Tapas is a Spanish term to describe a variety of small dishes or appetizers that are often served together – in essence a range of light snacks – which can together be quite filling and a collective meal in their own right.
It’s reputed that the concept came about after Spanish King Alfonso the Wise took to eating snacks and drinking wine between meals to recuperate from an illness. After recovering he ordered taverns to add the same offerings to their menus.
In Spain, tapas are generally eaten in the late afternoon after work and before dinner (which is usually quite late in the night) at restaurants or bars as an accompaniment to drinks. The tradition has become increasingly popular around the world and today tapas are often served as a meal throughout the day and night.
I’m a fan of sharing dishes and flavours among a group of friends and tapas lend themselves perfectly to this kind of leisurely communal eating. I was thus pleased to learn about the newest eatery to offer the tapas experience in Joburg: The Gypsy Lounge.
The decor is plush and stylish with a camp edge thanks to ‘blingy’ chandeliers, trendy patterned wallpaper and flamboyant splashes of red. Located on the top floor of the new Blubird Centre in Birnam, The Gypsy Lounge is a perfect spot for ladies and fags who lunch.
There’s a large exterior balcony area with a view of suburbia and replete with tables, couches and umbrellas to enjoy the sun – especially on a crisp winter’s day – fulfilling The Gypsy Lounge’s self-proclaimed aim to provide a place to socialise and take some time out.
It’s on the sunny balcony where a friend and I chose to have lunch. The Gypsy Lounge specialises in ‘Tea and Tapas’ – an initially strange mix to consider but one that makes sense in that both focus on patrons mixing and matching flavours.
The traditional tea offerings are served from 10 in the morning until lunch and then once again from 3 to 5 in the afternoon. But we weren’t there for tea, and rather chose to tuck into the various tapas dishes which are served at lunchtime.
We ordered a smattering of the tapas, which are divided in the menu into vegetable, fish and meat tapas – ranging from olives to fillet – and are all served at the same time allowing us to pick, mix and enjoy. Some are traditionally Spanish while others are influenced by other cuisines.
Our banquet included Tortilla Soup (hot and spicy tomato soup topped with tortilla, guacamole and sour cream – R32); Tortilla Espagnola (a Spanish style omelette with eggs and onions – R30) and Patatas Bravas (roasted and fried potato wedges served with a paprika tomato sauce – R39).
Portions of Fish Croquettes (white fish in breadcrumbs with a lemon and mint alioli – R39); Chorizo Al Vino (Spanish sausage in a rich wine sauce – R20) and Chicken Skewers (with tangy peach salsa – R30) rounded off the surprisingly filling selection.
As a result, we could only manage a single dessert to share. The choice was Churros; sugar dipped pastry with a chocolate espresso dip (R22).
Every item impressed both my friend and I; each was freshly made and quite delectable. The fish croquettes were especially memorable – positively melt-in-your mouth creamy – avoiding the fate of the tragically dry and overly-fishy examples I’ve often experienced in the past.
Best of all, while each dish was a unique taste experience in its own right there is an overall flavour connection that ensures that they mix beautifully together. This is the kind of food you eat when you have plenty of time. It’s not recommended for a quick or hurried lunch, but for a lazy and relaxed afternoon occasion.
The Gypsy Lounge offers a variety of cocktails and it’s also rather accomplished in this department – confirmed by a perfectly dry gin martini and a strawberry daiquiri bursting with fresh fruit flavour. It was all topped off with continental quality coffee.
Superb cocktails and a table groaning with spectacularly more-ish snacks on a sunny balcony with good company: Could one ask for anything more from life? Watch The Gypsy Lounge take off in summer. Get there while you can still find a table.
The Gypsy Lounge is located at Blubird Centre, Atholl Oaklands Road, Birnam. Tel: 011 887 7247.