When describing a night out at Christchurch’s award-winning restaurant Gatherings, a few words spring to mind – delicious, eye-opening, unique. And it’s definitely intimate. Now chef/owner Alex Davies and restaurant manager and co-owner Omer Shadich are spreading that same vibe to their new venture right next door to Gatherings – a bar named Alfred, due to open on 22 June.
Yes, it’s a small space, and deliberately so, seating just 26. “Every new opening seems to focus on size so we wanted to cut that back,” says Alex. But the intimacy is also about the experience. “It may be a quiet huddle away in a little dark corner, or for some it may be an evening of sitting at the bar learning about wines,” he says. “The place can be what you want it to be, but it will be very personal and everyone will be treated as though they are special.” Omer will run the bar, with French sommelier Clement Bony ready to talk punters through the wine list, a selection of organic and well-made examples from around the world. You’ll also find local North Canterbury wines, classic cocktails and a rotation of three beers on tap. “We will relate to each producer in some way – be that a personal connection, or a shared philosophy around farming, craftmanship or taste,” says Alex. While drinks are the raison d’ȇtre at Alfred, Alex will oversee a menu of interesting nibbles, which will change frequently.
“But there will be a mainstay of oysters and cheeses,” he says. Both drink and food menus will be sustainably sourced and organic where possible, a philosophy echoed in the fit-out, by craftsman Mike Gilling. “Everything will be made by hand with all the materials sourced within New Zealand,” says Alex. The aesthetic will be minimal, simple elegance, similar to Gatherings. And now for the burning question. Why Alfred? “Alfred Money was the first publican of the area back in the 1860s. He named the area the Carlton and owned the Carlton Hotel opposite Alfred, yet this eccentric figure in Christchurch remains relatively unknown,” says Alex. “We wanted to pay a little homage to the guy and give a nod to some local history.” We, for one, are very keen to get to know him.
Alfred, 2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch, Tue-Sun, 2pm-11.30pm