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El Burro - No tex-mex junk but genuine Mexican fare
Go on, have a tequila, eat and see
The first time I was here was in 2008. Back then it was home to the Buena Vista Social Café. It was July 5th. And it was the night I met the man I married. Since then, things have spiced up, and also here on Greenpoint’s Main Road number 81. It’s now called El Burro ('the donkey'). We’re sitting outside on the balcony for starters, on a different couch but in the same spot we did neary five years ago.
El Burro is not just another Mexican restaurant. It doesn’t serve tex-mex-food, nor Mexican junk food, but rather Mexican cuisine with an unique, authentic menu.
"My long term friend, Sascha, and now business partner went to Mexico eight years ago and fell in love with the food,“ says owner Nic Haarhoff. "Sascha, owns Royale (on Long Street) and has a natural love for food like myself. After he was exposed to real Mexican food, he came back and the first thing he said to me was 'we have to open and authentic Mexican restaurant. Nobody here is coming close'." Together with Rene Jellis and the Royale Eatery owners Hugo Berolsky and Sascha Berolsky he created El Burro.
Have a tequila
.. and a &Union beer. Yes, they serve it. They also serve authentic Mexican drinks. I try the Mexican Horchata, a cold drink made of rice, almonds, cinnamon, lime zest and sugar. They say this drink is rumoured to be a great cure for a hangover. When you’re at El Burro, you should definitely drink a tequila. There’s one for everyone’s taste and everyone’s purse. On offer are 37 imported tequilas from Mexico (Phoenix says "You are not allowed to call something tequila if it’s not from Mexico"). Hey, why not do a tequila tasting with your friends? Later I also try a cocktail called, Paloma, made with Reposado Tequila, fresh grapefruit, lime juice and soda.
... unique Mexican. For starters I share the Chiles Rellenos (grilled smoked jalapeños in Adobo sauce stuffed with Quesco Fresco accompanied by a salad of wild rocket, radish and pickled red onion) and the Ceviche (finely chopped line fish marinated in lime juice, jalapeño chili, coriander and ginger accompanied by red onion relish and tostadas). I recommend both. The first one is a better version of a chili popper and the second a yummy fish tartar. Another idea for a meal would be a tapas-style dinner ordering several of these yummy starters.
But still, we have to taste the soft tacos, so we get flour and corn tortillas served with guacamole, pickled red onion, sour cream, shredded lettuce, a roasted tomato relish and my favourite, a smoked version. Our filling: grilled prawns with paprika in arbol chili and cumin. You also have a choice of weekly specials.
ChefPaul Van't Hoff doesn’t have a background in Mexican cuisine, but is learning by doing simply Mexican. "We flew out a Mexican chef in the beginning to help us with menu development. Paul has been working in London for the last few years in great restaurants so he has a good understanding of how food and recipes work." says Nic.
... eye-candy interior: wood, couches, cacti, red, lights, candles, mirrors and Mexican elements. El Burro is simply comfy, has a cool bar and a warm fireplace. The best tables must be the ones next to fireplace or on the upper level where you have a good view on what’s happening at El Burro and of course, in summer the best spot is the balcony!
I see girls celebrating a birthday, lots of young people and an older couple out on date night. Capetonians seem to love El Burro, so do the Spanish and Americans.
"We have had lots of offers to open more EL Burros in Joburg, Durban, Cape Town and PE. We aren‘t ready for that and we are going to concentrate more on building our menu and perfecting what we have at the moment. I also highly doubt we will ever franchise, as that just loses the love." says Nic.
He’s got a point there. There’s plenty to love about this place. Meeting my husband for one.
by Antonia Heil
El Burro - Authentic Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Bar
81 Main Road | 1st Floor Exhibition Building | Greenpoint | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 433 2364
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 12pm-11:30pm
P.S. El Burro caters for functions.