Your new local

Serving a locally sourced seasonal menu, inspired by travels and childhood memories, chef Nic Charalambous’s new eatery, Ouzeri, in Cape Town’s inner city is a contemporary take on his Cypriot heritage and love for the region

Words by Margot Molyneux  Photography by Micky Hoyle  Art direction & Styling by Sumien Brink

As the name so aptly suggests, an ouzeri – a Greek-style tavern – is frequented by locals to enjoy ouzo and mezedes, or small bites. Thanks to chef Nic Charalambous, Cape Town has its very own ouzeri – with a twist – serving small-batch wine paired with a sophisticated seasonal menu. ‘My dishes are versions of the food I grew up eating. The menu is in many ways my interpretation of the food and culture of my Cypriot heritage,’ says Nic.

Turning to Master Studio’s Yaniv Chen for the restaurant’s design, the space is light yet cosy, modern yet nostalgic. ‘We looked at the types of woven textiles, tapestries and printed cushions reminiscent of a traditional old Cypriot café, but also architectural elements – white plastered walls with soft edges and arched wall niches,’ says Nic.‘The most important thing for me was to follow the same design line as the food: a fine balance between traditional and contemporary, nostalgic and sophisticated, while bringing in the regions of Greece and Cyprus.’

Serving a seasonal menu has encouraged Nic and his team to source ingredients from local suppliers – such as Hout Bay’s Meuse Farm, for organically grown oregano, meats from Richard Bosman, dairy from Cream of The Crop and wine by winemaker Jasper Wickens of Swerver. ‘We are really conscious about the sourcing of our produce – seasonally and from local suppliers – this is how traditional ouzeris operate, and so this was important for me to replicate here, while at the same time supporting other small businesses.’

Try out chef Nic’s recipes at home with three dishes from the Ouzeri menu below.

ABOVE Chef Nic Charalambous sitting in his recently opened Ouzeri restaurant in Cape Town. Designed by Yaniv Chen of Master Studios, the interiors are inspired by traditional Cypriot cafés. Using traditional-style wine carafes, Ouzeri serves small-batch wine in collaboration with Jasper Wickens.

ABOVE Chef Nic Charalambous sitting in his recently opened Ouzeri restaurant in Cape Town. Designed by Yaniv Chen of Master Studios, the interiors are inspired by traditional Cypriot cafés.

BELOW Using traditional-style wine carafes, Ouzeri serves small-batch wine in collaboration with Jasper Wickens.

Lamb-and-beef manti

(makes approximately 25)

Fried mussels with walnut skordalia, lamb-and-beef manti and pastourma-cured yellowtail are just a selection of the seasonal dishes that make up Ouzeri’s contemporary menu.

Lamb-and-beef filling

1⁄2 onion, grated on box grater
100g lamb mince
1000g beef mince
1⁄4 tsp allspice powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1⁄2 tsp smoked paprika pinch of dried mint
10g parsley, chopped
10g mint, chopped
salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix very well to combine.

Manti dough

200g 00 flour
2 eggs
30ml water

Place the flour in a bowl and whisk the eggs with the water in another bowl. Add the egg to flour and mix to form a dough. Knead with some flour for 5 minutes until the doughis soft, but not sticky.

To fold the manti: Work with half the dough at a time. Using a pasta roller or rolling pin, roll out the dough so it’s approximately 2mm thick. Cut out 5cm x 5cm squares of dough. Place a walnut-sized piece of filling in the middle of each square and bring the corners of the dough up to meet in the centre. Use a little water to seal each manti, pressing closed with your fingertips. Store the manti on a floured surface to prevent sticking.

Dill-and-garlic yoghurt

100g Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed into a paste
5g dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Burnt tomato butter

100g butter
1⁄2 tbsp tomato paste
1⁄2 tsp dry oregano
250g tinned whole peel tomatoes
1⁄4 tsp chilli flakes
1⁄2 tsp sherry vinegar

Melt 25g butter in a wide pan, add the tomato paste and oregano, then cook for 2 minutes. Drain the whole tomatoes in a colander and crush into smaller pieces with your hands. Keep the tomato liquid for other use. Weigh out 125g crushed tomato. Add the tomatoes to the butter, reduce the heat and cook for 45 minutes, stirring constantly until the tomatoes start to caramelise.

Add the chilli flakes, sherry vinegar and salt and remove from heat. Melt the remaining butter in a separate pot. Whisk the butter until it foams and begins to caramelise. Once the butter starts to turn golden brown, remove from the heat and mix into the tomato mixture.

Crispy soujouk

50g soujouk or chorizo, cut into small cubes

Place the soujouk or chorizo in a pan over a low heat. Cook until it slowly renders and becomes crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel.

To finish

1L chicken stock
dill-and-garlic yoghurt tomato butter
pinch of chilli flakes bunch of dill, chopped cripy soujouk

Place the chicken stock in a pot and bring to the boil. Gently add the manti in batches and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon. Meanwhile, spoon the yoghurt onto a plate and spread. Place the manti on the yoghurt and spoon over the tomato butter Sprinkle with chilli flakes and the chopped dill. Enjoy!

‘Manti is one of my favourite dishes, and originally from Turkey – but is found extensively around the countries north of Greece, each culture having their own version. I love the flavour profile of the dough – we blanch it in chicken stock, serving it with dill yoghurt, burnt tomato butter and crispy soujouk, Cypriot style!’– Nic Charalambous, owner and chef of Ouzeri 

Beetroot salad

(serves 4)

Beetroot salad with date molasses, roasted almonds and Greek yoghurt.

Cooked beetroot

600g beetroots
3L water
125ml red wine vinegar
50g caster sugar
20g salt

Wash the beetroots and place in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the beetroots are cooked through. Strain, allow the beetroots to cool before peeling. Cut the cooked beetroots into quarters.

Date molasses dressing

30ml Extra Virgin olive oil
50ml date molasses
30ml red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to emulsify the dressing.

Brined and roasted almonds

250ml water
100g salt
100g almonds

Bring the water to boil, adding the salt and allowing it to dissolve. Add the almonds, remove from the heat and allow to sit for 30min. Strain and dry well before spreading in an even layer on an oven tray. Roast at 190C  for 10-12 minutes. Once roasted, allow to cool before roughly chopping.

To finish

beetroots, cooked
date molasses dressing
bunch of dill, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
salt and pepper
100g Greek yoghurt
mint leaves
brined and roasted almonds
30ml Extra Virgin olive oil
Maldon salt and black pepper

Place the beetroots in a bowl with the dressing, dill, sliced spring onions and season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Spoon the yoghurt on the bottom of a serving platter and place the beetroots on top. Tear mint leaves over the beetroots and sprinkle with some of the almonds. Finish with olive oil, Maldon salt and black pepper.

Fried mussels with walnut skordalia

(serves 6 as a snack)

Beer battered, fried mussels served with walnut skordalia.

Walnut skordalia

100g walnuts, soaked in hot water for 1 hour
20g sourdough bread, crust removed, soaked in water for 2 minutes and squeezed out
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
30g tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
45ml Extra Virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
100ml water

Place the walnuts, sourdough and garlic in a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Add the vinegar, tahini, lemon, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Blend to combine, slowly adding the water while continuing to blend, the consistency should resemble double thick cream. Check the seasoning and add more salt and lemon if needed.

Beer batter

200ml beer
60g self raising flour
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt

Whisk all ingredients together to form a light batter.


1kg mussels
200ml white wine
wooden skewers

Heat a large pot with a lid, add the wine and the mussels placing the lid on the pot. Cook for 2 min until the mussel shells have all opened. Strain the mussels and allow them to cool. Remove the mussels from their shells and remove the beard. Skewer 4 mussels onto each stick.

To finish

2L frying oil
skewered mussels
100g flour seasoned with some salt and pepper
beer batter
walnut skordalia
lemons to squeeze

Heat the oil in a large pot to 200C. Dust the mussels with the seasoned flour and shake off excess flour. Dip the mussels into the beer batter and then gently drop into the oil. Fry for 2 minutes until golden, remove onto some paper towel and season with salt. Serve with walnut skordalia on the side and with lemon to squeeze over.

Visit Ouzeri at 58 Wale Street, Cape Town, book a table online or follow chef Nic and his team on Instagram.