Two years of earthquakes have left the residents of Christchurch shaken and stirred. Tamara Pitelen visits what’s left of the quake-struck town and finds a slice of chocolate heaven (on the bus) is part of the new city emerging from the wreckage.

New Zealand's Chocolate BusThere’s a little corner of chocolatey heaven nestled in the foothills in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch. Just on the other side of the Port Hills in Governor’s Bay, it’s called She Chocolat and it’s where chocolate devotees from around the world come to worship at the altar of the rich, sweet, cocoa bean treat.

It even has its own bus (pictured).

It must be said, if anyone deserves a little piece of chocolatey heaven, it’s the good people of Christchurch. They’ve had a tough couple of years since 4 September 2010 when a 7.1 earthquake shook the city awake in the early hours of the morning, triggering the start of 24 months of ongoing and unpredictable earthquakes and aftershocks.

In the two years till September 2012, the city has endured a total of 10, 630 quakes and counting, including a devastating 6.3 earthquake on 22 February 2011 which saw the first of many lives lost in the shaky city. Thousands of buildings and businesses have been destroyed and people left without homes or jobs as both their houses and work places have fallen victim to the ongoing quakes.

Today, Christchurch is a place where the people are trying to regroup and rebuild. Businesses are slowly opening again, usually in new locations as most of what was once the central city is now cordoned off and out of bounds as demolition of dangerous buildings continues.

At time of writing in August 2012 – everyone was cautiously optimistic that at last the quakes had stopped, that Mother Earth’s rage was spent. But most people still have their china and glass ornaments sitting on carpeted floors instead of table tops and pictures remain off the walls – just in case.

This is where I need to declare an interest. Christchurch is my hometown and although I haven’t lived there in about 16 years, I regularly get back and have watched from the sidelines as my family lived through the quake years. I was back there last week for my mother’s 70th birthday. That’s why we spent the afternoon at She Chocolat in Governor’s Bay and I discovered this gourmet foodie nirvana with its jaw-dropping views across Lyttelton Harbour.

If you’re looking for the perfect Sunday afternoon in Christchurch, you’d be hard pressed to find something better than the scenic drive from the city over Cashmere Hill, past the Sign of the Kiwi café (a once obligatory top-of-the-hill ice-cream stop that’s now closed due to quake damage) and down the winding road into Governor’s Bay where on the one side you have the She Chocolat restaurant and chocolaterie overlooking Lyttelton Harbour while on the other side of the road is the historic Governor’s Bay Hotel, an institution of a drinking hole which has been enticing Cantabrians with its huge grass lawn and wooden bench tables since 1870.

New Zealand ChocolateIf you don’t happen to feel like chocolate when you visit, that’s fine, there are plenty of non-chocolate dishes on the menu but really, what’s the point? This is a place that has eight flavours of hot chocolate. This is a place that matches chocolate with beer, so if you order, for example, a Steinlager, the recommendation is to complement it with a lime and black pepper truffle. Or if you order a glass of Merlot, the recommended match is a ramekin of organic chocolate-rolled Fijian cacao beans. Even the organic sourdough bread comes with chocolate dukkah and olive oil.

As for the local cheeses and chocolate tasting platter, don’t get me started. This place knows its chocolate. In fact, you can even learn how to make chocolate here, the She Chocolate School features in the Lonely Planet list of the world’s Top 10 Culinary Schools.

So, if you’re in Christchurch, make an afternoon of it exploring Governor’s Bay and pay She Chocolat a visit, just leave the diet at the door.


She Chocolate

79 Main Rd, Governor’s Bay, Lyttelton, Christchurch

Call +64 (0)3 329 9825. Email:

Hours: Wed – Fri 9am to 4pm; Sat & Sun 9am to 5pm (Closed Mon & Tue). Brunch served from 9am to 11.30am, lunch served from 11.30am to 3pm. Nibbles 9:00am-4:00pm

Governor’s Bay Hotel

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