Bunsen's tearful return to The Christchurch Arts Centre

Bunsen opened to a flurry of customers in November who were excited to return to the space.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Bunsen opened to a flurry of customers in November who were excited to return to the space.

The first hospitality outlet to open at the partially restored Christchurch Arts Centre has marked a poignant time for many locals.

Bunsen cafe and eatery on Worcester Boulevard opened its historic doors to a wave of customers last month. It occupies the same space the well-known and long-standing tenant Le Cafe did prior to the earthquakes. 

Its retail manager Shelley Lechner-Page said lots of people have been really excited to come back into the space. "We've had a lot of really emotional people coming back in, a lot of old regulars of Le Cafe. People have been getting quite tearful when they come in. It's a special place for many."

Bunsen's owner Hamish Evans, the man behind Switch Espresso and Black Betty.
Joseph Johnson

Bunsen's owner Hamish Evans, the man behind Switch Espresso and Black Betty.

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She said some customers were disappointed to find Le Cafe hadn't returned. "We know that Le cafe isn't replaceable so we want to be our own identify. We're Bunsen, not Le Cafe." 

Bunsen uses its own unique blend of coffee from Switch Espresso.
Joseph Johnson

Bunsen uses its own unique blend of coffee from Switch Espresso.

Bunsen's owner Hamish Evans, the man behind Switch Espresso and Black Betty, also shares a connection with the building. Evans got his start in hospitality some 20 years ago at Le Cafe washing dishes. When the lease come up for the space about two years ago he immediately felt drawn to the opportunity. 

The building was originally built as part of the university and used as a chemistry lab and lecture hall. Its namesake was inspired by one of the first professors to use the lab, professor Evans, who made a modification to the  Bunsen burner that was patented. 

Restoration of the 1877 Gothic Revival building has given it a new lease of life, but nods to its past are sprinkled throughout. There are small beakers of sugar on the tables, the table tops are stencilled with chemistry images and Evans has tracked down the old Le Cafe outdoor furniture which has been restored. 

Picking fresh produce at the Asian Garden Cooking School.
Asian Garden Hospitality

Picking fresh produce at the Asian Garden Cooking School.

The chemistry theme has been followed through to the dinner menu using molecular gastronomy to flavour the food. 

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Bunsen has a brunch menu that runs 7am to 2.30pm, a dinner menu and cabinet food. 

LEARN TO COOK LIKE A PRO 

The Asian fusion burger joint, Bao Bar, opens on Riccarton Rd.
Bao Bar

The Asian fusion burger joint, Bao Bar, opens on Riccarton Rd.

Learn to cook restaurant quality Asian cuisine at the Asian Garden Cooking School, the first of its kind in Christchurch. The newly opened cooking school sits on a large plot of landscaped land at 7 Whitchurch Pl, just off Harewood Rd. It's owned by the Asian Garden Hospitality Group, which operates 14 restaurants throughout New Zealand, including Buddha Stix on Riccarton Rd. The daytime and evening classes are an authentic, hands-on and interactive experience where restaurant-trade tips are shared with students. The school is home to a large vegetable garden growing produce like chilli, lime leaf and lemongrass fresh for its food. Enjoy a glass of wine or beer with friends while cooking then sit down to a feast at the end. Indochine cuisine, Thai feast, Hanoi, and Asian style BBQ duck are just some of the classes on offer. 

ASIAN BURGER BAR FIRST FOR CITY

This week Riccarton Rd welcomes a new eatery, Bao Bar, at 111 Riccarton Rd. The Asian fusion burger bar had its official opening on Monday, making it the first of its kind in the city. Its owner, Sophia Su, said the bao style burger, originated as a street food in Taiwan and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. The steamed bun baoger is Bao Bar's star item, followed by the chinese style pancake baorrito. The two-storey eatery has bar seating on the first floor, and booths on the second. Customers can grab a Chinese, Korean or Japanese beer to wash down their meal.  

NEW DIGS, SAME GREAT FOOD 

The quick and tasty Thai Container takeaway on Bealey Ave, with an almost cult following, has expanded its operations opening a restaurant. Thai Box opened early last week at 270 St Asaph St, corner of Madras St. Regulars to the Bealey Ave container will be pleased to hear Thai Container's takeaway menu is on offer at Thai Box during the day. Its dinner menu has introduced some exciting new dishes like its TFC (Thai fried chicken), whole duck and wonton soup. The new eatery looks pretty slick. Bright urban art pops against black walls and its banquet style tables are made out of recycled material from demolished churches. It may have a new look, but the cheap prices that garnered its following are still firmly in place. 

 

 - Stuff

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