San Julian is a postcard from Mexico, a delightful smorgasbord of fiery flavours and colourful decor that, when combined, is everything you’d want and need in authentic cuisine.
Run by a Mexican family who, after opening the restaurant during the Soccer World Cup – intending for it to serve short-term – have remained in Cape Town, providing the market with its very own taquería. From the tacos to the tortillas, everything is made from scratch by Mexican chef Ricardo Garcia-Aispuro, served of course with a margarita made by Ricardo’s father, Arturo. It really is a family affair, and that’s what makes this place so special; you’ll feel right at home.
It had been a long week so Bernard got right to business with a Conga (R32), which hit just the spot with its tequila, rum and orange juice staples. A fussy margarita drinker myself (why are they always too sweet?), I was excited to put Don Arturo’s ‘best margarita in Cape Town’ title to the test. Although not very strong, it’s a winner. Salty, tangy with just a touch of sweet, Arturo can keep ’em coming (R40).
Now for the food.
I recommend you go hungry, and try more than one dish. The menu is by no means tex-mex, so some of the items may need explaining. We whet our appetite with classic poppers, filled with white cheddar, crumbed with toasted tortilla and served with a delicious smoked Chipotle aioli (R15 each), followed by quesofundido, a cheesy plate of oozing goodness, crammed with red onion, chorizo, Jalapenos and served with corn chips and guacamole. The melted cheddar gratin was more like serving a portion of linguine, its cheesy strings just kept on going.
For mains we shared the chicken enchilada (a tough decision considering the tacos dorados, prawn quesadillas and vampiro were equally tempting). The neat parcels were smothered in a refried bean cream and topped with mild chili salsa (R90). Pair with a tequila based drink, national music and a friendly waiter with a Spanish accent and you may as well be in San Cristóbal. Oh, and do Vampire Weekend a favour, order a Horchata (R20).
Photography Bernard Myburgh Words Lisa Wallace