ADDRESS: 89 Aro Street, Aro Valley, Wellington
CONTACT: 04 385 4555
Check website for opening hours
SET MENU: $95pp three courses

SCORE: 18/20

First there was Nikau Café – a daytime place with significant pedigree in the City Gallery. Then owners Kelda Hains, Paul Schrader and Matt Hawkes decided they still had something in them. So, they added a night-time sibling in a former workers’ cottage in Aro Valley. Named after Kelda’s grandmother, Rita is now a six-year-old, well-established Valley Girl. At this 30-seater they create a new, three-course menu every night – one inspired both by the season and the mood of the staff. An example of a recent dessert: chestnut bavarois, pear, chocolate sauce, buckwheat-chocolate crumble. With plates like that, it’s no wonder there’s often a waiting list for would-be diners. There are two sittings a night and intimacy is guaranteed since their biggest table only seats six. There’s mystery and magic about dining here that elevates it to among the best of its type.

IN BRIEF: Lovely meals, Rita-made


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