The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Acclaimed Wellington restaurant Hiakai to close

Acclaimed Wellington restaurant Hiakai to close

Monique Fiso’s Wellington fine dining restaurant, Hiakai will be closing its doors in March, but the owners say the business is “evolving, not coming to an end”.

Founded by the internationally renowned chef Fiso in 2016, Hiakai began as a series of pop ups, exploring Māori and Pasifika ingredients and cuisine. The restaurant itself was established in 2018, with co-owner and general manager Katie Monteith joining in 2019.

“From there, we have received international acclaim, significantly impacting the dining scene in Aotearoa,” the owners said in a social media post on Tuesday, announcing the closure of the restaurant.

“The world has changed since those doors opened, and so have we. The landscape for owning a small business is incredibly tough and running a restaurant of this magnitude is all consuming. A passion project. Every single day we gave it everything we had and so did our team.”

The owners have said they are now ready for change.

“At a time of unprecedented global food crises, we want to be part of the solutions. We care deeply about the systems, security and sovereignty of kai. The challenges we collectively face are monumental but not impossible.

“We have a wealth of ideas and projects that we want to bring to life. We have been working on these in the background while running the restaurant but we are ready to make them our primary focus.”

Hiakai owners said reservations were fully booked until they close their doors, and had been fully booked since the day they had opened.

“We know there are many people that wanted to dine with us and haven’t yet had the chance. Please know that there will be opportunities in the future. Hiakai is evolving, not coming to an end.

They also said the decision coincided with the landlord wanting to sell the building.

Restaurant Association of New Zealand President, Mike Egan said Monique Fiso had a lot of talent and was certain to come back with another winner.

“She could open a pie shop and there’d be queues out the door because it would be something wonderful.”

Egan said Hiakai had really helped “put that level of indigenous cuisine on the map” and he was disappointed for both the restaurant and Wellington that it was now closing, but acknowledged the strains associated with running a small business.

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