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The artworks were famous, the parties loud and the dishes favoured Mexican.

Volcano cafe

In Lyttelton, a brightly painted art deco building on the corner of London and Canterbury streets was yet to open when the 6.3 earthquake ripped through just before 1 o’clock. Sue Curtin was pickling olives at the time, and ran for cover between the restaurant and the bar. Two months later owners Lois Ogilvie and Pete Llewellyn Evans joined a somber crowd of Lyttelton locals as the Volcano café and Lava Bar which had been their business for the last 23 years was demolished.

Volcano Lois and Pete Llewelyn Evans

Lois and Pete Llewelyn Evans

Gerard Smyth recalls how he and Lois set up the café which eventually became a New Zealand landmark and attracted people from all over the world. They painted it in ‘Noddy colours’ and filled it with avant-garde art and pot plants. Lois drew on her Mexican experience in creating an open kitchen and a festive atmosphere. Soon the whole community had celebrated their birthday there. Spectrum's Deborah Nation talks with the cafe's personalities.