This review is really a comparison between the tapas experience I had at Polpo in London, which was described as ‘one of the most exciting eateries to open in London’ and ‘the hottest table in town’, and the tapas experience I had at Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen here in Cape Town. I had a great experience at Polpo, and ended up at Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen only a few days later so I was able to compare them.
Chef’s Warehouse & Cookery School started at the top of Bree St, past Buitensingel. Yes, Bree St does continue that high, but not many people know that so a lot of people never even saw the Chef’s Warehouse. Now you can’t miss it. It has moved down Bree St to where Caveau used to be in Heritage Square. The one section is the shop selling top drawer kitchenware and cookbooks, etc. The other section is the restaurant, and between them is the fridges stocking the deli products where you will find some unusual ingredients and products. The restaurant is also the deli with shelves lining the walls and filled with sugar and spice and all things nice.
Polpo and Chef’s Warehouse actually have many similarities. Apart from being tapas bars which don’t take reservations, they have a similar feel in terms of decor. An older building revitalised and given some character through modern furnishing and some interesting features. The tables at Chef’s Warehouse are very narrow, and the seating is on stools. It’s not the kind of setup where you can settle in for the evening, which might explain why they close at 8pm. At Polpo we settled in, after waiting an hour for a table, we wanted to make sure we made the most of it.
At Polpo we ordered 7 tapas dishes between two of us. They are famous for their meatballs, so we ordered the pork & fennel as well as the lamb & mint. They were indeed delicious. We ordered a pizzette (basically a mini thin base pizza) with broccoli, chilli & garlic. We ordered the pork belly, the mixed fried seafood, the potato & parmesan croquettes and the Scandinavian flatbread. The food was very tasty and 7 dishes was definitely enough for the 2 of us. The cost of the 7 tapas dishes was £49, or roughly R900. Two bottles of white wine (mid-range on the price list) cost us an additional R1100. With the tip, the whole experience cost us R2200, or R1100 each.
At Chef’s Warehouse we ordered the tapas platter for 2. It cost us R130 each and consisted of 8 dishes. It was enough food for 2 of us and I have to say, the tapas were on another level. They were not just tasty dishes, they were original and visually impressive. It was impossible to eat any of the dishes without stopping to comment on the amazing flavours.
The wine list is short but the selection is well curated. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of Newton Johnson pinot noir (R38) with our tapas.
Service was attentive and friendly. There was also good knowledge of each of the dishes which is important when you’re eating such interesting food and the dishes are not necessarily on the menu as the tapas selection changes often.
I’ve spoken to several people who have eaten at Chef’s Warehouse and the feedback has consistently been very positive. This is a spot you need to get to.
The point of comparing it to my experience at Polpo in London (which was great), is to show that we have amazing food offerings in Cape Town which compare impressively to the food offerings in Europe. Not only is the quality of the food as good or better, the prices are in the region of one quarter what you would pay over there. We really are spoilt.