Review: La Parada, Cape Town, South Africa: Come For Marina Views & Cocktails
La Parada: Cape Town Waterfront Vibes and Views
La Parada, 1 Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa. +27214183003. http://www.laparada.co.za/
Lively atmosphere for good times
Shell-on grilled tiger prawns in garlic, chilli, butter, lemon and parsley
Picanha steak swathed in tomato and garlic confit
More service needed over the weekend
La Parada is about vibes
We nest into La Parada which is busting at the seams only moments before 8 pm. It is a trendy tropical-ish, modern tapas bar. A cavernous maze that weaves to reveal another trendy dining area dressed in lush palms, warm wooden panelling, glowing orbs and monochrome tiles.
i Upstairs hosts smaller almost private dining rooms plastered with a collage of vintage posters beside swan murals and lush, deep chocolate Chesterfield bench-style sofas which you just want to melt into after the working week. This chandelier balcony dining room overlooks the expansive floor level dining room. If you want a window seat overlooking the marina – come early – and plant yourself in a wicker chair next to hanging potted vines in a bistro-inspired pale white room. It’s decisively restrained in comparison to the rest of the restaurant.
La Parada is a lot of things to a lot of people. It is young, sophisticated, laissez-faire and a melange of style in a beautiful location. It hones all the ingredients for a good Friday night for a group of thirty-somethings (and older).
You will come here with fun-loving work colleagues, girly-get togethers, early dinners with family or tourists looking to settle on good food in the marina.
La Parada's service and menu
Tapas are the name of the game with a who’s who of the Usual Suspects, namely, prawn croquettes, ham croquettes, calamari grilled or fried and prawns in butter and garlic. These staples find company among contemporary tapas options including tuna tacos with pineapple salsa (R110, $8, £6), miso aubergine with corn emulsion (R65, $4, £4), beef short ribs with sticky paprika glaze (R130, $9, £7) and a bikini toastie (R72, $4, £5), hmm!
Small plates are de rigueur and inescapable wherever I go so tapas. La Parada offers more substantial plates available if you find mining multiple small plates busy work. I could draw an analogy to Spanish raciones but it would ring hollow with choices like mushroom pappardelle (R125, $5, £4), crispy chicken burger (R125, $5, £4) and their sharing platters.
There is a consistent theme here: a communal and sharing which finds its stride throughout the menu. Your needs will be answered whether you are dining solo (as is often the case for me) or in large parties.
La Parada Underscores Why Fun is Needed, but How's the Food?
Is this the most accomplished restaurant in town? No, those accolades go elsewhere. You came to La Parada to shed the week like a second skin, throw it on the ground then drown it in Pinotage and pisco sours under a thunder of music and laughter. You are here to have fun. Frilly sharing bowls of free-range, organic, sous vide cuts posed on a bed of individually-polished and privately-educated lentils with foie gras emulsions have their place. Any other night I would be there with bells on. But not tonight, tonight I drink Aperol Spritz like there is a fire sale.
Regular Instagram followers know I love two things in life: dark rum and fine dining. But not tonight. Tonight we want to eat and eat well without abandon because tonight is our last night in Cape Town. We are here to make memories. (To be clear, there was most certainly dark rum).
La Parada’s food highlights
Our plates arrive in harmony like ducks coming into land on a pond. The prehistoic-sized shell-on grilled tiger prawns in garlic, chilli, butter, lemon and parsley (market price) is delicious as I greedily shred shell from sweet crustacean sucking spicy, garlicky butterfat from the thumb-sized tiger prawn head. These are mandatory eating.
Seared tuna tataki (R110, $8, £6) is diametrically opposite executing clean, simply seared blood-red rare tuna flanked by whipped avocado mousse, baby carrots and aromatics bound together by a sesame, chilli, soy and lemongrass dressing. This would be a guiltless lunch accompanied by a crisp, arctic-cold, white wine overlooking the rippling waters of the marina. Bliss.
The star of the evening is the Picanha (R265, $18, £14) steak swathed in tomato and garlic confit. Slivers of fat-crusted picanha steak glisten rewarded with the unanimous compliment of a moment of silence when everyone bites into it. Tender, juicy and delicious. It’s mystifying why this beef cut is seldom seen outside of Brazil or Portugal.
Other items such as the trio of plump duck croquette (R98, $7, £5) with fruity cranberry sauce and orange segments were orbs of Christmas. Crumb croquettes collapsed into buttery smooth mash and duck threads. It’s rich, fatty and a dish intended for sharing. A little pickled carrot, cucumber or mooli would help cut through this dish.
These La Parada Dishes Were So-So
The patatas bravas more closely resemble roasted potatoes with side sauces; this dish should be reconstructed to deliver the one-two punch hallmark of smoked paprika and luscious aioli. but outpaced by the heights reached from the prawns, tuna and picanha. The pork belly with palm sugar caramel, pineapple rainbow slaw and toasted sesame seeds (R95, $7, £5) has all the makings of a signature dish. Tender juicy pork belly its sweetness boosted by the palm sugar and contrasted by pineapple slaw. What went wrong? The meat was tough. Tough pork belly? That’s right you heard it here first.
Would I Return To La Parada?
It is not setting the culinary world on fire, nor should it. La Parada is here to introduce you to a good time. Don’t we need more of that in our lives?