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Peoplewatching from a kooky, trendy vantage point
C1 Espresso (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Member Name: larsbaby
C1 Espresso (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Advantages: Good drinks selection, good food
Disadvantages: Lukewarm chai latte on our visit
Looking for somewhere to stop off for a coffee in Christchurch, myself and Ms Larsbaby, not for the first time, used the Lonely Planet guide to help us. This place sounded interesting, and looked popular as we peered in, so we thought we'd give it a whirl.
Located at the trendy end of the high street, close to many trendy clothes shops, C1 Espresso was pretty full on the day we visited and seemed to be a popular spot with the local trendies, taking in the cool music playing in the background. As you enter, you're struck by the innate kookiness of the interior and you can see straight away that this is no ordinary coffee shop; it has unique character in abundance. There were all kinds of kooky little touches all round such as pictures of playing cards on the walls. As you enter, it feels quite gloomy but warm thanks to the bright red walls, and to your immediate right are some chairs that look like, and indeed almost certainly are, old fabric backed cinema chairs, arranged around a wooden table. A fishtank made to look like a TV sits close by. As you move along that wall, you come to the counter which could probably take a review in itself to detail. A large, old American style, metal display cabinet with curved glass windows sits to the left corner, full of cakes and sandwiches, next to a sparkly metal till. A wide, red coffee machine that looks like an antique sites next to this, with a coffee grinder with the C1 logo sitting next to it. Behind this on the wall is the coffee menu, which offers a large range; from the flat white becoming popular in the UK, to cappuccino, espresso, machiatto, piccolo, cupofchino, affogatto, Vienna, chai latte and decaf. And we haven't even got onto the teas yet; below this list is a large number of tea jars with all kinds of teas; I asked for rooibos and the friendly barista looked confused as they had a whole range of them so she had no idea which I was asking for (and neither did I by then). There was black tea, white tea, green tea, flavoured green tea, blooming tea, herbal infusions, chocolatey blends, chai blends ... if you couldn't find anything that suited you, it'd be a shock. They even had a range of local beers on offer as well as soft drinks, stored in a fridge behind the counter. These included smoothies such as banana and mango, juices such as grapefruit and carbonated drinks such as fizzy raspberry and fizzy lime.
On the left corner of the counter was a wall corner, and this has a pretty amazing arrangement on both walls of several rows of shelves with a lot of old fashioned coffee grinders; I lost count but it must have been 150 of them or more, all different and all created a quite wonderful display.
To the left of the counter were some seats and tables, which is where we perched ourselves to observe the locals.
With seating outside onto the street, against the window and in a covered area, you'd think the café was big enough but moving past the counter reveals a large backroom to the seating area. To the right wall here is a large number of framed postcards, filling the wallspace. At the back of this wall, immediately in front as you walk are the toilets. Mounted inside one of the doors in a small, clear display case is a Star Wars miniature figure of Princess Leia; the other has one of Han Solo; genius. Hopefully you know your Star Wars (and anatomy) as there are no other indications as to which toilet is which. A pinball machine sits to the left of the main entrance to the toilets, and this area has a red brick wall. It's quite a large seating area here, and one more feature is a large transparent fridge which contains t-shirts for sale, though I didn't do any further investigation here.
On offer to eat were dishes such as burritos, pancakes, eggs and sandwiches. When I finally chose my rooibos tea (which they called chai to confuse me even more), it came on a silver tray in a big pot, with a large brown cup & saucer and was pleasingly tasting of citrus. Ms Larsbaby ordered a chai latte, which came in a glass on a saucer with a zigzag of cinnamon on top. Although tasty this was a bit cold.
To eat I ordered corn and coriander fritters. These came with feta cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. This was really tasty, dense comfort food with the thick, heavy but not too heavy fritters with morsels of corn. This went well with the dry crumbly feta and the moistness of the fresh guacamole and salsa. The whole thing combined really well, and the presentation was also impressive, with the square fritters on top of the cheese with the salsa, guacamole and sour cream perched on top.
Ms Larsbaby had buttermilk pancakes with berry coulis, banana, cream and maple syrup. On a large plate the pancakes were joined by the syrup in a little metal pourer, and the cream in a small dish, with the banana slices to the side; again, excellent presentation. I tried a bit of this and it wasn't too rich, with a delicious sweetness from the maple syrup; very nice indeed.
This is a place well worth a visit just to see the place, although the drinks are food are notable in themselves (the slightly disappointing chai latte aside). As a spot to rest in central Christchurch, this come highly recommended. It's nice to find coffee shops with character these days amongst all the sanitised, identikit chains, and C1 Espresso certainly has that.
146 High St, Christchurch
Tel: 03 379 1917
Summary: Check out the hip locals from this central spot
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