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Review: Kloof Street’s new rooftop bar, The Dark Horse

Kloof Street is undergoing something of a revival lately, and some of the coolest new spots in town are opening up on the famous Cape Town street. One of the newest is The Dark Horse, which comes from the same team who brought hidden gem Black Sheep to life. Sitting at the top end of Kloof, this little bar-meets-eatery is already making a name for itself. Jess Spiro heads down to investigate.

Fast facts

Cost: Plates range between R45 and R90
Food type: Tapas
Star ratings: Food and drinks: 3; Service: 3; Ambience: 4

Food

Black Sheep is widely known for its sharing-plate style of food, and a similar menu has been set up at The Dark Horse. This is mostly where the parallels end. Where Black Sheep is decidedly a restaurant, The Dark Horse feels a lot more like a wine bar with a strong food focus. The menu appears on a blackboard on the wall and comprises a fun mix of ideal bar snacks and more refined plates.

The Cajun ‘potato skins’ with chilli jam and a yoghurt dipping sauce are everything you need to appropriately line your stomach. The dish features fried flat thick-cut potato wedges that you top with tangy yoghurt and spicy jam. Also on the menu are spinach, feta and dill spanakopitas. The filling, while really tasty, is unfortunately completely overwhelmed by a very thick layer of phyllo pastry, causing the spanakopitas to be undercooked in the centre. The tomato puff pastry tart, however, brightens things up. Plump baby tomatoes sit atop an olive tapenade and are covered with a generous melting of mozzarella. It’s a dish I’d happily go back for.

The Cajun potato skins

The Cajun potato skins. Photo by Jess Spiro.

Other eye-catching dishes worth returning for include tuna tartare with prawn crackers; baby gem salad with blue-cheese dressing; and crispy cauliflower with coppa and a caper dressing. If you’re going to opt for the cheese board, beware: Though described as ‘artisanal’, the run-of-the-mill cheeses are served with a rather sad side of Provita crackers, digestives and a few preserved figs. While enjoyable, it’s a little disappointing if you’re not prepared.

The tomato puff pastry tart

The tomato puff pastry tart. Photo by Jess Spiro.

If you’d rather have something sweet, go for the strawberry and lime curd Eton mess or the pineapple dessert with vanilla rum butter and coconut ice cream.

Drinks

The drinks on offer here are exactly what you’re looking for. There’s a really great cocktail menu featuring classics like negronis, Old Fashioned cocktails, martinis and the like, as well as a great range of local craft beers on tap and by the bottle. The wine list is stellar, with some niche wines from Fram, Alheit and Fable available at reasonable prices.

Service

The service is a little hit and miss. You may be confused upon entry about how seating and ordering works, but it’s relatively simple. After opening a bar tab, you’ll have the choice between ordering at the bar or having table service. The staff are lovely, warm and welcoming, but could do with some more training to have better knowledge of the menu and pay more attention to detail.

Ambience

With moody lighting and comfortable bar and couch seating, this really is the ideal date night spot. Meet for a drink then decide if you want something to eat – it’s perfect for a choose-your-own-adventure kind of night. There are two great outdoor seating areas, one facing Kloof Street and another roof terrace. It’s pleasantly full and vibey.

The wine-bar ambience at The Dark Horse

The wine-bar ambience at The Dark Horse. Photo by Jess Spiro.

Best for…

Date night and/or light bites with wine.

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