Chefs preapring food behind the bar in Hiakai.


  • Location

    40 Wallace Street, Mount Cook, Wellington

  • Website


Chef Monique Fiso showcases indigenous ingredients at her Wellington degustation restaurant, Hiakai.

The Māori-Samoan chef is a star of Aotearoa’s culinary scene. After years in Michelin-starred restaurants overseas, Monique returned to New Zealand. She began Hiakai in 2016 as a series of pop-up restaurants. Now, Hiakai is an internationally acclaimed fine-dining experience and icon of Wellington’s hospitality industry.

Meaning ‘hungry’ in te reo Māori, Hiakai is in the city fringe suburb of Mount Cook. The restaurant is in a former brick factory on the first floor. Its nondescript location gives nothing away about the ground-breaking experience awaiting diners inside.

Chef preparing a dish under dim lighting in Hiakai.

Chef Monique Fiso.

Monique’s talent and attention to detail are evident from the start. Each dish is meticulously constructed, as beautiful for the eyes as it is for the palate. Every flavour is complex, innovative, and delicious. Diners have shed literal tears over the Hiakai’s food.

Apart from making an exquisite dining experience, Monique’s goal is to overthrow ideas about Māori cuisine. She researches extensively, showcasing Māori and Polynesian ingredients in modern and innovative ways.

Monique and her team forage around Wellington’s hills for ingredients to add to their boundary-pushing dishes. The tasting menu changes seasonally, and centres around a te ao Māori concept, story, or myth. A knowledgeable team guide diners lucky enough to book a table through their experience. There’s a glossary of all the ingredients on the back of the menu, continuing the education piece of Hiakai’s mission.

Hands holding leaves collected to be used in a dish at HiaKai.

Drink matches are available, and are a celebration of Aotearoa (with a few international exceptions). Like the food, flavour is the focus, with modern twists and some surprises thrown in. Creating beverage pairings simultaneously with the food menu creates a perfect alignment of both flavours and narrative. This also allows the team to repurpose unused food components for the beverage menu.

If you’re not able to nab a booking at Hiakai, grab one of Monique’s cookbooks while you’re in town. Also named Hiakai, it’s part history, part glossary, and part recipe book.