Eating out on the cheap

Last updated 09:40 29/08/2012

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Wine time in Marlborough A day trip to Cheviot Canterbury's rural playground Where the wild things are: A visit to the Catlins Your guide to Sumner Up Waipara way Tory Lodge escape The grill Lyttelton springs into life A soak at Maruia

Our team pounded the streets to find eateries providing more for less.

Casbah
Chef Simo Abbari once had the Moroccan food market sewn up with his popular restaurants and a deli, but along came Casbah and it is proving to be a worthy rival. Casbah moved to Sydenham's burgeoning food zone in Colombo St, after being shaken from its premises in Gloucester St by the February 2011 earthquake. Tagines, souvlaki and salads are generous in size and can be eaten in, but most fly out the door to be enjoyed elsewhere. The traditional lamb tagine has plenty of meat and all tagines come with roasted vegetables and rice or couscous. Casbah's souvlakis are packed with fresh ingredients and there's a falafel vegetarian option. It was definitely a cheap eat at $25 for two, including Turkish delight to finish. Take a jacket if dining in, as this high-ceilinged restaurant can be chilly, but the welcome is warm and the service super-fast. Alternatively, take food home and enjoy it with wine. Casbah is unlicensed. It is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and after 6pm, it's rocking. - Yvonne Martin
Address: Shop 6, 303 Colombo St, Sydenham
Ph: 943 3952

Joyful
The name is spot on for this bright, welcoming restaurant, displaced from Colombo St by the February 2011 earthquake. And, judging by the countless bouquets of celebratory flowers on display on the night we visited, diners are overjoyed to have this favourite eatery back. It was a Sunday night and Joyful was packed. The menu features all the usual Chinese favourites, starting with dumplings and spring rolls, and the lazy susan makes sharing easy. Beef, chicken and pork dishes are mixed with an ample array of vegetables, all cooked al dente, although the "vegetarian delight" came without tofu or a scattering of cashews for protein. We loved the spiciness of the pork with chilli ($17) and the crispy skin chicken - large chunks of chicken, complete with bones, encased in a salty-sweet glaze and decorated with prawn crackers. Finger lickin' good. The fried noodle and rice options were more "generous" than "small", as described on the menu.
The drinks list ranges from Chinese tea ($1 a pot) to Tsing Tao beer, wine and soft drinks. If you can manage afters, there's a cabinet of elaborately decorated cakes. At less than $25 a head, this charming, modern restaurant is excellent value and, despite its size, boasts quick, good-natured service, low noise levels and a literally joyful atmosphere. - Kamala Hayman
Address: 102 Riccarton Rd, Riccarton
Ph: 341 6883

Saigon Star
Vietnamese food hasn't become as popular as Thai in New Zealand, but its star is definitely on the rise, thanks largely to cheap and cheerful eateries such as Saigon Star. Sited in a nondescript strip mall in Clarence St, Riccarton, Saigon Star doesn't look much from the street, but what this place lacks in ambience it makes up for in the quality and value of its food. Its menu covers the full gambit of Vietnamese cuisine and has something to tempt all palates. We recommend you try the fresh spring rolls as a starter; they're light, fresh and tasty, and great value at $7.80, as they're big enough to share. The mains come in two sizes, but the medium is more than enough. The chicken lemongrass and chilli was delightfully tender and spicy while the salt and pepper pork ribs melted in the mouth. Service is super-fast and at $54 for two courses, you can't go wrong. Saigon Star is unlicensed and open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. - Lois Cairns
Address: 184 Clarence St
Ph: 348 8879

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Indian Sumner
Getting to Sumner is not as easy as it once was, but cute and cosy eatery Indian Sumner makes it worth the drive. Couples and singles now have a chance of dining in on a whim after it expanded a month ago, or just grab a meal to go. The menu has all the traditional fare, staff were smiley and the food arrived fast. Generous meat portions featured in our chicken korma, as well as from the tandoor. There were plenty of vegetarian options - we loved the eggplant. The raita (cucumber yoghurt) would complement any curry or naan, and the mango lassi could double as a dessert. Indian Sumner caters for a Kiwi palate, so if you like it hot, say so. Overall ambience was as bright as the walls; just have a jacket handy in case you are seated by the door. Curries range from $15 to $18. For $46, we got a filling meal for two and enough leftovers for lunch the next day. You can buy drinks there or BYO bottle of wine. It's open seven nights from 5pm until late. - Joelle Dally
Address: 11A Wakefield Ave, Sumner
Ph: 326 4777

Benson Restaurant No 1
If you have yet to discover this Chinese restaurant down an alley between Little Britain and Dumplings on Riccarton Rd, then you're in for a treat. It moved from 641 Colombo St after the February 2011 earthquake and its mostly Asian clientele followed. From an extensive menu of northern and southern Chinese cuisine, we enjoyed a modern Chinese dish of fried lamb and cumin seeds on a sizzling plate, as well as barbecue pork with vegetables, a combined vegetable dish and a bowl of rice to share. The meal for two cost $50. While there are plenty of pork, lamb, seafood and tofu dishes for Westerners, Benson is known for authentic Chinese dishes, such as a soup cooked for 20 hours with a name that has no English translation. Beer is available for $5 a bottle and wine for $10 for 187ml or $38 a bottle. This hidden gem is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Sunday. - Yvonne Martin
Address: 113 Riccarton Rd, Riccarton
Ph: 341 8633

The China Kitchen
This family-owned business was a busy lunchtime eatery in Hereford St until the quakes forced a move to Papanui. Now with a bustling dinner clientele, bookings are essential on Friday and Saturday nights. The China Kitchen claims to have the best dumplings in town and we certainly recommend the pork and chives, and chicken and spinach versions. These delicious pan-fried treats cost a very reasonable $5 for half a dozen. We also tried two signature dishes: garlic and chilli prawns ($18) and lamb with CK special sauce ($18), each with a bowl of rice. They were tasty, well-presented and generous servings, while the service was fast and friendly. Teriyaki salmon, lemon chicken and Sichuan chicken are other popular dishes. A small selection of desserts is available. Busy and well-lit, this restaurant is licensed but allows guests to BYO ($5 a bottle). It offers gluten-free and vegetarian options. - Kim Newth
Address: 17B Main North Rd, Papanui
Ph: 354 6818

Malaysian Delights
You could call this Malaysian street food, Papanui Rd-style - super-fast service in a few-frills, fuss-free setting. Malaysian Delights is next to KFC in Papanui's takeaway alley, offering sit-down dining in a clean, efficient environment. Even if its menu at first seems to be weighted towards familiar Chinese-themed staples, the choice is enormous. We tried a mixed entrée plate (various deep-fried treats, plus a decent chicken satay); a tasty rendang spiked with an encouraging quantity of crunchy spice pods and lemongrass; and a satisfying roti paratha served with a simple yellow chicken curry. The flavours are good, but the spiciness is tempered for wussy New Zealand palates. Portions are, in both size and price, reasonable rather than generous. The wine list is limited, but there's BYO, too. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday. Don't expect to linger over dinner. We were contemplating the remnants of ours little more than 30 minutes after walking in. - Katie Macbeth
Address: 479 Papanui Rd.
Ph: 352 4607

Mosaic by Simo
In the hide-and-seek adventure of finding old haunts in post-quake Christchurch, rediscovering Simo's - or a variation on it - in deepest Addington is a highlight. Mosaic by Simo is a humbler affair than the original Simo's in Cashel St, but such is life these days. It has morphed into a deli/diner/takeaway set-up on Lincoln Rd, with sit-down dining. The food is presented in cabinets and the sight of it - heaped plates of spicy merguez sausages, briouat pastry parcels, dolmades, brightly coloured salads, spice-rubbed chicken drumsticks, steaming tagines and piles of sweets - immediately triggered pangs of both the sentimental and the hunger variety. We ordered a selection of dishes and nothing disappointed. The bill came to $48, which included tea and a couple of sweets. Mosaic doesn't take bookings (it's open Monday to Saturday), it's inevitably busy, the serving area gets crowded quickly and things seemed a touch disorganised during our visit. However, any such quibbles melted in the face of charming service and those fondly recalled North African flavours. - Geoff Collett
Address: 3/300 Lincoln Rd, Addington
Ph: 338 2882

Samurai Bowl
This casual, no-frills, value-for-money eatery is back, after quitting Gloucester St post-quake. Its diverse menu has something to suit most palates, including popular ramen noodle dishes, sushi and other Asian fusion options, all at affordable prices. The service is fast and the staff are friendly. The teriyaki salmon ($14.50) was perfectly cooked and delicious, and the spicy-miso galbi-don ($12), barbecued rib beef on rice, was tasty and filling. With a few extras, the bill came to $43. The restaurant is licensed and offers shochu, as well as a familiar range of beers and soft drinks. At 8pm on a Friday, we didn't need a reservation, but there were plenty of other patrons tucking in enthusiastically, and others popping in for takeaways. Kudos to Samurai Bowl for creating some night-time hustle and bustle close to the central city. It is open daily for lunch and dinner. - Tamlyn Stewart
Address: 5/574 Colombo St
Ph: 379 6752

Maharaja Indian Restaurant
Be sure to make a reservation because the Maharaja is very popular, and for good reason. The aromas wafting through the restaurant had us salivating while we waited for a table. It was warm, the decor elegant and the patrons understandably cheerful. Operating from a renovated villa, the Maharaja can seat many people, but still maintains a comfortable, intimate atmosphere. It was difficult to choose from the menu, as everything sounded superb. There is a range of vegetarian options that could tempt a meat-and-potatoes man. The vegetable samosa ($6.50) was the best we've had, the lamb saagh gosht (medium spicy) was delicious and the mango chicken, one of the restaurant's signature dishes, was divine. The service was excellent and the food so good, we cannot wait for a return visit. With garlic naan breads, the meal cost $48 for two. Maharaja is open for lunch from Monday to Friday, and for dinner seven days a week. - Tamlyn Stewart
Address: 452 Papanui Rd, Papanui
Ph: 352 0150

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