Traditionally the word ‘tapas’ refers to snacks or small plates in Spanish Cuisine, but it has become an all-encompassing term for any small plates designed for sharing at restaurants. We went in search of the best tapas and tapas-style offerings in Jozi.
The Grazing Room
Chef Marthinus Ferreira has created a fabulous spot that one could describe as a kind of ‘casual, little sister’ to DWEleven13. It’s a place where people can still enjoy that ‘Marthinus flair’, but in a more informal setting where you’re able to watch the chefs create a beautiful array of tapas in an open kitchen, surrounded by a bar and neat tables. You’re welcome for after work drinks and a quick bite or to book a table for the long haul so you can taste absolutely everything! Favourites include the pulled pork bun, crispy squid, fish tacos and mushroom arancini, or, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, you MUST try the churros with bitter chocolate sauce.
People seem somewhat undecided about their R180 ‘entrance’ fee: your bill starts at R180 per person which allows for 3 tapas each, excluding drinks. But, these are the people who brought us Cube Tasting Kitchen down the road, so you can rest assured you’ll be in good hands. Highlights include the Pasteis de Queijo (gruyere cheese tart with sweetened red onion and balsamic compote), the roasted pork belly and the gravadlax with potato rosti. They also offer seriously niche gins, whiskeys and boutique wines.
EB Social Kitchen
Chef Russell Armstrong has brought some really impressive credentials to this new, modern eatery - and with those credentials come a rather high price tag. The tapas-style menu offers a diverse and beguiling assortment of treats and is broken up into very small plates and jars, small plates and plates to share. From barbequed eel with crab, sushi rice, wasabi tobbiko and Japanese dressing and goose liver parfait with brioche and a sweet sherry foam to simple Cape Oysters with a salt water dressing – it’s a tapas menagerie.
Since it’s opening, it’s been jam-packed with happy customers who just can’t get enough of their delicious tapas and great atmosphere. The menu changes constantly, but the skinny fries with parmesan and truffle oil, smoked pork/chicken and halloumi spring rolls, butternut and ricotta gnocchi and sirloin steak tapas are regulars on the chalkboards. Another great aspect of Escondido is the fantastic, ‘tapas-style’ wine list with around 30 wines by the glass for you to pick and choose between at any one time.
They’ve become known for their top notch service and style as well as being seriously affordable – what more could you wish for? The lunchtime menu offers a sumptuous and varied selection of tapas including: Saldanha Bay mussels in a champagne crème, barbequed pork spare ribs, crispy calamari, prawn wontons, deep fried olives stuffed with feta and anchovies…the list goes on. The mussels and the Parma ham-wrapped figs will have you going back time and again.
Chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer is offering patrons a more casual, lunchtime, tapas-style menu; but with each dish still displaying his famed classic-with-a-modern-twist panache. The duck and hoisin spring rolls are outlandishly good, as is the steak tartar and the tempura tiger prawns…in fact whatever you order is guaranteed to be magnificent. They also have an enchanting courtyard perfect for afternoon, al fresco dining.
Their head chef is a master of all things fish (yes, in Joburg). You’ll find the most magnificent chilli and lime prawns, calamari and salmon. If you’re in the mood for something meatier, then there are also lamb koftas, crispy chicken wings and boerewors with chakalaka. One of the only restaurants in Monte with outdoor seating and, they have a superb wine list by the glass to boot!
See and be seen
You’ll be lucky to find a table here, so booking is essential. They’re hip and oh so very happening and their Mexican tapas is all about mixing slow-cooked comfort with crisp and fresh flavours. Their tapas menu, called ‘little plates’, hosts a multitude of moreish morsels including spicy chicken quesadillas, slow cooked pork taco or the fish taco – just awesome. Also make sure to get a jug of their fabulous Coriander and Jalapeño Margarita, it’s beyond delightful.
Schmooze with the best of them at Parkhurst’s trendiest spot while indulging in bits and pieces from their seriously, all-encompassing tapas menu. Ranging from nachos to souvlaki, bruschetta to BBQ ribs, you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy. (They even serve fresh Luderitz Oysters if you in a celebratory mood.) It’s a place that’s known for their cocktails and their party atmosphere.
Expect live music, lots of laughter and plenty of dancing alongside an extensive, tapas-style menu. Baked camembert, duck samosas, crispy calamari and a delightful array of chorizo and Spanish-inspired meaty treats are the call of the day. It’s the kind of place that invites you to share and be merry.
Social on Main
More live music, laughter and a serious social scene, but they also have their own onsite smoker that gives their ribs, brisket and pulled pork that extra succulence and signature smokiness. Try the farm sharing board for something homely and the zucchini fries with truffle Aioli and parmesan for something a little different.
An abundant selection of meze (Greek tapas) to choose from…seriously, they have just about everything you could possibly imagine! From prosciutto to chicken livers, black eyed beans to falafel, beautiful dips, great cheeses and, of course, lots of olives. Their calamari is a must!
It’s a restaurant that can pride itself in standing the test of time, and they’ve done it through offering their customers a well-priced menu paired with continued, great service and food. Their menu offers traditional Greek meze with lots of origanum and olive oil. Favourites include Plaka-style calamari, Sardines, butter beans in olive oil and dolmades.
Great Eastern Food Bizarre
The Great Eastern Food Bizarre will blow you away with their eccentric take on all things Asian; crispy fried tofu, dumplings, steamed buns, sashimi tacos, rice paper rolls and tabesaki chicken wings take centre stage. They also have a great array of Sake and Soju as well as a good selection of Asian beers.
They have a ‘Dim Sum & Asian Bites’ selection that’s perfect for getting a little bit of everything. You’ll find an assortment of mouth-watering steamed buns and rolls as well as crispy, deep fried samosas, spring rolls and wontons, all served with their signature sweet and spicy sauces.
- Kate Liquorish