Moving to a new city in a new country is not exactly the time for extravagant dinners à deux. When you’re looking for work and trying to scrape the money together to rent and furnish a flat, it seems like wanton extravagance to splash out on sumptuous meals – unless, of course, your Bibliofemme friends club together to give you and your Boyfriend a voucher for a night of cocktails and food at Christchurch’s Indochine on Cambridge Terrace. What better way to introduce yourself to a new city than with a meal in a restaurant you’ve never heard of?
First impressions were good – the elegant décor has a strong Eastern influence with black lacquered screens cutting the room into cosy, low-lit sections. The fact that our first cocktails took a while to arrive didn’t start the night off on the best footing but this minor annoyance was quickly assuaged by the quality of the drinks. Indochine prides itself on its cocktail menu and there’s plenty of choice here for the connoisseur. Even though we couldn’t quite identify the contents of the Boyfriend’s Mai Tai (other than rum), it had a kick like a mule and my Tropical Fizz wasn’t much lighter so the alcohol, coupled with hunger, meant that a good mood prevailed ever before we set eyes on the food menu.
Indochine has an eclectic take on East-West fusion cooking with Dim Sum openers moving confidently from Grilled Fish Cakes with Cucumber Relish to Crunchy Oregano Chicken and a menu that incorporates French techniques and Chinese ingredients. The restaurant is peopled by friendly and mostly efficient staff who helpfully explain the menu after seeing your bewildered looks. It’s not as complicated as it seems at first glance, however, once it is explained that starters and mains are distinguished by price rather than classification.
Seated in a private little alcove, it took us more than a little while to decide what to eat but finally we ended up with the waitress-recommended Sung Choi Bao of Pork to open the food section of the evening. Richly savoury pork mince, cooked with mushrooms and little slices of Chinese sausage, was served with lettuce leaves on the side for scooping and wrapping. The fresh, crunchy lettuce contrasted perfectly with the tasty filling and, like all great starters, it tantalised without being too filling, stimulating our appetites for the feast to follow. As the cocktails had quickly disappeared, we accompanied our starter with a bottle of Huia Vineyard Gewurztraminer which was pungent and strong enough to stand up against all the spices and strong flavours of our meal.
The Boyfriend’s main course – Seared Tuna Steak with Eschallot Relish and Chilli – looked gorgeous but I only got a small taste of his beautifully cooked and Asian flavoured tuna as I was struggling with own dish of Grilled Teriyaki Marinated Ribeye Steak with Scallops. It’s not that it wasn’t delicious, but after living on camping food for the previous month I was a little daunted when I saw the large portion of bloody steak landing in front of me. It looked like it had only had a limited relationship with any kind of heat and, although I do like my steak somewhat bloody, this did exacerbate the whole meatiness of the dish. I had not been asked how I would like it cooked – bloody, or not at all, I presume. Despite the fact that I was full at little more than halfway though, I had a good stab at it while the Boyfriend got occasional chunks landed on his plate. He wasn’t complaining, even if I did reserve the sweet, crunchy-soft deep-fried scallops that accompanied the dish for myself.
By the time we got through the meat mountain, no one was in the mood for desert and even a Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Sauce could not tempt me. What did, though, was the desert cocktail list. The Boyfriend decided on the Raspberry Tart while I chose the Chocolate Martini – as long as I get my fix, I don’t care if it comes in solid or liquid form. I think I got the better deal this time as there was too much body in the Raspberry Tart, a judicious mixture of raspberries, ice cream and lime juice, while the bitter sweet Chocolate Martini was pure heaven in a glass.
Indochine is not an every week kind of place but it certainly hits the spot when you – or some friends – want to treat yourself. It’s the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two or a slightly more boisterous Sex and the City type girly gathering. Just watch out for those cocktails…
The meal cost $169.50 for one shared dim sum, two main courses with a vegetable side dish, four cocktails and a bottle of wine and Indochine is situated at 209 Cambridge Terrace, Central City, Christchurch. Phone: 03 365 7323