How do you like them apples ?


As autumn turns to winter apples begin to appear in the Nikau kitchen.
It can’t be denied that for a crisp, slightly tart, juicy eating apple it’s hard to go past a Braeburn. Discovered in Motueka in the fifties, and thought to be a cross between a Lady Hamilton and a Granny Smith the Braeburn has spread across the apple growing world and is now one of the most important commercial apple varieties. Even its supermarket trademarked off-spring like the Jazz and Mahana varieties make for good eating. Good eating though, doesn’t always mean good cooking.
At Nikau we are lucky enough to have access to some terrific apples, some are older heritage varieties, others more recent. From the Dutch Boskoop, dating from the 1850’s, to Merton Russet an English apple first grown in the 1920’s, or Freyberg, developed in New Zealand in the 30’s to Charden, a  1970’s French apple, we have the chance to experiment with a wide range of interesting varieties. We have used our apples across the menu and what strikes us as one of the key differences between these apples and the apples that your average vegie wholesaler only know as green or red, is texture. Cooked, many of these apples retain their shape and are perfect as a component of a dish. Others will fluff up beautifully, to be incorporated into pies or cakes.
An autumn regular in our cabinet is a Worcestershire apple tart. To get the perfect tart you need the right apple, and ironically, our favourites for this very English recipe are the very European Boskoop and Charden. They fluff beautifully and make a rich custard like filling which is a perfect base for the flavours of spice and rum that lace the apple.  Over the cooler months, our breakfast regulars will be sure to come across caramelised apples on the menu as a topping for our porridge. Aromatic, sweet and sharp Cox’s Orange is our favourite here.  Panfried in butter ‘til golden, then allowed to caramelise with sugar and apple juice, this classic English apple retains its shape and is beautifully tart and sweet. Spooned over creamy oats with lashings of caramelly apple juice and toasted nuts, these apples make a Wellington winter southerly bearable.
On the menu recently has been a lovely autumn dish. Serrano ham, with roasted Merton Russets, grilled endive and sherry dressing. The Merton is a small golden russet apple with a complex sweet and spicy flavour, complementing the richness of the ham and the bitterness of the endive. 

Want to know more about apples? Orange Pippin is a website for apple geeks, with information on hundreds of varieties, and an orchard registry enabling you to search for a variety anywhere in the apple growing world. Once you’ve found your perfect pomme, try Edible Garden for a range of seedlings, if you have the inclination to grow your own, or visit Treedimensions for a huge range of superb organic fruit.

We are really excited to have Tatsushi cooking with Kelda at Nikau on the 8th of November.
Tickets are limited to 50 guests and are on sale now.

Send us an email to secure your tickets.

Summer Hours 2015

Christmas 2014
We are closing on the 24th and reopening on Tuesday the 6th.
Merry Christmas and we  hope you have a safe summer break.

A day in our life...

Rajeev Mishra is one helluva talented chap.
When he approached us with a proposal to produce a short film chronicling a day at Nikau we jumped at the chance.

Here is what he came up with....

Sandor Katz - Sold Out (sorry)

We are very excited that Sandor Katz is coming to Wellington in March.

We will host him at the café on Friday 7th of March for an evening introducing us to the art of fermentation, including demonstrations and tastings and a look at fermentation’s place in our culinary traditions.

I have found his books to be a treasure trove of information and stories; demystifying, encouraging and inspiring. This is a great opportunity to learn more first hand, both on a practical but also on a cultural level.
I am especially inspired by how fermentation can help us preserve our harvest, helping us use more local food.
As I have started working with fermentation it has been exciting to observe how interesting and complex flavours can be created with simple, age old techniques

We were lucky enough to see his talk at the MAD symposium last year, we’re really happy that  Wellingtonians will get this opportunity too.

                          An Evening with Sandor Katz
         Nikau Café  -  Friday 7th march  5.30-8.30pm   $100

       A little something to drink and some tasty(fermented) treats 
                                      will be provided
           Enquiries and registration to

Sandor Ellix Katz is a fermentation revivalist.

His book Wild Fermentation (2003) and the hundreds of fermentation workshops he has taught across North America and beyond, have helped to catalyze a broad revival of the fermentation arts.
A self-taught experimentalist who lives in rural Tennessee, the New York Times calls him “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene.”
 His latest book, The Art of Fermentation (2012), received a James Beard award. Sandor teaches fermentation workshops in Tennessee and many other places.
 For more information, check out his website

Judy Rodgers, Zuni and her cookbook

There is constant development in what we do in the Nikau kitchen. Looking back at menus from 2 or 5 or 10 years ago we see the growth we have made, as we explore new ideas and ingredients or as we refine techniques. Some changes are an evolution, a gradual improvement, and some have been more quantum leaps.  But despite the change, there are some constants to life in the Nikau kitchen. On our shelves are many cookbooks written by chefs we respect and admire. Even as we change these books remain with us, in constant use, their pages a dog-eared and oil stained tribute to the chefs who wrote them.

One of our long-term companions is The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers. 

Needless to say we were all sad to hear of her recent death, aged 57, after a battle with cancer.  Judy was born in St Louis in 1956.  As a 16 year old she travelled to France as an exchange student, and in the introduction to her book recounts living with the family of well-known French chef, Jean Troisgros, owner of a 3 Michelin star restaurant in the Loire. She writes of learning the importance of tradition, of ingredients, of simplicity and respect, and how “within a very few months, I had succumbed to the philosophy that guides Zuni cooking today”.

Judy’s cookbook is one of our bibles. Every recipe works, every introduction is thoughtful and elegantly written. The beliefs she espoused are echoed in our beliefs here at Nikau.  Respect for tradition and for the seasons. Respect for ingredients and for flavour. Simple dishes prepared and presented to show food at it’s best.

As we talked about the news of Judy’s death, we realised that our current menu contained no less than four Zuni Café recipes.  From asparagus and rice soup with pancetta, to the breadcrumb salsa adorning our kingfish, or the hazelnut picada that garnished the prosciutto, cherries and buttercrunch and the espresso granita in our freezer, Judy’s influence was all around us. Yet this was no conscious choice. We hadn’t set out to write a Zuni menu, it was simply a reflection of how much Judy’s recipes resonated with us. 

We will continue to come back to the Zuni Café Cookbook time and again. Even as Nikau continues to evolve, we will hold to the beliefs that epitomise Judy Rodgers and her food. Simplicity, integrity and quality. Judy finishes the introduction to her book with these words.

“I hope in this volume I can honour and convey some of their collective wisdom and passion. If our food is delicious, it is due to that passion, and to the extraordinary quality of the products we obtain, and to the talent and devotion of every cook who has embraced it with heart”.

Judy Rodgers, we at Nikau hope this post has paid tribute to your wisdom and passion. If our food is delicious it is in no small part due to you, and we embrace you with heart.

John Speak