A man’s light tenor drifts past the thick curtains that section the dining space of St. Germain. The velvety material blocks out the sound of a large group of diners in the back from the clink of glasses and the foaming hiss of thick, dark beer rushing out of a tap behind the bar. Co-owner and host, Frederic Berhault, leads customers through the half-parted curtains into the dining area, pausing to let them enjoy the view from the second- story balcony.
As the first plate of food is carried out of the kitchen, all the diners turn to look at the masterpiece rushing toward them. The first course has begun.
St. Germain offers a formal French dining experience with romance, a personable staff and a rich atmosphere. The food, the wine, the music and the owners are French. Brothers, Frederic and Vincent Berhault, traveled Europe working in the hospitality business before moving to Christchurch. They wanted to bring a taste of their homeland to their adopted home. Through the tragedy of the Canterbury 2011 earthquake, they have adapted and thrived in the heart of the city.
The Art of Importing France
Experience traditional French hospitality and seven-course meal without leaving New Zealand
“A year after the earthquakes, people just wanted to go out and have as normal of a life as possible,” Frederic said. “The four months I spent after the earthquake not working, you just get crazy because you don’t know what to do with yourself. You used to work ten hours a day. Then to do nothing, it’s hard.”
St. Germain keeps the Berhault brothers plenty busy; the restaurant is divided into three sections: bar, large dining area and secluded dining. Large groups who desire more privacy typically dine in the exclusive eating area.
“It’s good food. It’s good people. There’s nothing else I really look for in a job,” said Cameron Glasgow, sous chef in charge of all the hot pans, such as the duck breast a l’orange, pan fried groper and lamb striploin persillade. “I’ll be here for a while, indefinitely. If you like cheese and cream and butter, this is the place to come.”
“The four months I spent after the earthquake not working, you just get crazy because you don’t know what to do with yourself. You used to work ten hours a day. Then to do nothing, it’s hard.”
- Frederic Berhault
The warm interior design mixes modern and classic French, showcasing the brothers’ combined 40 years experience in hospitality. The warm, red paint, blue accents, wooden floor with a sectioned floral pattern carpeting and modern black leather chairs pair with the faux marble table tops.
Visitors who would like to dine at a traditional French restaurant can call for a reservation or walk in if they are willing to wait for a table. The restaurant is in a busy location with several restaurants and bars, and there is parking available nearby.