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Chefs Warehouse and Canteen

Chefs Warehouse and Canteen
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Cost
Set menu R750 for 2
Ambience
Groups
Food
Modern, Tapas
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
No BYO

Critic's review

John Maytham

Food
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.

Drinks
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.

Service
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.

Ambience
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.

And…
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.

(September 2017)

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

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  • Ingrid Jones

    Food
    Every dish is a sensory experience that’s easy on the eye and pleasurable on the taste buds. It’s fine dining, democracy style. The tapas for two to share are served in three courses so you can take a breather in between to savour every morsel. The perfectly plated and presented little meals are more filling than you expect, and just when you think you can’t possibly eat one morsel more, out comes another set of dishes to which you can’t possibly say no – and your taste buds applaud.

    It’s hard to decide what is better: crisply fresh tuna tartare with crunchy nut crumb and croutons, melt-in-the-mouth pork belly, the tender venison with rainbow carrots, or the truffly saffron risotto.

    You might go completely overboard and order all the desserts. The lemon posset is joyfully tart, and the rich, yet subtle, crème brûlée is definitely of the best around. It’s innovative and original.

    Drinks
    The wine list is quite extensive, with an interesting selection of craft beers and artisanal teas. It’s great to pair the different courses with a different wine. The waitrons are very knowledgeable about what to pair with the different dishes, and are spot on with their suggestions.

    Service
    No nonsense, friendly and informed. Waiters don’t hover; they instinctively know when to appear to clear, suggest a wine or add clean cutlery. The food philosophy here is that everyone is entitled to good food, hence no table reservations. If there’s a spot available at the communal tables, it’s yours. The democratisation of great food for everyone.

    Ambience
    Bustling. You feel like you’re somewhere in an international city. The close proximity of the tables tones down conversations that would otherwise be overwhelming in a bigger space. Sharing communal tables, whether perched on the stoep or inside where the shelves are covered with covetable kitchenalia, you feel part of the culinary world.

    And…
    Browse in the adjoining cookbook shop where every foodie tome your heart desires can be found.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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User reviews

  • uper trendy place, with a weird little bar to sit in if you arrive early. The food was great. Beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. The service was friendly, but I thought it was way too fast. the service was too fast. We spent exactly an hour there, from start to finish. I know they have sittings, but it felt as though our waiter was trying to turn our table as fast as possible. Plates were taken away before they were completely finished and the next course was out as soon as the previous was finished. After our meal we still had some wine(about a glass each) as it is crazy to drink a whole bottle in under an hour, and the waiter brought our bill before we were done without us asking. Making us feel like we need to go. It was very uncomfortable and really was not a great experience.
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  • Chefs Warehouse and Canteen came highly recommended by Delaire Graff restaurant’s head chef, Michael Deg. I, therefore decided it is a must visit on my next trip to Cape Town. Chefs Warehouse and Canteen does not take bookings, so best to get there early. At first, I thought it would be an issue to get a table. However, this was not the case, as I arrived about 45 min before they opened (Yes, I was quite eager). It was however 45 minutes well spent in their store, my credit card might tell a different story. If you are a foodie, you would have a great appreciation for this store. There are so many interesting things to use, in and around the kitchen. They also have an interesting collection called “books for cooks”. The bookshelves were divided into different categories. Some of the authors included; Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White as well as the owner of Chefs Warehouse, Liam Tomlin. Liam Tomlin is an Irish-born chef and no stranger to the culinary world. He has worked with culinary icons like Shaun Hill, Mark Edwards and Richard Corrigan. He has published a number of cookbooks and together with his wife, Jan, they own and run two other restaurants (Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia and Thali) as well as a bar (No Reservations) in the Cape Town. As I was waiting for the canteen to open, I made a new friend, Bailey, the Chefs Warehouse dog. Bailey can be seen either on the patio or snuggled up in his bed. If you see him give him a pat, he loves it. The clock struck 12 noon and the moment of truth arrived. It was time for the canteen to open their “spoon handled” doors and let some hungry clients enter. There were already a few people seated by the time I entered, however, I was still able to get a great seat. Yeah!!! (Happy dance). I would recommend being at the canteen about 10min before they open for service. They have seating inside that can accommodate up to 40 people as well as weather dependent seating outside for an additional 24 people. All the tables are communal tables that create an interesting vibe, where it is easy to make new friends during your meal. The dining experience is casual and based on sharing of great food. If you are two or more, the tapas are served over three courses. If you are dining alone, like I was, do not fear. They would still be able to provide you with four items of your choice from their tapas menu, over two courses. I am sure you would be able to order the entire menu for one person, but finishing it might be a challenge. All of their tapas sounded fantastic, and it was hard to narrow it down to only four. I decided to have whatever four dishes the chef recommended. It was rather exciting as I had no idea what I was having for lunch until the food arrived. While waiting for the food, I took a look around the restaurant, the décor was unique and well designed. The main black door to the canteen had a creative personal touch with large black wooden spoons as door handles. The red wooden sliding door, separating the canteen from the store creates an interesting focal point and tied in well with their logo and the red exposed features and trimmings. The bar counter and service area is finished with a vintage look mirror that reflected light into the space. The Spanish-themed flooring was gorgeous and very appropriate as the canteen serves “tapas”, a very popular Spanish way of dining. There are food products available to purchase in the canteen. They vary from Tannie Evita’s Darling product range, to dates, to a variety of spices and other ingredients. These items are great to keep in your pantry and also makes for brilliant gift ideas. The service at the canteen was excellent. As I was seated near the kitchen, I could hear “service, service” every few minutes. I was amazed at the speed that this team worked at, and how calm they all looked. This was obviously not their first time doing this. The first two tapas that arrived were the, deeply fried squid and tuna tartare. Both the dishes looked and smelled amazing. I could not wait to start. The deep fried squid dish looked so fresh with the greenness of the basil leaves as well as the pesto. The squid was crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. The baby potatoes were soft, and light and together with the pesto and aioli just melted in your mouth. The chorizo added a little bit of a spiciness to the dish, really complimenting the other elements. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of chorizo and was not sure about this in the dish when it arrived, but after tasting the combination of flavours, it was required to push the dish from good to amazing. Hands down my favourite dish. The second dish was, the tuna tartare with a nigiri dressing topped with micro herbs. The flavour combinations worked well, and in between each bite, you get a few sesame seeds adding a nutty flavour and a delicate crunch to the dish. There were a few fresh pomegranate seeds sprinkled on the top that added a surprising burst of a sweet and sour flavour to the dish. I used the cracker to scoop up the tartar, this crunch element was delicious. The last two tapas that arrived were the pan fried silverfish and brisket with saffron risotto. The pan fried silverfish with tomato gastrique, semi dried tomatoes and olive tapenade was plated beautifully. Each element was prepared to perfection. The fish was so crispy on the outside, and as I cut through, I could hear a very light crack. It was like music to my ears. The centre of the fish was cook perfectly and was jam-packed with flavour. The tomato gastrique added colour as well as an extra tomato element to the dish. The olive tapenade was a bit salty on its own, but together with all the other elements, it balanced the dish beautifully. The combination of the crunchy fish, soft tomatoes and olives just took this dish to the next level. My taste buds felt like it was on a roller-coaster, and boy did they love that ride. I loved the plating of the brisket and saffron risotto it was very simple but elegant. The brisket was cooked to perfection, it pulled apart easily, and once you take a bite, the meat just melts away. The risotto was silky and smooth, and the flavour combinations worked very well. The colour of the saffron risotto made the dish stand out. I was at the end of my tapas experience and pretty full, but if the dessert tasted even half as good as the tapas, I was not going to pass it by. All the items on the dessert menu sounded amazing, and once again I asked the chef to choose. The chef’s choice was the rose water pannacotta. The pannacotta was smooth and set perfectly, still with a little bit of a wiggle. The meringue was delicious and light and added a hint off sweetness. The crunchiness of the nuts, together with the freshness of the mint leaves, and pomegranate seeds tied the dish together perfectly. This dessert was a great finale to a fantastic meal. As I finished my dessert, none other than Chef Liam Tomlin walked through the black door. I was lucky enough to meet him and have him sign my “Lessons with Liam” cookbook. While talking to him, I experienced a little bit about this humble chef and what made him tick. Talking to his staff and seeing their respect and gratitude towards him, and experiencing how proud they were to be part of his team made me realise what a great leader he is. If you love the dishes, you can attempt them at home, with the help of Chef Liam’s “Tapas” cookbook. It does not matter whether you are a professional or amateur chef, foodie or wine lover, or just having lunch this is a spot not to miss. The great thing about this restaurant is the fact that the menu changes daily and therefore you can dine here often and have a different culinary experience every time. Chefs Warehouse and Canteen has great food, great staff and a great vibe. Chefs Warehouse and Canteen, without a shadow of a doubt, gets the DBM splash of approval.
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  • Chefs Warehouse Bree Street happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in Cape Town. As a chef based in London this restaurant never disappoints. Chef Liam is an incredible maestro at providing the wow factor with his dishes each dish has a taste sensation unlike the previous one! I have the utmost respect for Liam whom i admire as a chef, he and his wife Jan make a formidable team in the restaurant industry in Cape Town. They never disappoint me which is why I never miss a visit when i am in Cape Town.
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  • Possibly the best spot in Bree Street when it comes to food. Set in an unpretentious deli-style space with a well-curated drinks menu that includes quality wines and craft beers, the selection of 8 dishes left just enough room for a dessert and coffee to end off the evening. Incredible flavours, fresh ingredients, generous portions - and while you're there you can grab a few favourite cooking ingredients from the shelves - from wood-smoked honey to sesame oil and frijoles negros. A must-go for all foodies.
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  • Now for 2 years I've been saying my top spot on the culinary food map in Cape Town is Chef's Warehouse. What better place for a foodie to sample and share 8 different places of usually outstanding quality and taste and style! And when I reccommend a place so frequently and highly, I mean it, and I give assurance of the best meal out. The first round of plates last night made gave me affirmation once again that my tapas sharing partner and I were in for a treat! Exquisite plating and unbelievable tastes - the yellow sashimi with black bean salsa blew my partners mind and the squid with nori puree and pickles was amazing! Next up, an overly salted onion risotto - but with beautifully caramalized onions on top - , then a vegetable 'Grecque' which stunned me in its lack of taste and meaning? The kingklip was slightly overcooked, the pork fillet was okay, the beef tartare lacked seasoning, taste and lustre. So the meal went from amazing to underwhelming each round, I feel let down. Judging from last night, Chef Liam is concentrating too much on his other ventures and consulting, and has taken his eye off the ball at Chef's Warehouse... pull your socks up Chef and give me confidence again in my favorite restaurant!
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