I don’t like to review (although I do like to preview) restaurants when they have just opened, I prefer to give them a couple of months to settle in. I may have taken that policy a bit too far with Hallelujah, seeing as it has been open for over a year already. My word, time does fly these days! What got me there eventually was a perfect storm of me wanting to go there for dinner and someone inviting me to join them there for dinner.
Why was I suddenly so keen to eat at Hallelujah? Well, I had recently seen this tweet:
Now if you’ve read my Chef’s Warehouse review, you will know I’m a big fan of the place and rate it the best tapas offering in Cape Town. So either someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, or I am really missing out! So I was very happy when I was fortuitously invited to join friends for dinner at Hallelujah soon after seeing that tweet.
The restaurant sits on a road which is home to some of my favourite restaurants, Kloof Nek Road (turn left at Rafiki’s as you head toward the mountain). Hallelujah is situated right next door to Kyoto Sushi garden, one of my favourite Asian restaurants, and over the road from Miller’s Thumb, one of my favourite relaxed dining spots. On the corner you have The Power and The Glory if you fancy a pre or post-dinner drink. If you’re allergic to hipsters you could also have that drink upstairs at Rafikis.
Talking about hipsters, Hallelujah is very hip. It’s very New York with it’s small space, trendy decor, counter seating and limited menu (not that I’ve been to New York lately, just going on what I’ve read). You pick up that vibe straight away just from the exterior, with it’s name written in neon pink lights. It’s appealing, I have to admit. Anyone with an ounce of curiosity would want to eat there.
Their policy is that you can book tables for groups of 4 or 6, if there are fewer of you then you have to grab a seat at the window counter (walk-ins only). There are only 4 or 5 tables so I advise you to book. It’s a very small restaurant, seating for about 25 maximum. Half the space is dedicated to the bar / kitchen. It gives it a busy vibe, even though there are not that many people.
The decor is unusual, but not overdone. The scene is set with some prominent elements like the pink flamingo wallpaper and the retro longboard on the wall, then the rest is mostly functional. The lighting is soft, which is great for the ambiance (but TERRIBLE for photos! I have to apologise, these were all taken with my phone and even after applying some filters they still look terrible!). I didn’t notice if there was music or not, which I suppose is a good thing. Service was friendly and attentive, no complaints in that department.
The menu is quite limited, which is not a problem. I do prefer fewer dishes done well than a big selection of average dishes. There are 3 seafood options, steamed mussels in a lime & butter sauce (R88), grilled prawns on steamed buns (R98), lobster on a New England style roll (R128). The 4 meat options are, beef tataki (R78), pork belly on steamed buns (R78), spicy chicken wings (R78) and duck on soft ramen taco (R88). There are 3 sides to complement the dishes, vegetable suprise (R64), pickles (R48) and green papaya salad (R48). The one dessert is banana bread ice cream in a fresh guava pond (R64).
So we ordered everything. There were 5 of us, so we doubled up on the duck and the pork belly. The highlights were the beef tataki, pork belly and duck. The pickles were surprisingly good and the vegetable surprise was also quite interesting mainly due to the cashew miso brittle. I found the buns diluted some of the flavours, for instance the prawns were tasty but a lot of the flavour was lost when you enveloped them in a bun. I don’t think the lobster roll is worth the money, the roll is really the highlight. You could put anything in that roll and it would taste good, but R128 for a roll is a lot of money. We were a bit wary of ordering chicken wings as they sound so boring but actually there were quite tasty.
I have to say that the dessert was terrible. One of our group of 5 thought it was ok, the rest of us hated it. The dessert sounds and looks quite interesting, and the guava pond matches the pink decor but other than that, it wasn’t anywhere near worth the calories.
If I was to go again, for 2 people I would order the tataki, pork belly, duck and prawns plus a side, either the pickles or the vegetable suprise. That would be enough food for 2 and not too badly priced at about R400. But then you have to add drinks. The drinks menu us similarly small, with options that are out of the ordinary. Craft beer lovers can enjoy something from the selection of Triggerfish beers (R36) which you don’t find everywhere. Bubbles is the focus with 10 options to choose from and 6 of them by the glass (R218 to R358 and R45 to R62 by the glass). There are 4 white wines and 6 red wines to choose from plus 7 cocktails and a couple of non-alcoholic beverages. We drank a few bottles of the Marvelous Yellow (R168), a chenin, chard, viognier blend.
If you add a bottle of the Marvelous to my recommended order above, you get a total of about R300 per person. Ours was slightly more at R2000 for 5 people, making it about R400 per head. Basically the prices are not cheap and similar to what you would pay at Chef’s Warehouse.
One think I really liked is that they give you proper chopsticks rather than disposable chopsticks. Using disposable chopsticks all the time is so bad. But please people, don’t steal them!
So which is better, Chef’s Warehouse or Hallelujah? I asked the other 4 people at my table and they all said they would choose Hallelujah but I personally would definitely choose Chef’s Warehouse. However, I have not been to Chef’s Warehouse for a long time so maybe things have changed and it’s not the same experience I remember. I guess I’ll have to go back to Chef’s Warehouse before I can make a final decision on this question.
Which do you prefer, Hallelujah or Chef’s Warehouse? Let me know in the comments below… and give a reason if you can. What is it exactly that makes you like the one over the other?
11D Kloof Nek Road, Gardens
Tel: 079 839 2505
(Open Wed – Sat, 6:30pm – 11pm)
Chef’s Warehouse. Liam and his team are constantly innovating but are firmly rooted in classic techniques. Their service, ambience and dish execution is exceptional, imho.
Hey Jaclyn, yes the sentiment around the table was that the food at Chef’s Warehouse is definitely more accomplished. The issues raised were that it was inconsistent, half the dishes amazing, the others so-so.
The other criticism was that the dishes are so radically different that they don’t always go well together, which was what they liked about Hallelujah, the consistent Asian theme and flavours…
I love Hallelujah but find it very pricey and very bread intense whereas Chefswarehouse is much more complex and refined. My fave dishes at hallelujah are in bread. It’s basically really good street food. The wines are too limited with no lower price options.
CW to me is more of a restaurant experience and I don’t mind the different tastes and textures. That’s what I love about Tapas, the variety. I ate there this Monday and all 5 of us were in raptures.
The other thing, tapas in a big group first always work. How do you split a lobster roll 5 ways?
Thanks for that great feedback, Sam. I agree with you 100% and I’m pleased to hear that Chef’s Warehouse is still up to scratch.
As for the lobster roll, we cut it into 5 pieces! We thought if it was really good we’d order another one but nobody felt they needed more…
I’ve been to both and like both. But I’ve been to Chefs Warehouse way more. Which leads me to believe I like it more. Why? Hmm. My over-arching feeling about Hallelujah is that it’s expensive. I’ve never compared it to Chefs Warehouse before. And by comparison they’re pretty much on a par. So what’s the difference? Chef’s Warehouse feels more grown up. The setting, the service, the food, the decor. And somehow you don’t mind paying more for grown up. It’s part of being grown up. The decor and the name and the location of Hallelujah are more frivolous and fun. They’re great and I really love them. But it’s difficult to reconcile with such grown up prices. Buns, flamingoes and neon lights perceptually mean cheap and cheerful. And there’s too much bun. I’m not a bun eater. At the end of the day, I would go to Chefs Warehouse for a great dining night out. I would go to Hallelujah for a fun and frivolous night out. And if I had guests with me from out of town? Chefs Warehouse would win.
Very valid points there, Carin, thanks for the feedback.
Hi Dax, It’s always good to read your reviews and I have enormous respect for your opinion but on this one I have to differ. THAT desert was incredible! We ate there with one of Liam’s greatest fans and a good friend of his and our table rated the dessert so highly we ordered another round of it. It was that good. Yes it’s an expensive place but worth every cent. I also think that comparing two very different restaurants is quite unfair, don’t you?
Also Liam is a regular at Halleluja so I think that speaks for itself…
Thanks for the comment, Sam!
How interesting that you all enjoyed the dessert, I don’t think we could even finish ours! Would be great to hear some more feedback from others, I guess it’s a love it or hate it dish and I would be curious what the ratio of love to hate is!
I guess that comparing restaurants could be perceived as unfair, but unfortunately people compare all the time. If I say, I like a place, the automatic response is ‘but is it as good as xyz?’. That’s just how people are. I think that the review is very fair actually, even if I think that Chef’s Warehouse is better, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you should eat at Hallelujah. And I think after reading my review you would know exactly what to expect and what you’ll pay for it. I was even quite open about the others at my table preferring Hallelujah overall, so really I don’t see an issue.
Hope to see you soon, Sam. It’s been too long!