Restaurateurs return after quakes

01:27, Oct 11 2012
Lisa Scholz
PIONEER: Lisa Scholz has helped change the way we eat and drink.

One of Christchurch's favourite restaurateurs has returned post quake, 21 years after first opening in the city.

For 25 years, Christchurch restaurateurs Lisa Scholz and Yommi Pavelka have learnt to be wary of the life-changing events the month of September throws at them.

The latest - last month - will, Scholz hopes, bring an end to the upsets.

"On September 3, we reopened Saggio di vino. It was 21 years after our first opening.

"We are next door to where we were in September 2010. Back then, we were in a nice old brick building on the corner of Bealey Ave and Victoria St."

Scholz had holidayed in New Zealand in 1985.


"I liked it, you know. The grass was greener maybe?

"So when the effects of the Chernobyl disaster began to appear in Berlin, I said to Yommi, 'We're going to New Zealand - to live'. It was September 1987."

For three years, she worked in restaurants in Auckland.

"I couldn't get a job in Christchurch. 'You are overqualified,' they said, but I needed to work to get residency. Then, back to Christchurch to open our own place.

"It was to be a wine bar, but it was difficult to get the licence. We didn't want beer. We wanted to sell wine by the glass with little plates of food, like tapas.

"This was in 1990 and our ideas didn't fit in and, as we discovered, there really weren't the wines available. Most people asked for a medium white. But things were changing, with new licensing laws and new wineries.

"When we opened in 1991, we had mostly European wines, but now there is choice, in food as well."

Then as now, Scholz sources the best locally grown or reared produce. "Good enough" has never been to her taste.

"I think I was about slow food before the [slow-food] movement was heard of," she says.

"So [we have] tiny vegetables from West Melton, whitebait from Cascade Creek, salmon and venison from North Canterbury."

It all changed with the September 4, 2010, quake. Even with the extensive wine cellar saved and repairs under way, the February 22, 2011, quake halted everything.

"We were without a business for two years," she says. "I could not find the right premises. I did not want to be in the suburbs."

Then the chef, who had intended to open his own restaurant in a new building next door, changed his mind.

"It was larger than I wanted, but we had not much choice.

"In 2005 we had a very good sous chef, Sebastian Koburg. He had returned to Germany and was head chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he is very happy to be back here. We have the same philosophy: 'Every plate must be a plate to be proud of'.

"I like to think I have helped change the way we now eat and drink.

"We have a tavern licence, so you can have just a glass of wine, and our environment is casual. A little bit of pioneering? Or maybe I have been lucky!"

The Press