Tasty Indian cuisine tapas-style at Thali

Thali for two

Today we’re heading up bustling Kloof Street to an exciting new Indian restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chef Liam Tomlin – who runs the successful Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street (where I still haven’t been – must remedy that soon) and also recently took over the kitchen at Beau Constantia.

Thali has the same menu concept of Tomlin’s other two restaurants – a set menu of dishes to share that come up in groups, making for four tasty courses. Thali literally means “a set meal at an Indian restaurant” which for me means the joy of no menu indecision and a chance to taste everything the chef wants to offer. The food comes served in small dishes arranged on large round copper platters which look stunning but do make photography tricky (food blogger problems!). However, I’ve done my best to give you a good flavour of what’s in store.

What’s on the menu

So first up we received the Aloo Tikki, a beautifully soft and spicy potato cake served topped with yogurt and a touch of tamarind paste. I love potatoes and I could definitely consume this version of my favourite starch on a regular basis. It’s served with curry salt and spices which you keep on your table for the duration of your meal.

Thali: Aloo tikki

Starting off with a delightful potato dish

Thali: aloo tikki

Close up on the delicately spiced morsels

Our next course consisted of three dishes (dhal, cauliflower and tandoori chicken), a buttery paratha, two dipping sauces and an onion mix.

Thali: second course

Never have vegetables looked so vibrant and tasty

The cauliflower plate was a veggie revelation with Tandoori cauliflower and cumin cauliflower puree served with a cashew and coconut sauce. A genius way to showcase the humble cauli, producing a dish with incredible depths of flavours and a wonderful range of textures.

Thali: cauliflower

Close up on the spiced-up cauliflower

Beautifully flavourful and creamy smoked tadka dhal was served with the softest of buttery paratha. Dipping heaven.

Thali: dhal

A beautiful bowl of glistening dhal

And the tandoori chicken skewers arrived in their own little tandoor, complete with burning coals. Great theatre and these little morsels were so perfectly cooked they melted in the mouth giving a pop of those tasty tandoori flavours. Another wonderful dish that was very difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea.

Thali: tandoori chicken

Happiness is…your own tandoori oven

Time for some fabulous fish

The fish course added a real freshness to the dinner. The fried fish tacos were packed with juicy cubes of kingklip, crunchy fresh veg and chilli.

Thali: fish tacos

Vibrant fishy tacos with a chilly bite

Unusually for an Indian restaurant, a ceviche-style bowl of raw line fish was served with a Cape Malay dressing, coriander emulsion, saffron and pickled onion. Even more fabulous flavours and textures to savour.

Thali: Linefish

Fresh fish with a Cape Malay dressing

Wonderful curries to finish with

Our final tray of delights brought the curry element to our table. Another incredible combo of dishes. Two curries, served with rice and naan – the perfect ending to our Indian extravaganza. The smokey lamb curry was packed with flavour with a silken sauce and wonderfully tender meat.

Thali: curries

A tray of curries to finish with

The Panch Phorand seafood curry was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Wonderful cubes of flaky fish, plump prawns and the freshest of mussels in a rich and spicy sauce. The mussels are so fabulous in Cape Town at the moment. So I’m eating them whenever I have the chance and boy were they great in this curry.

Thali: seafood curry

A masterpiece of spicy seafood

The rice was also spectacular – which I think is a sign of a really great chef. I battle with cooking good rice dishes – wonder if they’d be available to give me some lessons?

Thali: Rice

Rice doesn’t get better than this

Phew! What a great selection of dishes. Portions are substantial at Thali, and there’s quite a lot of heat in the sauces, dips and spices. You can taste the love and care that everything has been prepared with and you can feel the energy emanating from the busy kitchen.

Thali doesn’t take bookings (one of my pet hates) so we got there just before 6.30 to make sure we could nab a table for six. The restaurant was already about three-quarters full and soon filled up completely. While we were having dinner people queued up at the bar and some didn’t even stay, having been told they would have over an hour to wait. This is one popular place! Because of this service may be inconsistent.

The menu tells you to expect a selection of dishes to share which can take up to 90 minutes – it will probably take longer (as it did in our case). But what’s the rush? Arrive prepared to take your time and enjoy the courses as they come and I guarantee you’ll enjoy a wonderful Indian extravaganza.

Thali: kitchen

There’s plenty of activity in the open kitchen

Thali: kitchen

Making sure the platter looks perfect

Today’s price point

And finally, Thali for two is R700 (about £45 at today’s exchange rate).

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town, just off Kloof Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasty tapas at La Parada on Cape Town’s Bree Street

Today we’re heading back to Bree Street on the edge of Cape Town’s City Bowl District (CBD). My favourite street in Cape Town – it’s restaurant and bar heaven and perfect to stroll down sampling places along the way. Start at the top (Table Mountain end) of the street and weave your way down the hill.

It’s the sort of street you keep going back to and although there are myriad restaurants to try we regularly find ourselves drawn to La Parada on the corner. We even head straight for the same seats each time – if they’re not available we tend to feel somewhat peeved.

La Parada has been open for several years and serves tapas. A lot of the dishes are authentically Spanish and there’s also a nice South African twist to the menu. While the food has always been good, this year it seems to have been elevated to a different level – and on our first 2018 visit our waitress informed us that they have a new chef. He’s certainly put a little something extra into the dishes.

We visit Spain as often as we can and love Spanish food. Today’s gambas Pil Pil was authentic, with sweet, plump, fresh prawns flash fried in olive oil, chilli, garlic and lemon. The perfect combo of flavours giving a lovely garlic undertone and a real chilli bite.

La Parada: prawns

Luscious prawns in the perfect chilli, garlic sauce

Another Spanish classic – the ham croquettas were made with smoked ham and served with mustard aioli which they were sitting proudly on top of. Loved the slightly non-traditional presentation. The croquettas were delightfully crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy inside and the mustard aioli was a wonderful addition.

La Parada: croquettas

Beautifully soft croquettas with crunch

Served with star anise caramel and toasted sesame, the pork belly was sweet and sticky with crispy crackling and a lovely coleslaw-style salad . The sesame flavours came through wonderfully and I do love a bit of star anise.

La Parada: pork belly

Sweet and sticky pork belly

Possibly our favourite dish we’ve ever devoured at La Parada is the Champinones al Ajillo. A soft-poached egg is served on toast and a bed of mushrooms and truffle oil and topped with grated pecorino. So satisfyingly rich and earthy, I would order this every time I visited – come to think of it, I believe I have.

La Parada: mushrooms

The ultimately indulgent mushroom dish

La Parada: mushrooms

Topped with a perfectly poached egg

And then there’s the Patatas Bravas. Possibly the best-cooked potatoes in the world, this simple dish has been spiced up. After frying the morsels perfectly – crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft inside – the chef dusts the potatoes with paprika, giving them some heat. They are served with two sauces – aioli and rich tomato chutney. If all potatoes tasted like these I think I’d live off potatoes alone. Who knew such simple food could bring such joy?

La Parada: patatas bravas

Crisp, spicy potatoes with delicious dips

Lunch at La Parada is inevitably accompanied by a bottle of chilled Rose. I love their wine coolers – a sturdy plastic bag of sorts crammed with ice and water. Well, I do love everything about La Parada and I’m sure we’ll be back soon for some more delightful Spanish treats on my favourite street.

La Parada: Rose

A chilled and tasty glass of pinkness

Today’s price point

Finally, here’s what we paid. Our five tapas dishes cost R375 (around £23 at today’s exchange rate). Plenty for a substantial meal for two.

Wine starts from R135 (£8.20) a bottle for rose, R110 (£6.70) for white and R150 (£9.20) for red.

There are three branches of La Parada in Cape Town – Camps Bay, Constantia Nek and our favourite, Bree Street.

 

The Bistro at Klein Constantia

Today we’re heading into the leafy Cape Town suburb of Constantia. And down a long and winding road to the historic Klein Constantia wine estate. It nestles on the upper foothills of the beautiful Constantiaberg and dates back to 1685.

Klein Constantia is famed for producing some of South Africa’s top wines including the famous Vin  de Constance which was already recognised in the 18th and 19th centuries as one of the best sweet wines in the world. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens wrote about it and it was a favourite of Napoleon, King George IV and Bismarck. It is a wonderfully delicious after-dinner drink.

We were headed for lunch at newly opened The Bistro at Klein Constantia. A meander through the beautifully cool tasting room and we were showed to our table on the terrace under the shade of a Jacaranda tree looking out across the estate. So peaceful! Just where you want to chill out for lunch on a hot, sunny day.

What’s on the menu

The menu offers a choice of four starters, three mains, one dessert and a local cheese plate. And everything sounded delicious. We opted to share two starters between the three of us.

The coal-baked beetroot and Chèvre Frais salad was the perfect summer starter. The beautifully smokey beet was perfectly matched with the crispy leaves and the creamiest of goat’s cheese.

Klein Constantia: Salad

Beautifully fresh salad with the creamiest of cheese

Next up, this delectable country pork terrine. How I love a terrine, they take so much effort to make, it’s always a real pleasure to enjoy someone else’s handiwork. This was a particularly luscious one, served with the sweetest of relishes.

Klein Constantia: terrine

The tastiest terrine with a sweet relish

One of the main courses was vegetarian and had two of my favourite ingredients – asparagus and tomato – too good to resist. All topped with a beautiful hollandaise-style sauce and local aged Parmesan. The tomatoes were slow roasted and beautifully sweet and the silken sauce was the best accompaniment for the fresh, crunchy asparagus. I could eat this dish every day!

Klein Constantia: asparagus

A wonderful plate of saucy asparagus

The Wagyu skirt steak was beautifully tender and flavoursome and served with crispy little shoestring potatoes and a delightful salsa verde. Classic Bistro food.

Klein Constantia: steak

Tender steak and crispy shoestrings

For dessert we all shared the rich chocolate almond torte which was served with zesty lime cream and berries.

Klein Constantia: Chocolate torte

It’s torte time with fresh berries on the side

And we couldn’t resist also ordering a local cheese platter which came with amazing watermelon preserve and wonderful muscadel grapes from the estate.

Klein Constantia: cheese plate

The tasty selection of local cheese and fruit

It’s harvest time in the Constantia Valley and we watched truckloads of freshly picked grapes being delivered. Wonderful to see, knowing that they would soon be on their way to becoming my favourite of drinks.

Klein Constantia: grape harvest

Freshly harvested grapes are delivered.

I had to take this picture looking up towards the magnificent Jacaranda tree with the brilliant blue sky behind. Always look up I say!

Klein Constantia: Jacaranda tree

Looking at the azure sky through Jacaranda leaves

And here’s the view as you’d drive out of the estate. As if it wasn’t already hard enough to drag yourself away!

Klein Constantia: the view

Stunning vineyard and mountain views

Today’s price point

R400 for 3 courses

R300 for 2 courses

Wine starts at R200 a bottle

The Bistro is on Klein Constantia Wine Estate which is at the end of Klein Constantia Road in Constantia.

Our return visit to Beau Constantia

I rarely blog about a restaurant twice – especially when the visits have been so close together. But today I’m making an exception with a return lunch at Beau Constantia’s Chef’s Warehouse. We had a fabulous lunch there in January which you can read about here. Today it was time to celebrate Terry’s birthday with lunch on the terrace overlooking the glorious valley and I had to share these stunning pictures with you.

I love the concept – Tapas for 2 – eight delicious dishes served as three courses. No decision making and a chance to try everything. Here’s what we tucked into.

The cold seared tuna was served on top of Moroccan-spiced aubergine, fresh milk curd and toasted cashews. I do love a bit of seared tuna and todays offering went perfectly with the Moroccan spices and the different textures combined to make for a delightful plate.

Chef's Warehouse: tuna

The tastiest of tuna with Moroccan flavours

The line fish sashimi was served with BBQ pineapple atchar, fried onion and curry leaf crumb and coconut cream. I loved the delicate flavour of the onion and curry leaf crumb and the light-as-a-feather topper.

Chef's Warehouse

Yellowtail sashimi with delicate curry flavours

Beef tartare came with a chilli and Madagascan black pepper dressing and sourdough croutons. One of the best tartares ever – there were tiny pieces of avo and mushrooms in the meat and the croutons were so light and crispy. Also loved the porcini dust which finished the dish.

Chef's Warehouse: Beef tartare

The best beef tartare ever with hints of chilli and porcini

This place really knows how to make the perfect risotto! Last time it was mushroom, today we enjoyed a parsley risotto, with smoked bone marrow, salted lemon and pecan nut salsa and a red wine reduction. Spectacular! I loved its vibrant greenness and the hint of lemon from the salsa was a lovely surprise for the tastebuds.

Chef's Warehouse: risotto

Vibrant and comforting parsley risotto

My favourite dish of the day – the char grilled lamb rib was served topped with preserved tomato and Korean chilli dressing and with asiette of heirloom tomatoes and smoked milk ricotta. The lamb was slightly crisp and melt-in-the-mouth and the dressing added a real chilli kick. The tomatoes are always a joy at Chef’s Warehouse, today they had a wonderful smokiness and were topped with beautiful purple basil leaves.

Chef's Warehouse: lamb rib

My dish of the day: soft and crispy lamb rib

The flaky grilled hake came with a fried maize and ginger crumb, braised sushi rice and a toasted Szechuan and black pepper sauce. Beautifully sweet fish with a spiced sauce.

Chef's Warehouse: hake

Sweet and spicy, flaky hake

The char grilled springbok was rare and tender and served with smoked pear and garlic puree, pickled pear, burnt butter and cassia bark jus. Such an attractive plate of food – with an added delicacy of deep fried Brussesl sprouts – so yummy.

Chef's Warehouse: springbok

Beautifully tender local springbok

Our charming waitress, Jess, informed us that the Chef changes a few of the dishes every week. So after about three weeks it’s completely different. I’d better book to go back then – you do have to book quite a bit in advance. Well, it is officially the fourth-best restaurant in South Africa. And certainly my favourite.

It was lovely sitting on the terrace on a lovely, still day. It’s often windy in Cape Town which can limit your al fresco dining opportunities. What a valley view it is.

Chef's Warehouse: view

The beautiful view in blues and greens

Today’s price point

Tapas for 2 is R700 for two people.

Chef’s Warehouse is at Beau Constantia wine estate, Constantia

Peninsular touring and seafood at Live Bait

Cape Town is frequently ranked one of the most beautiful cities in the world in those never-ending Best of… lists that pop up everywhere. I’ve spent a lot of time here – I know, lucky me – and it’s pretty much impossible to beat, there’s so much going for it. .

It’s scenically stunning and diverse with myriad beautiful beaches, the ever-present majesty of Table Mountain, forests, mountain trails and gardens and some of the most stunning drives you’ll ever experience. It has a warmth to its soul, a great energy and welcoming people. There are hundreds of fabulous restaurants which are great value – and of course there’s all that wine that has to be sampled.

I was recently reminded that African penguins live here (I didn’t mention the wildlife yet, did I?) so the purpose of today’s outing was to say hi them at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. I think I’ve been suffering from penguin withdrawal!

Our journey took us from Sea Point to the other side of the peninsular. It’s a magnificent drive through Camp’s Bay, past Llandudno and over Chapman’s Peak. The road clings precariously to the mountainside –  an amazing feat of engineering – and the sea shimmers down below.

Live Bait: Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most stunning drives ever

Once you start your descent Noordhoek Beach appears on your right. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, and even though I know it’s coming, the view elicits an involuntary gasp. And I always wonder who lives in that house! What a view they must have.

Once you’ve crossed over the peninsular it’s a slow meander through sleepy seaside towns to penguin-land on Boulder Beach. Hello little penguins! I felt instantly happier on seeing them.

Live Bait: Penguins

African penguins lap up the warmth of the sun

Penguin fix sorted we headed back towards Cape Town Central following the coast road until we got to Muizenberg. Famous for its beautiful beach and warm Indian Ocean (the other side of the peninsular sits on the Atlantic and is decidedly chilly), Muizenberg is considered the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. There’s a big surfing community here all centred around Surfer’s Corner. Which is where we’re headed – for a spot of beach-side lunch at Live Bait.

Live Bait is right in the middle of all the action with a long glass front looking out over the sea. It’s a beautifully blue view and there’s plenty of surf-related action to observe. Inside it has a rustic beach house feel which so perfectly matches the surrounding seaside vibe. There’s a lot of fish on the menu and a great selection of sushi which is freshly made in front of you.

Our delectable light lunch today started with a portion of Thai fish cakes to share. Shaped more like fish balls, they were lovely and light with well-balanced Thai flavours and a nice crunch.

Live Bait: Fish cakes

Soft and flavourful fish cakes with Asian flavours

For mains we shared a portion of tempura prawns – and a very generous one it was, too. Served with crispy fries, the prawns were perfectly cooked in the light batter and served with a dipping mayo. We asked for some chilli and mixed it into the mayo, making for a delightful spicy hit.

Live Bait: tempura prawns

The large pan of juicy tempura prawns

Live Bait: Prawn tempura

Close up on the delicious prawn crunch

There’s a relaxed vibe at Live Bait, it’s the sort of place I could see myself spending many an hour drinking wine, feeling fine and absorbing some of that Muizenberg chilled-out surfing attitude.

Live Bait: Interior

Beautiful blues and whites inside and out

Live Bait: Beach house

There’s a beach house feel throughout

This is your sea view. Which goes on  much further on both the left and right of this picture.

Live Bait: Muizenberg beach

Looking out at beautiful Muizenberg beach

While Muizenberg is great for swimming and surfing, it’s also home to Great White Sharks (more wildlife)! The area is well monitored though with shark spotters on high and at the beach who seem to know where the sharks are. I’ve been on the beach when the shark siren goes and it is a bit of a scary experience if any of your party happen to be in the sea. That Jaws music creeps into your subconscious! There are experts on hand to tell you about these powerful creatures and there’s plenty of shark-related advice posted all over the place (in several languages). Like how to be shark smart – do remember not to swim at night or if bleeding! The presence of the Great Whites certainly adds to the Muizenberg adventure.

Live Bait: Sharks

Beware of the sharks!

Oh and before I go, here I am with my latest penguin friends.

I can’t imagine there’s another journey more filled with beautiful views, lovely food and exotic wildlife. What joy – Cape Town I love you!

Live Bait: Boulders Beach

Me visiting the African penguins on Boulders Beach

Today’s price point

Starters range from R45-R85 (£2.70-£5.10)

Main courses range from R99 to R225 (£6.00-£13.60)

White wine starts from R125 (£7.50) a bottle and red wine from R130 (£7.85)

All conversions are at the today’s exchange rate.

Live Bait is at 70 Beach Road, Muizenberg

SeaBreeze Fish & Shell on Bree Street

Today we’re heading for lunch at SeaBreeze on Cape Town’s Bree Street. It’s a street on the edge of the City Bowl District (CBD) that I love meandering up and down. It’s home to our favourite pub The Crazy Horse (which sells English bitter to my husband’s delight), and plenty of bars, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants. It seems every year more open, yet none close so there’s even more to chose from. It’s all happening in Bree Street.

SeaBreeze Fish & Shell is up towards the mountain end of the street. Always handy when you have  something as  magnificent as Table Mountain to use as your landmark. It describes itself as “Celebrating the Mother City’s seafood heritage” – bring it on I say.

What’s on the menu

Of course it starts with with oysters. Three kinds in this case – Knysna (from the Garden Route), Saldhana (from the West Coast) and Luderitz (from Namibia). Everyone who loves oysters has their favourites, for me they can’t be too big or too creamy so it’s Knysna every time. They  have that perfect just-from-the sea flavour.

SeaBreeze: oysters

Juicy, saltily delicious Knysna oysters

The grilled prawns came deshelled with red slaw, sesame mayo, chilli nuts and some crispy noodles on the side. The sesame mayo was a wonder, perfect to dip those plump prawns in and add a bit of crunch with nuts and noodles. As we were up for a long lunch we asked if we could finish our starters before we ordered our main courses, our waitress was more than happy to accommodate us. What this did mean is that one of our party liked the prawn starter so much she ordered it again as a main-course portion. Now there’s a good dish!

SeaBreeze: prawns

Tasty, fresh prawns with plenty of crunch

I love fresh tuna but can’t face it if it’s been even slightly overcooked. I don’t know it seems to take most of the flavour out and and also gives it a mushy sort of texture, terrible way to ruin a beautiful piece of fresh tuna. So I was happy to hear the words: “Well done,  medium, rare or blue” when asked how I wanted mine cooked. Blue is the answer obviously. And this is what I got. A perfectly seared plate of delicious tuna served with charred cos, anchovies, quails egg and tomatoes.

SeaBreeze: tuna

Perfectly seared blue tuna

And now for something different – fish bunny chow. Bunny Chow (or Bunny) was originally a fast food dish of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry that was created in Durban, where there’s a large Indian community, in the 1940s. According to Wikipedia was also sold in Gweru, Zimbabwe during World War II and is still sold in Kadoma, Zimbabwe which is where I was born and grew up. Now there’s a bit of a surprise! Can’t say I saw any of those sort of bunnies around town in my childhood.

SeaBreeze: Bunny chow

Bunny chow with creamy Malay flavours

The bread was beautifully light, kind of brioche-like and the curry was Cape-Malay style, so mild and creamy. A delightful dish, one that makes me want to return purely so I can have one!

SeaBreeze: Bunny chow

Taking the lid off the bunny chow

SeaBreeze has a lovely chilled atmosphere and as befits its name has a seaside feel to it even though you’re not that close to the beach. The menu is all about things from the sea, though there is a steak choice available. But really you need to go there to celebrate the flavours of Cape Town’s choice seafood.

SeaBreeze: interior

The beach-style interior in blue and white

Today’s price point

Lunch for two including two starters, two main courses and a bottle of wine comes out at R655 (around £39 at today’s exchange rate).

SeaBreeze Fish & Shell is at 211-213 Bree Street.