Wānaka eateries Kika and Arc are well-known in the picturesque lakeside township and beyond – and now their owners have opened another venue nearby.

With rounded lights that glow softly in the burnt sienna and grey-stoned space, Paloma is an elegant yet inviting restaurant that’s designed to be casual and fun.

It also showcases a love of Mexican flavours that James Stapley and Sarah Scott haven’t fully explored until now; Kika is a tapas restaurant that takes inspiration from around the globe and Arc is a contemporary brunch spot with an evening share-plates menu. They’re all only metres from one another.

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Stapley, a self-described Mexican food and flavour enthusiast, says he’s committed to honouring the traditional tortilla-making process and “getting it right”. Paloma’s tortillas are made from scratch in-house using high-quality Hawke’s Bay corn and the 3,500-year-old nixtamalization process. He imported a conveyor belt tortilla press from the US.

When you enter the restaurant, your eye is immediately drawn to the illuminated, arched back bar filled with tequila and other spirits – purposefully placed so you absorb the easygoing atmosphere its owners are seeking to create. The space is a part of The Precinct, a Lake Wānaka hospitality and retail complex that opened a couple of years ago. Stapley and Scott say they furnished Paloma to complement the existing concrete and lightness of the venue, with tiles and rusty pink metal chairs creating a textural mix.

Outside, you can sit in a stone courtyard with a backdrop of the towering Southern Alps – and Paloma’s rooftop bar will be opening just in time for summer.

Food-wise, Stapley is always keen to support small growers, use free-range meats and nurture relationships with local suppliers. He speaks enthusiastically of his Bluff-based seafood supplier, who provides the fish for ceviche and battered fish tacos with lime, avocado and red onion. There are several other taco flavours including beef cheek birria, lamb al pastor and adobo kūmara, plus tostadas and empanadas, larger sharing dishes, and desserts such as churros.

For fans of DIY, you can order the wood-grilled free-range half-chicken that’s accompanied by 10 tortillas and sides of braised beans, pickles, salsa macha and mole. Pull apart the tender chicken and build your own lavish taco. Much of the menu is cooked with an Argentinian grill that imparts a good charred flavour.

To drink, the wine list is ever-changing, and cocktails rotate seasonally but a staple is – of course – the classic Paloma cocktail made with tequila blanco, grapefruit and lime. The tequila range is extensive, and Paloma’s owners intend for it to grow.

Stapley says they’re thrilled to have opened the taqueria and looks at it as a chance to create high-quality food that’s accessible and appealing for a range of people. Compared to Kika, Paloma’s slightly more casual – but the standard is the same. “Simple can be just as hard, you can’t hide behind anything," he says. "The work goes into making the perfect tortilla or getting the meat just right.”

Paloma
28 Helwick Street, Wānaka 9305

Hours
Tues to Sat 5:30pm-10:00pm

@paloma.taqueria
palomawanaka.co.nz