Karaka Cafe brings Maori cuisine to Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival

Karaka Cafe will bring its Maori kai to a food festival for the first time this weekend, at the Wellington Wine and Food ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Karaka Cafe will bring its Maori kai to a food festival for the first time this weekend, at the Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival.

This weekend's Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival offers a taste of food from around the world, but Karaka Cafe is keeping it Kiwi.

This year Karaka will bring the tastes of the tangata whenua to festival goers – from the earthy tastes and aromas of the traditional Maori hangi, with a modern twist, to the kaimoana plate with whitebait fritters and creamed paua.

Karaka co-owner Paul Retimanu says their chefs use in-house smoker cookers, and manuka honey chips to recreate the flavours of a hangi pit oven in an urban context.

Karaka Cafe's Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival Kaimoana plate: whitebait fritter, creamed paua, titi ...
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Karaka Cafe's Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival Kaimoana plate: whitebait fritter, creamed paua, titi parfait, served with rewena crostini.

Retimanu says this is the cafe's first time at a food festival and it's all about showcasing Maori cuisine, something Karaka is known for.

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The festival experience will be different to the cafe experience, he says.

Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival runs March 10 and 11 at Waitangi Park.
BRADY DYER

Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival runs March 10 and 11 at Waitangi Park.

Raw fish and Maori fried bread will be available at the festival but are not on the cafe menu.

"What the cafe gives you is that  a la carte experience and the cabinet experience. This is basically giving you little tasters of our menu and what we can provide," he says.

He is looking forward to being involved in an event  showcasing so much of what the Wellington region has to offer.

"We've got everything from fantastic homegrown products, produce from out Otaki way and all through Wairarapa."

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There will be free-range meat and eggs, and beverages from craft breweries and Wairarapa vineyards.

Retimanu says the dishes, particularly the Kaimoana plate, which also features a titi (muttonbird) parfait and their Pasifika-style raw fish in coconut cream, are rare.

It's a chance to showcase suppliers' produce and with a contemporary Maori take on it, he says.

"These are dishes that you wouldn't normally get, other than if you went to Waitangi Day or Pasifika Day."

Festival organiser Damien Hochberg has seen growing interest in Maori cuisine and is excited to have it on offer this year.

"People are drawn to food that is inspired by our Kiwi roots – and nothing beats a succulent pork sammie on a Saturday afternoon."

Other festival offerings include vegan Mexican fare from Boquita, Japanese noodles from Newtown's Ramen Shop and Afrika's crocodile gumbo.

Karaka Cafe Festival Menu:

* Pacific Style Raw Fish: lemon cured fresh fish in coconut cream

* Kaimoana plate: whitebait fritter, creamed paua, titi parfait, served with rewena crostini

* Hangi: house smoked pork, stuffing, kumara and watercress garnish, served with rewena bread

* Maori fried bread with golden syrup, jam and butter

Wellington Wine and Food + Craft Beer Festival runs March 10 & 11 at Waitangi Park. Tickets from eventbrite.co.nz.

 - Stuff

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