Opa! There’s a new Greek and Cypriot spot in town, and it’s as authentic as it gets. For most people, the thought of Greek food brings to mind cliché dishes, like spanakopita and sticky sweet baklava, but Chef Nic Charalambous is pushing the boat out a little at his new spot, Ouzeri. The menu is packed with dishes that are close to his heart, with many offerings based on family recipes passed down from generations. It’s a truly authentic spot, with everything from the carefully selected décor to the ingredients and final dishes speaking to Charalambous’ Cypriot roots.
Located in the trendy foodie-hub of Cape Town’s City Centre, Ouzeri is Chef Nic Charalambous’ first restaurant. Inspired by the taverns in Cyprus and Greece from which it derives its name, Ouzeri serves up a contemporary celebration of the two countries’ flavourful, regional dishes and culinary traditions.
“What I love about the ouzeris I’ve experienced in Cyprus and Greece is that they’re very much local hangouts. It’s the place where you’d go after work for a drink and a bite, and to meet friends and family. Everyone shares meze, and drinks wine and ouzo. In fact, they’re so much a part of the community that they’re often named after the towns they’re based within,” says Charalambous.
The new eatery offers a redefined yet authentic expression of Cypriot and Greek cooking together with fine wine and attentive, down-to-earth service. It’s a space which lends itself to coming together, socialising, and unwinding all while enjoying Chef Nic’s take on his cultural heritage’s foods and flavours.
The idea was born during a lockdown spent in Dubai where he was based to run the kitchen of Natasha Sideris and The Tashas Group’s, Athenian-inspired, Avli by Tashas. Today, Natasha remains a good friend and mentor of Charalambous’ and has assisted with Ouzeri in an advisory capacity.
Take a seat at Cape Town’s first ouzeri
The restaurant space, designed by Master Studio, also draws inspiration from regions across Cyprus and Greece. The décor is a clever blend of old meets new; merging the sophisticated with the nostalgic and classic with contemporary. Guests can expect stark white plaster, arched wall niches, textured tapestries and printed cushions — reminiscent of a traditional old Cypriot café. There’s also a dash of tongue-in-cheek fun to the design with the playful, ironic use of typical Cypriot and Greek items.
Ouzeri pays homage to the food Charalambous grew up with mixed with a few favourites he discovered on his travels in Cyprus and Greece’s neighbouring Islands. Balancing tradition and contemporary cooking, he plays with nostalgic flavours and techniques (both traditional and new), together with the freshest seasonal produce to create a uniquely discoverable experience. While Ouzeri’s menu is all about bringing authentic Greek and Cypriot flavours to the Mother City, Charalambous is also quick to point out that the menu is in many ways his interpretation of the food and culture of his Cypriot heritage.
A taste of Ouzeri
The menu, which weaves between the ‘similar-yet-different’ dishes of both countries and their regions, features a selection of meze and main meals — though both are suited (and suggested) to ordering and sharing amongst the table. Each dish highlights a regional speciality or favourite — taking diners on a flavour-filled journey through Cyprus and the Greek Islands.
We started our lunch at Ouzeri with small meze-style bites of Chickpea Fries, Fried Mussels, and Warm Green Olives. If you love mussels, then the Fried mussels served with walnut skordalia (a traditional Greek dip spiked with Garlic) will prove to be a winner of note. Once you’ve eaten mussels served this way, you simply won’t be able to enjoy them any other way.
The same goes for the Warm Green Olives with paprika oil, spicy citrus and coriander. A bowl of olives on a menu can be quite an innocuous dish that you would easily glance over, but trust me, these olives are worth ordering as a snack before your main meal arrives!
Speaking of things you have to order, the Eliopita is not to be missed, especially if bread is a highlight of a meal for you. This potato bread with olive and anchovies is baked to order and is based on a recipe used by Charalambous’ grandmother.
If you’re hungry for meaty options, then the Lamb Manti and the Beef Shin Youvetsi are both great options. Served with dill yoghurt, burnt tomato butter and soujouk, the Lamb Manti dumplings are bursting with flavour and are beautifully complemented by the fresh, citrus-like taste of the dill yoghurt and the rich sweetness of the tomato butter.
The Beef Shin Youvetsi with roasted bone marrow and Foxenburg Crottin offers a hearty plate to share. The traditional stew is made with Orzo (short-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice), which soaks up all the flavours of the tomato-based sauce. The tender beef is beautifully completed by the sweetness of whole roasted baby tomatoes and the addition of robust, creamy, slightly salty flavours from the Foxenburg Crottin cheese make this dish sing.
Naturally, good food needs to be matched by good wine, and in line with Ouzeri’s conscious sourcing of produce, the wine list features a concise yet exceptional range of small-batch, natural local wines, many of which are made through low-intervention winemaking. A must-try is the Ouzeri Barrel Wine, made by JC Wickens at Swerwer Wines. Served in the traditional way — poured from tin jugs into small tumbler-style glassware — the wines are available in white or red varietals at R200 for 750ml or R100 for 375ml.
Ouzeri is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner and Wednesday through Saturday for lunch. Find it at 58 Wale Street, Cape Town City Centre. For reservations call 061 533 9071, book via email email@example.com or through DinePlan. Check out the full menu on the Ouzeri website here.
After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.