Even though Soda draws from the cuisine of the Mediterranean, it doesn’t need to pretend to be anywhere else from its first-floor location overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains.
Find it upstairs on Rees Street, the first collaboration between Republic Hospitality – which has 10 well-known venues in the area including The Ballarat, Winnies and The Sundeck – and Sam Gruar and Penelope “PJ” Johnson of two Arrowtown institutions: tapas and cocktail bar La Rumbla, and the comfort-food focused Slow Cuts.
The space seats around 150 but doesn’t feel cavernous or too empty at quieter times, thanks to some clever divisions of the room. Ctrl Space designed the fit-out with Arrowtown’s Alpine Group Construction on the tools, and the overarching aim was to create an elegant yet casual and comfortable space that has broad appeal and encourages you to settle in. There’s also a weatherproof balcony, where you can enjoy the sun and people-watch – even in winter.
Republic executive chef Thomas Barta oversees the menu in conjunction with the La Rumbla duo – approachable sharing dishes inspired by Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern flavours. A woodfired oven imparts deep, smoky flavour to all of Soda’s vegetables and meats, as well as the house-made bread that comes with your customised antipasti platter (options include taramasalata, mussel escabeche, Clevedon mozzarella and house-made chorizo).
For smaller sharing plates, there’s market fish ceviche and crispy calamari; grilled cauliflower, mushroom and celeriac skewers; and grilled octopus with smoked garlic puree and pistachio gremolata.
Larger dishes include a 500-gram savannah bone-in ribeye with jus, marrow and truffle butter; seafood or vegetarian paella made fresh to order; and Walter Peak lamb shoulder. In designing a hefty menu, Barta says the team has tried to cater to a wide range of people so there are plenty of gluten-free options, as well as vegan dishes.
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