It is truly special when traditions are passed down through generations. Older family members are a treasure trove of knowledge, and when they hand down recipes and techniques they add an incomparable richness to food.
This is the most admirable feature at La Barra, a new restaurant in the heart of the Cape Town CBD. Here, family comes first and they pride themselves on hospitality that money can’t buy. The new owner Sanjay Rampersad took over the existing restaurant when lockdown levels began easing. In November he reopened La Barra with the love and support of his family, who are also very involved in the business. And best of all, his mother has been handing down recipes and teaching kitchen staff how to fold the perfect chocolate samoosa – which, by the way, is delicious.
This is not what Rampersad had planned for his career but 2020 is the year to shake things up or be shaken.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I had a passion for cooking. I loved to take traditional dishes and put ‘my’ take on them. I followed a completely different career field until Covid-19 hit and the entire dynamic changed.
“This created an opportunity to follow my passion. When La Barra became available, it seemed like God had a plan for me. Hence our restaurant endeavours,” he says.
La Barra in Spanish translates to The Bar, and what you can expect from a Spanish Bar is a selection of delicious tapas, some burgers for good measure and cocktails to olé to.
Understandably, in the current Covid climate, patrons are looking for places with good ventilation and open spaces. La Barra has a wall of windows that opens up to let the sunshine and fresh air in. They have also carefully positioned tables so everyone is socially-distanced.
Rampersad has spruced up the look and feel of the eatery with low lighting, greenery, and an overall cleaner aesthetic. There are weekly specials on boards so make sure you read them before you order, you don’t want to miss out on mid-week specials.
So what can you expect if you visit for lunch or dinner? The new owner says you you will pleasantly surprised by how cleverly they have weaved Spanish and South African cultures and flavours together to offer you something truly unique.
“At La Barra we create a unique experience where you feel at home. Our meals are created to cross the divide between Spanish style Tapas and South African cuisine,” said Rampersad. “Our fusion of flavours will give you the experience of Spanish Tapas with hints of South African favourites.”
Aside from the signature mixes and Sangria there is a passionfruit mojito which is definitely a must try. They have also considered the current pandemic and created an immunity booster cocktail with ginger, turmeric, orange, Echinacea and Vitamins B, C and D with a dash of sparkling wine. Another good move is the CBD infused G&T, because why not. I can vouch for the passionfruit mojito, it is the perfectly balanced summer cocktail with just the right amount of zing.
The menu is broken up into three sections, tapas, mains and desserts. The tapas is very reasonably priced from R39 – R54, I doubt there is anyone else in the CBD with these prices. The chicken wings (R44) were without a doubt my favourite, order two and make sure they are spicy, it’s the only way to kickstart the menu tasting. The chicken was fresh and moist, and the sauce sticky, fiery and oh so delicious. I scooped up every last drop of sauce when the wings were finished, and you should too. For the less adventurous there is a sweet chilli option.
The empanadilla is a crispy Spanish pastry with a rich filling of chicken, beef or vegetables. They come in a portion of two per serving.
The South African touch would be the samoosas (R45 for three) with varying fillings and the boerie bites in a spicy tomato relish (R38). There are also tortillas, chicken strips, chicken livers and braai broedjies that make up the tapas portion of the menu.
Mains are limited to seven options, all priced from R49 – R120 which is unheard of on a Cape Town menu – but also very welcome in the current financial crisis many of us find ourselves in.
I opted for the spicy chicken skewer (R58) which was filling and delicately spiced. The red pepper flavour was engrained in the chicken adding a perfume to the meat. It is definitely not of the same spice level as the chicken wings, but well-cooked and tasty all the same.
There are burgers, tortillas and prego rolls too. Rampersad is very proud of the vegan burger they’ve created, I will definitely give it a bash the next time around.
Two dessert options end the tasting – chocolate samoosas (R55) with a side of ice cream or panacotta (R69). After hearing about the love and effort that went into the preparation of the samoosas, there was no debate. Also, you can’t add creamy chocolate to a deep-fried pastry and expect anything but excellence, and it was just that.
“A home away from home is what we are trying to achieve. A warm, cozy atmosphere where you want to meet friends over some drinks and light meals,” says Rampersad, with his daughter nodding in the background. And it is just that, it feels like a warm and comfortable space to chill with friends and family. We can all do with some warmth in these dreary times, and they have it in abundance so take advantage.
Address: 160 Longmarket Street, Cape Town