Bar stools were in – and our search was on for the perfect perch, some serious snacks and something stirred or shaken. Pre-lockdown, we met the team at Civil and Naval, Lyttlelton.
When Louis Dyer first opened Civil and Naval right after the earthquakes it was important to him that it was a place to come into and forget about the flattened city. So, taking a building that was historically home to DH Ludlow Civil and Naval tailors, they made full use of the abundant historic-building materials floating around at the time to create somewhere that’s simultaneously cosy and out-there hip. Peer closely at the curios and salvage finds and you might find them labelled with their source, such as Bell’s Pharmacy or 1913 Norton Buildings. “Both in spite of, and thanks to, the rampant red-zoning of Lyttelton post-quake, Civil and Naval can feel like it’s been there forever, a nod to our town’s storied past,” says Louis.
It’s a casual place with a tongue- in-cheek vibe. “The team has always been made up of rascals,” he adds. “If a cute dog comes in at lunch we’ll say hi, or when a total tune comes on in the evening we’ll have a little boogie – then we’ll get you a drink and thank you for your patience.”
After years in restaurants Louis says he has a wandering palate and admits that with the rise of food- delivery services and myriad niche- seeking restaurants, the options can be staggering. “Perhaps the cure to indecision is small bites – why have one when you can have ten?” he says. “When writing menus we ask, ‘What do people eat with drink’ and end up all over the world before boiling it down to two pages. Tapas, meze, antipasti, cicchetti, chaat, izakaya, dim-sum – small plates might be new here but they’re old everywhere else.” TRACY WHITMEY