Brought to you by Valpré
What started off as a production kitchen catering for events quickly evolved into The Happy Uncles – a fine dining restaurant full of heart in Cape Town’s Salt River. In just a year, chef Anwar Abdullatief has created a space that celebrates food and the comfort of togetherness, earning him the Eat Out Valpré Rising Star Award 2023.
For this award, the recipient is chosen based on their contribution to South African cuisine and the industry, highlighting a winner who is going places and making a difference in the restaurant world. Chatting to Anwar, we can see why he impressed the judging panel.
Founded in August of 2022, with co-owners Riedaa Manie and Fuad de Vries, they built a space in an unassuming suburb filled with cultural heritage that highlights the roots and history of Salt River, as Cape Town’s first halal fine dining restaurant, paying homage to Anwar’s history and the diversity of local cuisine.
No newbie to fancy restaurants and fine dining, Anwar has kitchen experience at a plethora of the Cape’s most well-established restaurants, including Cavalli, Siba The Restaurant, Rupert & Rothschild, Clos Malverne and Jordan (with then chef George Jardine) – all before the age of 40.
Not only an esteemed and evolving local chef, Anwar is also a big fan of puns, bringing a cheeky and playful air to the overall impression of The Happy Uncles.
“The story of The Happy Uncles is basically an evolution of a little place I had in Paarl called My Cross Aunt (croissant) – I got lost in baking bread and pastries, hence the name,” he laughs. “A Happy Uncle is literally the opposite of a Cross Aunt. It was never supposed to be a restaurant.” What started out as a storage space for his cooking equipment led to him setting it up as a production kitchen. From there it evolved to private cheffing and events and small intimate dinners. “This then dominoed to people coming to the space once a month, which became once a week, and then it just turned into a restaurant. It all happened so fast, in a year.”
Anwar changes his menu around every six to ten weeks and has no specific set style of cuisine. You can’t label his creations or put them into a box. He finds naming his food a difficult question to answer, as his menus reflect his mood, the surroundings, what products are seasonal and available, and what he has the “gees” to create. At the forefront of Anwar’s mind is combining flavours that people can relate to, mostly for locals, and dishes that express love and connection through food. You can expect Cape Malay flavours, African twists, as well as a lot of classical French foundation flavours. “Most of the dishes I come up with always have a classic French base and then we will either modernise it or take it way back – do something different. I like to use all the humble ingredients and play on nostalgia.”
As his restaurant name highlights, Anwar is using food as a connector and a tool to bring people, cultures, history, and flavour together in a space that feels like family – something that should always be celebrated.
Images: Woolworths TASTE