ADDRESS: 40 Wallace St, Mt Cook, Wellington
CONTACT: 04-938 7360
Check website for opening hours
SET MENU: $190pp eight courses

SCORE: 18.5/20

Monique Fiso is a prize-winning storyteller, in text and on the plate. Her book, Hiakai, Modern Māori Cuisine, earned an Ockham NZ Book Award around the time our last awards came out. Those pictures and recipes shine a light in Mt Cook where Monique continues to create a kai menu in her Māori/Samoan-inspired restaurant. This is a place that represents more than just the food. Her aim, she says, is to also engage guests in the history and culture that makes our land unique. Hiakai likes to keep things distinctly local – tītī, kawakawa, horopito and, of course, lots of kaimoana – but has garnered an international fan following (Hiakai has been name-checked in Time magazine). It’s very much a niche experience: dinner is served Thursday to Saturday only, but that just makes the whole journey all the more a transportive occasion.

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