King of Snake

Cocktails and cuisine collide at this new restaurant and bar in Victoria St.
Cocktails and cuisine collide at this new restaurant and bar in Victoria St.

Tony Astle has opened a new bar and its cocktails are deadly.

Hiss and a roar

With the name King of Snake, Tony Astle's latest venture is something of a mystery. But, given the man is responsible for creating Indochine and Chinwag Eathai, our expectations are high.

Located up a driveway behind some shops on Victoria St, we pass patrons enjoying what is left of the early evening sunshine, head inside and go straight to the bar.

The space is small but, despite most of the tables being occupied for much of the night, we never feel cramped. A mirror running along the wall above the bench seats helps create the illusion of space. The most striking feature is the stunning purple wallpaper with giant white skulls printed on it.

After nabbing a table, we settle in to check out the drinks list. It takes us a while to choose our first drink, because the list is long. We start with a couple of beers. I have the Japanese beer, Asahi ($8 for 330ml) and friend Gavin goes for the Renaissance Paradox ($9.50 for 330ml), a pilsner craft beer brewed in Blenheim.

Looking around the bar, we see a mix of well-dressed people - some businessmen enjoying a mid-week drink, a group of women busily chatting, and couples having a quick drink before moving to the restaurant for dinner.
The wine list is extensive, with more than 60 mostly New Zealand wines from which to choose. About a third of those are available by the glass ($7.50-$20). We decide against splashing out $350 on a bottle of champagne and go straight to the cocktails.

Despite there being more than 20 cocktails on offer, our first decision is easy - the signature King of Snake ($16) for him and a cucumber mojito ($14) for me.

The King of Snake was the most popular cocktail at Indochine but, after having a taste, I'm glad I didn't order it. My tolerance for chilli is low and this cocktail has a lot of it. Just a sip disables my tastebuds instantly.

Gavin likes it, though, saying the chilli is hot but doesn't overwhelm the ginger flavours in the drink. My mojito is perfectly sweet and the cucumber is subtle.

Feeling a little peckish, we order bar snacks. There are 15 from which to choose and we go for the fried rice balls ($9), sticky beef wontons ($12 for three), garlic sausage with caramelised fish sauce and chilli relish ($9), and fries with miso mayo ($9). Like the cocktails, the food arrives quickly.

The rice balls are crispy on the outside and beautifully moist on the inside. After eating a wonton each, we realise we should have listened to the waiter and ordered five. We spend a few tense minutes debating who deserves the third and last wonton. In the end, we halve it.

With so many cocktails, we think it's only right to have another round. I go for the passionfruit daiquiri ($14) and Gavin the elderflower martini ($14). Both are a hit.

King of Snake is a welcome addition to Christchurch's bar scene and, judging by the bar snacks, the restaurant is well worth trying, too.

Where: 145 Victoria St   
Service: Friendly, relaxed and efficient.
Prices: Surprisingly reasonable.
Ambience: Stylish but comfortable.

The signature cocktail, King of Snake, packs a punch.
The signature cocktail, King of Snake, packs a punch.