By now everyone knows that Liam Tomlin is a food genius. If not, they should just have a meal here. From start to finish – from the sourdough bread to the bread-and-butter pudding – it’s beautiful, innovative, delicious food. Best of all, you don’t really have to make any decisions: on offer is a set menu of tapas-for-two, comprising eight dishes.
The menu changes regularly, but the result is always a fusion of cuisines, using some of the best local ingredients. On the day of our visit, the menu included Japanese, French, Mediterranean and South African influences. Highlights were the miso-charred salmon with soba noodles and mentsuyu dressing, the deep-fried squid with fragrant Cape Malay pickle and a curry emulsion, as well as the fresh tomato gastrique with homemade ricotta, semi-dried tomatoes and olives. And did we mention the risotto? There’s always a risotto on the menu, and it’s always exceptional. This day’s celeriac version with truffle cream was dreamy.
Dessert is not included in the set menu, but it is a worthwhile addition. The lemon posset is quite legendary – subtly sweet and light, it makes for a beautiful end to a beautiful meal. If you fancy something chocolatey, the selection of bon bons will hit the spot.
A small but exciting offering of carefully chosen wines, spirits, craft beers and ciders. They’re really proud of the selection, so no BYO allowed. The coffee is excellent too.
On point. Everyone is knowledgeable and attentive without being annoying. They’re also really good at knowing when to leave you to get on with your meeting. They don’t take bookings, so make sure you’re not in too much of a hurry. You can have a drink at No Reservations, the downstairs bar, or browse in the shop while you wait.
The canteen-style seating isn’t everyone’s vibe, but it works really well with the offering. If you’re in the mood for a leisurely meal, get a table outside and watch the traffic and talent of Cape Town rush past.
Business lunches or a date night.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
It’s simply not fair that anyone is blessed with the culinary imagination that Liam Tomlin possesses. Though the format remains the same, the same dish is rarely repeated here. Three fish-based tapas are followed by a break before two more dishes, one always a perfectly imagined and created risotto – on this night it’s a tomato risotto topped with semi-dried tomatoes. Another break is followed by the last three tapas, which will feature a red meat of some kind.
The seeming simplicity of the dishes – beef brisket with polenta, for example – belies the fertility of the conception and the highly skilled execution in the tiny kitchen by a young and enthusiastic brigade. The Cape Malay dressing that accompanies the kingklip and the pickled saffron onions means no other pickled fish will do in the future. The yellowtail sashimi is uplifted to sublime heights by the smooth avocado mayonnaise and the spicy flavours of the Vietnamese dressing. The fresh hake in a yummy coconut broth serves as a reminder of how well fish can be executed in the hands of a skilled chef.
If you have room, both the lemon posset and the crème brûlée are not overly sweet and offer an ending to a fabulous meal.
The wine list is excellent. You’ll find a good blend of familiar names and boutique producers at a fair mark up. There’s also a very acceptable set of wines that one can order by the glass, like Vinum chenin blanc, Ondine grenache and Natte Valleij cinsault. There’s also an exciting range of craft beers and imported teas. If you’re lost, ask a waiter. They offer very sound suggestions for what drink goes best with which food.
Like just about everything else to do with the Canteen, it’s great. The friendly and informed staff winds their way through the cluttered environment with aplomb, dispensing advice and food platters.
Cosmopolitan and full of hustle-bustle. The informal and communal seating arrangement puts you in very close proximity with your neighbour, leading to interesting conversations with the eclectic mix of nationalities that make their way to this bit of foodie paradise.
There are two great ways to while away the time waiting for a table – in the cosy downstairs bar, or browsing in the adjacent shop, where you’ll find an array of kitchen implements and cookbooks second to none.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.