The one meal you have to eat if you're in windy Wellington

Paul Shreider Nikau’s owner.

Nikau cafe is a bit of an institution in Wellington, New Zealand.

This bustling eatery is nestled between the local council chambers and waterfront area, with a contemporary decor that belies the fact that it’s been around for almost 20 years.

One dish accounts for – on a busy day – about one third of orders and once you try it you’ll soon figure out why.

The famous and delicious Kedgeree.

Kedgeree is a smoked fish and basmati rice dish, with smooth curry flavours, which owner Paul Shreider and his team have been perfecting for about 15 years.

“People walk in and they raise their eyebrows and there is no words exchanged and we order them Kedgeree and that’s what they have. It has become part and parcel of what people want when they come here,” he said. “It’s become the black hole of the menu, people fall into it and never choose anything else.”

It’s an Anglo-Indian dish that became a popular breakfast dish in the Victorian era and the Scots introduced smoked fish to it. Nikau now smokes its own fish, preferring Blue Warehou (aka “snotties”) and Kahawai (known as Eastern Australian salmon to the west) because they hold both moisture and form.

Kedgeree was once a traditional breakfast dish in the UK, and now a lunch time favourite in the seaside New Zealand town.

With delicate cumin, coriander and Fiji masala flavours, topped with shredded egg, fresh parsley and lemon it’s plate-lickable.

Over the years, Nikau’s chefs have incrementally improved it and even tried a healthier version using brown rice, however big changes like that weren’t well received by the locals, so white rice it is.

A few years back Shreider was going to take it off the menu to shake things up a bit and give people a break, but backed down after a severe backlash. It’s so popular with the locals the team printed the recipe on tea towels, thinking they would move 200 or so – and sold 2000.

“Lots of people bought the tea towels, but still came back to have it,” Shreider said.

The details

Nikau Gallery Cafe on Mercer Street near the City Art Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington.

A plate of kedgeree will set you back $NZ23.50. You can see the team make it in this short video about Nikau:

Nikau Cafe: A Day in the Life from Rajeev Mishra on Vimeo.

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