Tongan restaurant a feast fit for a kingdom

Michael Weaver 31 August 2019 66
Kingdom 5 Tongan Cafe

Kingdom 5 cafe owners Thervaini Ilolahia and her husband Rutikha, with their four children ahead of opening day on Saturday at 11 am. Photos: Supplied.

For Tongans, there’s no such thing as little. They are big people with big hearts.

Even bigger things are happening this Saturday when Canberra’s first authentic Tongan cafe opens from 11 am to 3 pm in the Altitude Building on Emu Bank Drive at Belconnen.

The cafe is called Kingdom 5 and has a special meaning for owners Thervaini Ilolahia and her husband Rutikha.

Thervaini said the name celebrates their spiritual connection with a higher authority, as well as a tribute to the couple’s fifth child who, sadly, was miscarried last year.

Born and raised in Canberra, Thervaini has a background in business and worked in the public sector before raising her four young children. She said she gave herself time to mourn their fifth child and simply decided to pursue her dream of sharing Tongan cuisine with the wider Pacific Island community and that of Canberra.

Thervaini found inspiration from her 80-year-old grandmother and mother Sisikula, who were immediately appointed “best cooks ever”.

“I thought, what can I do to be an example to those who have lost something precious, and the Tongan cafe came up,” Thervaini said. “So, with my mum’s expertise in food and my own skills in business, why not bring it together for the first Tongan or Polynesian cafe in Canberra?

“I also think we are the first Tongan restaurant in Australia to dedicate ourselves to purely Tongan cuisine.”

With their big, friendly smiles, the Ilolahia family opened a market stall, selling well-known Tongan foods such as Lu Sipi or Lu Pulumasima (taro leaves used to wrap different types of meat, tomatoes, onion and lots of coconut milk, then steamed until perfect), and Otai mango and meleni (a chunky mango or watermelon punch topped with whipped cream infused with vanilla beans from Tonga with the scent of the Tongan flower, Heilala).

The cafe will extend those dishes to others such as Ota Ika (raw fish ceviche in coconut milk, chilli and spring onions), Feke (octopus steamed in its juices and then cooked in coconut milk, chilli and onions), Pai Faina (pineapple pie) and Faikakai (coconut dumplings in Tongan caramel sauce).

Of course, there are the Keke Isite, better known as Tongan doughnuts.

Kingdom 5 Tongan Cafe

Keke Isite, better known as Tongan doughnuts.

Proof that word of mouth travels further than the belly is that prior to tomorrow’s opening day (Saturday), the cafe is now booked for the next three months.

“We are very blessed and so grateful to the community I come from. It’s been lots of hard work and we are purely a husband and wife team with the support of those around us.

“We want to set up a place that is also a community meeting place for my Tongan and Pacific Island friends, but also for all the beautiful people in Canberra.”

On Saturday, no bookings are required. Just walk in with an empty stomach and walk out with a whole lot of love inside.

“We want to use our little cafe to make everyone feel loved through the preparation of our food all the way through to the service. Everyone deserves to feel loved, so Kingdom 5 carries that as a reminder to my husband and I of the driving forces of our little family,” Thervaini says.

Everything is made fresh and Thervaini says the food is not made to last. “If you hang around Islanders long enough, you’ll know that there are never any leftovers,” Thervaini says with a laugh.

It won’t be hard to find the cafe. Just follow your nose and your ears to the beats of Islander music, with a side serving of song and dance.

Failing which, you could find out more on the event link on Facebook.

Kingdom 5 Tongan Cafe

Thervaini Ilolahia and her mother preparing food for the opening day of the Kingdom 5 cafe.


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66 Responses to Tongan restaurant a feast fit for a kingdom
Faradina Johar-Tai Faradina Johar-Tai 2:22 pm 06 Sep 19

Anna Kim Brown Fei Fei Fei something for when we come over next time though it's apparently booked out for months!!

    Anna Kim Brown Anna Kim Brown 7:12 pm 06 Sep 19

    Faradina Johar-Tai I want to try it out as well! We went there on opening day as they had dancing 🕺 but place was packed, so didn't eat

Sione Palavi Sione Palavi 6:09 am 06 Sep 19

Awesome. Taimi ketau fetaulaki kiheni Rhona McPhee, Longo Kolokihakaufisi, Telusa Tuionetoa, Chantelle Boland and James Deane also Johnson Oshana.

Scott Bell Scott Bell 10:05 am 04 Sep 19

Gemma Bell tuli will love it

Cam McKinnon Cam McKinnon 9:57 pm 03 Sep 19

Sooooo........can i get a double shot of kava please??

    Kingdom 5 Kingdom 5 11:57 pm 04 Sep 19

    Cam McKinnon We are definitely considering this 🤣

Anneka Atley Anneka Atley 4:10 pm 03 Sep 19

Anna Stewart-Yates can we go

Aveline Yang Aveline Yang 10:07 am 03 Sep 19

Hanna Asiata Selesele sis surely

Kim Rooken-Smith Kim Rooken-Smith 9:10 am 02 Sep 19

Stephanie Morris - let's try it out!!

Breanna Nobbs Breanna Nobbs 8:25 am 02 Sep 19

Aaron Smith this is what we saw!

Livy CY Livy CY 9:44 pm 01 Sep 19

Alison yaaas!!!

Erin Rekes Erin Rekes 4:42 pm 01 Sep 19

Tina Raptis we should go

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 1:26 pm 01 Sep 19

Darn – no way can this dieter go to a restaurant serving Tongan food – the cuisine that created the heftiest population on earth! : )

Lucy Hill Lucy Hill 1:04 pm 01 Sep 19

Debbie Hudson look who it is

    Debbie Hudson Debbie Hudson 1:08 pm 01 Sep 19

    Lucy Hill - that would be just Divine!

    Thervaini Ilolahia Thervaini Ilolahia 9:41 pm 02 Sep 19

    Lucy Hill My favourite girls 😘 Debbie you were my midwife x2 of my bubs. Thank you 😘

    Lucy Hill Lucy Hill 8:14 am 03 Sep 19

    Thervaini Ilolahia congratulations on your new venture xoxo

Claudia Maruca Claudia Maruca 11:27 am 01 Sep 19

Alf Maruca Rachel Maruca it only opened yesterday! We should have gone

Chelsea Joyce Chelsea Joyce 11:10 am 01 Sep 19

Zoe Yleia we should go check this place out sometime. They have otai!!

Sam Askew Sam Askew 9:45 am 01 Sep 19

Kebs Faupula lets go gee

Mel Foster Mel Foster 5:50 pm 31 Aug 19

Chef Milzy Awesome!

Stephanie Teagle Stephanie Teagle 4:02 pm 31 Aug 19

Samantha Stephanie Briggs Iraia Wi Pouro HuHunia Jason Teagle Grahame - have to check out this one 😍

    Jason Teagle Grahame Jason Teagle Grahame 7:21 pm 31 Aug 19

    Samantha Stephanie Briggs "I've always wanted to go to wagga" was it? Haha

Nic Liz Moyle Nic Liz Moyle 3:07 pm 31 Aug 19

Seta Points come down and we can go with Pete

Sarah Elizabeth Sarah Elizabeth 1:53 pm 31 Aug 19

Louise Webb my shout 🥰

    Louise Webb Louise Webb 11:14 pm 31 Aug 19

    Sarah Elizabeth I’ll have to show Ali this xx

Lana Dung Phi Lana Dung Phi 12:30 pm 31 Aug 19

Sammy Rae Bailo a reason to visit Canberra? 😆

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