What was once Chihuahua Bar, across from Clever Little Tailor on Peel Street, now bears little resemblance to its former self.

“We gutted the whole lot and started fresh, we didn’t really retain anything,” says designer Claire Kneebone.

The result is Paloma, a beautifully bright, two-storey cocktail bar from the Palmer Hospitality Group (which also owns 2KW) where agave-based spirits and amaro cocktails reign supreme.

Kneebone describes the fit-out as “earthy and textural”. Walk through the reshaped all-glass frontage onto terracotta-coloured tiles. It feels like an old-world European bar, polished up. To one side is a terrazzo-topped, mosaic-tiled bar; to the other is a sprawling bronze-tinted mirror (“It makes everyone look good”, Kneebone says, with a smirk). Upstairs it’s more spacious, with intimate booths and rattan panelling and a long bench beneath wall-to-wall windows that look down onto the street.

The colour scheme evokes Picasso’s La Cruche fleurie (Jug of Flowers). Local artist Neil Thwaite was commissioned to paint a similarly toned interpretation, which hangs right of the bar.

In a tiny pantry, shelves are lined with jars of house pickled, fermented and preserved fruits and vegetables, plus tins of anchovies and sardines, available to eat in or take home.

Anything not jarred on-site comes from a top-of-its-game producer, says 2KW executive chef Trent Lymn, who curated the Mediterranean-leaning menu.

“From scratch” is a phrase we hear a lot, but there’s not much room for it here. “Rather than do everything from scratch, if there’s something better why not use it?” Lymn asks. “If you want the best bread you go to the best baker.”

That comes from Rustico, with salumi from Parma Handcrafted Cured Meat, rillettes (a preparation of meat similar to pâté) from Le Deux Coqs served here with candied pears, and cheese from Say Cheese.

On each plate there are two or three elements, simply presented. Snack on violino di capra (prosciutto-style baby goat) with Sicilian olives, queso de cabra (goat’s cheese) with roasted apples and honey, hot-smoked ocean trout with wholegrain-mustard mayonnaise, and pumpkin-seed salsa with crudité. Plus pintxos may sporadically appear at the bar.

On the back bar things are intentionally minimal. “There are beautiful walls of whisky and gin on this street,” says bar manager Luke Fleming. “But when my friends [have a lot of choice] they end up just getting their usual.”

He hopes rotating through a tight list will make the niche, agave-based-spirit focus – which incorporates tequila, mezcal, raicilla and sotol – a little more approachable.

All are Mexico-imported. Why? “It’s like the champagne-made-in-France thing, tequila and certain types of mezcal need to be made in Mexico,” he says. Some are fresh and herbaceous; others, such as aged tequilas, are chocolate-forward and dessert-like, which gives Fleming “flexibility to compete in the whisky market”.

His cocktail list has a strong amaro focus, and uses housemade preserves and cordials. Eventually pantry by-products such as olive brine and leftover syrups may find their way into the mix. Fleming also has plans to ramp up the fortifieds offering, which will align well with the menu’s Spanish influence.

Pouring on tap are Peroni, Uraidla Brewery’s American IPA, and a sav blanc and pinot noir.

Paloma
20 Peel Street, Adelaide
Hours:
Mon & Tue 4pm–8pm
Wed & Thu 4pm–12am
Fri 12pm–2am
Sat 4pm–2am

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