the Crowne Plaza Christchurch

The Canterbury Tales, Christchurch, New Zealand