Taking over the former Warm and Glad space in Craighall Park, new Selva reproduces Portuguese classics with perfection, says Eat Out critic Rupesh Kassen.
Cuisine type: Portuguese
Best for: Heart-warming feasts with friends
Cost: On average about R150 a head
Parking: Find a spot on the street
Star rating: Food 5, ambience 4, service 5
While diners crowd Italian trattorias, French bistros and Spanish tapas bars, Portuguese restaurants generally cater to homesick migrants seeking in vain to fulfill their longing for mom’s home-cooked food. Well, search no more, as Selva seems to be the answer to quell this longing for a traditional, yet modernised, experience.
Selva’s small menus excite; they’re reminiscent of those of a small seaside café in the Algarve, showing great thought. The lunch menu, offered from 12 noon, includes options like salt cod croquette (excellent), grilled sardines, peri-peri prawns, clams and a mouthwatering bifana. If Portugal were to name a national sandwich, the bifana would be on the short list. It’s a popular street food in Portugal and a must try at Selva: Ooozing out of a homemade Portuguese roll, thinly sliced pork is marinated in garlic and spices and slow cooked until tender, before being doused in a fiery homemade peri peri and served with thinly sliced chips. Selva should have a drive through just for this deliciousness.
I’m generally guilty of coaxing my dinner companions into sharing so I get to experience what’s on offer. The starters here are perfect for that. As mentioned, the salt-cod croquettes, served six in a portion, deliver whispers of the sea in a crunchy nugget, well complemented by a fennel-and-olive-oil aioli. Clams steamed in an aromatic vinho verde (young Portuguese wine) with a cream-and-garlic sauce will ensure every last delicious drop of it is scooped up with the tiny shells.
For the main event you might like to try traditional options like grilled sardines, classic peri-peri chicken or the dry-aged sirloin with a port reduction and fried egg on top. Our choice of the grilled baby octopus with punched potatoes certainly surprised. For the more adventurous diner, the octopus had the perfect textural bite complemented by chargrilled notes, which taste like a perfect Portuguese adventure.
The heavenly cinnamon-sprinkled custard tarts (pasteis de nata, invented by monks in Lisbon’s Belem district) seem like they could be made to the original recipe and are a great finish to the meal.
A well curated range of South African wines is thoughtfully presented, and, along with some Portuguese wines, make for a perfect pairing with the cuisine. The Aperol spritz or white port and tonic are fun cocktails to start the evening. Thanks to the owners’ original background being in coffee, you can expect flawless flat whites, or treat yourself to a decadent 55% cocoa Valrhona hot chocolate.
Selva‘s superbly trained staff will welcome you; they’re friendly and chatty without being intrusive.
The restaurant is located in the old Warm and Glad space, which has been simply transformed with soft lighting and deep blue walls, and warmed with Persian carpets and walls dotted with vintage photographs.
Make sure you pop into their trendy wine bar next door, Ace + Pearl, for a night cap.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read more about our editorial policy here.