You don’t have to meander through the cobbled streets of Madrid to sample authentic tapas and experience what has become the spirit of sharing good food. Here are some hot new local contenders who are creating small plates with big personalities
Head down Long Street and step inside Fork (84 Long Street, Cape Town, 021-424-6334; www.fork-restaurants.co.za). One of the first contemporary tapas restaurants to open in Cape Town, this spot continues to deliver a winning combination of Spanishinspired classics with local flair. While owners JD Haasbroek and Ed Saunders meet and greet their guests, savvy new chef Jonathan Japha works his magic on the produce-driven menu.
Kick-off with a plate of tempura asparagus and Parmesan straws followed by tender beef fillets on croutons topped with wild mushrooms and mini onion rings drizzled in a red wine reduction. Try the fluffy salmon fish cakes, their famous raclette fondue with crostini and chorizo, as well as the pan-seared ostrich fillets with sweet and sour chutney and rosemary dressing. Jonathan’s chocolate flourless cake is the only thing on the menu you don’t have to share with anyone – it’s that good. There’s a great wine selection too.
Next stop, Caveau Wine Bar & Deli (92 Bree Street, Heritage Square, Cape Town, 021-422 1367; www.caveau.co.za) is housed in a restored heritage building and you can arrive for breakfast and leave hours later or pop in for a drink. The unpretentious tapas menu includes small bowls of tender beef cubes with Béarnaise dipping sauce, minty lamb samoosas, pork wontons, homemade ravioli pockets and calamari tubes in a zesty lime dressing with white anchovies. If you’re still hungry, there is more substantial, mostly meaty fare on the daily chalkboard menu. You can also go shopping for your own take-home tapas at the newly opened deli next door.
Further down the road in Green Point,Fiesta (Shop 12a, 72 Waterkant Street, Cape Quarter, De Waterkant, Cape Town, 021-418-5121) is an unassuming little tapas bar-meetscourtyard café serving a tasty tapas line-up with a focus on traditional Spanish ingredients. Share potato bravas dusted with smoked paprika and chermoula dipping sauce, or a whole baked Brie with sherry-soaked figs and fresh bread that’s big enough for two.
Other highlights include the chorizo, green olive, red pepper and mozzarella empanadas or salted sardines pan-fried with garlic, bay leaves, fennel seeds and a chillilemon sauce soaked up with chunks of delicious fresh bread. Nine-tofivers seeking after-work drinks and nibbles won’t be disappointed with the extensive winelist, which features some new varietals, a cheeky cocktail menu and jars of mixed olives and spicy roasted nuts.
Further up the main drag, head towards Sea Point where you’ll stumble upon Café Sofia (Villa Rosa, 267 Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, 021-439 7993; www.cafesofia.co.za) with its surprisingly retro cool fit-out as opposed to the traditional tapas bar look and feel. This is the perfect spot for a quick lunch or a festive private party (they hire out the restaurant for functions).
Nibble on artichoke hearts wrapped in Serrano ham with fig preserve and roasted pine nuts; bruschetta topped with tuna, avocado and a coriander relish; baby marrow and feta croquets. More serious offerings include a pickled octopus salad and, if you can handle the heat, a jalapeño firecracker stuffed with melting feta cheese. On a sweet note try the chocolate and banana spring rolls. You’ll also be spoilt for choice with a variety of sangrias.
Get out of the city bowl and head to the northern suburbs for a modern twist on the European brasserie at the Barnyard Brasserie and Tapas Bar (Willowbridge Lifestyle Centre, Carl Cronjé Drive, Tyger Valley, Bellville, 021-914 7242;
www.eatout.co.za) where award-winning chef Nic van Wyk is creating comfort-style tapas. Sit around a sweeping bar counter with homemade bread and black olive tapenade, order small plates of chipirones, salt cod fritters, crispy squid with rouille or melt-in-yourmouth prawn rissoles. The spinach, mozzarella and chorizo parcels are also delightful, as are the churros, a speciality-dipped doughnut.
Fabulous spots to add to your Tapas trail
Salt (The Ambassador hotel,34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay, Cape Town, 021-439-7258; www.salteatery.co.za) for the best sundowner seats in Cape Town matched with Peter Goffe-Wood’s new gourmet tapas menu. Popular items include freshly shucked oysters,steamed mussels, salt and pepper tempura squid, curried smoked snoek samoosas and chilled tiger prawns with a lemon aïoli. All wines are served by the glass, and if you want to go all out, order his legendary platter comprising absolutely everything. While it’s been around for a few years, Haiku (33 Church Street, City Bowl, Cape Town, 021-424-7000; bukhara.com) remains the last word in exotic Asian tapas (now with a sister restaurant that recently opened in New Burlington Place, London).
Enjoy small plates of dim sum, five-spice calamari, steamed dumplings or your selection of fresh sashimi among a long list of other delicious options. Winesense at Mandela Rhodes and in Kalk Bay (Mandela Rhodes,Mandela Rhodes Place, corner Wale Street and Berg Road, St George’s Mall, Cape Town, 021-422-0695; The Quays, Majestic Precinct, Main Road, Kalk Bay, 021-788-1869) also offers a nice selection of global fusion tapas.