Cuisine Cruising in the Cape

It’s not often we spend a full week in the fairest Cape, but we did in May, with four days in the Cape Town area and then a drive up the West Coast to Paternoster for the weekend.

Eating out is what it’s all about when away: new restaurants, new hospitality, new environs – what bliss!

We checked into the Peninsula Suites Hotel, which despite the current renovations, was extremely comfortable, clean, and well situated right on the beach front on the border of Sea Point and Bantry Bay, all day sea views. Perfecto!

Wondering where to eat on the Monday evening, our first night in town, and not wanting to drive too far, my partner in crime found Theo’s Grill in Moullie Point. It was a damp winter Cape evening, so the warm entrance to Theo’s was a most welcome find and we were warmly welcomed in. The place was packed – a good sign. Desperately trying to shed our Jozi grime and dust and find our inner-chilled selves, we slumped into our chairs and cast weary eyes over the menu… comfort food… warm food. We both chose fish, Kingklip and Yellowtail. Is it because one is at the sea that fish tastes fresher, more supple, more wholesome? Must be, because ours was to die for. Fresher than fresh. Excellent service, great deserts, good glassware and crockery…linen napkins. Perfecto.

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Tuesday saw us driving up to Cape Point, where the two oceans meet. I had never been there, and I certainly never anticipated the beauty of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve that you drive through to see these two mighty seas crash into each other. Raining on the way, but sunshine upon arrival, even if there was a bitter wind, made the vista a picture of more than what a thousand words could possibly explain.

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After a steep walk to the top by the lighthouse tower, we thought a sandwich might go down well before heading back to town and to dinner. Walking past the fast food place of pizza slices we followed the restaurant signage and went in. Sumptuous to say the least, overlooking the oceans.. no sandwiches here we thought … but decided to stay at the Two Oceans Restaurant and find something light on the menu. I went with the creamy tomato soup and Geordie the fresh tuna salad, rounded off with a glass of vino.
Nothing beats sitting with fine fare at the very end of the African continent. Not cheap I might add, paying for two starters what one would pay for two mains anywhere else, but I guess when you have a captive audience the world is your oyster.. or your soup bowl perhaps!

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Dinner had been booked at the famous La Perla Restaurant in Sea Point, an institution in fine Italian dining if ever there was one. We had to giggle at the seventies décor still intact and the tall windows giving you a clear view of the sea, while being seated in heavy, dark dining furniture. Old style manners, greeted at the entrance and escorted inside, to be shown to our table by our Maître d’. The one thing I always enjoy about the Cape, is the Cape Coloured humour and friendliness, and our waiter was humour and excellence personified.

Tucking into a tomato, bacon-bits, chilli and garlic pasta with some fresh avocado on top, it was delicious. The Calamari, steak and Ravioli dishes scoffed up by the rest of the table were equally superb. Now we know why this restaurant has stood the test of time: the menu speaks for itself. It was one of those good old evenings of conversation and fun.

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The one thing about the Cape is the beauty. It can be misty, raining, sunny, damp, windy but it is the Cape and it always takes your breath away. From the people, to the sea, to 'the mountain' it is a gorgeous place to hang out and about.

About an hour out of Cape Town, up and past (boring) Hermanus, there is Kleinmond, a small fishing village that has transformed itself over the years. Now boasting home crafts, art, fresh fish, small village living and some fine restaurants. It was here a few years ago we came for lunch and fell in love with its closeness to the sea and rocks and its lack of pretentiousness. So we came back for our official anniversary lunch of Hake, chips and salad, while cowering inside the Boathouse Grill
from the wind. Such down-to-earth and friendly service and fresh feeeeish! So we sat munching through, again, the freshest of fish and ‘slap’ chips and salad. Just kicking our heels back nattering away.

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No-one can visit Cape Town without going to Kalk Bay, and we go back every single time to watch the fishermen, the locals and rummage through the art and book and second-hand shops and then find one of their delicious bistro’s for something to eat. A great place to meet up with dear friends and catch-up on life as the seals and gulls scream and flap away nearby. Harbour House is one of the finest eateries in Kalk Bay and indeed in the Cape area as far as I am concerned, where else can you be practically eating your food on the rocks with waves crashing into the windows of the fine dining restaurant, but this time it was for a bistro lunch at The Annex on the main drag. Tucked away in a courtyard surrounded by art and book shops, this quaint bistro serves home cooked fare like burgers, soups, pastas and of course the fresh feeeeish! Small and homely. Tasty food. Fun service and away from the madding crowd.

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Those who follow my Plate Up blog know that I love the niceties of eating out whether it be burgers or fillet it is the whole experience that I find so enjoyable. There is something magical of having experienced good food and leaving a restaurant happy, full and satisfied – it makes good memories!

Friday was check-out day from our Cape Town hotel, and a trek up the West Coast to Paternoster, a bucket-list destination for us both, and one that we have read about considerably. Had no idea what to expect. Didn’t even think it was as far up as Saldanha, but there you go. Stopping off in Jakkalsfontein for a pit stop we realised we were in conservative territory when the local jam store had porcelain cookie cutters for sale and little English spoken.

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Arriving early at our Mosselbank bed and breakfast, with the last hour or so having been driven through low mist we were ready for something warm to eat. The bed and breakfast suggested we find a place for lunch while they finished cleaning up the room! Mosselbank bed and breakfast did a fine and adequate breakfast, I cannot say they went to any great lengths to enhance our stay. No shampoo in the shower, no tissues – the basic things that make life happy in a bed and breakfast were absent. Probably the only negative on our seven-day trip.

Blikkie Pizzeria was closest, we were hungry and we were cold. Seated outside, blankets on knees we tucked into great, thin-based, hot pizza – the afternoon saved by copious amounts of immune boosting garlic.

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Paternoster was fascinating, for its eclectic community. Upmarket guest houses alongside semi-township dwellings. Average bed and breakfasts alongside fine dining restaurants on the beach. A typical village hotel frequented by local rowdy beer-swilling rugby supporters with the usual suspects selling wares on the street outside. It is a dichotomy of a town. It is known for its few classic fine dining restaurants, many of which had already closed for the winter months. It has a vibrant arts and craft community and a friendliness that makes you smile, and as usual it has the village riff-raff just as it has the village Hummer snobs visiting. As I say – a dichotomy.

Our first fine dinner was at the Square Spoon, nothing square about it at all. Unlike Johannesburg, when we booked we were called back and asked to arrive 30 minutes later due to a large celebratory dinner booked. When we arrived, it was explained in the most friendliest of ways that the large dinner party were waiting for their food orders, so could we please order drinks, and our food, and it would be served as soon as possible. I liked this attitude, tell me how it is and I will be fine. The restaurant had great fishing boat photographs on the walls, and little gems of slogans. People were happy. People were eating. Our food was as good, if not better, than any upmarket dining you would find in Sandton, Johannesburg. My fish – again – was amazing with a side salad and some mash; the Mozambique vegetable stew was even a dish I enjoyed tasting. The desert of Malva pudding was just sleep-inducing it was so good – isn’t good pud supposed to be better than a sleeping pill ?

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Saturday was a day for walks on the beach and photographing the surrounds. Some friends of ours from Kwa-Zulu Natal co-incidentally were in Paternoster that weekend, and after abandoning meeting at the pub-bar-like stale smelling Paternoster Hotel for dinner, we met up at De See Kat restaurant – where the day before I thought I would not find anything to my liking to eat, not being a prawn, tappas, sushi, mussel type person. So there we were sitting outside around a fire, blankets on knees (again!) pondering a completely different kind of menu. The welcome at De See Kat was on both occasions extremely friendly. Vanessa the local waitress was not only embracing but really fun to have around our table. I got tempted by the excellent chicken curry pancakes; others fell in love with the home made bean soup and we all loved the fire … and the vino and another Malva pudding! A great evening, a restaurant up there with the other fine dining options. Would go back in a flash. A husband and wife team that gets the food juices going. YUM!

Up early the next day to photograph the sunrise and continue our travels. Heading back towards Cape Town International Airport via Stellenbosch, and the debauched, and final anniversary celebratory meal at one of our favourite wine estates – Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch.

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I have never done a wine pairing lunch at a wine estate in South Africa, despite all the years I have lived here. One of our favourite wines are the Clos Malverne wines.

Before leaving for the Cape we looked at their menu for their wine pairing lunch. The restaurant overlooks the vineyards. Their menu, I thought, I could find something amongst the four course meal that would make me happy. Boy, was I happy. I think I went to heaven. Each course, small in portion, was accompanied by their suggested Clos Malverne wine. Their Sauvignon Blanc was one of the nicest I have ever tasted (not being a white wine fan these days) their classic red Auret, was, well classic and delicious. Their Chardonnay was outstanding, but most of all… their food was exceptional. From the salmon and a mussel starter; the mushroom pannacotta; their Springbok loin and their perfectly-cooked-to-my-liking fillet (ie well done no pink!) with vegetables and their raspberry and pear crumble…oh my.. save me please for I have eaten and lived! The waiter most certainly knew his food and wine – I was going to say stuff but that would be an insult to his knowledge – and knowing it was our anniversary, they brought our deserts on a plate with ‘Happy Anniversary’ inscribed around the plate with complimentary champers. How cool, and how good is that ? Sometimes, in Johannesburg, you won’t even get a free glass of vino from the owner to celebrate!

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For once sitting in the airport lounge I had no desire to eat.

To travel is to experience is to absorb the things in life that you do not encounter on a daily basis. There is no substitute for enlightenment through experience.

Please pass me the Clos Malverne Le Café – oh yes this is a fine life!

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