Cafe Paradiso, Cape Town

A big fan of the Madame Zingara restaurant group, I had to try the famed Cafe Paradiso on Kloof Street. This rustic, neighbourhood restaurant is set back from the street by a lovely outdoor area with braziers and water features, dotted with tables. Inside, there is not a great deal of space, but in usual Zingarian style, the higgledy-piggledy nature of the interior works to create cosiness from chaos, and this feeling is enhanced by the ever-kooky wait-staff.

The menu sports a decent number of vegetarian options, including a risotto, a few pasta dishes, some salads and an antipasti platter. As usual, there are also always a few specials on offer too. To start, my friend and I shared the pan fried halloumi salad with fattoush salad. The salty halloumi was the perfect balance between oozy and firm, and was well contrasted by the freshness of the tomato, cucumber and herb salad. It comes served on a long wooden board, and is a great starter to share. For mains I had a stuffed zucchini flower salad. The zucchini flowers had been stuffed with cream cheese, lightly battered and deep fried. They were great fun, but were served with marinated and roasted strips of zucchini and rocket leaves, which were drenched in a very vinegary dressing. As a dish, it was far too vinegary and green, and would have benefitted from less dressing, a wider selection of salad leaves, and perhaps a few cherry tomatoes. My friend had spinach and ricotta filled ravioli coated in sage butter and topped with cherry tomatoes. The pasta was great, but, having been advertised as having cherry tomatoes, these were incredibly sparse.

Although the food could have done with a few tweaks here and there, the Zingarian experience is always fabulous, and the atmosphere and service makes up for the odd shortfall in the food. Again, there are a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu, and I’d say this one is definitely worth a try. I’ll certainly be going back.

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