Former Taihape police officer Saifudi Abu's new restaurant, Straits Kitchen, has hit all the right food buttons.

Tourists travelling through and locals are relishing the authentic Malaysian and Halal fare and have been giving the food and staff rave reviews online.

Mr Abu is not only well known in the small Rangitikei town, he is also respected and well liked by its residents.

Reviews of his restaurant include comments like: "We have been to Straits Kitchen a couple of times and the meals have always been amazing. The owner is friendly and attentive. I would not hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Taihape. 10 out of 10."


Another said: "We ordered a mee goreng and a chicken curry and a couple of roti. As promised, the food was out quick and it was authentic and delicious. The roti was the nice puffy type. We were done in and out in half an hour. We'll be back."

Mr Abu, who also opened the Ad-Deen Mosque two years ago and runs the Taihape Islamic Centre, said he very much wanted to attract local teens to his restaurant.

"I want to try and stop them from constantly buying junk food like McDonald's. But first I have to get them in here and give them a taste, so they understand how delicious and healthy this food is."

Mr Abu, who grew up in Singapore, where he was a police officer, moved to Taihape in 2013.

He had first moved his family to Pukekohe and a job with the NZ Police, but rural New Zealand beckoned and he moved to a police job in Taihape.

"I love this place. It's a quiet town. People know each other by name, and they always wave out to you."

Mr Abu said he had to recently retire from the police to focus on his new business.

"It's a big job. It takes a lot of commitment to run a very good restaurant."

He brought two top-end chefs from Malaysia, where they were working for Hyatt and Hilton hotels.

As well as his delicious food, which includes an express lunch deal, Mr Abu makes a superb iced lemon tea, which has become very popular in town.

"I haven't worked out the right way to bottle it, though."

Next month a major Malaysian television channel will film a documentary on Mr Abu, his family, the mosque and his restaurant.

"Of course, it will show Taihape as well, which is very good."