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New review: Kloof Street’s newest tapas spot, Chalk and Cork

Kloof Street’s buzzing midsection has been undergoing some changes: restaurateurs Marc and Amy Botes took over the Mozzarella Bar space in July, and reopened as Chalk and Cork on 1 September. The couple both have impressive CVs – they met, in fact, while working for Gordon Ramsay (Marc was head sommelier; Amy a supervisor). Neighbourgoods Market regulars may recognize the couple from their stand selling chorizo ciabatta rolls (although they’re taking a break while they find their feet with this new venture). Their new concept? A wine and tapas bar. We put the menu – and restaurant – through its paces.

The food

The tapas menu includes a good variety of pint-sized meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes – plus a handful of woodfired pizzas for hungier patrons.

At R70, the sirloin steak with bone marrow, gremolata and creamed spinach is one of the pricier tapas dishes, but the steak portion is generous for a tapas dish – and nicely cooked. The flavour of the creamed spinach is perhaps a bit one-dimensional and the creaminess overpowers the gremolata, but the fried bone marrow adds a necessary crunchy dimension to the dish. This is a hearty dish for those who don’t mind managing a bit of gristle.

Butternut ravioli pockets are drenched in burnt butter and sage and covered with grated parmesan. They’re tasty, cheesy and buttery, if lacking the delicacy and nuance of flavour one might find from an Italian home-made pasta dish.

Other signature dishes include the tortilla (the Spanish omlet kind, not the Mexican variety) – recommended runny, with a plate of chorizo and red pepper – and the quail eggs with paprika salt.

The woodfired pizzas come in four fairly classic combinations, and can be ordered in banting-friendly cauliflower base version. The base might not have the depth of flavour of the carb version, but it holds together thanks to the egg content.

Dessert is a real treat. The vanilla panna cotta is served in a bowl and half covered with buttery crumbs and half with strawberry compote that was tart, rather than too sweet. It brought beautiful balance to the end of the meal.

The flourless chocolate cake was the epitome of indulgence: chocolate fans should make an effort to visit simply for a slice. Yum!

The food at Chalk and Cork. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The drinks

Owner Marc has put his experience as sommelier to good use: the wine menu offers some unusual options from lesser-known farms like Mooiplaas, Catherine Marshall in Elgin, Julien Schaal in Elgin and Intellego in the Swartland.

Also on offer is a respectable range of craft beer and cider, and for those who love the orange Italian spirit – Aperol spritzers.

We drink fresh, squeezed juices with our lunch – always a relief to be served juice that is extracted on site from real fruit rather than syrupy concoctions poured from plastic containers.

Service

Our waiter is helpful and friendly and ever-ready with suggestions and guidance around unfamiliar dishes.

Ambience

Rustic wooden tables, small pot plants on the tables and white walls make a pleasant backdrop if you’re prone to photographing your tapas. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. An outside area under the oaks makes for a lovely lunch spot on sunny days.

The exterior of Chalk and Cork. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

And …

It’s a bonus to be able to order bubbly by the glass. There is a choice between the Sterhuis blanc de blanc at R52 or the Silverthorn ‘the green man’ at R65 per flute.

The verdict

It’s a little early to pronounce one – and there are certainly some areas that could be improved – but Capetonians certainly love tapas and we’re looking forward to sipping new, unusual wine under the oaks in the balmy evenings of summertime.

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