Chefs Warehouse & Canteen

A concept of a tapas set-menu only that seasonally changes and no reservations was somewhat unfamiliar to us, but it has become one of our favorite meal experiences. This is possibly the restaurant that started my obsession with taking photographs of dining experiences.

A while ago, there was a TV program my dad watched about a chef who had one of the top restaurants in Sydney for a few years. It told the story of a chef who left school at 14, and was working as a pot washer in a hotel kitchen in Dublin. One of the chefs in the restaurant asked him if he wanted to learn how to cook - and so, Chef Liam Tomlin’s phenomenal journey with food began.

The restaurant has a unique solution to accommodate their decision not to take reservations. Below the restaurant in Bree Street, there is a hole in the wall, which houses a bar where patrons waiting for a table can sit and have a drink.

Chefs Warehouse’s approach to offering 8 tapas dishes, served in 3 courses (with arrangements made for certain dietary needs) ensures that you are able to experience dishes you might never have ordered for yourself off a standard menu - and more often than not, you’ll end up loving them. The flavor combinations never cease to amaze me and leave me in awe of the art of cuisine composition.

We usually start off with the Oysters Vietnamese - for any oyster lovers (even the non-lovers), you need to try the oysters served like this! The Vietnamese vinaigrette is so delicious, you forget about the oyster in the shell that slips into your mouth.

On our most recent visit, we were treated to a delightful lunch by my uncle and aunt who were visiting from Pretoria. We started the meal off with the Migliarina Chardonnay - among the top 1% of all wines in the world!

The first round of tapas contained 3 seafood dishes: Yellowtail with Jalapeño Dressing, Tuna on Yellow Noodles w Aioli, and Deep-Fried Squid with Coconut & Tamarind Dressing and Caramelized Onions. The deep-fried squid makes a regular appearance on the menu, however it is always served differently. It’s usually my favorite out of the seafood tapas, and especially so on this occasion served with the caramelized pineapple.

The middle tapas course usually has a risotto dish which changes as the tapas menu changes and it’s always exciting to see what pairings Chefs Warehouse decided on. This time, our middle course consisted of Pan Fried Hen’s Egg with Black Bean Salsa, Asparagus & Crème Fraîche; and a decadent Smoked Onion Risotto with Brûlée Onions.

The last tapas dishes are usually the meaty main course style dishes. This time, we were treated to Bhaji Battered Hake with Paratha, Tomato Salsa and Garlic Emulsion; the most divine and fluffy BBQ Pork Neck Bao Bun with Pickle & Lime Aioli; and a succulent Lamb Rib with Caponata & Ricotta.

These dishes don’t only appease the eyes, they take your tastebuds on an extraordinary journey. Don’t underestimate the portions - you may end up feeling very satisfied before even reaching the extraordinary dessert selection.

Chef Liam Tomlin has a winning recipe with the setup of Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, and this restaurant will also be top on my list of favorites in Cape Town!

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