HIAKAI Time Magazine’s 100 greatest places of 2019. After watching Monique Fiso cook on Netflix’s series The Final Table and knowing she was featured on Gordan Ramsay: Unchartered her restaurant HIAKAI hit the top of my Wellington MUST DO list.
We booked for the 8-course meal and it was clear to me that local produce foraged where possible featuring Māori ingredients like kawakawa, horopito, mamaku, and tarata was the restaurants ethos.
I've been to fine dining restaurants and there tends to be a snobby vibe when you walk in. From face value you act the part when the reality is you were looking forward to coming weeks ago. You starved yourself all day, you researched the menu, and you’ve weighed up whether you buy a drink prior to arriving because this is one of the most expensive meals you will ever eat.
I never got that vibe once last night. It was like eating with whanau. The intimacy created with service and storytelling between dishes added to the homely experience and deep connection felt with the kai.
Hands down I loved the granny smith and kawakawa sorbet, please give me a one litre tub of that! The oyster appetizer was delicious, I just needed one dozen of them, and the seventh course milo dessert melted in my mouth while making me laugh.
In my previous life I was a poor Uni student and the only thing I had in my dorm room one hungry evening was a tin of milo. I ate the whole tin!
The $125, 8-course version of me last night giggled as I ate that milo and potato skin ice-cream dish while thinking of that milo tin.
Happy to report I thought I’d need a cheeseburger after it but kao/no I was FULL! Monique Fiso + the HIAKAI team did an outstanding job!
Any Māori featured on an international stage is not just an individual achievement but collectively all of ours.
Kua ngata te puku. Full. Content. Happy. Foodie bucket list tick.