Review: Engineers and Merchants

MULTIPLE BARS: Engineers and Merchants, St Asaph St, has a roof-top bar, restaurant and downstairs bar and dance hub.
MULTIPLE BARS: Engineers and Merchants, St Asaph St, has a roof-top bar, restaurant and downstairs bar and dance hub.

Christchurch has been through a tough time with the earthquakes, but every cloud has a silver lining. I love the phoenix syndrome and the birth of new, amazing and fabulous bars such as Engineers and Merchants.

In this digital age, I made a dinner reservation on its easy-to-navigate website and it was confirmed within the hour.

Engineers, the roof-top bar and restaurant, and Merchants, the downstairs bar and dance hub, are newbies to St Asaph St's nightlife fraternity and take their names from the company that originally occupied the 1920s building.

I arrive a little early on a warm Thursday night and head up the stairs, straight into a welcome smile and "how's your day?" (tick). I go straight to my indoor table with a view of the kitchen (tick), bar and beautiful people schmoozing on the roof terrace. I love it when I arrive somewhere and instantly know the evening is going to be fab, which is the vibe of this bar.

The indoor dining area maintains the character of the old building, with exposed roof joists, bare brick, steel beams, industrial windows and a well-stocked bar running the length of the room. A waitress is quick with drinks and a dinner menu.

Waiting for my guest, I have a chance to scope the clientele, service from the kitchen and general ambience. On the crowded roof terrace, I am happy to see a good cross-section of people of various ages, all perfectly framed by the re-emerging city.

My friend arrives and it is down to business. The drinks menu is stacked, with great bubbles and many wines, by the glass and bottle. We both choose Wither Hills, riesling for me and rose for my friend ($11 a glass). I nearly order a cider, as the bar has a wonderful selection of Bramble's and Kirin fruit ciders at $14-$15 a bottle. Also on offer are bottled and tap beers, as well as a choice of modern, sophisticated and classic cocktails ($11-$16 a glass).

Trending contemporary pub grub, the dinner menu is versatile, with sliders, pulled-meat burgers, and small plates, dinner dishes or large platters to share. Our choice tonight is five small plates: citrus crusted calamari ($15), polenta fries ($10), spicy fried chicken ($13), braised beef croquettes ($12) - these are truly to die for - and pulled-pork tacos ($14). We nibbled and giggled to our hearts content, with Anna, our waitress, wandering over now and again to ensure we were getting the best out of our experience. 

The owners, the Cook Brothers Bars, have done themselves proud with this cool, funky and sophisticated bar, where service is impeccable, food is off-the-charts good and all is superb value for money.

Where: 178 St Asaph St, central city.

Service: Engaging with fabulous energy.

Prices: To suit every purse and wallet.

Ambience: Dynamite.