Venues

Charango Grill and Bar

Charango Grill and Bar
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Cost
R80 avg main meal
Ambience
Contemporary cool
Food
Food from the Americas
Payment
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Ishay Govender-Ypma

Food
Peruvian cuisine needed a few attempts before Cape Town was ready to embrace it with gusto. Charango has scored the jackpot with the ideal venue in a busy part of Bree Street, killer design and an unfussy Peruvian-based menu of crowd-pleasers. Not to mention a vibrant bar with the apt signage “Pisco” in lights – the after-work crowd have been drawn to it like bees to the honey pot. You may be tempted to snack on a tub of sweet potato fries with burnt orange mayo while ordering. Rather opt for the flavourful and lighter dirt-rubbed tuna tacos and the spicy, zingy ceviche, made in the classic Peruvian style with a little sweet potato and corn on the side. Tiradito reflects the Japanese influence in Peru, with the raw fish cut Carpaccio-style, served in a spicy dressing. Charango does a pretty decent version.

The Churasco sirloin with chimichurri, the tender lamb loin with a red chilli pepper sauce, and the succulent brined and barbequed pork belly are all excellent choices for the main and perfect to share. Pair it with the refreshing courgette, cucumber ribbons and chilli. It’s slim pickings for vegetarians overall.

Keep room for the fairly authentic picarones – feather-light deep-fried doughnuts made from sweet potato.

Drinks
Pisco, the Peruvian brandy made from grape wine, is the order of the day. Try the rose and cardamom pisco sours or the orange and buchu one. There’s even one with rooibos. A decent wine list, but availability can be erratic, as can the coffee machine.

Service
Service is prompt and friendly but can lag at times.

Ambience
Charango boasts the furnishings and artwork of a restaurant that can easily be placed amongst the trendiest in London. Burnished copper tones catch the light in a space that gets rowdy most nights.

And...
The best seat for two is in the tiny booth at the window. There’s a small bar menu if you arrive between lunch and dinner service.

(September 2016)

Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

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  • Amy Ebedes

    The latest addition to Bree Street adds Peruvian flair to the already extensive range of options on the trendy Cape Town street.

    Its namesake, Charango, is a small Peruvian stringed instrument (much like a ukulele) traditionally made from the shell of an armadillo.

    The restaurant is fresh – just a few days old – and is already a much-talked-about and bustling hot spot.

    Food
    The food is inspired by Peruvian cuisine. Our waiter explains that this isn’t steak-and-chips dining. Rather, the sharing of a variety of dishes is encouraged.

    The smaller meals centre largely around fresh, raw fish dishes (ceviche and tiraditos) plus a few bar snacks and antichucho (kebabs), while the larger plates are barbeque grill-style dishes.

    The rainbow sea bass (R80) is light, cured with remolacha leche de tigre (beetroot tiger’s milk) that imparts a wonderful hint of smoky jalapeño. The just-cooked beetroot adds earthy undertones and provides a good bite with the soft fish.

    The dirt-rubbed tuna taco (R85) is a beautiful thing. The tuna is perfectly seared and lightly spiced, concealing a sweet, tangy, mustardy layer of guacamole and wasabi beneath it. A pretty slaw of ultra-fine carrot and red cabbage adds crunch.

    The five-spiced sweet potato fries (R30) are good by themselves, and even better paired with the burnt onion and orange mayo. Despite their appeal, in hindsight they’d be better suited for a bar bite or ‘wait-for-the-rest-of-your-table-to-arrive’ snack.

    The BBQ pork belly (R120) is exquisite. It has an ideal ratio of meat to fat and is unbelievably tender. The barbequed skin is lightly crackled, complementing the tenderstem broccoli and spicy pineapple salsa.

    Another meaty option is the lamb loin (R165), a fat-free cut, served medium rare. Tender, with a salty, barbequed exterior, it’s slightly sweet, particularly when paired with the sweet corn and tart relish. The hints of mint sauce finish the dish off perfectly.

    The desserts, however, are the highlight of the meal.

    Initially, I’m mildly disappointed with my choice of toasted quinoa crème (R55), particularly after tasting the chocolate dessert, but the deeper I venture into the dish, the more magnificent it becomes. The creamy quinoa marries the sticky rum butterscotch sauce with the burnt banana in a sweet matrimony. I’d come here for this dish alone.

    The blonde chocolate pave (R60) is beautiful, rich and decadent. Served atop a thin biscuit crust with a light dusting of cocoa, the seasonal berries balance the dish with their tart flavour.

    It is worth noting that vegetarian options are extremely limited: you can order but one ceviche-style dish of courgettes and cucumber with shitake, mint, garlic, chilli and miso (R55) and two bar snacks, the sweet potato fries, and flamed edamame (R35).

    Drinks
    Charango has an extensive list of Peruvian cocktails. Prices range from R45 for a traditional pisco sour to R65 for a Charango mojito. A pisco sour, for the uninitiated, combines pisco (traditional South American brandy) with lime juice, sweetener, egg white and bitters.

    The strawberry and rooibos sours (R50) tastes like what can only be described as a mature daiquiri. It’s smooth and slightly tangy with sweet undertones. The Pisco El Poncho (R55) is an interesting combination of pineapple and lime with a lingering vanilla aftertaste.

    The wine list is concise but broad. There are two to three bottles, and at least one glass, per varietal. Whites by the glass average at R45; reds at R50.

    Service
    Excellent. After seating us, the waiter introduces the concept of the restaurant, and is knowledgeable and attentive throughout the night. The manager arrives shortly afterwards and welcomes us by name. (All Eat Out critics dine anonymously, so this was simply good hospitality.)

    The staff appear to be legitimately passionate about the restaurant, and throughout the evening share anecdotes about the building and development of Charango, as well as what is still to come.

    Ambience
    As the pisco haze washes over you, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’re dining under a highway bridge in an unknown Peruvian city – but with a classy edge.

    Sit under the watchful eyes of Faith47 street art, surrounded by concrete pylons, exposed ventilation ducts, copper plumbing and bronzed, grungy mirrors.

    The acoustics are excellent (despite the busy adjoining pisco bar) and the lighting is warm.

    The only critique: some seats have a direct view of the television above the bar, which would create an unwelcome distraction in an otherwise cosy, contemporary environment.

    An outside deck adjoining the bar is ideal for after-work drinks, and almost the entire restaurant front opens up onto Bree Street for warmer evenings.

    And…
    Charango is not currently open on Sundays, but there are plans in the pipeline to offer Sunday breakfast and lunch. There’s also talk about developing a more extensive weekday lunch menu, based on the immediate success of the tuna tacos.

    (August 2015)

User reviews

  • I visited Charango Grill and Bar recently and it was the best food I've eaten since I moved down to Cape Town. I was thrown aback firstly by the speedy service (I think these are the best trained waiters - they serve from the correct side, they bring cutlery on clean plates with serviettes, serve the wine to perfection and know the whole menu by heart). The food is amazing - I had the Sirlion Tacos for a starter, the flavours explode in your mouth. It was so good that I had to order another round of tacos. I had the Pork Belly main, which was delicious. The flavour the corn and the orange dressing! Man, it is just beautiful. The dessert, the Chocolate Tacos, are something out of this world. The folder strooopwafel goodness, the different chocolate mousses, the popping candy - my heart, what a delight! I would go back to Charango every night of the week.
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  • I'd eaten at, and loved, Charango when it first opened, but had recently heard mixed reports, so was a bit apprehensive of a return visit. Nonetheless, I booked for our anniversary, to see for myself (bonus: I was able to get a table for two booked on the same day). We could book for the time we requested - no mention of different sittings, which I know another reviewer had negatively experienced. Fears allayed: the food was fantastic (the edamame and blackened tuna tacos were the standouts) and the service efficient and unobtrusive with our waiter having a good knowledge of the menu. Only negative was that the house ceviche was lacking a bit of a zing (which we told the waiter, and he said they were working on some new options). Oh, and the cocktails are worth a visit alone!
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  • I loved it! We ate there for a friends bday. We were a table of 6, the food was amazing, starters and mains. The waitress looked after our needs and checked in with us regularly. I can not wait to go back!
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  • The tuna tataki was delicious - fresh, succulent slices of tuna, dressed with fresh, zingy flavours. Ditto the ceviche - really a fabulous dish. The pork belly was moreish - in the sense that I wanted more - it is rather a small portion, and doesn't come with any carbs - or many veggies for that matter. I've had the tuna taco before - and loved it - but tonight the tuna was ever-so-slightly overdone. (It should still be pink in the centre, in my book. In fact, it should be mostly pink...)

    The decor of the space is beautiful - my only gripe is that some of the tables are pretty close together. That - and there are two sittings, so if you want to relax and enjoy the evening at a slower pace, I'd recommend going to the later one.

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  • Last night a friend and I went for supper at Charango Peruvian Grill and Bar in Bree Street. I read the reviews before we went and some were raving about the food and others were scathing about bad service. I also heard about it via the grapevine, that wonderful free PR campaign called word of mouth (us ordinary people). Off we went with no expectations. Well, what a delightful evening. Our service couldn't have been more excellent. The waiters were very very knowledgeable about the food, Peru, the drinks, etc. It was pumping and vibey and there were people actually waiting outside should a table become available. The manager came to check if we were enjoying the cocktails and then we quizzed him about the very contemporary menu that didn't seem all Peruvian, and we got an education about Peru's cosmopolitan food culture. Sonya and I can safely say the service was good given the busyness on a Tuesday night. Now to the food. I don't like ceviche, Sonya does and she liked it. She did however have some serious food envy when she saw and tasted my Dirt Rubbed Tuna Taco (guacamole, wasabi, slaw, miso). Our main meal: Sonya: Black Kob (langostine, quinoa, pak choi, soy. It was delicious! I tasted a piece. Mine: I'm on an eternal quest to find the best pork belly, so that's what I order when it's on the menu. It was described as brined, rubbed, crackled, tenderstem, pineapple. Man, I so enjoyed it I finished the plate even though I was full and couldn't possibly eat a morsel more. It was soooooooo delicious. Our waiter was the very handsome French speaking Congolese, Aime. He enticed us to have Pisco Sours. Mine was definitely the best: Rose and Cardamon Sours. Grapes, Pisco, rose and Cardamon xylitol syrup, lemon juice, egg whites. Odd combo, but it's such a delightful summer drink. Verdict? Eat where you like, order what you like. Use reviews as a source of information, it's not the be all and end all of eating out. Listen to what people say, but make up your own mind. Don't listen to me either. All I know is that I had a jolly good time and will definitely go back.
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  • This new Bree Street spot has been welcomed with open arms by Cape Town foodies. The interior is beautifully designed, copper linings, exposed brick, funky lightbulbs, all adding to the Charango Charm. The cocktail menu highlights the peruvian special, pisco, and offers many different options. I've tried their pisco sours on a few occasions. I have found them to be a bit inconsistent, but when it has been made perfectly it is amazing. My one criticism would be the use of Xylitol syrup...while this seems to be the current trend, I personally find Xylitol can leave an unpleasant after taste....each to their own in this department I suppose! Their wine list is extensive and extremely reasonably priced in my opinion. Moving along to the service - friendly, fast, non-invasive....a few creases to still be ironed out but otherwise their really isn't much to complain about. The manager has a clear presence on the floor which is always a good sign. Now the food. The true highlight of this place. Flawless fish tacos - and I really mean flawless, I could go there and eat 10 of these things. Lightly seared 'dirt rubbed' tuna with a mayo, a light wasabi kick and fresh slaw. Chef Kieran's homemade rub is outstanding. The tuna tataki is also glorious, so simple yet so delicious. The classic ceviche has a big citrus kick, and the 'new style' ceviche will be a great summer hit with it's grapey freshness. The mains are a bit on the pricey side, but the "black kob" with langoustine quinoa is a must-have! Beautifully cooked fish with delicious shellfish-y quinoa will leave you licking the plate. The sirloin is also covered in the 'dirt rub' which is extremely tasty but I was longing for more of their fresh chimichurri. Make sure you order a side of their sweet potato fries - triple cooked (I believe) to perfection. I have only tried two of the desserts. The toasted quinoa panacotta is deceivingly simple but with the bruléed bananas and butterscotch sauce you will want a second bowl. The blonde chocolate dessert is fantastic. Perfectly creamy, delicious biscuit base complemented with seasonal berries. Yum! Treat yourself to meal at this new Cape Town gem.
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  • An extremely disappointing dining experience, which could have been avoided by communication and better service. Upon booking for dinner for Friday evening, I was told that there are now 2 seatings: 18.30 and 20.30; we booked for 20.30. We all eagerly arrived and were seated outside - luckily it was a lovely Spring evening. Already a late dinner, we waited a good few minutes before having to call a waiter ourselves for menus and to order some drinks. Four of the six ordered cocktails, two ordered wine by the glass. The waiter then returned to inform us that due to the manic of First Thursday, the night before, many wine glasses had been broken and so they didn't have enough for tonight’s service but could offer us our wine in a tumbler. We preferred to wait for wine glasses to come available. The bar was unfortunately slow so the cocktails did take quite a bit of time. We then ordered a few starters for the table and knowing that they were tapas style dishes we knew to double up on the ‘popular’ ones e.g. tuna & prawn tacos so that we could all try them. We also ordered the Charango House Cerviche (R45), portion of flamed edamame beans in garlic and chilli (R35) as well as a portion of prawn tostado (R45) – between six of us, we each got a small taste of the offering and it definitely left one interested and keen to try further options i.e. main meals – we had booked for dinner after all! Our wine arrived sometime during our starters, and the waiter then informed the table that they were no longer making cocktails as they had run out of ingredients. We then asked the waiter if we could have the menus again as we would now like to order some main meals (approximately 21.45) - only to be told that the kitchen closed at 21.30 for main meals; only bar snacks were available which included a sandwich for R90. Unfortunately we were never ever told about this, especially as our dinner reservation was for 20.30 and not by our own request. When we brought this to the waiter’s attention, his reply was that he thought we were here for drinks. Our bill for one round of drinks and the tapas above totaled R970. Charango needs to decide what it is – a restaurant or a bar. If the kitchen closes at 21.30 for main meals then this needs to be communicated to patrons upfront; menus and staff should be waiting so that orders can go through asap; management should also be present to manage any teething problems as well as deal with and streamline orders. Blaming the “manic” of First Thursday and that you are a new establishment just isn’t a good enough excuse, especially as the owners are already involved in the industry.
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  • Quite possibly the worst service and most laughably bad dining experience I've ever had in Cape Town (or anywhere for that matter). Booked a table for 6. After being seated and waiting for twenty minutes with no service, we asked for menus. Five minutes later they gave us one menu to share amongst the six of us. So we started off with ordering some drinks. Some cocktails were not available, as they'd run out of certain ingredients. Then they couldn't give us wine glasses as they'd run out of those too, and offered us wine served in tumblers. Then they took around half an hour just to bring me the cocktail I did order. Then after eating the starters, which were good admittedly, we then wanted to order mains. The waiter said no, we couldn’t order off the main menu, as the kitchen was now closed – it was only 21h45 at this point. Apparently the kitchen closes at 21h30 on a Friday night?! He’d failed to inform us of this. I then proceeded to complain to the hostesss and the waiter, and was rebutted with excuses like they had a busy night the night before and that’s why they’d run out of ingredients, they’re a new restaurant and are still figuring things out, etc. So we ended up spending R150 a head on one drink each plus a couple of snacks for starters. We then went and ate our main meal somewhere else. An utterly pathetic dining experience and disgusting service. We will NEVER go back there.
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  • Quite possibly the worst service and most laughably bad dining experience I've ever had in Cape Town (or anywhere for that matter). Booked a table for 6. After being seated and waiting for twenty minutes with no service, we asked for menus. Five minutes later they gave us one menu to share amongst the six of us. So we started off with ordering some drinks. Some cocktails were not available, as they'd run out of certain ingredients. Then they couldn't give us wine glasses as they'd run out of those too, and offered us wine served in tumblers. Then they took around half an hour just to bring me the cocktail I did order. Then after eating the starters, which were good admittedly, we then wanted to order mains. The waiter said no, we couldn’t order off the main menu, as the kitchen was now closed – it was only 21h45 at this point. Apparently the kitchen closes at 21h30 on a Friday night?! He’d failed to inform us of this. I then proceeded to complain to the hostesss and the waiter, and was rebutted with excuses like they had a busy night the night before and that’s why they’d run out of ingredients, they’re a new restaurant and are still figuring things out, etc. So we ended up spending R150 a head on one drink each plus a couple of snacks for starters. We then went and ate our main meal somewhere else. An utterly pathetic dining experience and disgusting service. We will NEVER go back there.
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  • We popped in for an impromptu after-work drink (or two) and quick bite to eat. Knowing we wouldn't get a table on such short notice, we perched ourselves in the slick bar area. We could only order off the bar menu which wasn't a problem as there were ample options to choose from. Exquisite, fresh tuna tacos with a welcoming hit of wasabi, moreish edamame beans in a chilli and garlic salt, and five-spice sweet potato fries with the most satisfying orange and burnt onion mayo. The wine list has some nice, interesting choices and is reasonably priced. We'll be back!

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  • Firstly I'd like to commend the interiors, a superb job done. Food was tasty & well presented & really fulling, maybe too many fish dishes for carnivores, and the three desserts did not appeal. My gripe is service!!! On arrival we walk into, which I now know the Bar Area, however there was Gentleman in staff uniform at that entrance, and he did not even move as we entered or even offer a welcoming greeting, we were totally transparent to him. We then walk past several other staff members, where too we appeared to be transparent. I then approached from behind, the two servers standing outside asking them where we could sit? One was a welcoming charming gentleman named Tendai, whom informed us that they were fully booked, fantastic! I said being 5.50pm that we would eat & beat it, he found us a table for two that needed to be vacated by 8.30pm, perfect! He then proceeded to give us the evening menu, which we only found out when one of his arrogant colleagues, gave us a Bar Menu & told us we could only order from the Dinner Menu @ 6.00pm, I pointed out that, that was in 6 minutes, to which I was told, that it may not be at 6.00pm, to which I asked well what time could we order from that menu? Rudely informed when the chef is ready & that they fully booked, indicating that we were lucky to have a table. I asked if was possible to find out exactly how long after 6.00pm we could order from that menu, after a lot cheek & attitude from this gentleman, who was not the Manager on Duty, or our dedicated server, said he'd ask the chef. Why is it that some servers feel entitled because they are lucky to work in a newly busy restaurant & still have a certain rudeness towards customers? We waited for an indication as to the suitable time to order, but this particular gentleman failed to come back to us. I then approached another server asking for the Manager, when he approached us, I told him of our plight, he was extremely apologetic, and explained that true Peruvian style, they cooked on coals & the coals needed to be heated, my argument if your evening menu, begins @ 6.00pm prepare in time, but was happy to except this & not just a 'when the chef is ready!' I am just a stickler for good service, as we sadly lack it in this Country, and it will be my mission to compliment & criticise. Thank Tendai & Charango's Manger for your service, rest of staff sucked, and in my opinion, bad training! My other gripe, at the bottom of the Bill make a calculation of 10% & 12% 0t the Bill ,I find that in bad taste as TIPS... to insure perfect service, but from all staff. Where is basic wage?
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  • I really wanted to like this restaurant and while the food was good on the whole, the experience wasn't one I'll rush to repeat. I phoned through a booking to someone who sounded 'distant'. They called back shorlty after I called to confirm the day/time. They then called 10 mins before we arrive to ask if we're still coming and would we mind a tall table – not sure why. The acoustics are lousy so there's no chance of a casual coversation, you have to pretty much shout at each other. Our waitress explained the concept of sharing dishes which is great – we started by sharing the prawn tacos (R90) and tuna tataki (R70) both were exceptional if not a little small. We asked if we should place our order for mains or wait until we're ready, the waitress said she would take the order and then put it through when we chose. However the mains came 10 mins after our starters. We had the sirloin (R150) and the pork belly (R135), the flavours around the sirloin were great but the actual meat itself was pretty average, the pork belly was excellent. We were offered the sweet potato fries as a side (R30 per portion) which were a worthwhile – and necessary – addition. My wife had the Kleine Zalze (R45) and I had a punk hop draught (R60) and pickled porter draught (R55). On the whole the experience was fairly underwhelming and quite pricey considering the portion sizes. I generally don't eat more than a main but even with a starter, main and side I left feeling hungry. The EatOut review lists the average main at R80 which in incorrect they rangre from R90-R165, my sirloin was R150 and the side of fries takes it to R180. Also if you're going to charge R60 for a draught beer at least educate the staff about the brewery and the style of beer – it's the norm for waiters to know the wines so craft the beer should be no different. The waitress was pleasant but not attentive. The interior is great but sadly not enough to counterweight an average experience especially at R790 (incl tip) for a quick bite out.
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  • After a first glance at Charango's menu, I realised I didn't really know what Peruvian cuisine was! How happily educated I was on Friday night when 3 of us popped in on the off-chance of a table at this new spot. The team accommodated us swiftly and happily at the shared table next to the kitchen, and we were left in the very capable hands of Albert. I spotted the table next door having edamame, so we ordered those along with Prawn Tostado (at Albert's suggestion) to nibble on while we look at the menu. Garlicky, lip-smacking edamame and crispy, salty prawn toasts set the tone for what was to be a delicious meal. While the ceviche may have been lacking the citrus kick we were expecting, both the Rainbow Seabass and Seared Tuna Tataki delivered on flavour and presentation, while the Dirt Rubbed Tuna Taco with it's wasabi kick and Black Kob on a langoustine-infused quinoa base were the stars of the show. We also opted for the Cubanos (a Cuban cheese & ham pressed sandwich), served with sweet potato string fries, which may have been a better option for lunch. The wine list is one of the most reasonably-priced I've seen, with a bottle of Rickety Bridge Rose priced at just R100. The service was fantastic - Albert had the right amount of attentiveness and was very knowledgeable of the menu, and both the manager and chef popped over to check in on our experience. I will definitely be back to try other dishes (and get the tuna tacos again!).

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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Cocktails
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Smoking

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