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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Browse in the adjoining cookbook shop where every foodie tome your heart desires can be found.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.