Taking food to the next level at Upstairs

Angela Daniels reviews the newest eatery on the Stanley Street strip

Upstairs, one of the Bay’s newest hot and happening establishments, could well be primarily viewed as an up-market cocktail lounge and bar but – maybe not surprisingly – it has some of Port Elizabeth’s best food on offer.
When you find out that Upstairs is owned and managed by one of the same culinary masterminds behind the very successful Mellas Dim-Sim & Noodle Bar, the exceptional food is easy to understand.
Dion Forlee, who along with his wife Camilla owns Mellas, has been really smart about the way he has set up Upstairs’s menu with partner Mark Phillips.
The Stanley Street Lounge Bar’s menu is small, offering a variety of tapas-style dishes, gourmet toasted sandwiches and some heartier offerings like burgers – except these burgers have Wagyu patties, making them a swisher option. Wagyu – some of the world’s most prized and pricey meat – is not readily on offer at most Bay establishments, so it’s a nice option.
Nice, but not what we opted for. Because of the informal seating arrangements, with some tables and chairs, bar stools and a couple of couches, my husband and I went for a shared meal of tapas dishes on a comfortable leather couch.
Forlee explained that he wanted to start with a small menu to ensure quality over quantity.
“I’d rather do 15 dishes really well than 30 mediocre ones,” he says, adding that the menu had already grown since the opening in May.
Forlee, an accomplished cook, is rather humble when it comes to his talents, insisting that he is “not a chef, maybe just a really good cook”.
He says much of his inspiration comes from watching cooking shows on television.
In fact, he says, reality show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has sparked quite a few ideas for his menus. “I just cherry-picked some of my favourites.”
My absolute favourite on our night out were the chicken, spinach and cream cheese spring rolls (R55), which were rivaled only by the wasabi mayonnaise accompanying the panko crumbed prawns (R75).
So good was that mayo, I ended up dipping the spring rolls into it too.
Another interesting choice on the tapas menu is the Chilli Con Carne with corn chips (R85).
Watch out for that one as it is definitely enough for a main meal of its own – and delicious.
Topping off our meal were arguably the best samoosas I have had for years – the Bombay samoosas (R55) – a curried potato and pea concoction in a delightful pastry.
Aside from exceptional food and good service, Upstairs has a lovely wine selection and some cheese and game boards that definitely look worth tasting.

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