Place: A bistro which religiously honours local producers, nestled in historic Riccarton House, itself tucked away in 12 hectares of native bush forest in the heart of Christchurch.
People: Responsible for some of the most innovative food ventures in town, Local. is the latest addition to the Taste Events line-up (which also includes Passengers & Co and Town Tonic) led by chefs Sam Marchant and Jamie Bennett. Their hospitality empire is very much a family affair; Sam's wife Amanda Marchant (previously of legendary J'aime Les Macarons) is a group advisor, and Jamie's wife Samantha Bennett is behind the slick interiors which define each of their venues.
They are also behind the local institution that is the Christchurch Farmer’s Market, also held within the grounds of Riccarton House every Saturday.
On the menu: Local.'s bistro style menu reflects the grand surroundings of Riccarton House perfectly, yet it's accessible enough to become a regular brunch and lunch spot. The restaurant is blessed with its own market garden, which is supplemented by produce from local growers who sell at the market. Sam walks around the market early on Saturday mornings and creates specials featuring whatever produce catches his eye.
On our visit, we tried generously sized sandwiches with a side order of thick cut chips and chipotle aioli. The pulled pork sandwich is served open, which is good as towers of juicy, slow-cooked pork covered in romesco salsa and a heap of fresh garden greens would no doubt spill out otherwise. The Rueben is equally delicious and features fresh pickles from the market that add a tang to corned beef and cheese.
The fish bites are also worthy of a mention; hand cut chunks of fresh market fish with a light panko crumb served with grilled lemon and market pickles comes with a homemade tartare sauce you may just end up eating with a spoon.
For dessert, ice cream and sorbets come courtesy of market producer Utopia Ice, started by Taste chef Sebastian Koburg and his partner Mandy Klapschuweit.
Decor: Historic grandeur with more than a hint of hunting lodge, Local. stays true to the heritage feel of the stately home. Rich mint coloured wallpaper in the dining room complements a timber panelled entrance. Chandeliers hang from the high ceilings and reflect the light from the roaring fireplace.
Go tomorrow: To sit amongst Canterbury heritage and enjoy a structure steeped in history, with exceptional food celebrating the small producers of the region. Sit outside on the sweeping verandah, in the rose garden, or in front of the open fire in winter.
Open: Wednesday – Friday 10.30am – 3.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 9.00am – 4.00pm
Address: Riccarton House, 16 Kahu Road Fendalton, Christchurch