Ōtara-inspired bar wows patrons in France

By Raphael Franks

By Raphael Franks, Te Rito journalism cadet

A popular bar in Nice, France is gaining attention on social media for its close connection to Ōtara, New Zealand.

On the French Riviera coast, Waka Bar is nestled among the colonnades of the promenade, serving up a cocktail mix of Kiwiana. A tiki motif looks out beyond the palm trees onto the Mediterranean Sea.

Marina Hay, who is holidaying in Europe, tweeted about the bar after noticing it for its Māori designs as she walked along the beach.

Hay says, "It was a great bar, so I went back with some friends later that night. We met the owner while waiting in line. We had a chat about New Zealand and where we were both from, and then he let us in!"

The bar's owner is Garth Swan (Ngāti Kuri) who originally hails from Ōtara, having studied at Ōtāhuhu College, but now lives in France.

Other Twitter users commented about Waka Bar's whakapapa back to Aotearoa. Some raised concerns about the potential misuse of cultural imagery but were reassured once they knew it was in the hands of a Kiwi.

Garth Swan is the owner of the popular Waka Bar in Nice, France. Photo / Supplied.

Garth Swan is the owner of the popular Waka Bar in Nice, France. Photo / Supplied.

An inaugural Facebook post promoting the business in 2016 explained the story behind the bar's name. The building that now hosts Kiwi expatriates and locals alike was once an 18th-century fisherman's boat house.

Swan took over the premises from a Chinese restaurant, and now Waka Bar soothes the homesickness of a patriotic crowd desperate for rugby and fish and chips.

The bar is popular with young English speakers in Nice, with bilingual staff fluent in French and English.

In true Kiwi spirit, the bar is a family affair, with Swan's wife, Ciara Swan, having decorated the walls with its Māori-influenced designs.

Despite running a business in the South of France for many years, Swan hasn't completely succumbed to a French lifestyle. Like everyone at home, Swan still commemorates our national holidays.

He has sponsored ANZAC Day services for expatriates in the nearby beach town of Juan-les-Pins, an event called ANZAC Day in Antibes.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air