Christchurch's Hi-Fi listening bar Monarch, and its parent King of Snake

Image: Aaron Lee

Images: Aaron Lee

Image: Aaron Lee

Christchurch's Hi-Fi listening bar Monarch, and its parent King of Snake

Monarch is a sensory experience that feels like it belongs in New York, Tokyo, or London. Something special for the audiophiles among us who also enjoy a perfectly executed cocktail in a crystal glass.

The concept is a ‘listening bar’, with a hand-made sound system delivering high-fidelity music so clear you can hear every tsk of a cymbal, every layer of sound and every note despite being in a central city bar. The bar is dedicated to music, and it doesn’t apologise for turning it up loud, but you can hear every word the people sitting across the booth from you are saying. There’s simply nothing else like Monarch anywhere in New Zealand.

The bespoke wooden-boxed speakers are beautiful, and so are the three 300-watt power amps, on display and built into the wall behind the bar, each lit up with the famous McIntosh blue VU meters on the front. The whole sound system is powered by McIntosh, a New York-based company with an illustrious history of revolutionary sound systems. This is the crowd who essentially invented stadium sound – upgrading the old siren-style speakers to something that could play rock ‘n’ roll to the masses. McIntosh did the sound for Woodstock in ’69, and now it’s done the sound for Monarch in ’22.

The bar is accessed through King of Snake on Christchurch's nightlife hub the Terrace, feeling like a secret backroom club. Every aspect of Monarch whispers “sophistication” in your ear. The name and butterfly logo are references to transformation and rebirth, and the interior incorporates iconic relics from pre-earthquake Christchurch. The frames for the interior planter boxes are repaired and repurposed handrails from the Christchurch Basilica, and the doors are from the former Church of St. John the Baptist at Latimer Square. Other elements come from further afield – the stained glass on the ceiling is from a Greek Orthodox church and the carved panels on the front of the bar are from a 19th Century church in the United Kingdom. The lights over the fireplace are from a house built in Beverly Hills in the 1920s, and the bubble glass lamps are 1950s originals sourced from an antique dealer in Germany.

Monarch is the perfect little secret – a late-night hangout to relax in and watch the hours fly by, or the ultimate after-dinner experience to cap off a delightful meal at King of Snake.

By design: King of Snake

The new King of Snake is incomparable to anything else in Christchurch. Every aspect of the restaurant is designed and carefully selected, sourced from historic buildings around the world and from skilled artisans.

Both the King of Snake and Monarch interiors are designed by Jennifer Warring and her team at The Creative Group. King of Snake has pride of place on the second storey at the corner of Cashel Street and the Terrace, and the whole restaurant is set up to take advantage of those sweet views. The seated balcony looks out over the Ōtākaro Avon River and Bridge of Remembrance, and floor-to-ceiling windows give diners a bird’s eye view for people-watching up the walking street. The marble and herringbone timber floors are staged at two heights to offer views to those further back in the restaurant.

The natural light and carefully placed artificial lighting, the sounds and smells of the Asian fusion kitchen, and the luxury finishings come together to give King of Snake the feel of a five-star tropical resort, in the heart of Christchurch. It’s big and open, easy to move through and see across.

Contemporary and sophisticated, there’s nothing run-of-the-mill in the design elements and materials. The heavy timber front door is recovered from the Christchurch Basilica. The velvet is Italian, and so is the marble on the floor, though the slabs were hand-cut into stylised tiles here in Christchurch. The marble bar tops are from Brazil, the light fittings from antique dealers in Poland, Italy and the United States, and the wallpaper from France. Contemporary light fittings were sourced specially from the United Kingdom and Germany, and a bespoke wooden tile wall finish from Poland.

Then there’s the food, designed down to the finest details. Anyone who dined at the previous Victoria Street location will know to expect something spectacular, and the new kitchen delivers above and beyond. The Blade-cut Ora King Salmon is plated in a perfect line punctuated by caviar full stops, and each of the Grilled Scallops sits on its own bed of lush green seaweed. Dumplings are drowned in the perfect amount of broth, and even the mess of Moong Dal is arranged with skill into a thing of beauty. The classics remain and have been refined and elevated, while the stunning new editions take King of Snake to an entirely new level.

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