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The Food Lovers Guide to Māori Cuisine

14th September 2020

Māori Cuisine is, by its very nature, hearty and full of rich, decadent and earthy flavours. We’ve scoured the nation in search of a few highlight restaurants where Māori Cuisine is the inspiration behind all their dishes. Check out the options beneath and consider adding one to your next journey around Aotearoa.

Hiakai, Wellington

If premium Māori cuisine is something you’re after then look not further than the beautiful Hiakai restaurant, located right in the capital. Their food ethos speaks to their inspiration that is drawn from the land, sea and people of Aotearoa. Titi bird, Red Matip and Mamaku are items rarely seen on any restaurant menu yet they feature as regular stars on the menu at Hiakai. With a special focus on research and showcasing Māori cuisine in modern and innovative ways, you’ll find this a culinary experience that is quite unlike any other.

Heavily awarded for their culinary prowess, and featured on the international stage, Hiakai is a true standard in excellence. Bringing the beautiful flavours of Māori cuisine to life in the form of beautiful dishes. With their roots starting from a pop-up series focused solely on the exploration and development of these traditional cooking techniques, it quickly evolved into a stand-out restaurant. With a name deeply seated in the Māori culture, it means to have a desire and a craving for food which perfectly embodies how one will feel upon visiting this highlight!

Mokoia Restaurant, Rotorua

Promising you an unforgettable dining experience, Mokoia brings a seamless, contemporary blend of Pacific Rim cuisine right to your plate. With 2019 Excellence Awards for their Beef and Lamb dishes, this menu is overflowing with flair, imagination and deliciously unique New Zealand flavour combinations. Enjoy a wide spectrum of tastes from their WaiOra Grill menu, which is overflowing with authentic prime meat cuts, and perfect kiwi wine pairings!

Catering to all palates, and culinary choices, you'll enjoy their unique cuisine options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, high-tea and even just as a poolside treat if staying at the WaiOra resort. The menu always leaves a lasting impression, and their dishes linger on the memory for years to come. Start with delicious breads and dips, move onto rich and succulent meats, before finishing up with a decadent chocolate treat to shape off the evening - pure perfection!

Whau Cafe, Auckland

Perched on the ancestral mountain Maungawhau (Mt Eden) near the top, Whau is dedicated to upholding the traditional culture values of the maunga. Operating on Māori values and promoting a whanau-like environment, they work with the strength of many to enhance their collective potential, which truly shines through in their culinary options. With an ever-changing menu that is inspired by locally sourced seasonal produce, you’re sure to find a wealth of culinary treats and delights with every visit!

Whau also operate with 'Te ipu kai o te aroha' meaning 'the food bowl of love'. They believe in the cultural significance of the maunga (mountain) and for the people that we develop relationships with. This, in relation to the manaakitanga for the food they serve to the guests, all combine to underpin the experience of Whau. Their delicious array of culinary options will make any hike up Mangauwhau a treat, and can be a beautiful reward for some time spent out in the great outdoors.

Inati Restaurant, Christchurch

Inati - meaning to share - is a uniquely New Zealand restaurant offering seasonally inspired, gastronomically fantastical delights. Dining around the chef’s table and sharing in the theatre of a true functioning kitchen, you’ll find a spread of the finest, locally sourced produce, that showcases the very best of New Zealand. Delight your palate with a plethora of tasting plates that are sampled alongside ‘middle of the table’ large plates. Sourcing their flavours from the land, sea and earth, you’ll find a true harmony of delicious flavours. Plus, for something a bit special, sample the “trust us” menu to have the chef provide you with something sensational.

Inati define themselves as also achieving a state of joy by combining exceptional food with great friends. This restaurant is definitely an experience and one that should be booked in advance, at that. Duck, Venison, soft cheeses, dried fruits and market-fresh fish all grace the veritable smorgasbord of incredible culinary options. Plus, with a sampling of chocolate truffles, compressed persimmon and other such sweet treats, you can satisfy your sweet tooth too!

Karaka Cafe, Wellington

Named for the karaka grove on the harbourside of the premise, the Karaka Cafe is proudly 100% Māori, Pacifica and Kiwi Owned and Operated. Aiming to boast of the taste and aromas of Māori flavours through their cafe style foods, they offer authentic, hearty kiwi favourites that are deeply rooted in traditional Māori culinary style. From their signature, and ever-popular, steamed Hāngi to their playful take on smoked Hāngi-style meats, you’ll find an overwhelming and delicious array of flavours to delight your palate!

The Karaka Cafe pride themselves on offering a warm and positive environment wherein you can feel welcome to sit, relax and stay a while. Located in Te Raukura Te Wharewaka O Poneke (The Waka House of Wellington), only a short distance from Te Papa, it is the ideal spot to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat during the warm (yet often windy) summer days in Wellington. From tasting platters to a classic eggs benedict, you'll find delicious flavours aplenty!