Ouzeri is a new eatery in Cape Town.
Ouzeri is a new eatery in Cape Town.
Image: Jan Ras

Inspired by the taverns in Cyprus and Greece from which it derives its name, Ouzeri serves up a contemporary celebration of the two countries’ flavourful regional dishes and culinary traditions. Chef Nic Charalambous and team capture the spirit of comfort, community, and warmth of these age-old spaces while showcasing the beauty of the traditional dishes through their explorative and elevated approach to cooking.

Situated at 58 Wale Street in the bustling foodie hub of Cape Town’s City Centre, the restaurant is a modern and contemporary take on the traditional Greek restaurant. The design, much like the food, is inspired by both Cyprus and Greece, drawing on Cycladic architecture — with its stark, plastered white walls and arched niches — together with influences from the old Cypriot cafes, such as the textured bar fringe, embroidered cushions, and mosaicked entrance. These modern interpretations are offset by some tongue-in-cheek touches, including a classic Greek column at the entrance and scalloped wall lamps, for a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Ouzeri is situated at 58 Wale Street in the bustling foodie hub of Cape Town’s City Centre.
Ouzeri is situated at 58 Wale Street in the bustling foodie hub of Cape Town’s City Centre.
Image: Jan Ras

When it comes to the food, the new eatery offers a redefined yet authentic expression of Cypriot and Greek cooking, with the chef drawing on the food he remembers from a childhood spent in his grandmother’s kitchen and that he got to know in his travels around the region. Concise and well-considered, the menu takes diners on a journey through Cyprus and Greece, highlighting regional favourites and traditional specialities.

The similar-yet-different styles of cooking are showcased in each spectacular plate. While loosely divided into snacks, mezze, and larger mains and desserts, the menu is best suited to ordering and sharing among the table. Start with the snack selection, with the tastiest taramasalata piped onto crispy chickpea fries, the fried mussels and a moreish walnut skordalia, and green olives, which arrive warm with an aromatic spicy citrus, coriander, and paprika oil.

Next, go for a host of the mezze plates. The eliopita — a traditional Cypriot olive-stuffed bread — is topped with anchovy and served with whole cloves of roasted garlic that are meant to be squeezed out and slathered onto the umami-rich bun. The halloumi is not to be missed either. This Cypriot staple is served with the traditional sides of cucumber and tashi (a tahini paste). Simple yet beautiful.  In a twist on the traditional pastourma, the chef uses elements of the curing process to create an elegant and refined yellowtail dish.

Looking to the heartier mains, the youvetsi is a must-have. The traditionally lamb-based dish, here made with beef shin, arrives topped with a piping-hot roasted marrow bone. It’s absolutely scrumptious — a perfect winter warmer. The braised lentil and squid with green sauce offers a lighter yet equally enjoyable main. Classic Mediterranean flavours of lemon and olive oil result in a fresh yet filling dish.

Chef Nic Charalambous and team capture the spirit of comfort, community, and warmth of age-old spaces.
Chef Nic Charalambous and team capture the spirit of comfort, community, and warmth of age-old spaces.
Image: Jan Ras

Of the two options for dessert, the recommendation would naturally be to go for both. The traditional mahalepi (a Cypriot setcream dessert) is served with pomegranate, Campari, and clementine sorbet, while the Greek yoghurt cake is accompanied by vissino cherries and Jersey yoghurt. Pair the meal with a carafe or two of the barrel wine — created with Jasper Wickens of Swerwer Wines — or a bottle of something special off the fantastic wine list, which focuses on small-batch, local, minimal-intervention wines.

What I enjoyed most about Ouzeri is its seeming simplicity, however deceiving that may be. It’s contemporary without being contrived, authentic without being old-fashioned — it’s simply delicious, bold, and flavourful food with no fuss or frills, matched with fine wine and attentive, down-to-earth service. This is a space that lends itself to coming together, socialising, and unwinding. Sensational!

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue of Wanted which you can page through here

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