After six months of organising, we manage to get a booking at Hiakai with Winifred, Louis De Palma and Pepper Potts. We tried numerous times to book but once we had settled on a date, we couldn’t get a booking as we left it too late. So I finally just settled on a date six weeks in advance after Wellington on a Plate and managed to get a booking to try the place out.
I decided that we go for the 10-course degustation and maybe that was a slightly bad move as we were all very full afterwards, but there were no regrets at all. It is just something I might consider when I go again. The layout of the restaurant is really contemporary where the dinning is upstairs and downstairs is just the entranceway and showing off the limestone kilns that have been there longer than the building. The seating is very comfortable and even though the restaurant was full you didn’t hear other people’s conversation. Unless everyone else was really quiet and we were just the loud ones. Also, the kitchen is open and if you like you can sit there to have your meal for a bit extra in cost.
Tahi: Snacks and Aperitif
For a Snack and Aperitif, there was a lot to get your stomach and senses going. The bread was housemade and mixed with some native plants. There were two types of house churned butter with tītī (muttonbird) fat and horopito. I really enjoyed the tītī butter as it was so smooth and slightly richer. The horopito butter had a slight kick to it but I definitely prefered the tītī butter
The ceviche was really nice. I loved the cracker at the bottom. It was really crisp and just gave a lovely crunch while you were eating it. The ceviche was so easy to eat and I just loved the edible plants placed on top that gave it some enhanced flavours.
The raw oysters and kingfish was my favourite dish. The kingfish was cooked and just fall apart in your mouth. The oysters were just so good. I loved the vinegar and it was just complimented the natural flavours of the raw oyster and that foam.
Finally, the casava could have been an ode to Kiwiana. As you always need fries or chips with your meal. The casava was just so nicely cooked and I loved the spicy kick added to it, to which was similar to paprika.
Rua: Butternut Squash, Manono, Yuba, Lovage
The presentation of these dishes was unbelievable. The Butternut squash also had apple and ginger juice and also some housemade miso. The flavours in this dish were unbelievable. Trying them separately was great but something was missing. However, when adding the miso with the butternut, Wow. What a combination and was just so tasty and a burst to the senses. The earthy flavours to this dish was outstanding.
Toru: Brassicas, Tītī XO, Cabbage Veloute
This dish was all about Cabbage. Grilled Cabbage and Pickled Cabbage with Kale and a crumb. Although there was a lot of cabbage, this was one of my top three dishes of the night. The cabbage was so earthy but so sweet and the contrast of the pickled cabbage. The crunch from the crumb and the XO sauce was just so good. Who knew a cabbage dish could be so delicious.
Wha: Te Wheke, Celeriac, Tamarillo, Sea Herbs
I loved how rustic this dish looked and how it was presented all on one side. The octopus (Te Wheke) was beautifully cooked with a lovely charged flavour. The tamarillo sauce was sweet and again we saw the return of some of the miso sauce from the third dish. The sea herbs were beautiful and just worked so well complimenting the octopus.
Rima: Ika. Mussel Broth, Horokaka, Fried Squid Ink
The fish was beautifully presented and I loved every aspect of this dish and the smell radiating from the dish was unbelievable. At the bottom below the fish was the mussel broth, the squid ink was in the pasta that was deep-fried and the horokaka placed around the pasta. The fish was beautifully cooked with it being slightly undercooked. The combination of the fish with the mussel broth was so yummy and the crunch from the squid ink pasta was just something for all the senses.
Ono: Venison, Sunchoke, Mushroom Essence
To be honest, this was my least favourite dish but was still very good. It was just so rich and so full of flavour from the mushrooms and the jus. The venison was beautifully cooked and loved the different types of mushrooms that come on the plate. The jus was full of flavour and there was a very small black dot on the plate that was this very strong mushroom reduction. Also on the dish was kale and parsnip that was crisp and some more earthy flavours to the dish.
Whitu: Kawakawa, Lime, Granny Smith
This was the palette cleanser and it did its job. It was very refreshing, but also gave your mouth a numbing feeling and I thought I had a slightly energic reaction to it, but it was just from the Kawakawa that was in the dish. There was also some meringue in there to give it some sweetness.
Waru: Drunken Nanny Goat’s Cheese, Milk Crumb, Manuka Cloud
I didn’t know what to expect from this dish when it arrived. The dish was very different. I loved the milk crumb at the bottom and it was very interesting with the goat’s cheese between the Manuka cloud which was quite sweet from the manuka honey in the cloud. The dish was quite rich and I was surprised that I ate all of it.
Iwa: Milo, Potato, Pear
This looked and sounded unbelievable. Again, I loved the ode to Kiwiana with the Milo in the cake. The cake was just so perfect and I could have eaten two of these and I nearly did because Winifred could not finish hers. The pear jelly went really well and the potato ice cream was so good with the milo crumb underneath it. Just a beautiful dessert.
Tekau: Petit Fours
Kawakawa Berry, Mamaku Delight, Coconut Cream, Tarata, Harakeke
I loved how actually it was petit five not four. The Kawakawa Berry was found in the green chocolates, which I made a mistake not putting all in my mouth, as the inside filling drip down on my chin. It was a very interesting flavour but really good. The Mamaku Delight was found in the Turkish delight jelly. It was so nice and very hard to describe the flavour. Coconut Cream was found in the biscuit that was like a cameo creme biscuit. The marshmallow was infused with Tarata and gave this slight lemon taste to the marshmallow. Finally, the Harakeke was found in the dark chocolate, which was served on the flax from the harakeke. Also, the chocolate was served with a lid that was pulled off and out came the smell of smoke. Overall, was a really nice chocolate.
Overall this was a dining experience that stimulated all the senses. I loved the layout of the restaurant. The service was impeccable and the food was of very high quality and very tasty. The servings were quite generous for a degestation. However, I suspect you should never go away hungry from a good Māori kai. The menu changes regularly depending on available ingredients and I loved trying a different aspect or take on Maori cooking. The definite must try and you must book in advance.