Onda isn’t a place for those seeking by-the-book authenticity. South American influences permeate the menu, but so too do the owners’ personal backgrounds.
Having emigrated from New Zealand, and after time spent journeying through Brazil, Peru, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, owners Steve and Niharika Hogan have a broad palette from which to draw inspiration.
“Onda”, the Spanish word for “wave”, is the driving force behind the interior design, which was wholly overseen by the Hogans. The 58-seater has floor-to-ceiling windows, wooden furniture custom made in Bali, and beachy tones of azure, teal and pastel pink throughout.
The centrepiece is Niharika’s flowing blue couch, carving an “S” down the centre of the eatery, capturing the essence of the eponymous wave. A large mural of linked flowers on one wall is by local artist Emily Ingham.
The menu is about 50 per cent vegetarian, and has elements that back and forth between traditional and modern. Chilli-salted potato and cassava chips come with smoked avocado salsa. A dish of wild fungi served in a cassia bark draws inspiration from the waka, a traditional Māori canoe. Slow-braised pig’s cheek is salted, braised and then seared. Steve describes the result as “hot, fatty and juicy”. It comes with crunchy beef-fat croutons, and chimichurri and preserved lemon to cut through. Chocolate and black sesame cigars (“a play on a banoffee pie”) are piped full of dulce de leche and arrive in a smoking cigar box.
Expect plenty of pisco and cachaca (a spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice) on the drinks list, as well as a fiery jalapeno Margarita. There’s Estrella Damm lager, brewed in Barcelona, and Red Stripe on tap. The wine list is a balanced mix of Spanish tempranillo, Argentinian malbec and local varietals.