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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia

Tapas for 2 at Chef’s Warehouse, Beau Constantia 

I’m back! Finally! Apologies for deserting Eating Covent Garden for so long – I have been travelling the world, like really travelling the world! Since my last post in December I have spent time on four continents (two for the first time) and I have so much to share with you all. So watch this space.

I’m starting with my latest restaurant discovery in the stunning Constantia winelands in Cape Town. Yes, I’m back in Cape Town, hooray, and straight into one of the country’s top restaurants.

Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia opened a couple of years back and was voted the fourth best restaurant in South Africa in the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards 2017. There are myriad great restaurants in this foodie country so that’s quite an accolade for such a youngster.

It sits at the top of the Constantia Valley with views over vines and forests towards the ocean. This makes the parking lot seem a little perilous, particularly for the vertiginous – make sure you’re steady on those heels if you’re thinking of wearing them. The restaurant is a modern, glass-sided construction which certainly makes the most of the views.

What’s on the menu

As soon as we were seated with a glass of their lovely Pas De Nom MCC bubbles (the perfect way to start any lunch), my dreaded menu indecision loomed large! Until I spotted the magic words Tapas for 2. No choices to be made here, it’s eight dishes to share. Makes life easy.

Dishes arrive in groups of two or three in three batches – I guess you could call it three courses. We started with a triple-plate sensation. The coal-seared tuna came with warm black bean and walnut salsa and a fresh apple and ginger relish, on a plate with a visually confusing foam design. There is no foam with this dish – it’s the plate!

Beau Constantia: tuna

Coal-seared tuna served with crunchy black bean and walnut salsa

My favourite of the first trio was the line fish sashimi. A beautiful curry-based concoction with the freshest of yellowtail, Cape Malay pickle, bbq garlic emulsion and fried batter. Seems like the perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Beau Constantia: sashimi

Fresh line fish sashimi with spicy flavours

The Vietnamese BBQ beef came with herbs, toasted rice and a zesty Vietnamese dressing. Love those fresh, clean flavours and the herby crunch.

Beau Constantia: Vietnamese beef

Rare, herby Vietnamese-style beef

After a short break the next duo was delivered. Described as Beau tomato bruschetta, smoked, pickled and grilled, a bowl of tomatoes done three different ways was topped with garlicky, thin slices of toasted bruschetta. I love a tomato – pretty much any tomato – and these were in a league of their own.

Beau Constantia: tomato

A tomato extravaganza in a cup

And then the ultimately indulgent dish. Parmesan and smoked butter risotto with red onion bordelais and fried Swiss chard, all topped with a delicately creamy, cleverly crafted gouda flower. I love the creaminess and softness of a good risotto but always balk at eating a full portion – it’s just a bit rich and filling for me. What joy to share a small portion of this deliciousness between two. And never has gouda tasted so good. Needless to say we both wished for a bigger portion once we’d cleaned the pan. Probably the nicest risotto I’ve ever tasted.

Beau Constantia: risotto

Luscious parmesan and smoked butter risotto

The final tasty trio

So how could it get any better? Well, there were still another trio of masterpieces to come. The slow roasted pork belly was served with  an apricot and miso tart, cashew nut milk and garlic and thyme oil. The tastiest of pork that fell apart at the touch of a fork and was topped with the crispiest of crackling matched wonderfully with the creamy cashew nut milk (there’s a first for me). And the light and crumbly miso tart, topped with firm, tart cooked apricots was the ideal accompaniment.

Beau Constantia: Pork belly

Delightful pork belly with flavours of apricots, miso and cashew

Firm, flaky hake came with a delicate yet intense parmesan and anchovy puree and was topped with paprika and lemon cream. The dainty fried polenta cubes, salty capers and crunchy spring onion completed another masterful dish.

Beau Constantia: Hake

Lemony hake teamed with parmesan, polenta, paprika and anchovy puree

And finally it was time for some lovely lamb. The adobo rubbed, slow-cooked rib came with red onion, heirloom tomato pickle, burnt butter and mixed pepper jus. Tender richness to savour.

Beau Constantia: lamb

Adobo rubbed slow-cooked lamb rib

I’ve fallen in love with Beau Constantia. How can you not with a view like this? And all that great food – light, fresh and cleverly balanced – and all looking so beautiful – like the greens and blues of the outlook across the valley.

Today’s price point

Tapas for 2 comes in at R700 (about £41 at today’s exchange rate).

That’s for both of you, not each.

A bottle of their delicious Rose was R180 (just over £10 at today’s exchange rate).

Find out more at beauconstantia.com