On Thursday the massive new La Parada Bar da Tapas opened on Bree Street, the second outlet with this brand name in the Harbour House group. It is a restaurant and bar that will attract custom due to the extraordinarily low prices of its food and beverages, in a block that now includes Africa Café, Bistrot Bizerca, HQ, Awestruck, Simply Asia, The House of Machines, &Union, and Birds Boutique Café. La Parada means stop or standstill, a clever name for one to break away from a busy day, even though one can imagine that it will become very noisy as it becomes popular due to its low prices.
La Parada is in a building that has been extensively renovated, and La Parada has taken the ground floor. A night club is set to open in the basement in two weeks, I was told by a waiter, and a glass floor in one section will attract attention to what will be happening below. One cannot help but notice the restaurant on Bree Street, diagonally opposite &Union, as it has windows opening along almost all of the street frontage, with counter seating inside and outside. It was very cold yesterday, and there was no place to hide from the cold wind inside the restaurant while the windows were open, but luckily a waitress closed them. The interior is very Spanish, with a pressed steel style ornate ceiling, a stained glass ceiling centrepiece in orange/brown/red, a wall with what looks like Spanish movie posters glued onto the wall with an ornate Spanish decoration too, a wooden floor but with sections with decorated floor tiles, a mixture of lamps that could be old-fashioned enough to come from Spain (including some ‘lamps’ near the bar made from wine barrels), plus some design effects of a bull’s head near the kitchen, and three hanging hams on the other side. Not one of the approximately 100 chairs in the restaurant match (looking a little like the mismatched seven chairs on the Boekenhoutskloof wine label!), some having a ‘riempies’ seat, and others having upholstered seats, typically Spanish too, I was told. To the left of the kitchen counter a blackboard has a recipe for Arroz a la Marinera (which translates to Sailor’s Rice according to Google) in Spanish.
The biggest surprise of all was discovering that both the friendly Chefs Eva and Ana are from Seville, Ana having arrived two weeks ago, and Eva de Jesús Galan seven months ago. The cappuccino was served in a glass, Spanish style, but it means one has to hold the glass with a serviette, which was a material one, because it is so hot. The salt and pepper grinders are unbranded, as is the cutlery. Sugar sticks are available in the same water glasses. There are no table cloths. Most of the seating is at long tables, at which 20 patrons or more can sit on a sharing basis, with very few 4-seater tables available. Friends who live close by arrived while I was there, and compared the new La Parada with the one in Kalk Bay, saying that the new restaurant is far smarter.
The menu is presented simply but neatly in small pages for tapas, main courses, desserts, wine and beer, and cocktails, on a copper holder. The names of the dishes are in Spanish and English. There are 17 tapas options, ranging from R15 for roasted peppers as well as for toast with Salmorejo (gazpacho) and Serrano ham, to R65 for Pata Negra Ham. Most of the tapas dishes come in two sizes, and my charming waiter Khanya wasn’t sure how big the Spanish omelette would be in the two price classes of R16 and R42. He came to the table with two plate sizes, and the chefs explained to him that one gets one slice for R16, and three for R42. The Spanish omelette is in the shape of a cake, made with potato, egg, onion, and bacon, which is fried in olive oil. The slice of bread underneath the omelette was dry and unnecessary, and the omelette a little too salty. Other tapas options include paella (R22/R36), calamari and octopus dishes, ham croquettes, prawn croquettes, patatas bravas, and oxtail canneloni. Three main courses cost R75 each, for line fish, paprika calamari, and lamb. The fillet foie gras with a winter fruit sauce costs R95, and sounds an interesting dish with an odd combination of ingredients, almost too fancy to be served in this informal restaurant. For dessert one can order rice pudding (R12); ‘Fat from Heaven‘ (R35) is a flan type dessert made from egg yolk and caramelized sugar, traditionally called ‘Tocino de cielo‘; and Crema Catalana, the Spanish Crème Brûlèe at R30.
The wine list is riddled with errors and has no vintages. No bubbly is served, nor is Spanish wine! However, there are four Spanish sherries (R28 – R32). Jack Black Lager, and Cape Brewing Company Amber Weiss and Pilsner are available, at R30 – R35. The wine list is simply divided into white and red wines. White wines start at R24 per glass and R99 per bottle of Brampton Sauvignon Blanc, also offering ‘Pierre Jordan‘ (sic) Tranquille (R25/R105), Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc (R110), ‘Haute Cabriere‘ (sic) at R126, and Paradyskloof Chardonnay (R25/R99). ‘Cape Point’ (sic) Sauvignon Blanc tops the white wine price list at R250. Red wine prices start at R29/R112 for ‘Paradyskloof Cabernet‘ (sic), Beyerskloof Pinotage (R118), ‘Grootepost’ (sic) Old Man’s (sic) Blend (R29/R119), Naughton’s Flight Shiraz (R35/R131), and Rustenberg Ida’s Road at the odd glass price of R39,50 and R158 per bottle! Sixteen cocktails are available, most costing R45. A 2 litre La Parada Sangria jug costs R100.
La Parada is an inexpensive and fun way to learn more about Spanish cuisine, and one would be able to engage with Chefs Ana and Eva in their open plan kitchen to enquire about the recipes too, being very friendly and approachable. Being open seven days a week will make La Parada attractive too, with most city centre establishments closing at 17h00, and not operating on Saturday afternoons and on Sundays. Khanya was charming and very well-spoken, saying his goal is to own a restaurant one day. His service started off well, but disappointed when it came to getting the bill, and receiving change. A nasty and threatening car guard outside is off-putting.
POSTSCRIPT 15/9: Driving past La Parada at 19h30 this evening, it was closed.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: I returned to La Parada today with Judy Lain. In true tapas style, we shared four dishes: ham croquettes, prawn croquettes, the House Tapas (fish bruschetta topped with quail egg), and rice pudding. Disappointing was that both Spanish chefs were off duty today, so that some of the tapas options were ‘sold out’, and that the ‘Fat from Heaven‘ and Crema Catalana desserts were not available, as only they can prepare them! Very good service from Gideon. We were told that they close earlier on Sundays, which is a change of information relative to my first visit. The wine list typing errors have not yet been corrected!
La Parada Bar de Tapas, 107 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-2235. No website yet. Twitter: @LaParadaBree. Monday – Saturday 12h00 until late (kitchen closes at 22h00). Sunday 12h00 – 16h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage