There's a new reason to head to the hills - Cortado is en route.
A new kid on the block
With the loss of our central city and the migration of restaurants mainly west and north, I was more than pleased to hear a new eatery had opened in my hood of south Christchurch.
Cortado replaces what was The Good Life Café & Market on the corner of Colombo and Somerfield streets, near the bustling Beckenham shopping precinct.
Hoping to enjoy a quiet dinner with My Bloke, I phone to book for a Saturday night and receive a polite warning: 32 Aussie rugby fans are dining while they watch the AFL final on Cortado's large screen.
Rugby? A big screen? A noisy group of high-spirited men? It might be fun, I thought fleetingly, before deciding to book instead for Sunday night with MB and my two children (masters 9 and 11).
We arrive at 6pm, just after the lunching-in-the-sun crowd has dispersed, but before the evening rush begins. We are shown to a large and very comfortable leather-seated booth, where we happily disappear into our own world.
The lengthy menu is biased towards fish, ideal for a non-meat eater such as myself, and has a page devoted to pizzas. I sip on a Wither Hills sauvignon blanc ($10 for a 150ml glass) while I consider my options, and MB chooses the Trinity Hill shiraz ($14 for a 250ml glass) from a fairly modest selection.
MB goes for the ceviche - a Peruvian dish of raw salmon, fish, calamari, and prawns served on a salad, cut-through with slivers of green chilli - as an entree ($14). A shot glass of lemon dressing is quickly poured over, although our waiter later tells us some diners prefer to drink this straight. We can't tell from his face if we got this bit wrong, but it certainly tasted right with the tang of lemon bringing to life the fresh morsels of fish.
I am also very happy with my "pil-pil prawns" ($16) roasted in olive oil, garlic and merken (smoked chilli flakes). They are lip-smackingly buttery and still tender.
For mains, I go for the Asian salmon ($33), a salmon fillet on rice noodles and sautéed vegetables, drizzled with an almost sweet soy sauce reduction. The salmon is fresh, but a little over-salted for my taste. I gobble up the rice noodles and nicely crunchy stir-fried cauliflower, broccoli and spring onions.
MB's pork ribs ($28) are made with good quality and well-cooked meat, but the overly generous pouring of tomato sauce is too sweet for his taste.
From Cortado's pizza range, the youngies choose a simple Margarita and a Hawaiian ($17-$18 for a regular, $22-$25 for a large).
In a curious quirk, the "kids' menu pizza" is also a Hawaiian of the same size as that from the main menu, but for just $9. Despite the pricing confusion, the pizzas prove to be the star attraction, with crisp, thin bases and simple, fresh toppings.
Neither MB nor I are dessert fans but, in the interests of a thorough review and sheer curiosity, I order the "sweetie" pizza ($12 regular, $18 for large), topped with chocolate sauce, bananas, berries, and, wait for it, condensed milk. It is more palatable than I had expected, with the near-wafer thin base and fresh fruit topping good foils for the rich sauce.
In all, the meal is probably the most varied I have shared, from the adult flavours of lemon-infused raw fish salad to the delightfully child-friendly chocolate pizza. We will certainly return.
Where: 152 Somerfield St, Beckenham.
Service: Cheerful and engaging.
Prices: $22 to $38 for mains.
Ambience: Pleasant, light, airy and modern.