Diane de Beer
Here tapas are defined as more of a style of eating than a strict spotlight on Spanish cuisine. Their menu combines mixed influences from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia and some great local flavours too. The only problem with the menu is balancing what to order so that you start smaller rather than going for too much too quickly. Think brilliantly balanced taramasalata with steaming triangles of pita bread and popcorn pork nibbles to balsamic beetroot with a fresh bite, herb-crusted fish goujons and traditional falafel. But it is the choice, how to select, how to balance the flavours and which way to go, that turns this into a fun event. The more people around a table, the merrier and the larger your cuisine possibilities.
They have a fine wine selection with many possibilities available by the glass. It’s handy if you’re popping in for a quick bite but also peep their cocktail and gin selections (which stops just shy of a hundred).
Even if the service is slightly distracted with so much going on, they’re quick to respond at a moment’s notice. The staff is well informed and guide you in your drink options.
It’s festive with lots of lights to create sparkle. Inside and out, hot or cold, everything is catered for. The design is cool and contemporary but the focus is getting people to have fun with equal measures of quality food, drink and friendship. They are part of a foodie street scene that has popped up quite smartly a little more than a year ago and has quickly drawn in the crowds because of the atmosphere.
It’s young and well thought-through, with no hitches to spoil the experience. Even the car guards guide you to a better spot if they see you might not quite get it right.
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Most of the food is served in portions that can be shared – the rump steak is sliced for easy sharing and served with chimichurri; the sheftalia (a type of Cypriot pork sausage) comes with pita pockets, tzatziki and a chopped tomato-onion mix; and Spanish meatballs are enrobed in salsa brava, a deep, rich and slightly sweet tomato sauce.
The hummus is worth your attention: made in-house, it’s silky smooth, with the earthiness of the chickpeas balanced by the lovely tastes of tahini and lemon. It comes with a small bowl of olives on the side.
Other smaller tapas include herb- and citrus-dressed mixed olives; marinated Danish feta with pita; chorizo-pesto lollipops; bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers; pan-fried halloumi with pickled mint cucumber; sticky chicken drumettes; panko-parmesan chicken strips with cheese sauce; Thai-spiced grilled squid with Asian dipping sauce (which a neighbouring tabled declares delicious); herb-crusted fish goujons with homemade tartare sauce; Portuguese-style chicken thigh skewers; and a meat-and-cheese board for two with pickles and preserves.
Don't end the night without having some churros with dark chocolate ganache. They’re fried on order so they might take a little while, but they’re worth the wait.
Hang in there; they’ll receive their liquor licence soon. For the moment, enjoy non-alcoholic drinks such as a nicely prepared watermelon-and-cranberry virgin mojito, pina colada, mango-and-mint granita and granadilla-sherbet granita. We taste a coffee Freezo (made by Illy), which translates into a perfect small dessert that’s probably low in calories too. In addition, they offer a number of gourmet iced teas such as very cherry and pomegranate rooibos, as well as some frappes, excellent espresso and other coffee-based drinks.
The restaurant opened recently, so it’s understandable that staff are still somewhat tentative and hesitant. Our young server forgets to mention the specials for the evening, for example, but on the whole, service from the entire crew is friendly. Once the inside and outside areas fill up, waiters will need to know what they’re doing. The owner/manager is, however, very hands-on, keen to answer questions and generally helpful in smoothing the flow of service.
Culture Club is a recent addition to a row of brand-new restaurants in this area, fondly known as the Parktown of Pretoria. Falling into that bracket between restaurant and bar, this is a great place to come for a drink and stay on for some good food. The main restaurant space houses the kitchen, ablution facilities, bar and a few high tables. The majority of the restaurant’s seating is outside on an open deck, under trees decked out in fairly lights. This, together with the buzz emanating from surrounding restaurants, creates exactly the right kind of ambience for a lovely evening outside in Gauteng’s balmy weather. (But I hope they have a trick up their sleeves for when it rains or the cold sets in.) The bar shelves are filled with a quirky collection of items such as Darth Vader, a Minion, cookery books and glassware.
It’s a pleasure to see that the designers have given some thought to all aspects: from the beautiful small blue water glasses to the textured panels against the bar counter, from the mix of French café-style and designer moulded-plastic chairs to an array of ceramic bowls and containers for serving the food. This is a perfect spot to visit with friends to enjoy a drink and share several small, delicious tastes.