By Bianca Coleman
It all began with a merry phone call some time last year. A friend had discovered Toni’s on Kloof and had clearly had a splendid lunch, which she felt had to be shared with me.
“You’ve got to come to this place, it’s fantastic, “she said.
Since then she has become a regular there, working her way steadily through the menu and this week I was finally introduced to Toni’s style of Portuguese cooking. In many European countries, dishes and their ingredients are determined by region and Portugal is no exception. Here we go even further with Mozambican influences, which means prawns and calamari are grilled rather than fried, and herbs like bay leaves, oregano, and parsley are used and of course, plenty of chili and garlic.
Toni a qualified accountant whose parents taught him how to cook and instilled the passion for food in him, asked that we not reveal too many of his recipes as many are his own invention. This is why you should pay close attention to what’s on the specials board (crayfish is available now) in this cosy establishment, which comprises three separate inter-leading rooms.
Decorated in butternut with blue trim, the atmosphere is warm and intimate. Open fires in winter will add to that, while for now there is an outside seating area with the appropriate City Bowl views of the mountain.
The traditional stew’s ingredients will vary according to region, but Toni makes his with chourico (spicy sausage), chicken, pork, green pepper, wine and of course those herbs and spices. A mouthful of this bursts with flavor and was my favorite on the night, the leftovers jealously guarded in the fridge for the next day.
Other non-menu dishes include seafood (similar to paella, but with only seafood, no meat), prawn curry, a starter of calamari tentacles with chili, and a deliciously creamy potato and leek soup. Those used to Portuguese cuisine will recognize familiar things like chicken livers peri-peri, but they can also be ordered spiced and grilled. Sardines are a must- the ones we had were fat and delicious, served with roasted red peppers. I also enjoyed the prawn rissoles including rice and salad. This is a homemade pastry filled with prawn sauce and a vegetarian version is available using steamed veggies in season.
In fact everything in the kitchen is fresh and Toni’s behind-the-scenes supervision extends to Toni tasting every sauce before it is allowed to be served. Another dish that a Portuguese eatery would be incomplete without is Trinchado – cubes of steak cooked in garlic and wine sauce.
Peri peri chicken, spicy chicken kebabs, three kinds of spaghetti (vegetarian, seafood and trinchado), linefish, calamari tubes served with lemon butter and garlic sauce, and prawns national (cooked in chili, garlic and beer) and steak, egg and chips (large or small )round off the menu.
The wine list is small – we drank glasses of house red and white, the best solution when different palates are at the same table – and while you nibble on soft warm Portuguese rolls or dare to dip them in the bowl of homemade creamy chili sauce (keep it on the tip of your tongue to avoid streaming eyes), you can contemplate that this restaurant became a favorite hangout for Dennis Hopper and Christopher Lambert when they were filming in Cape Town.
To make a reservation please call 021 423 7617 or email firstname.lastname@example.org