WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Tapas is all about sharing – a meal, a conversation, leisurely unhurried sociable time. Growing up, that vibe was part of everyday life for Spanish chef Carmen Rueda, who oversees the kitchens at Coco Safar. Although Coco Safar isn’t a chef-led brand, owner Wilhelm Liebenberg tells us, they searched far and wide to find the right chef to bring their vision to life. They found exactly that in Carmen, whose experience includes training with French master pastry chef Olivier Bajard, heading up the pastry section in Heston Blumenthal’s experimental kitchen at Fat Duck, working with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and with Janice Wong in Singapore. Not surprisingly Coco Safar is now renowned for superb patisserie, coffee, and next level cafe fare.
The recently introduced evening tapas experience is international epicurean in inspiration rather than traditionally Spanish, and offers a choice of eight plates or four, for two people to share, with the option of swapping in alternatives from the main menu. The idea, Wilhelm says, is to make world-class food accessible to everyone, so you can walk off Sea Point Main Road into the Belle Epoque style cafe and feel transported to Paris or New York.
Our first four dishes arrived together and it was hard deciding on a favourite – beef brisket open ravioli were intense mouthfuls of rich, tender meat with a touch of mushroom powder and a dab of bright berry gel. The grilled aubergine was beautiful – cooked first sous vide it’s melting soft inside with a miso honey glaze, served with sweet potato mash and shimeji mushrooms.
A potato millefeuille is a reimagining of a pastry classic in vegetable form, crisp and intensely savoury. Light and crispy calamari are one of the swapins available if you’re in the mood for something simple and familiar.
A pretty palate cleanser sorbet gave us a breathing space before the next raft of dishes – a hearty but melt-in-the-mouth mutton casserole, reminder that tapas doesn’t have to look fancy to taste amazing, mushroom arancini, a lovely sea bass with herby cream cheese and fish broth, and poached leek on grilled pineapple with toasted mixed seeds.
After eight dishes we were happily replete, and the board of three enticing petits fours was perfect to toy with – miniature macaron, a mini bombe of intriguing buchu ice cream, and a melted dark chocolate-filled churro.
Good to note that Coco Safar’s food menu is halaal and they have a creative menu of non-alcoholic cocktails.
Coco Safar | 021 433 1336 | cocosafar.com