Forget peanuts, crisps, biltong, and droëwors. the Spanish themed restaurant Sotano on Bree Street has come up with a much better idea for bar snacks and the inspiration comes from Basque cuisine from San Sebastian in northern Spain. Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) are little bites composed of flavourful ingredients, like cheese, olives, seafood, and ham, and they’re set to become the new tapas!
Think: delicate skewers of anchovy, black olives, and green chillies; furls of prosciutto on a mini olive baguette; melty cheese and ham croquettes; baguette slices with marinated bell pepper and mushroom; and cones of hot, deep-fried calamari. This is just a sampling of what’s on offer at the brand new Pintxos Bar at Sotano, which has resolved to inject a little flair, spice, and personality into after-work drinks with its smorgasbord of nibbles, bites, and amuse-bouche.
A great first impression
Walking in to the exuberantly Spanish-themed Sotano, the very first thing we noticed was not the brightly patterned floor tiles, exposed brick walls, or gorgeous turquoise seating. It was the great big leg of prosciutto (from renowned charcutier, Richard Bosman) on the bar counter, from which wafer-thin shavings of marbled pink meat were procured for the pintxos. Following on from that were enormous jars of olives, pickled onions, and marinating green chillies and then row upon row of vividly coloured skewers.
It’s a super idea – and very clever – because before you’ve even had a chance to appraise the décor, ambiance, and drink selection, you’re already planning your plate of pintxos. Don’t confuse it with tapas, though. Pintxos are Basque cuisine’s answer to bar snacks and are intended as an accompaniment to drinks rather than a full-on meal.
Test driving the concept
Right off the bat, we were enchanted by the offering. Before we had even consulted the beverage menu, we were planning our assault upon the pintxos bar. And so I asked the barman to put together a plate for us: one of each, please! We then decided upon a glass of the L’Ormarins Brut Rosé because, well, when did anyone ever need an excuse to enjoy quality MCC?
Upon returning to the table after a brief meander around the restaurant, I encountered a mouth-watering spread of pintxos – those I mentioned above, as well as slices of baguette topped with tuna rémoulade and black olives; prawn, boiled egg, and mayonnaise; and cream cheese, aioli, anchovy, and basil pesto. There were also small bowls with octopus and marinated peppers and hot options of beef shin and mash, and wild mushroom and egg yolk – delicious!
Why you should give it a go
By their estimation, Sotano is the first restaurant to offer pintxos in Cape Town, which could very well be “the next tapas.” For between R8 and R20 per item, depending on what you go for, it’s super affordable and an excellent accompaniment to anything on the inventive cocktail list or carefully curated wine menu, which I thought was refreshingly unorthodox. The wine by the glass, for example, is the Morgenster Vespri Vermentino 2018 and Morgenster Lourens River red 2007 (yes, that is a 12 year old wine going for R47 per glass).
Picture this: you’ve just wrapped up your work day and are in desperate need of a remedy for the discomforts of bureaucracy, traffic, a growling stomach, and a superlatively annoying colleague. A martini, chilled beer, or glass of wine will do the trick but what is a drink and social catch-up without something to nibble on? This is what Pintxos Bar at Sotano is offering – a diversion from the usual salted peanuts and a foray into unique and fascinating Basque cuisine.
We found the food vibrant, fun, and just great to pick at while sipping on our wine and watching people unwind after a day at the grindstone. And if you feel like a sit-down meal after, you can always graduate to the spectacularly romantic and moodily lit upstairs bar, restaurant, and veranda for dinner.
The Pintxos Bar at Sotano, Bree Street, is open Monday to Saturday, 16:00 to 23:00. Sotano is open from 07:00 for breakfast and lunch. For bookings and enquiries, please email email@example.com or call 021 422 0567.