You’ll be forgiven for not yet knowing about Del Mar Modern Mexican, as it’s a fairly new addition to the Camps Bay strip. It’s only been open a few months, and if this is the first time you’re hearing about it, let me tell you that you’re in for a treat.
Located on the first floor of The Promenade shopping mall, Del Mar occupies a prominent spot that overlooks Victoria Road and the Camps Bay beach. Owned by Sabi Sabharwal of Bukhara and Haiku fame, my expectations were already set high before I even arrived as I knew the restaurant’s pedigree.
My dining partner and I were led to a seat in the corner of the spacious restaurant, overlooking the beach and bustling road below. Without even having a chance to scout the cocktail section of the menu we were offered two margaritas (R45) by our waiter, Dylan, and who could resist? ‘When in Mexico,’ as they say…
The rest of the menu is distinctly Mexican, right down to the Spanish names. Dylan assured us however, that he would guide us through the evening, as my command of the language is limited to, ‘Una cerveza, porfavor‘ (one beer, please). We were brought a bowl of taco chips, guacamole and salsa to enjoy as we perused the extensive menu.
Dylan recommended we begin with a selection from the Antojitos, or ‘little cravings’ section. This is the tapas part of the menu that has been strongly influenced by traditional Mexican street food. We began with the Taquito Pollo (R70 – crispy mini tortillas stuffed with chicken) and Birria Borrego (R80 – spicy lamb stew served on mini tortillas). But the highlight of our first plunge into Del Mar’s delicious offerings was the Pancita de Puerco (R80 – pieces of pork belly served with a smokey chipotle and jalapeño glaze). The pork melted in my mouth and would be a tough act to follow for any dish thereafter.
We were swiftly moved on however, to the Platos Principales – the main course. There is an entire range of dishes available to suit all tastes, from grilled salmon to rib eye beef; each with their own unique influences. We were told that there are two camps when it comes to Mexican food – Aztec in the north and Mayan in the south. It’s the latter camp that is famous for being incredibly hot.
I’m a bit of a light-weight when it comes to hot food, so Dylan recommended my partner and I try a dish from each region: From the north, the Barbacoa (R180 – slow roasted lamb served with mini tortillas) and from the south, the Pescado al Pipian Verde (R170 – a sea bass line fish with green pumpkin seeds). Both portions were sizeable, and their presentation impeccable. The sea bass itself was incredible. It flaked onto my fork, but came with a burnt habanero glaze that made me break out into a sweat upon having just a taste; I guess I found out the hard way which region this recipe came from.
A chilled glass of the house white wine brought my tastebuds back to normal, and only then did I notice that the restaurant had filled up during the course of our meal. A German party of four beside us discussed meal options with their waiter, while an American group nearby chatted away over a bottle of red and a mix-and-match group selection of tapas.
The atmosphere in Del Mar was certainly eclectic, but didn’t feel cramped as the perfect evening weather allowed for the beach-facing glass doors to be left wide open. Cars went to and fro on the street below, and I soon realised that Del Mar occupies one of the best spots. Being on the first floor of the mall, it is slightly raised above street level and offers its diners an uninterrupted view of the beach and its famous Camps Bay sunset.
To round off the night we were offered Churros (R60), a finger-shaped Mexican sweet treat served with a chocolate and dolce de leche (caramel) sauce and covered in sugar – Banting beware! It was the perfect dish to end what had already been a superb evening. I allowed my partner to have the last Churro, but almost wish I hadn’t – definitely a dessert that is simply not to be missed.
All in all I was left satisfied by my visit to Del Mar Modern Mexican in every sense of the word. Not only had I been treated to Mexican food the likes of which I’ve never had before, but I also felt the restaurant had competently lived up to it’s name. Del Mar can faithfully take up its spot next to Bukhara and Haiku as one of the places to eat in Cape Town.
When Mondays – Sundays 12-noon – 10 pm
Where Shop 104, The Promenade Mall, Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Contact +27 21 437 0333, Facebook page, www.delmar.restaurant
Good to Know Park in the Promenade Mall parkade and go up to the Yellow Level, Del Mar is right by the entrance on the first floor
Photography courtesy Jonathan Meyer