By Jane Maliepaard
Photographs by Diane and Christoph Heierli (F&H)
and Sean Calitz,
Ronelle Rampersad (H&L)
Tapas is big - though these days it usually
comes with a twist, such as the bewildering
procession of pan-Asian tasting plates that are still wowing
the crowds at Cape Town's Haiku (Arts & Leisure December
Traditional tapas, the snack food invented by the Spanish
to accompany an aperitif or three in the early evening, has never been executed
really well in SA - an exception being those made by Theresa Beukes at Fino
in Parktown North, Johannesburg.
It was therefore a welcome surprise to hear about Fork,
a Mediterranean-style tapas bar in one of those narrow, double-storey
Victorian buildings that line Long Street, Cape Town. It's one of
many new restaurants popping up all over the city, many of them owned by foreigners
who are making Cape Town their base.
This one's called Fork because, our waiter informed us, "everything on
the menu can be eaten with a fork".
We arrived at the restaurant just before 8 pm on a Friday. Downstairs is given
over to a smoking section, including a small, inviting bar.
The welcome was warm and the atmosphere relaxed as
we were escorted upstairs to a low-lit dining room simply furnished with wooden
tables and chairs, and leading on to a balcony.
The prime seats are two white leather sofas on the balcony - perfect for a
laid-back, al fresco party of six.
We sat at one of the inside tables. Each of these is illuminated with old-fashioned
lamps on pulley systems. The napkins are red-and-white cotton tea
towels, and the wine glasses are fashionably oversized. Like the owners, two
likeable chaps who've done this sort of thing before in London, it's unpretentious
and easy on the eye.
The menu offers vegetarian, seafood, meat and salad
tapas, and we chose five plates to get started with. A complimentary
snack of crostini topped with tomato, garlic and fresh
coriander and creamy vitello tonnato (veal in tuna
sauce) didn't last long as we waited for our food.
An hour later, and after we had finished a Joubert-Tradouw Chardonnay (R120),
our order arrived. The owner was apologetic about the delay and generously
gave us our first bottle of wine on the house. Teething troubles are perhaps
understandable in such a new business (Fork opened in January), but with all
the competition restaurateurs need to hit the ground running to flourish.
I was looking for well-cooked, ingredient-driven food - isn't
that what Mediterranean fare, including tapas, is all about? So, something
as simple as a plate of cured meats and cheese served with a balsamic
glaze (R50) was enjoyable precisely because the Serrano ham,
coppa, salami and Grana Padano parmesan were of a high standard.
I liked the sound of grilled tiger prawns wrapped in
pancetta (R50), but next up was a pasta roll with emmenthal,
rocket and béchamel sauce (R25); and vegetable cakes
with swiss chard, parmesan and leeks (R25) to accommodate a vegetarian
in our party of four. Both dishes were beautifully cooked, the pasta handmade
and everything confidently seasoned, though the vegetable cakes could have
A highlight was the classic Italian beef pizzaiola
with capers (R40), tender fillet drenched in a deeply flavourful homemade
tomato sauce topped with mozzarella.
Our last choice was a salad of white chicory leaves with baby cos lettuce,
black olives, walnuts and gorgonzola dressing (R30), the crisp baby
leaves serving as boats for the chopped salad. With this we had an unwooded
Ntida Semillon (R93), a fantastic discovery from Durbanville.
Fork has an appropriately varied wine list with almost every
wine route represented. The only imports on the list are three French champagnes.
However, given that having tapas is an experimental, adventurous, sociable
way to eat, I was disappointed that there were only a handful of wines available
by the glass.
We enjoyed our tapas enough to order another round of the same (we were too
busy chatting to bother to look at the menu again). We also had side orders
of well-cooked, crisp French fries (R15) and less successful zucchini chips
In general, all the flavours in the dishes melded together well and the chef
deserves special credit for taking care to season everything