Tapas-style eating might have originated in the taverns of Spain in the late 1800s, but right now it’s all the rage in the Mother City, which is hardly surprising… With its sunshiney climate, excellent wine, and laidback lifestyle, Cape Town is perfectly suited to this leisurely communal eating experience.
The original tapas were slices of bread that bar drinkers would use to cover their glasses between sips to keep the flies out (the Spanish word tapar means “to cover”). Traditionally, tapas were served as starters, hot or cold, and eaten with fingers or a fork. The trend now, when dining with friends, is for these little plates to replace your main course. That way, you get to be a lot more experimental in your ordering, taste a kaleidoscope of different flavours, plus you’re not committed to one heavy meal. Sounds pretty good to us…
So, without further ado, grab a glass of the good stuff and let’s break some bread. And, as they say in Madrid: “Salud!”
Image credit: Claire Gunn
It’s one of the most talked-about restaurants in Cape Town – and deservedly so. The food at Glen Foxcroft Williams’ bustling fine-dining restaurant (which he co-owns with feted chef Scot Kirton) is inspired and utterly sensational. Glen’s heavily inked forearm bears the word soigné – “prepared with great attention to detail; showing sophisticated elegance; carefully or elegantly done” – a principle that underpins every single dish that comes out of his open kitchen.
We recommend everything on the set menu! It’s ridiculously good value: two generous tapas, a main and a dessert for R350. For tapas we had the tuna tartare with tempura avo, miso, daikon, apple and baby gem; Korean fried chicken; squid with chorizo, ajo blanco and wild garlic; and the yellowtail ceviche with kolrabi kimchi, burnt orange and tiger’s milk – all of which were beautifully presented, free of frippery, and layered with interesting (and carefully considered) ingredients, flavours and textures. The mains and desserts were equally exquisite. Certainly the most memorable meal I have eaten in ages.
Opening times 12pm – 2pm (lunch)
6pm – 8.30pm (dinner)
Contact 021 202 3304
Location Foxcroft, High Constantia Shopping Centre, Corner Groot Constantia Road and Constantia Main Road
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
2. Chefs Warehouse & Canteen
Chef Liam Tomlin serves innovative, internationally influenced tapas in his pompous-free deli-meets-tapas bar. He’s all about the casual essence of tapas and, as such, doesn’t take reservations (and recommends that diners arrive early to secure a seat – the kitchen closes at 8pm). It’s well worth it; as soon as you sit down at one of the communal tables and peruse the daily menu, you know you’re in for an inspired dining experience. Being a deli and cook’s supply shop, the shelves are decked from floor to ceiling with utensils, recipe books and other kitchen paraphernalia.
We recommend Liam’s creative menu changes every day. You could order a set dish, such as the Vietnamese oysters (R95), or let the chefs surprise you with the Tapas for Two option – a selection of tastebud-popping, original dishes that are decided on the day. The staff will cater to any dietary requirements you may have.
Monday – Friday, (lunch) 12pm–2.30pm, (dinner) 4.30pm–8pm
Contact 021 422 0128, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, 92 Bree Street
When Haiku opened over two decades ago, Asian tapas was a brand-new concept in the Mother City. Now 21 years later, the ever-popular eatery is still bowling us over with its simply delicious East Asian flavours – from Thai and Chinese to Japanese and Korean. The elegant Chinese-tearoom vibe allows diners to watch the skilled chefs in action, as you wait for your tantalising tidbits to arrive.
We recommend splashing out and ordering the Haiku Tasting Menu (R595 per person) – a veritable feast of note! First up was the sushi selection: scallop yuzu sashimi, tuna tacos and two dragon rolls. That was followed by a dumplings course: three steamed and three fried. The steamed medley included spicy prawn har gau, basil fish har gau and spinach har gau, while the fried assortment comprised a lamb pot sticker, beef cha siu sou and chicken sheng jian bao. The robata (braai-style) course of ginger beef, salmon robata and Korean chilli chicken was tasty. By the time our mains arrived – a choice between sizzling beef, cheng yuan fish and chicken green curry, served with mixed vegetables and steamed rice – we felt like two stuffed ticks, too lethargic to eat another thing. Yet, we continued through it, leaving just enough room for the heavenly chocolate fondant and Asian ice cream.
Monday – Sunday, 12pm–3pm, 6pm–11pm
Contact 021 424 7000, email@example.com
Location Haiku, 58 Burg Street, Cape Town
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
5. Tjing Tjing, Torii
You’ll find this charming eatery on the first floor of a heritage building on Longmarket Street, slotted between its genteel vego-vegetarian sister, Dear Me (on street level) and its heaving brother, Tjing Tjing (which happens to be one of our favourite rooftop bars). Owned by Ilze Koekemoer, Torii specialises in contemporary Asian cuisine – covering all the bases from tataki and tempura to ramen, kimchi and bao. Superbly. Which is quite a feat given that all those flavours and ingredients come out of one teeny kitchen.
Keying into the de rigueur global food trend of sharing plates, Torii’s menu is all about small portions that are big on flavour. The décor is rather lovely, too – navy walls with white skirtings, Louis Ghost chairs and contempo-cool illustrations by Jade Klara on the window blinds.
We recommend kimchi (spicy lacto-fermented cabbage, radish and bamboo shoots, R25); the elegant and delicate tuna tataki (R85) that is drizzled (not drenched) in ponzu; duck pancakes (R120); fragrant sautéed sesame-soy-and-garlic broccoli (R56); and the gimmicky beef atsui dog (R68) that’s soft and crunchy all at once. The cotton-soft Japanese cheesecake (R45), for dessert hit the spot. We cannot wait to get back to try the rest of the menu.
Above and beyond Sparking and still water are complimentary. Our knowledgeable waiter Joseph asked if we had any intolerances, allergies or special requirements that he could relay to chef Christi Semczyszyn.
Tuesday – Friday, 4pm – 2am
Saturday, 6.30pm – 2am
Contact 021 422 4374, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Tjing Tjing, 165 Longmarket Street, Cape Town
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
6. Bistro Sixteen82
With its rolling gardens, surrounded by the Steenberg vineyards and mesmerising mountain views, Sixteen82’s location is hard to beat. There’s even a swanky glass bridge across the poolside dining terrace that makes you feel like you’re in the Napa Valley and not the South Peninsula! The state-of-the-art tasting room and wine cellar sit cheek-by-jowl with the restaurant, so you’re guaranteed of world-class accompaniments with your meal…
Fresh from a culinary quest in Barcelona and London in October 2016, chef Kerry Kilpin has added exciting tweaks and twists to her summer 2016/7 menu. “What fascinated me most about the tapas in Barcelona was how simple it really is,” she explains, something Kerry does with aplomb in her fresh, seasonal, flavourful plates.
We recommend smoked salmon nori and asparagus terrine with smoked truffle honey; pulled-lamb shoulder with chilli tomato on a bed of polenta, served with olive tapenade; and smoked pork croquetas with a dollop of Kerry’s signature creamy wholegrain mustard mayo.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 9am – 8pm
Contact 021 713 2211, email@example.com
Location Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Tokai
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
It’s all farm-fresh and fabulous out in the country where chef Franck Dangereux’s renowned Foodbarn is located. The perfect Sunday-lunch venue becomes a tapas bar by night where guests get to enjoy the chefs’ creations in a relaxed atmosphere.
We recommend the prawns pilipili with garlic (R70) and the panko-crumbed Brie with a raspberry gastrique (R58), which epitomise Franck’s delicious foray into tapas. Dessert fans can’t go wrong with the churros, a Spanish doughnut topped with cinnamon and served with melted chocolate (R40). Superb!
Monday and Sunday, 12pm–3pm
Tuesday–Saturday, (lunch) 12pm–3pm, (dinner) 6.30pm–9.30pm
Contact 021 789 1966, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Foodbarn, Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek
8. Lucky Bao
Image credit: Cape Town My Love
This cool eight-seater Asian Street Food Bar on the Hout Bay strip is one of the Mother City’s most sought-after dining experiences. Chef-owner Cheyne Morrisby of the ever-popular Cheyne’s next door has a knack for creating deep and delicious Asian flavours that he has passed on to charming Zambian-born cooks John and Simon, who are deft hands in the open kitchen. What started as a bao bar (fluffy steamed buns crammed with flavourful meat and veg fillings) now also serves two ramen dishes (noodles), two yakitori (skewers), and two desserts, which we sadly had left no space for, after gorging on the above and the flipping amazing waygu burger (with maple-and-soy-glazed bacon, mature boerenkaas, kimchi, miso, spring onion, bourbon, all crammed into a toasted Japanese milk bun).
We recommend as many dishes as you can fit in, but to help you narrow it down: belly bao (pork belly, soy, peanuts, maple, sriracha), beef yakitori, gyoza (4 Japanese dumplings) and, of course, the burger.
Opening times Monday – Wednesday, 5pm – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday, 12pm – 3pm; 5pm – 10pm
Contact 079 067 4919, email@example.com
Location Lucky Bao and Asian Shake Bar, 1 Pam Arlene Place, Hout Bay, Cape Town
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
9. Nomad Bistro & Bar
It opened in April this year, but already this rustic bistro has already become one of the city’s popular eateries. It’s perfect for relaxed meals in a unique setting, with its floor-to-ceiling, honey-coloured wood panelling and unique wall art, including the intriguing Nomad world map. The select staff team is efficient and welcoming from the moment you enter.
We recommend Although it’s famed for its fusion food and cocktails, it’s the gourmet tapas we love – and with options like tender roast pork belly, crackling and apple marmalade and the dreamy exotic mushroom risotto with Parmesan (happily they thoughtfully cater for vegetarians too), what’s not to love? The tapas are artfully presented and there’s a great, varied choice selection of tasting plates to enjoy.
And when you’re done, be sure to try one of Nomad’s newly invented and supremely delicious craft-beer lollies… you won’t regret it and you’ll have bragging rights because owner Mohit says they’re an SA first!
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 8am – 10pm
Contact 021 418 3020, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Nomad Bistro & Bar, 33 Waterkant Street
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan
10. La Parada
The tangy smack of freshly fried garlic draws you through the door of this Bree Street restaurant that’s headed by Martin Senekal, formerly of the Cape Grace Hotel and The Showroom Restaurant. Under the guidance of the late Bruce Robertson, Martin developed a flair for compiling flavour combinations. Launched as a predominantly Spanish-style restaurant in 2013, La Parada’s new tapas menu (summer 2016) incorporates South African ingredients and Asian accents, which come together in delicious and picture-perfect dishes. Long wooden communal tables and Spanish paraphernalia enhance the overall experience.
We recommend the serrano ham croquetas (R55), of course! This classic Spanish tapa, consisting of battered and deep-fried mashed potato, filled with serrano ham and a side of mustard aioli, is so comforting and so delicious when done right. Also order the roasted pork belly (R62), smoked tomato salad (R52) and the seared sesame-crusted tuna (R78).
Opening times Monday–Sunday, 12pm–10pm
Contact 021 426 0330, book through DinePlan
Location La Parada, 107 Bree Street
Other branch Constantia Nek
TIG reviewer Michelle De Bruin
11. The Pot Luck Club
Though its name refers to the practice of guests contributing a dish to a shared feast, don’t panic, you won’t have to bring anything to this party – chef Luke Dale-Roberts and his adept team have got it covered. Situated on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill, the restaurant is decked out in edgy furniture and fittings, and boasts killer views of Table Mountain and the City Bowl. Like in Luke’s other restaurants, the kitchen is on display, and the shared plates – divided into Salty, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Umami flavour profiles – is cutting-edge comfort food.
We recommend the famous fish tacos (R65); Chalmar beef fillet with black pepper and truffle café au lait (R130); and the peri-peri chicken (R95).
Contact 021 447 0804, email@example.com
Book through DinePlan.
Location The Pot Luck Club, Silo Top Floor, Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock
Image credit: TripAdvisor
Cheyne’s specialises in Pacific Rim cuisine – a delicious mix of culinary styles including South East Asian, Japanese, Hawaiian and Californian. Always popular with Hout Bay locals, who over time have seen the restaurant grow from a converted house with just five tables to several packed dining rooms bustling with energy.
We recommend The extensive menu is divided into Sea, Land, Earth, Poké and Happy Endings. Seafood aficionados will love the firecracker crayfish with wakame seaweed, beetroot kimchi and yakiniku dipping sauce. Landlubbers might prefer the Tokyo beef slider on a toasted brioche with caviar, king oyster cream and nori. Desserts are worth a mention, with the Kyoto coffee – Pacific cuisine’s answer to Irish coffee – containing a shot (or two) of Nikka pure black malt whisky, whipped coconut cream and chocolate truffle.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, (lunch) 12pm–3pm, (dinner) 6pm–10pm
Contact 021 790 3462, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Cheyne’s, 1 Pam Arlene Place, Main Road, Hout Bay
13. Sundoo South Indian Tapas Bar & Restaurant
This Indian gem on Sea Point’s burgeoning Regent Road comes courtesy of chef and restaurateur Seelan Sundoo, who’s had his hand in a number of Cape Town’s popular eateries (La Perla, Seelan, Reserve Brasserie, The Grand, and Shimmy Beach Club). But this time, he’s bringing his heritage to the table: South Indian cuisine with a contemporary Durban twist. The decor is stylish, pared-back, modern, with nods to his Kerala roots in Southern India. The small space seats around 30 people, with one long booth against the wall and more seats at the street-facing counter, where a tall Congolese doorman dressed all in black gives outside diners peace of mind that their cellphones won’t get snatched. We ate opposite two gals-about-town, who’d eaten here three times previously for “the best vegetarian food in Cape Town”.
We recommend Wok-fried squid heads with lime, coriander and green chili sauce; crispy fried south Indian spiced prawn chili bites; a variety of Sundoo’s delicious samoosas; a curry or two to share; and something from the clay oven.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 12pm–11pm (bar is open till 2am)
Contact 021 433 0542
Location Sundoo, 77 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
When the chef’s name is Aristotle, you know you’re in for a carefully conceived culinary experience. Here you’ll find Spanish pinchos (small snacks) with a contemporary twist. The servings are small (and designed to be shared among the table), but the flavours are bold, with inflections from around the world – the African influence being especially evident. The European-style interior perfectly captures the relaxed atmosphere of a classic Catalonian tapas bar.
We recommend the deep-fried goat’s cheese with sundried tomato biscuits and port-and-onion marmalade (R60) – it’s moreish, bursts with flavour, and utterly delicious. The Moroccan meatballs (R65) bring some North African spice to the table, while the pan-seared ostrich fillet (R65) is a favourite among (adventurous) European visitors seeking tastes and textures they’re not likely to get at home.
Opening times Monday–Saturday, 12pm–11pm
Contact 021 424 6334, email@example.com
Location Fork Tapas & Pinchos Bar, 84 Long Street
A slice of Mediterranean style in the heart of the CBD, this warm and comfortable taverna-style restaurant has been serving authentic Greek food for over two decades to loyal locals, overseas visitors and nearby office workers. It seats around 70 diners in a light and contemporary white and plastered interior, with an upstairs section that can be used for special occasions and private parties. We love that the wine is served in tumblers – very Mediterranean – and that it came to the table chilled – sadly a rare occurrence for Cape Town restaurants in December… Guests are allowed to bring their dogs, which contributes to the intimate family environment.
We recommend tzatziki, mucver (a deep-fried feta and baby marrow ball similar to falafel but cheesier), deep-fried halloumi served with lemon wedges, dolmades, pita bread and the Patagonian grilled calamari tubes in garlic, chilli and lemon. For mains, the slow-roasted lamb with artichoke and creamy ouzo sauce (R148) is done the way it should be, while vegetarians will enjoy the mushrooms with orzo noodles, wild mushrooms in a light cream and Parmesan sauce (R88).
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am–10pm
Contact 021 461 3333, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Maria’s Greek Restaurant, 31 Barnet Street, Dunkley Square, Gardens
It takes a lot for a restaurant on the V&A’s Millionaires’ Mile to draw attention, but Dalliance does so, with its attractive striped awning lined with paparazzi-style bulbs at the entrance. Inside, it’s equally impressive: a coolly decorated spacious interior, good lighting, light jazz in the background and a long bar with stunning views of the Atlantic. Oh, and the food and drinks are rather good, too.
We recommend Being close to the ocean doesn’t mean you have to order fish – the lamb chops in olive oil, lemon, garlic and rosemary are finger-licking good. But we’d have to say that the salmon tataki served with ponzu, garlic and cucumber was our standout dish.
Great vegetarian options include the spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 11am–11pm
Contact 021 418 1037, email@example.com
Location Shop 7216A, V&A Waterfront
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
Image credit: @John_vanzyl on Instagram
The newest offering from Liam Tomlin and Dimo Papachristodoulou, with John van Zyl as head chef, will surely have Durban’s bunny-chowing curry lovers green with envy, with its authentic Indian cuisine (and a special focus on tapas). Thali takes you on a visual journey where intricate postcard art, kaleidoscopic patterns, vibrant colour and Indian intrigue abound. The interiors (five different sections) and garden area make for an exotic and unique eating experience indeed!
We recommend As it is owned by Chefs Warehouse’s Liam Tomlin and Dimo Papachristodoulou, with innovative chef John van Zyl heading up the kitchen, the food is going to be exceptional! Try the tapas for two (R800), which includes eight dishes, with the likes of tantalising tandoori chicken, as well as golden lamb and chicken curries included in the mix.
Opening times Dinner: Monday – Saturday, 5pm – 9.30pm
Lunch: Friday & Saturday, 12pm – 2.30pm
(no reservation policy in place)
Contact 021 286 2110, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Thali, 3 Park Road, Gardens
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan
This is the sort of place where you’d expect to see rajah-riding war elephants sauntering up and down the aisles (although they’d probably have difficulty fitting their mounts through the entrance). The restaurant offers top-class Indian cuisine with a smattering of other Asian influences. Glass walls surrounding the kitchen allow guests to watch the chefs at work, while marble floors, high ceilings and opulent décor capture the majesty of an ancient Indian empire at the peak of its power.
We recommend the eight-course tapas menu – if and when it’s available (we have contacted the restaurant for exact dates…). It has a bit of everything – fish, chicken, beef, lamb and vegetarian dishes prepared in a variety of different ways, from tandoor and singri (which use open flames and coals) to dum (which involves slow-cooking in sealed pots to create fragrant and flavoursome curries).
Opening times Monday – Sunday, (lunch) 12pm–3pm, (dinner) 6pm–11pm
Contact 021 424 0000, email@example.com
Location Bukhara, 33 Church Street
Other branches Stellenbosch and GrandWest
We also rate
Genki Sushi and Tapas Bar
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Research: Matthew Flax, Michelle de Bruin, Alicia Chamaille and Nikki Benatar