I'VE long thought South Africa lacks contemporary restaurant spaces that aren't "deluxe" or in the fine-dining category, but rather in upmarket surrounds where you can enjoy good, casual food and a few quality drinks in a cosmopolitan setting.
Of late, more of such places have been opening, one of the results of an economy that is not rewarding the large and expansive, and a (still viable) pool of customers who like the intimate, higher quality option.
French Toast, in Cape Town's central Bree Street, is one such establishment; a very comfortable eatery that styles itself as a "wine and tapas" bar. With attractive finishes - mixed use of natural textures of stone and wood, oversized chandeliers and diverse tables for groups small and large - it's an ideal "anytime use" space (perfect for business) and useful for functions.
The wine list is good, if expensive, with plenty of by-the-glass options. The "tapas" menu changes weekly from snacks to bigger courses "to share or not to share"; there is also a cheese or charcuterie platter.
In general, the quality of the food is very good but this is offset by quickly mounting costs that are less tapas and more restaurant in range. They have regularly changing wine options that include international bottles as well as innovative flights of wine in taster portions for exploration.
199 Bree Street. (021) 422-3839, www.frenchtoastwine.com
. JP Rossouw is editor of Rossouw's Restaurants, the independent guide to dining in South Africa. All visits are made unannounced and are paid for. www.rossouwsrestaurants.com