Mother City Fine Dining

Mother City Fine Dining

Bistro Sixteen82: Spanish-inspired tapas to rival the motherland

By Bianca Coleman

When you consider global cuisines recreated in countries which are not their home, authenticity is often called into question.
For example, sushi in the West bears little to no resemblance to that in Japan. Similarly, most of the food from South East Asia is seldom enjoyed in the same way it is in its original region. Ditto Mexican. This has much to do with the availability of indigenous ingredients, but also local palates.

With a trip to Spain on the cards, I was delighted to be invited to Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg to sample Chef Kerry Kilpin’s new Spanish-inspired tapas menu. Drawing on her own recent trip to the country, where she visited 13 restaurants in four days, Kilpin’s dishes are a delight.

“My favourite experience was dining at a tiny chair-less tapas bar, Quimet & Quimet, and the equally quaint Cal Pep. Tasting my way through the famous La Boqueria Food Market was another highlight, but my biggest triumph must be getting a seat at Tickets,” says Kilpin, who waited on the pavement outside the trendy tapas bar and restaurant of the brothers Albert and Ferran Adriá, chef du patron at the world renowned El Bulli, for nearly four hours. This is quite normal for the best tapas joints in Barcelona.

What fascinated her most about tapas in this city was how simple it really is – usually not more than three ingredients: a protein, olive oil and garlic or parsley, without any garnish or sauces. Humble bread, rubbed with fresh tomato and soaked in olive oil, is a staple tapas everywhere, while the Catalan take on bruschetta – toasted bread with olive oil with a variety of toppings – varies from bar to bar.

The most common bruschetta in Barcelona is topped with crushed ripe tomatoes, called “pa amb tomaquet”, Catalan for bread and tomato. It was this we began our feast with, alongside gooey Brie with shemiji mushrooms and truffle honey – an ingredient which stood out for Kilpin.
“It’s wonderfully smoked, earthy character captures all the tastes and aromas of a typical tapas bar filled with whiffs of mature serrano hams hanging from the rafters. What an amazing product,” she says. Kilpin makes her own by infusing local honey with truffle oil.

“We were spoiled for choice by the sheer abundance of the freshest seafood with the most wonderful flavours. Besides delicious scallops, clams and mussels, I fell in love with razor clams – more commonly known in South Africa as pencil bait. Used primarily as bait by fishermen in the Southern Cape, razor clams are hardly eaten here, which is such a pity as they are absolutely delicious,” adds Kilpin, who would love to serve them if there was a sustainable local supply. White anchovies are plentiful in Spain, and these were served in a phyllo basket with red peppers, artichokes and Caesar dressing, garnished with quail eggs. Next up were pork and manchego (Spanish cheese) croquettes with wholegrain mustard mayo.The hits just kept on coming – mussels in saffron veloute, pulled lamb in a tomato and chili ragout with polenta frites, chorizo and octopus with smoked paprika aioli, and the bistro’s famous beef tataki – not Spanish, but with the Asian influences Kilpin says will always be on the menu – with shemeji mushrooms, charred corn chillies and truffle mayo.

As for authenticity, there are clearly unique twists and tweaks to these tapas, but after visiting Spain myself, I can vouch for Kilpin’s. In fact – dare I say it? – hers are even more delicious.
I feel like a bit of a traitor, and maybe I didn’t eat at the same fabulous places she did (although I did eat very, very well) but there you have it. If you want a fabulous taste of Spain but don’t have the budget to go there, look no further.

Bistro Sixteen82 is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and late afternoon tapas. Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Tokai; telephone 021 713 2211.
For more information and a full range of menu options, visit www.steenbergfarm.com/bistro1682 and follow @bistro1682 on Twitter. You can also follow Bistro Sixteen82 on Instagram at instagram.com/steenberg_farm and like it on Facebook at facebook.com/SteenbergEstate.