Near the end of The Precinct’s sleek grey laneway you’ll spy a sign with a friendly pink arrow, pointing you in the direction of Paloma. Creators of authentic Mexican fare, Paloma has a simple (but by no means easy) mission: to make the best tacos possible, using NZ ingredients.
Spanish for both a type of bird and a grapefruit tequila cocktail, Paloma has embraced its original, industrial canvas, skilfully marrying the exposed concrete with bright and fresh Pueblo-esque additions. There’s a wall of tequila housed within a strikingly curved white plaster feature, the floor is terracotta tiled, and hues of their signature grapefruit pink warm the rest of the space from the custom wire chairs all the way through to the grouting in the tiles at the bar.
Paloma is the third venture of James Stapley, executive chef and owner of lauded Wānaka establishments kika and Arc. With those genetics, you’d expect nothing less than the finest quality ingredients and service from a new baby sister restaurant. James has created something different with Paloma whilst preserving those fine dining principles; a fun, buzzy, not-too-serious dining experience based on the humble tortilla.
To say that Paloma is all about tacos would be an understatement. Every day, corn tortillas are made from scratch in-house, starting with nixtamalization – the traditional Mesoamerican process of soaking corn kernels in lime to make the corn more digestible, nutritious and delicious – using whole corn kernels grown in Napier. The nixtamal is ground into a dough (masa) which is then fed through Tony the taco press who reliably turns out perfect little discs.
If the taco is the soul of Paloma then the Argentinian parrilla wood fire grill is its heart. Fresh, local ingredients are lovingly grilled over the open flame, ready to crown an authentic taco or complete another Mexican-influenced snack on the menu – yes, there’s more to Paloma than their tasty tacos. The best accompaniment to the three Mexican hot sauces on every table, house-made with interesting dried chillies? Mexico’s favourite cocktail: the paloma. Choose from a number of different fruit bases, make it a mocktail, or pick another something cold from the extensive drinks offering.
Being at Paloma feels like a celebration, any day of the week. People come to have fun – birthdays, Tuesdays, anything is occasion enough to have a good time here.