Sitting inside Bistro Sixteen82, you could easily be on the top floor of a high-rise building in the bustling hub of the city: the open layout with high ceilings, the industrial-chic décor, a full stainless steel kitchen, and a raw bar next to the sunken dining area. Seating is built into the walls which are lined with a geometric design of wine bottles lying on their sides, and there’s a fair mix of business meetings, tourists, and local foodies at the tables. One step out onto the terrace, however, reveals a floating glass bridge over tranquil pools of water and the majestic green hills rolling across the Constantia Wine Valley.
Located on the Steenberg Estate, Bistro Sixteen82 is the hip younger sister to the decorous fine dining establishment Catharina’s. With a proper nod to tradition – the year 1682 was when Steenberg was first established – it offers the same accessibility to the estate’s superb line-up of wines but manages to claim a niche entirely distinct from Catharina’s. It boasts an upscale urban flair that is decidedly removed from its traditional surroundings. Most recently, the restaurant has released a new summertime tapas menu that calls for a celebration of Cape Town’s long summer evenings with good food and good company.
Chef Brad Ball, known for his stints at the River Café and the Olympia Café, has a good eye for all things bistro. For one, menu items are simple but far from boring. Where others would settle on potato wedges, the Bistro delivers Patatas Bravas (R 38): thin, broad slivers of potato skin with just enough of a soft mouthful between the crispy exteriors to pose a satisfying contrast of textures. Tasting this with a zesty crème-fraiche-and-chives dip is as close as you’ll ever get to potato heaven. The Fish Balls (R 50) are on the dry side but paired with a terrific wasabi mayo, a greater quantity of which might lend the dish a more memorable flavour. As for the Empanadillas (R 50), the spinach and ricotta filling comes wrapped in a lightly lemony pastry dough, and the inclusion of a smidgen of mature cheddar to bind the ingredients makes it an altogether satisfying portion.
Moderate pricing makes it easy to order two or three items per person for a meal, and there is no skimping on proportions. The Bread Platter (R 35) offers three very different dips and spreads, a little something for everyone with plenty to share. The black olive tapenade is briny and intense, the tsatziki fresh without a hint of runniness, and the winner by far is the basil butter – fragrant and creamy, perfect for the chewy baguette slices offered on the platter.
Rounding out the savoury-seeker’s dream is the Beef Tataki (R 55), the very picture of fusion bistro chic. Wafting up from the dish is an aroma evoking newly marinated Korean bulgogi, with a fresh South American twist lent by the lime, coriander, and radish. On the plate it looks like seared beef fillet sliced carpaccio style, topped with a heavily sesame-oil-infused concoction of soy sauce, fresh ginger, black and white sesame seeds, and green onion. In the mouth it is an unparalleled party of flavours: an explosion of umami, tender in texture and tangy in taste.
What’s pointedly missing from Chef Ball’s summer tapas menu is chicken, which we did not mourn, although we did feel that more vegetable options might balance out the proteins and the starches (there was only one: the “No Lettuce Salad”). Overall, flavours are on the saltier side and dessert isn’t all that remarkable, but if what you’re looking for is a savoury treat paired with some great wines (try the Black Swan Sauvignon Blanc for a crisp white, or the Steenberg Nebbiola for a pungent, loamy red that kicks the Beef Tataki experience up a notch), Bistro Sixteen82 is one eatery to have up your sleeve.
It does get quite bustling so it is advisable to make a reservation to beat out the evening crowd. Go early. Go wild with your tapas choices. And linger over a glass or two of wine while the sun takes its sweet old time to climb down behind the mountain.
Bistro Sixteen82, Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Tokai
Hours: Monday to Sunday 9am to 8pm, Tapas 4.30pm to 8pm
Contact: 021 713 2211