C1 Cafe, so good 2 C

C1 Cafe is getting ready to open

Last updated 05:00 17/10/2012

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Blog: Girl About Town

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There's a vineyard on top of a café in Christchurch and I know where to find it.

With Tuam St open to east-bound traffic, many passengers are taking the opportunity to lean out car windows and snap pictures of a corner of High St showing plenty of promise. The Old Post Office Building, standing tall and proud, is one of the only high points in an area mostly returned to rubble. What's happening inside this 1930s building is cause for excitement.

I meet Tim McIntosh next to a somewhat iconic and colourful garden outisde the front door, which sports a bright yellow logo for C1. Tim's one of the enthusiastic men behind the café's rebirth, helping oversee the ground level's transformation. The cafe will share walls and doors with Alice In Videoland, and intends to open mid November.

For dedicated C1 fans, familiar with the cosy and eclectic surroundings of the cafe's previous site across at 150 High St, it will be little surprise to learn this will be no ordinary coffee zone. As Tim takes me on a tour of what is still a construction site, a picture is painted of a café nurturing the past as it hurtles head-first into the present.

With two long feature tables made from recycled rimu from the old premises and five huge spherical lights from the Arts Centre's Great Hall, there's a story behind the carefully chosen components of this new café. Take, for instance, the tube that runs around the ceiling. It's not an apparatus for combating coffee roasting by-products, but a pneumatic tube system that will take orders from the front counter out to the kitchen. I can't wait to see it in action - and to see happens if an order or two gets stuck along the way.

Tim takes me past the former post office's vault, now home to the vintage coffee roasting machine last used by Lyttelton Coffee Company, and shows me the extensive kitchen area which will allow two chefs to cook up a storm at their own work stations. A door leads down to the basement, where the staff area finds its home in the original boiler room.

A mix of booths and chairs will seat about 150 happy punters inside the large space made even more impressive by its high ceiling. A fake ceiling was removed when Alice's moved next door, and the beaded original ceiling has been touched up and looks great with a lick of black paint.

Outside, 170 people will find a spot to enjoy their wine and food, as the pavement is set to become awash with seating. The stretch of fake grass on the Tuam St could become the place where your next table is found.

In true C1 style, the door between the dining area and the bathrooms is no ordinary piece of wood. It's a "James Bond-style" bookcase, that automatically slides open and closed. Even the wall opposite the bathrooms, which will include a parents' room (a godsend for those with children), is to be covered with commissioned artworks from Christchurch artists.

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The first floor is the next office space for staff from The Christchurch Art Gallery and the second and third floors will be home to The Physics Room, currently at 55 Sandyford St, Sydenham.

The roof is the cherry on top. It's where 55 pinot noir grapevines from Black Estate are growing in raised planter boxes, lifted one by one by crane up to their spot on High. All it takes is one climb up and down the wrought-iron spiral staircase in heels to see why the barbecue was carried up by crane, too. Planks lie in piles awaiting their next life as a decking area. Bee hives are on their way, too.

For Tim, the creation of this green space is in keeping with what Christchurch people asked to be a part of their new city, and, despite the surrounding cranes and the rubble, you can already see how private roof-top functions will be an appealing option in the future.

C1 plans to be here for a long time, so sustainable practices have been key to the big picture planning. Solar panels will one day line Alice's roof and a wind turbine is not out of the question. Coffee grinds will help fertilise the growing grapes and a herb garden will be an asset to the kitchen. Those bees are bound to make some pretty tasty honey, too.

It's encouraging and inspiring to hear the big ideas driving C1. I have a feeling it's going to age well, like a fine wine.


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