When Seb and I started Fritter and Loaf, we initially intended it for it to be equal parts cooking and reviewing. For some reason, we never got around to the second part. Until now.
For our first official review, we couldn’t think of a better place to profile than Escondido Tapas Bar in Illovo, which has an exceptionally not-crap rating of 4.6/5 on Zomato. After a furious gallery visiting mission in town, we arrived there hungry and with high expectations. What a treat we were in for.
In terms of ambience and location, this place is just the cosiest. It’s on the lower level of the Post Office Centre in Illovo, which is about as charming as shopping centres come. I really loved how the centre has a small town, stuck in the ’60s feel to it. In a completely great way, that is. The decor of Escondido was also very well considered without being too pretentious. Rich reds on the walls, generous use of wood and mediterranean tiling on certain areas of the floor gave the restaurant a very warm, relaxed and intimate feel. We were also wedged between two open-flame heaters, which probably helped.
Escondido has a super impressive wine menu, but Seb and I opted for some craft beer instead. They have a very decent selection of craft beers, although a few of my favourites were out of stock. I eventually went for a Striped Horse Craft Lager, and Seb got the Devil’s Peak Pale Ale. Both very good choices, if I do say so myself.
Practically on the verge of gnawing ourselves at this point, we waved at a few things on the freestanding chalkboard menu (a very memorable touch) and waited. Choosing is torturous, by the way. Everything looks soooo good. Luckily, we didn’t have to occupy ourselves for long at all. Within 15 minutes, we had a feast of 5 tapas dishes before us: the meat board for 2, baked melanzane with parmesan, zucchini and feta tagliatelle, oxtail ravioli with beurre noisette, and the caprese risotto.
I always judge a restaurant by “Is this food better than my mom’s?”, which is an especially difficult standard to match. Sorry mom, but Escondido wins. The zucchini and feta tagliatelle – delectable. The caprese risotto – cheesy heavenliness. The baked melanzane – soft, saucy and succulent. And then there was the ravioli. For someone who doesn’t even like oxtail that much, this dish was the epiphany to every one of life’s unanswerable questions. The pasta, the oxtail filling and the delicious buttery sauce were all faultless. The only issue I had was that there wasn’t more of it.
Honestly, I do regret getting the meat board a little bit. Not that cold meats aren’t great – but once we’d had the other stuff, ending off with a pickle and slice of pastrami was a bit of a downer. Oh well. We live and we learn.
We didn’t initially plan on succumbing to dessert, but by this stage were too deep in our culinary comas to resist. The chocolate fondante with Amarula ice-cream, which we shared, was hot and gooey and chocolatey and awesome. I really wish we hadn’t shared.
Right. Now that the food’s out of the way, let’s talk about the other stuff.
Price wise? Hmmm…a little steep to be honest, but not enough to stop me from going again. R45 for two raviolis is a bit of a cheek, but I guess that’s what you pay for perfection.
What really perplexes me though was the speed of service. The food is uncannily fresh, and yet (as already mentioned) didn’t take much longer than a finger-snap to arrive. I just don’t get it. Even better than the speed of service was the quality of service. Our waiter was awesome, attentive and knew his stuff – a rare combo to find. You go, Thulani!
24 hours later and I’m feeling the early onset of post-Escondido depression. This restaurant is undoubtedly one of the best spots in Joburg and, if you haven’t already eaten there, we strongly suggest you do.
Go! Go! Go!