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Restaurant review: 3 Cows Cafe Bar and Restaurant, Christchurch

Cow pelts on the bar.

Ewan Sargent Cow pelts on the bar. This was a pretty crazy Thursday night out, The howling wind scattered leaves and papers around as we struggled past the Casino, which only at night reveals what a masterpiece of gaudiness it is with all the lights and that golden giraffe front and centre.

It made a dramatic contrast to Three Cows, which seemed to us a masterpiece of retro dining. It has a big outdoor dining area you walk through to get to the warm and comfortable interior. Inside is an odd but appealing mix of concrete walls and floor, and cow memorabilia.

That includes pelts decorating the bar and leather seats. But that carpet! It stole the show.

It was exactly the same as the carpet my wife grew up on in childhood. The nostalgia flowed along with a couple of wines. Cell phone snaps flew off into the night to siblings in Australia and Wellington.

A family bonded over satellite. The friendly young manager wandered over to confirm it was a carpet from the 1960s.

The decor of Three Cows backs up the name.

Ewan Sargent The decor of Three Cows backs up the name.

So we really were in a retro mood to take on the retro stylings of the Three Cows dining menu. “European Cuisine” it says on the board outside, and that sums it up. This is mainstream food that is big and honest and not particularly sophisticated. But the rural sense of fun is appealing.

This has been brought over from the original restaurant in Kaiapoi. READ MORE:
* Review: Nobanno, Christchurch[1]
* Review: Mexico, Christchurch[2]
* Review: Shop Eight, [3]Christchurch[4]

Crispy chicken and sweet chilli sauce.

Ewan Sargent

Crispy chicken and sweet chilli sauce. The background music included a mournful country and western singer wondering if death awaited him in El Paso. When he started yodelling I thought that’s not going to help his odds.

The dish descriptions are hilarious. One example: The big T-bone has tomatoes, buttered mushrooms, eggs, onion rings and “a shit load of chips”. But get this, “for the farmer folk wife we have a classier version… ” and that features salad and balsamic with the tomatoes..

For all this cow talk, bizarrely we ended up with a venison carpaccio, crispy chicken pieces, the stuffed chicken breast and a single lamb shank. A tourist next door asked if the chicken was free range. No, sorry, said the Estonian waitress.

Damn, but too late.

The carpet that took us back in time.

Ewan Sargent The carpet that took us back in time. Our starter chicken was a huge serving of marinated genuinely crispy chicken with a bit of salad, and some sweet chilli sauce.

It was crispy, chewy and well flavoured. But what a big pile.

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The carpaccio was seared and topped with aioli, parmesan shavings and walnuts. It came with a heavily dressed apple and greens salad.

It was basic, the toppings lacked flavour, but I liked the soft melt-away texture and the gentle flavour. It was also a big serving.. So much so that when I looked at the teetering tower of stuffed chicken breast main dish that followed, I felt a bit like Hillary must have when he looked up at the last bit of Everest to climb.

The big difference would be Hillary fancied his chances.

A towering chicken breast dish commanded respect.

Ewan Sargent A towering chicken breast dish commanded respect. Stacked with the biggest bacon-wrapped chicken breast I’ve been served were onion jam, kumara crisps, broccoli and asian greens and potato and herb puffs.

The fall-apart lamb shank had a nice wine gravy and vegetables, but the promised butter garlic mashed potato arrived with a strong sour cream flavour. That’s fine if you like sour cream, but we don’t in potato mash, so we should have been warned. Three Cows is definitely the place to go if you have been lost without food in the bush for a week and you’ve just been found.

It will get your BMI back to city shape in one sitting.

The first part of the restaurant is a well covered outdoor area.

Ewan Sargent The first part of the restaurant is a well covered outdoor area. The dessert menu was a distant land we didn’t want to explore, but I expect their old school apple crumble would be a good bet.

It was interesting how the drinks list had lines through some entries and hand-written additions, showing it was a working document. But the manager told us a refreshed menu is on the way so hanging on to the old one makes sense. On the walk back to the car we passed a spot with a new restaurant on the way called The Good Goat.

Cows , goats and a golden giraffe over the road at the Casino entrance. Crazy. AT A GLANCE:
Three Cows Cafe Bar and Restaurant

71 Victoria St, central Christchurch
Open daily from 10am
Price range: Starters up to £16.50; mains up to £36.50.
Cost: £89.60 for two (excluding drinks)
Food ??

Service ???
Ambience ???
Wine list ??

– Stuff

Next Reviews story:

Restaurant review: Mac’s Brewbar, Wellington[6]

life & style Homepage[7]


  1. ^ Review: Nobanno, Christchurch (
  2. ^ Review: Mexico, Christchurch (
  3. ^ Review: Shop Eight, (
  4. ^ Christchurch (
  5. ^ Ad Feedback (
  6. ^ Restaurant review: Mac’s Brewbar, Wellington (
  7. ^ life & style Homepage (

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