Situated within the foodie hub of Cape Town’s City Centre, Ouzeri — the first restaurant by chef Nic Charalambous — opened its doors on Thursday, bringing a taste of Cypriot and Greek cuisine to the Mother City.
After a string of successful pop-ups throughout town and a series of dinner-at-home concepts through lockdown, Ouzeri has found a permanent space on Cape Town’s Wale Street. Inspired by the taverns found throughout Cyprus and the Greek Islands from which it derives its name, the new restaurant captures the same spirit of comfort, warmth and community as these age-old eateries.
Drawing on childhood memories, a time spent growing up in his grandmother’s kitchen, and the family recipes he learnt along the way, together with inspiration from his travels across the regions, Charalambous hopes to introduce diners to a style of cuisine that they may not yet have discovered.
“I’ve wanted to showcase these classic regional dishes for the longest time. While it’s very much my take on them, they still pay respect to tradition and heritage while incorporating a new perspective, different techniques and flavours, using the freshest, seasonal ingredients,” says Charalmbous of the project
The seasonally led menu is a celebration of Cyprus and Greece’s regional dishes and culinary traditions — all reflected and expressed through the talented young chef’s contemporary approach to cooking and food.
Each menu item is an iteration of a dish, technique or concept found within one of the many regions of the islands, paired with an enthusiasm for fresh, locally sourced produce. The chef has recruited a host of producers and collaborators to ensure he offers guests an experience that is both authentic and elevated.
Notably, he’s teamed up with Maria van Zyl of Cream of the Crop butter to produce his dairy products, especially their Cypriot-style halloumi, as well as Jasper Wickens with whom he has made the restaurant’s barrel wine — a staple of any ouzeri — which will be served from traditional carafes. In addition, the passionate chef is drying his own oregano, having sourced the fresh herbs from Meuse Farm in Hout Bay.
This dedication to offering the best possible experience transcends menu and produce, with Chef Nic carefully curating everything from the crockery and cutlery to the concise yet interesting wine list and even the playlist.
The design — by Master Studio — is very much aligned with the food, and it too draws on regional influences of Cyprus and Greece matched with contemporary twists. There are the traditional white plastered walls and arched wall niches typical of Cycladic architecture, together with the textured and patterned tapestries and embroideries found within traditional Cypriot cafes.
These stylish interpretations are meshed with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour in the form of scalloped wall lights and a classical marble-style pedestal, which add a breath of fun and flair to the space.
Convivially cool, Ouzeri will no doubt be an exceptional addition to Cape Town’s food scene, delivering punchy and flavourful Cypriot-Greek cooking with fine wine and attentive, down-to-earth service.