An authentic taste of the Mediterranean at Love Thy Neighbour

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MY friend Allison Foat, aka Cape Town Diva, has been going on about this place for months now, ever since she first ate here. We finally got our collective acts together to have lunch at Love Thy Neighbour last week.

If you don’t feel like reading the rest of the story for the outcome, I’m going back tomorrow.

Young chef Nique (he said he didn’t mind how I spell his name and this is what you get, Nicolas) Charalambous draws from his Cypriot heritage and Granny’s recipes for his menu which includes meze, souvlaki, main dish plates, sides and sweets all using ethical ingredients…organic, free range and so on.

We put ourselves in Nick’s capable hands and he fed us to bursting. First order of the day, however, was wine. The list of drinks has been selected to support local producers in keeping with Love Thy Neighbour’s ethos of “organic, biodynamic and natural farming practices.” On top of that, there are weekly specials, currently natural wines from the Swartland young guns. You can read more about them here.

We had a bottle of Intelgo The Pink Mustache made by Jurgen Gouws, a blend of Cinsaut and Syrah bush vines, planted in 1988 and 2001 respectively.

On to the food. Warm roasted olives teased with orange and rosemary woke our palates, followed by plate after plate… dolmades. Squid with harissa, aioli and za’atar. Aubergine fries with whipped feta, date molasses, sesame and mint. And incredible crumbed halloumi complemented by grilled grapes, walnuts and basil. Then there was the taramasalata. “Why isn’t it pink?” I asked. “Because it has no added colour,” replied Nick. Obviously.

This is his grandmother’s recipe and uses cod roe (as it should) and served with peas, sumac and preserved lemon. It is utterly divine and will put you off that lurid stuff from the supermarket forever. As Diva would say: thank me later.

All that would have been enough for any normal person, but Diva and I are not those people. Out came a plate of lamb chops, just like that, with oregano and lemon and frankly my dear, you don’t need anything else; tender chicken pieces marinaded with herbs and cooked over the flames; and chargrilled cauliflower with tahini purée, walnuts, capers, dates and celery. If you’ve been following a low-carb lifestyle for any length of time you’ve probably made yourself sick of cauli but this will renew your faith. We also had a chopped salad with baby gem lettuce, kale (suitably disguised, you won’t even know it’s there), green beans and sunflower seeds with crème fraîche dressing.

Done? Nope, not yet. There are but two desserts and we had them both. It’s not as decadent as you think – kourambiethes (Greek almond shortbread) and wedges of watermelon.

Since we worked our way through most of the menu, there aren’t many untried dishes for me tomorrow but I’m happy to revisit some of those meze, and the sardines wrapped in vine leaves or a souvlaki could hit the spot.

Love Thy Neighbour is at 110, Bree Street, Cape Town. Lunch and dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays. For more information, call 021422 2770 or click here.

PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©

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