Crustaceans of Baja. Sea Bass Coconut Ceviche. Mezcal Drunken Oysters.
Not typical things your mind may conjure when imagining Mexican food. But Hacienda offers up Mexican food like you’ve never imagined before. So say goodbye to nachos, quesadillas and tacos laden with sour cream, sliced jalapeños and grated cheese and say hello to Coastal Mexican cuisine inspired by Baja California.
In the heart of Cape Town’s City Centre, Hacienda brings a taste of Baja (pronounced Bah-ha) to bustling Bree Street. This 30 – 40 seater restaurant is elegantly designed to create an “Instagrammable” space that’s classy at it’s core. With its wrap-around veranda and intimate indoor area, it’s a beautiful venue to host private functions and events no matter the season.
Seafood, the staple of the Baja region, features prominently on the menu – yay for me, the pescy – but there’s a great variety of meat, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan sharing dishes. Each is thoughtfully put together using top notch ingredients to give you an undeniably complex flavour and eating experience. With this complexity comes a higher price point, so don’t go looking for a R50 burrito – there’s no cheap cheese or bottled salsa here.That said, throughout your visit there are moments that add value to the experience. As you’re seated you’re welcomed with delicious homemade sauces and totopos chips and at the end of your meal you’ll feel like a kid again with a mountain of complimentary candy floss!
Our favourite dishes were the bright and flavourful Crustaceans of Baja Seafood Bowl, the Sea Bass Ceviche and the Guajillo Dusted Corn. Read on to find out why.
The staff are friendly (without being in your face), knowledgable (without being pompous) and attentive (without being annoying). They make excellent suggestions based on your preferences and make you feel at home.
There’s a ton of acidic, salty, spicy flavour coming out of this unassuming burnt orange building on the corner of Bree Street and Short Market Street. So much so, that picking dishes off the menu ain’t easy. I want give a shout out to whoever wrote the menu. One of my pet peeves is any menu that tries to be edgy in barely describing the dish. “Beef. Potato. Duck Fat.” No. Absolutely not. Do not make me guess and hope for the best. The menu at Hacienda perfectly, yet simply describes each dish in a way that honours the ingredients and gets you drooling.
As you’re seated, you’re welcomed with a trio of Totopos, which are crisp corn chips that are coloured with fresh ingredients, although to be honest, they mostly tasted the same. However, the three Mother Sauces they were served with most certainly didn’t. Considering I licked the bowl of the Pasta De Frijol – spiced, smokey Black Bean Sauce, you know which was my favourite. The Salsa Verde Green Tomatillo Sauce was vibrant and fresh and the Adobo Oaxaca Red Adobo Rub Sauce had a rich, roasted tomato flavour.
The Michelada (R149), a unique take on a Bloody Mary with tomato juice, lime, angostura bitters, salty-chilli-limey Tajin Spice, Patron Silver and a dash of Sol Beer, was then kind of drink that I could order again and again and…
Drunken Oyster // 59 each
I can single handedly feast upon an entire platter of oysters. At R59 each, a platter may be a bit pricy for most, myself included, but add one or two to your meal so you can experience this unique flavour combo. Large oysters topped with salsa verde, burnt corn, salmon roe caviar, cholula hot sauce and Los Danzantes Joven Mezcal. Such powerful flavours are at risk for hiding the taste of the oyster, but it’s supported by the echo flavour of the fish roe.
Sea Bass Ceviche // 149
Leche De Tigre, citrus marinated Sea Bass cubes, were paired with a rich avocado crema and an unexpected yellow pepper, coconut and ginger cream, which played beautifully together, while fresh radish and red onion added contrast, crunch and a little bit of punch. Once again, the burst of the sea from the roe enhanced the flavour of the fish and brought together the entire dish.
Mole Hacienda // 149
Mole (moh-lay) is like a sourdough starter in that you make your initial sauce and then add to it over the days, months and even years. With 30+ ingredients that change depending on the day, menu or season, a Mole tastes different depending on when you meet it. I don’t know if we met this dish on a bad day or if it was hyped up SO much that it couldn’t measure up to the expectation, but it really didn’t hit the spot. The black bean sauce was completely flavourless and the Mole itself was… nice?
Crustaceans of Baja // 215
On the other hand, the Seafood Mole that accompanied this was incredible. Like a thick, salty, rich gravy, it accentuated the beautiful elements of the plate. Grilled fish, prawns and mussels sat atop garlicky Guajillo Chilli cauliflower rice with a vibrant lemon gel. It was finished with “Smoked Coral” in the form of bright red, achiote flavoured batter to add a colourful, crispy bite.
Frijol Negro // 139
This fragrant Black Bean stew (for lack of a better word) is 5937856 times more delicious than it sounds as I type it. The beans were perfectly seasoned, with an acidic and spicy bite, then topped with chilli cauliflower, fried mushrooms, pickled onions, chipotle powder and a LOT of parmesan cheese. This salty-spicy-acidic bowl of goodness was rich, without being overwhelming and is something I’ll definitely try recreate on a chilly winter’s (or any other) day.
Guacamole // 135
All eyes were on us as a Butcher’s Block adorned with shmushing paraphernalia was wheeled to the table. Into a large stone mortar went avo, tomato, onion, coriander, lime zest and juice, adobo powder, Tajin Spice, chilli sauce and sea salt. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but our waitron was fun and the guac was very well balanced in flavour. It was a generous portion that added to the meal as a whole.
Baja Lobster // 195
Behold: the boujee taco has arrived. A big piece of uber crisp tempura lobster in a light, but decadent batter, with a spiced cabbage slaw (it said fennel on the menu), dried grapefruit and strawberry aioli (it said pomegranate on the menu). The strawberry was a touch too sweet for me, so I took a little off – en voila! – perfection. While a fruity addition to a savoury meal is not always my cuppa tea-quila (lol), this combo was one of those moments that just worked.
Corn // 135
A subtly sweet, charred chilli-dusted corn was topped with spiced aioli, light and airy Queso Fresco cheese, and a drizzle of Ancho Chilli honey. This dish stood out not only in it’s simplicity, but in the way that these simple ingredients could create impactful flavour. Definitely one of my stars of the show.
Churros // 105
I love a spin on a classic that honours the original while adding a new dimension. Instead of the traditional long churro shape, we were served cinnamon-sugar drenched pockets that had a 360 degree crunch and a pillowy centre. They were served with a spiced, bitter chocolate ice cream and a very clever burnt banana dulce. The combination was somewhat reminiscent of a banana split, in the best possible way.
Alongside came the complimentary tower of candyfloss – a lighthearted way to end what was a rather playful meal.
Check it out
Clearly I need to go spend some time on the coast of Mexico because Hacienda truly does offer up Mexican food like I’ve never imagined before. But while I am waiting for my Visa, this little burnt orange building has stolen a piece of my stomach and is definitely on the list to re-visit with the husband, who was VERY jealous when I told him all about it. While the prices are not on the cheap-side, neither are the flavours. It’s all about fun flavour combos, beautiful ingredients, brilliant service and an all-round unexpected experience. Mexican food like you’ve never imagined before? Check.
Directions to Hacienda
92 Bree Street
021 422 0128