Mouarii Cafe is a cozy and welcoming eatery that specializes in serving authentic Cook Islands cuisine for breakfast and lunch. Guests can indulge in a variety of dishes inspired by the traditional flavors of the islands, such as the popular Akamata and eggs for a hearty breakfast, or the delectable Banana and Coconut Pancakes.
For lunch, the cafe’s signature Poke Bowl is a must-try, featuring fresh seafood and vegetables, or opt for the classic Ika Mata, a dish of raw fish marinated in lime and coconut cream.
With a warm ambiance and friendly staff, Mouarii Cafe offers a delightful dining experience that will leave you feeling satisfied and happy.
Cook Islands cuisine is a vibrant blend of Pacific Island flavors and cooking techniques that reflect the cultural and historical influences of the region.
The cuisine is heavily influenced by seafood, tropical fruits, and root vegetables, with dishes like Ika Mata, a dish of raw fish marinated in lime and coconut cream, being a staple. Other popular dishes include Rukau, a dish of taro leaves cooked in coconut cream, and Ei Katu, a dessert made from coconut cream and fresh fruit.
The cuisine also features a range of traditional cooking methods such as earth oven cooking, where food is wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked in an underground oven. Overall, Cook Islands cuisine is a delicious and unique reflection of the islands’ rich cultural heritage.
Mouarii Café in Arutanga is owned by husband and wife team Tereapii Mouarii and James Nolan.
Launched in 2019, the café serves hearty breakfasts, fresh ika mata, crispy fish and chips, hot and chilled beverages, a variety of meals, and special island nights.
Prior to Covid-19, times were good.“The island was bustling with visitors and business was booming and we were busy from the time we opened up until we closed,” said Tereapii.
She manages the café and is a bright and cheerful hostess. Tereapii explains how the café’s name came about, “Mouarii is my second name, so I named the café after me; my kids sighed when I told them, but this is my dream, this is me.”
After living for 38 years in Australia, in 2015 the Nolans decided to move to Aitutaki as they had always wanted to retire in the Cook Islands. Tereapii is the eighth in a family of 12 children to parents Ngaa and Nellie Upu of Aitutaki.
In 1995 the Nolans had started a business in Brisbane and over the years it was expanded. With the family business in the capable hands of their children, they made their move to Aitutaki.
Tereapii still calls Brisbane home, “because that’s where I spent most of my life. Here (Aitutaki) I call it paradise, and what do you get in paradise? Sometimes you get nothing in paradise”, she laughs.
“But I enjoy living here, the simple life, I enjoy the sun, the relaxation compared to Brisbane where it’s always on the go.
“When we moved here people would say, ‘We thought you came here to retire’. This is retiring, you’ve got to do something and keep active.”
Waking up at a later time took some getting used to. “At first we still got up at 5am as we were so used to rising early. It was hard to adjust and it took about three years to slowly blend into the lifestyle here.”
Tereapii loves to cook; back in Brisbane she would cook popular meals to cater at festivals such as Pasifika or for Waitangi Day celebrations there.
“I have a passion for food and I wanted to be independent when we moved here, so I had already made plans.”
Does she have any regrets returning to paradise to live?
“None. I love it here, there’s hardly any traffic and I’m happy at my own pace because overseas life is ruled by time.”
The Mouarii Café opens from Monday to Saturday 8am to 2pm and group bookings are welcome.
At present her menu has lower ‘Covid prices’ but when the borders reopen, the usual pre-Covid prices will probably return.