Pintxos Bar at Sotano on Bree

Posted on 27 March 2019

What on earth are pintxos and how do you pronounce it, you may be wondering. Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) are the Northern Spanish, Basque cousins of the traditional Spanish tapas you’re used to eating.

Said to be South Africa’s first and only pintxos bar, Sotano on 199 Bree Street is a fun and lively spot that offers a more refined, yet simple, alternative to regular pub meals.

Mediterranean-style tapas.

Getaway magazine’s associate editor Caroline Webb and I supped on some surprisingly filling pintxos, and cocktails. I had the spicy Bentley, a delicious orange drink flavoured with the fruity local Bottings Mpumalanga puree. It was a hot day when we walked in, at the end of the first week the pintxos bar opened, and the dark, cool interiors kept us chilled.

While Caro and I began to tuck into our calamari cones and gildas (anchovy, green chilli and olives on a small skewer) we realised that this Basque style of eating was deceptively dangerous, as you order plates of various light bites, thinking you’ll get hungry later. Fortunately, the pintxos are really affordable, ranging from R8 to R50. Perhaps the most unusual pintxos bite for me was the half a boiled egg skewered with a prawn and some red salmon roe onto a small square of ciabatta.

Pulling apart some golden ham and cheese croquettes.

My favourite was the beef shin and mash, which Caroline said was usually the ‘poor man’s cut of beef’ – but Sotano made it taste rather sophisticated. Another odd but surprisingly good dish was the wild mushrooms prettily encircling a bright yellow egg yolk in the middle, the fungi fronds tasting subtly of garlic. Eat it while it’s still hot though. Other warm pintxos, apart from the calamari served in paper cones, include hake as well as ham and cheese croquettes.

If I wasn’t so stuffed I would’ve tried the prosciutto and mini olives on a mini baguette, but that just means I’ll have to come back. Caroline was already thinking that we could start an after-work club where we go every Friday evening to sample the latest creations. And this is exactly what the new pintxos bar is about: coming together after work to have a bite and a drink which won’t break the bank, in a buzzing but also relaxed social setting.

When we walked in a DJ was blasting urban beats and mixes. While we did have to shout a bit to be heard, the Sotano staff don’t mind if you request to turn it down a notch.

Take your pick of pintxos!

Upstairs is where you go if you want to sit down and have dinner, but the owner Mark explained his inspiration for Sotano. He said that when he was in Spain, there were over 300 different pintxos bars. The idea is that you go to one, have one to three pintxos and a drink, and then go on to the next bar, where you try something else. Mark explained that there’s a new pintxos menu every week, with new creations alongside the standard Sotano pintxos. We reckon that Bree Street is perfectly laid out to allow for such an experience, and who knows, perhaps we’ll see a new trend emerging.

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