When it opened on Bree Street in 2015, Charango made waves in the Mother City, as one of only two Peruvian restaurants in Cape Town. Its selection of tasty tapas, sexy cocktails, and gritty, gaucho-inspired interiors added to its allure, making it a First Thursdays imperative.
But, you know how things go… tastes change, menus change (or stay the same), and people move on… And so, this Peruvian hotspot kind of fell off the radar, and closed its doors (for two months in September 2018).
Enter Charango Barbacoa
Suffice to say, the Latin America locale is back with a sirloin-sized bang (and a slightly new name)! The interior has been given a bright and breezy makeover – while still undeniably South American, it’s less Pampas and more Palermo Soho. Exposed brick walls have been painted white (we’re told a mural is coming), hanging and potted plants add up-to-the-minute greenery, metro tiles bring an urban(e) edge, and a cluster of moody dangling lights keeps things lit (pun intended).
Meat and greet
Being an Argentine grill house, you might be surprised to find no steak on the menu! The day’s cuts are displayed on a chalkboard that changes daily. All the accompaniments are listed in the printed menu: delicious-sounding sides, wet rubs, butters and sauces, as well as a grilling guide (from blue to well done).
Shane Bauer, the very friendly and efficient manager on duty, informed us that all the steak served is, grass-fed and supplied by Frankie Fenner and Ryan Boon, local butchers and proponents of ethically reared meat.
I went with our friendly and knowledgeable waitron Winnie Ngujuna’s recommendation: sirloin – with a chimichurri wet rub and sweet-potato fries – done medium rare. Which is exactly how it was served – charred on the outside, pinky-purple inside, with a crisp ribbon of fat, and a deep earthy flavour that was beautifully complemented by the chimichurri. On the plate, too, were three grilled rosa tomatoes on the vine – a lovely touch.
The main course came in at R235 (R175 for a 200-gram steak, R35 for fries and R25 for the rub) – not outrageous, given the quality of the produce and the setting.
And the rest…
The rest of the menu is straightforward – Starters, Tacos, Sides, Salads and Desserts – that are generally well-priced, save for the green salad, which at R170 for a medium-sized bowl of avo, peas, green beans, zucchini ribbons, asparagus, broccolini and rocket seemed exorbitant.
Starters include popular South American bites, such as ceviche, chicken livers and prawns, with droëwors and biltong representing local flavours. There are three tacos (pulled pork, tuna and speciality meat) and six sides (ranging from hand-cut chips to mash and a baby-veg bowl). Everything we tasted was really good – the signature meat taco, the tuna tataki, even the extortionate salad.
While the wine and bubbly lists are predictable, the cocktail list is quite fun, with an extensive spirits selection and ample beer options.
We ended with the cloying dulce de leche ice cream that hit all the sweet spots. When in an Argentine eatery, do as the Arentines do, right?
Reopened November 2018