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Akaroa's French connection

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Ask the locals where to eat in Akaroa, and they’re likely to point you in Ma Maison’s direction.

Akaroa, on the eastern side of Akaroa Harbour on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury is renowned as the only attempted French settlement in New Zealand.

In a tale of colonial rivalry, a shipload of mainly French nationals, lured down under with the promise of land and sovereignty over Akaroa, sailed into the harbour in August 1840 to find the Union Jack already flying from the flag pole on the hill.

Unbeknown to the hopeful French, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and Māori rangatira had been signed six months prior, however the originally promised allocation of land was honoured and many descendants of those founding settlers are among Akaroa’s 750-strong resident population today.

Street names like Rue Jolie, Rue Lavaud, and Rue Benoit live on in the quaint town with its characterful buildings and picturesque harbour, and it’s a popular weekend destination just 85km from Christchurch city, attracting visitors year-round.

Akaroa hums during the biennial French Festival and when cruise ships anchor, with activities like boutique shopping, tours to see Hector's dolphins, fur seals and penguins, visits to artisan food and beverage producers, and dining out keeping people busy.

On Rue Balguerie, popular bar and bistro Ma Maison – “my house” – offers uninterrupted views of historic Daly's wharf and Akaroa Harbour.

Owner Ben Campbell, a founding member of the 2000s Kiwi band ZED, has created a space and culture that encapsulates Akaroa.

Maitre'd Amy Harrison-Wright is at the helm, while executive chef Bevan Ward and his team of seven local and international chefs showcase the region’s best produce.

Fresh tuna, scallops, prawns and world-famous Akaroa Salmon share the menu with Canterbury venison, lamb and beef and Harrison-Wright says regardless of the time of day, Ma Maison is a dining experience to get excited about.

“Perhaps a glass of wine in the sun while the kids play in the neighbouring playground, or Eggs Royale for brunch, but to truly experience Ma Maison we recommend the Trust the Chef option – you really can trust these chefs!”

In September 2023, Bayleys Canterbury supported the Christchurch City Mission’s Back to School programme with its Bayleys Plate Up for a Purpose event where top restaurants made a donation from every order of a nominated dish.

Click here to download the full article including a special recipe from Ma Maison (PDF)

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