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A must try restaurant of the week: Tapas styled and Cape Town's gem Awara

The classic Bukhara restaurant has just undergone a rebrand now serving tasty tapas dishes and delectable cocktails for the perfect after work spot

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By Yashna Balwanth | October 4, 2022 | Travel Leisure

The ideal date night spot, a Sunday lunch family gathering or a quick drink after work, Awara restaurant is quickly amassing as the place to be any day of the week. Situated just above street level and overlooking the site of Church Street’s quaint open-air day market, Awara is the rebranded version of the famed Bukhara restaurant, which occupied the very same space for over 25 years.

The younger, trendier version of this classic restaurant, Awara caters to the contemporary taste of customers with a variety of Asian grilled tapas, modernised gourmet Indian dining and classic curries that we have all grown to love over the years.

An array of the tapas meals prepared by Awara which is all made to share, Image: Supplied

The new name, as explained to us by the manager, Johan Venter, is the name of the movie directed by the owner, Dr. Sabi Sabharwal’s father. Awara is a 1950s classic Bollywood movie that was a high grossing movie for its time. The history of this name with its heritage is part of what makes it so special to the restaurant.

The team and quality remains the same, but the menu has certainly seen an updated shift. Instead of just covering Indian cuisine only, the menu has expanded to cover Korean, Thai, Japanese and Chinese flavours as well with open-flame charcoal grills and traditional Indian clay tandoori ovens for an authentic way of preparing your meal. The food has a bit of theatrics at play with the Korean Chilli Chicken arriving in a sizzling pan, being cooked in front of your very eyes. it is a tender, boneless leg meat marinated in gochujang chilli paste with lettuce leaves on the side for a bit of freshness. The Pani Puri (which was a personal favourite) arrived with a tamarind sauce on the side for you to dress your bite as needed (the explosion of this single morsel will have you going back for so much more). The Prawn Palak Papdi Chat was also such an interesting plate of food with the perfect mix of baby spinach, chickpeas, potato, prawns, mint, tamarind and a yoghurt dressing that fufills the crunch factor, sweet and salty along with tangy and spicy all in one. The flavours are all there without overpowering the palate and providing the tastiest bite of food (we sound a bit biased, but they really were this good).

Pani puri is a starter dish and a complete crowd favourite, Image: Supplied

With the update of the menu, an interior decor revamp was needed to reflect this new style Awara was channelling. The previously open plan area has been transformed into a cosier space with more private seating options and a lounge area. “In Bukhara, we had orange walls and the whole space was filled with tables in an open-floor setup. For Awara, we’ve divided the restaurant into three sections: a large cocktail-esque lounge surrounded by decorative walls, the main dining area, and outdoor seating,” says Johan. Rich, deep earth tones on the walls bring velvety warmth to leather furnishings, dark wood tables and lots of greenery. The moodier lights create a more intimate setup that is ideal for close family and friends with soft furnishings to bring more warmth to the space. The interiors lend themselves to a lot more of a contemporary feel as opposed to the open-floor restaurant setup that was there previously. This new look has such character and appeal with the touches of mix materials and designated spaces.

Bukhara went ahead with this revamp to push the gourmet Asian concept even further. Johan shares, “Flame-grilled plates speak to a contemporary palate and we’ve always worked with flame, so we feel it is the right moment to foreground our grills and develop new flavours. After Covid, there seems to be such a renewed sense of appreciation for and celebration of life, and we’re really feeling that. Our new concept lets us live in the now and our sharing plates are designed to bring people together since we are able enjoy communal eating and sharing and socialising once more!” And we couldn’t agree with him anymore.

Awara is located at 33 Church street, Cape Town and open 7 days a week.

The lounge area is the perfect spot for a chilled after-work cocktail, Image: Supplied
The occasional leather chair in a tan brown shade adds to the warmth of the restaurant, Image: Supplied