Visiting an establishment soon after it opens can be a gamble.
It's likely there'll be teething issues as new staff and systems bed in. However, one also expects the owners to demand high standards from the get-go, as first impressions last.
Fortunately, at Botanic, the new kid on the Terrace, it seems the latter applies.
The upmarket bar is the first in the Antony Gough-owned block to open, but joins three adjacent pub/restaurants in the Oxford Tce hospitality hub that was popular before it was wrecked in the 2011 earthquakes.
My friend and I, who both have fond memories of the earlier pubs from our younger days, return to our old haunt on a warm Saturday afternoon.
Botanic's advantage, which it shares with neighbouring jazz bar Fat Eddie's, also on the first floor, is a bird's-eye view over the Avon River banks – a delight the pre-quake Terrace could not offer.
The bar itself is a long, narrow space, essentially split in two. One half overlooks the riverside pedestrian area, while the other will eventually have views of a lane courtyard once the development is finished.
The interior has a sleek look, with fairly minimalist furnishings and pops of greenery. A large slider pulls back, allowing fresh air in, which is a bonus, because the outdoor terrace is not huge. But it is covered and has heat lamps for the cooler days and nights.
Our server is attentive and has good knowledge of the menu. It's nice that she's happy to suggest her personal favourites without prompting.
Botanic's drinks menu is extensive. Its Facebook page suggests a lot of research has been put into a wine list that features French and Australian varieties, as well as some Kiwi favourites. Glasses range from $9 to $15.
There are also 15 impressive cocktails ($10-$19), with imaginative combinations among the mixes. Piquing the interest are the Fig Amigos (tequila, fig liqueur and chocolate bitters) and the Dill Pickle Sour (gin, lime juice, cucumber juice and dill pickle). But it feels like a red wine day, so we choose a trans-Tasman selection. Mine is a Jacob's Creek cabernet sauvignon, which is stronger in flavour than the pinot noir varieties I favour. The wine proves it's good to mix it up now and then. My friend goes Kiwi with a Kindeli El Jabali syrah from Marlborough. It's his first syrah and he's impressed with how aromatic it is.
But Botanic is more than just a bar. Among the food offerings, the small plates menu has six options ($12 to $23), including smoked salmon, confit rabbit and tofu-topped ciabatta.
We opt for fried chicken seasoned with parsley and capers ($15), and mushroom arancini, mozzarella and dijonnaise. The chicken serving is generous with about a dozen pieces of varying sizes. They are tender and my only wish is for more zing in the batter. We're also delivered four large balls of deep-fried crumbed rice, which I can't fault. The mushroom flavour is strong and they are perfectly cooked.
It's easy to see Botanic becoming an inner-city favourite, especially when The Terrace is at full capacity. The precinct appears on track to, once again, become the city's premier hospo hub and we'll be back to try those cocktails.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Where: 126 Oxford Tce, central Christchurch.
Service: Friendly and knowledgeable.
Prices: Average for an inner-city bar.
Ambience: The river view is priceless.