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12° & CLEAR SKY ON THURSDAY 20 SEPTEMBER IN WELLINGTON
By Hilary Beattie
March 12, 2015
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La Boca Loca

Locally grown and sustainably produced Mexican served with a side of fairy lights.
By Hilary Beattie
March 12, 2015
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La Boca Loca reiterated that, as a guest of the restaurant, your humble correspondent was "under no obligation to say anything nice about them". And then they went and left her no other choice.  (The name's Spanish for "crazy mouth"; translated that myself, thanks for asking.)

The restaurant seems smaller from outside than it actually is: inside there's a big wooden bar, bright walls, tables that are cosily laid out but not on top of each other. Or you can sit outside, like we did — in a fairy-lit courtyard of a few tables, with a playlist I'd probably have called 'low-key rock' floating through the door.

My friend and I were recommended their signature margarita — tequila, lime juice and triple sec served in a cool glass with a salted rim. It was a banger of a drink, going down well with lightly salted house-made corn chips and guacamole ($13). The Ceviche del Día, with line-caught terahiki, cucumber, lime, onion and tomato ($14.50), was very flavoursome and steered us carefully away from the classic conundrum of too heavy a starter. Half a margarita down, I started shouting about my love for coriander, not even caring who heard.

The service really hit the nail on the head when I ordered the Cochinita Pibil: anyone who can kindly correct middling-to-poor Spanish pronunciation without making me want to run out of the restaurant is a pal. My taco, which arrived pretty quickly, was gluten free and filled with "achiote & citrus marinated pork, slow roasted in banana leaves with lettuce, habanero pickled onions & a side of spicy salsa verde" ($18). The onions were spiced nicely, their crunch contrasting the juicy pork. The taco performed valiantly its dual functions of freshness and holding everything together.

We ordered sides of salsa ranchera, pico de gallo and salsa verde ($2.50 each, three for $6). This was smart. They were all delicious, and went just as well with the taco as with the burrito de res (spiced beef brisket, mushrooms, onion, feta & seasonal salsa with sour cream, $19). Again: great flavours, not too heavy, nicely seasoned. The homemade shell was light and fresh - not chewy, and just thick enough to prevent everything falling into your lap. (There are other precautions you can take, like taking very small mouthfuls or not sitting too far from your plate, but why should eating tidily be your responsibility? Stronger tortillas in 2015.) Finely chopped red cabbage added colour and texture. Sour cream was crucial to dial down the spice, which was not overwhelming but with which, being very naturally uncool, I struggle.

For dessert, it was hard to go past locally made salted caramel ice-cream ($4.50) and churros. The former was properly salted and served with an almond biscuit, and the latter were piping hot alongside a rich chocolate dipping sauce. It was all a bit outrageous, really. In a good way.

La Boca Loca is open Wednesday through Sunday — we were told lots of regulars swing by on Wednesdays, after what must be a barren and desolate Mexican-free Monday to Tuesday stretch. It's not particularly cheap eats once you stack everything up — three courses and a drink apiece came to $150 — but factoring in their obvious commitment to locally grown and sustainably produced ingredients, plus (and let's not forget this) how delicious all the food was, it makes a whole bunch of sense.

They're also fairly busy most of the time, so you'd be well-placed to make a reservation. It's an ideal for a pre- or post-film dinner venue—the Roxy Cinema, of course, being just next door. The cosy bar seating would also be a great place to share some smaller bites and do a mezcal tasting (I would not recommend a mezcal tasting before a movie, but I think that is just common sense). The ambience is relaxed and welcoming; the staff are knowledgeable; the food was great. Clearly I don't know how to use a semi-colon, but the take-home is that La Boca Loca is a good time.

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