Food and design, if done well, can have a way of transporting us out of where we are and into our imagination. This is the case at Ouzeri. Here, in Cape Town’s newest eatery, beautiful food and design work together to transport diners out of the CBD and to Cyprus and Greece. Even when the winter rain is pouring outside.
What’s in a name
At Ouzeri, chef and owner Nic Charalambous serves up his take on the food and flavours of his Cypriot cultural heritage. The name of his latest venture is also its inspiration. The concept is influenced by the ouzeris – traditional taverns – of Cyprus and Greece.
‘What I love about the ouzeris I’ve experienced in Cyprus and Greece is that they’re very much local hangouts. It’s the place where you’d go after work for a drink and a bite, and to meet friends and family. Everyone shares meze, and drinks wine and ouzo. In fact, they’re so much a part of the community that they’re often named after the towns they’re based within,’ explains Nic.
Food & Wine
In line with its inspiration, Ouzeri’s menu consists of contemporary meze-style plates that celebrate the flavourful, regional dishes and culinary traditions of Cyprus and Greece. It is a redefined yet authentic expression of the food Nic grew up with, together with the discoveries of his Mediterranean island travels.
‘My dishes are versions of the food I grew up eating’, says Nic. ‘The menu is in many ways my interpretation of the food and culture of my Cypriot heritage.’ This story – Nic’s closeness to the ingredients and style of cooking going down in Ouzeri – is evident in each dish, and indeed each detail of the space itself too. There’s a continual play with balance. Between the traditional and the modern, the nostalgic home kitchen and the young creative chef.
Some exceptionally delicious highlights from the soft launch dinner included:
- Warm green olives with paprika oil, spicy citrus and coriander (Cyprus)
- Pastourma cured yellowtail with fermented red pepper (Cyprus)
- Beetroot salad with date molasses, yoghurt and almonds (Greece)
- Lamb manti with dill yoghurt, burnt tomato butter and soujouk (Macedonia)
- Braised lentils with squid and green sauce (Greece)
- Yoghurt cake with visino and Cream of the crop Jersey yoghurt (Greece)
And just like the food menu, the wine list is a mix between the finer things and rustic simplicity. The gorgeous locally sourced list of low-intervention wines is paired with Ouzeri’s ‘barrel wine’ This arrives in a vintage-style metal jug for the table, much like a tavern in a land far from Cape Town’s CBD. Everything about dining at Ouzeri becomes an experience in crossing over into another time and place.
Naturally, the space itself is in harmony with this intention too. Designed by Master Studio, the Ouzeri space sees old meeting new, merging the sophisticated with the nostalgic.
Expect stark white plaster, arched wall niches, textured tapestries and printed cushions – reminiscent of a traditional old Cypriot café. There’s also a dash of tongue-in-cheek fun to the design. Master Studio have made playful, ironic use of typical Cypriot and Greek items, intermingling with sophistication.
‘For this project we delved into the history of Cypriot artistic heritage, which was influenced by many civilisations. Notably the Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans creating the woven textiles, tapestries and soft architecture seen throughout the island,’ Master Studio explains.
Address: 58 Wale Street, Cape Town City Centre
Lunch: Wednesday to Saturday
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday
Words by Joëlle Davidson.