Peking Duck Specialist
Peking Duck Specialist

Welcome to the Dragon Express Restaurant

Best Chinese Restaurant in Christchurch, New Zealand


It has been a long journey from humble beginnings to the Dragon Express Restaurant that now serves the people Christchurch, those who are passing through, and those who want a taste of Hong Kong, as it should be. Cliff has a long history with a love of Chinese food cooked and presented just right, but it has been many years in the making…

Cliff moved to New Zealand from Hong Kong with his family in 1974, when he was about 14 years old. In their adjustment to the local culture Cliff and his family soon discovered that they were missing their ‘taste of home’ as the Chinese food on offer in New Zealand at that time, was nowhere near the standard of traditional Chinese cooking methods, and it was something they sorely missed.

Adapting the Kiwi mentality of ‘do it yourself’ the family chose to prepare their own meals, and this led to Cliff gaining quite an interest in the difference of preparation and cooking methods from the food he had grown up with in Hong Kong, to what was on offer in New Zealand - igniting a passion that would last a lifetime.

When Cliff was old enough to travel on his own, he returned to Hong Kong to study traditional Chinese cooking methods, including specialised dishes. He completed his Chef’s training, specialising in Chinese Delicatessen, which included duck, chicken and honey roast pork dishes.

Cliff opened his first restaurant in 1980, and as he says; "It was a disaster." His food was new, it was fine dining but it was not well accepted because it was so different, and in those days in New Zealand there were only about 300 Chinese people in the country and Cliff says; “We practically knew each other”. New Zealanders at that time tended to ‘stick to what they knew’, so the food was largely undiscovered. Cliff was heartbroken. His dream to bring the highest quality of Chinese food to the Christchurch community ended all too soon.

At the age of 22, Cliff very nearly gave it all up. He was seconds away from burning all his precious recipes and throwing away his experience for a new path, but was stopped by one friend who said; “Don’t you bloody do it! One day, this will work”. He took the advice and kept hold of his dream.

Cliff went on to work in a successful Christchurch Chinese Restaurant, the Chung-Wah, for several years. At this time he learned far more about the general running of the restaurant business, promotion, staff management and more. In those days the Chung-Wah restaurant was booked out night after night and Cliff thought to himself, “if they can be this busy with what they are offering, imagine what I could do with my Chef’s training, top quality food prepared the traditional way, and the freedom to run a restaurant in my own way.”

With a firm grip on his restaurant dream, Cliff opened a successful Fish & Chip Shop in Hills road, to make the capital he would need to start his own restaurant. His fish & chips were a hit and soon the popularity of the small takeaway store evolved to being a Chinese Takeaway, hence the name.*

Further inspiration came in the form of a customer who was a visitor from Hong Kong, stopping to get takeaways. This customer was astonished at the taste and presentation of the food Cliff had to offer, he said; “You are such a professional! I never expected to taste traditional Hong Kong food like this in New Zealand – you must go and start your own restaurant!”

Cliff was certainly inspired, but after his initial restaurant failure at the young age of 22, he was still reluctant to take that large next step. But fate took a hand.

Following the February’s earthquake, the whole block of shops in Hills road, including Cliff’s humble Chinese takeaway, had to be demolished. Decision made.

A new location on Riccarton Road was found and developed, and the “Dragon Express Restaurant” had it’s opening day on the noteworthy day of the 23rd of December 2011; a day that featured a 5.8 and a 6.0 earthquake. Needless to say it was a rather quiet opening day, but we opened nonetheless and we’ve been open ever since!

It’s been our challenge since that fateful day to spread the welcoming message, for people to come and enjoy what we create so passionately, to enjoy the food that is our creative expression and the pride of our lives.

In true Gordon Ramsay style, Cliff says; “We are competitive. We are here to win. Because we know the true quality of what we offer is a match for any top class restaurant in Hong Kong and we would not degrade ourselves by offering anything less that the very best. Our food truly is, who we are.”

Dragon Express is something special, come and try it today.


Dragon = Chinese

Express = Takeaway

Dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, and are a symbol of power, strength and good luck, so Cliff chose this name to represent his unique Chinese food.

Since the new Chinese kitchen on Hills Road was a takeaway, the name express fit perfectly. Hence the name; “Dragon Express”, which became so well known with an established base of customers loyally following them to their new location, that it has stayed with the business when it re-opened in Riccarton Road.

Currently Dragon Express is still a dine-in and takeaway restaurant, but there will come a time when it will be a dine-in only, simply because of how busy it has become as people discover this humble yet incredible little Christchurch based Chinese Restaurant.

Want to book a table?

Call 03 348 1805 and speak to one of the Dragon Express team members