Live entertainment, takeaways for eating on the premises and running 'specials' are current ways restaurateurs keep patrons keen during tough times. My top 5 post-lockdown restaurants in Cape Town's Deep South, include a Scarborough deli, a village-style pizzeria in Muizenberg and a culinarily-creative spot in Kalk Bay.
The Courtyard Café, Kalk Bay
Don’t let Chef Michael Keating’s casual manner fool you. He may be a surfer dude between shifts, but what lies beneath is a serious culinary artist.
Chef Keating wanted me to taste as much as possible when I visited. It turned out to be a superlative experience.
My visual aperitif at a full-length window in an airy corner of the covered courtyard was elevated views across a clear blue bay and sky. A telling sign was an unusually full restaurant on a late Tuesday morning.
The apple soup for starters consisted of butternut, sweet potato, apples and ‘secret spices’ that had a kick like a mule. I loved the decorated cup on a wooden board presentation.
Chef Keating's mega-creativity was just starting with the sampling of seductively-creamy lentil korma main he delivered to me, making me regretful of my main choice.
In truth, every mouthful of every dish was a treat here. Stating that could be a first for me. It included the incredibly-tasty cheddar, corn and spring onion spring roll. While vegan staple, the red quinoa salad with its slivers of marrow and carrot was matched beautifully with the flavoursome vinaigrette.
Sweets was an apple crumble accompanied by Chef Keating's own homemade ice-cream – not to be missed!
Authenticity means much to Chef Keating. He spends five hours smoking wood to create smoke-flavoured baba ganoush, apart from roaming Kalk Bay for daily supplies.
“I go to the harbour for my fish dish of the day and across the road to harvest from the raised box vegetable garden.” He likens himself to Jamie Oliver for good reason!
The Courtyard was almost faultless on presentation, originality and attention to the mixing and matching of flavours. While my waiter delivered equally on attentive but unobtrusive service.
Umami, Imhoff’s Gift, Kommetjie
Umami’s in an environment you may want to hang out at all day. But I was there for the sushi. And the miso soup. At least three-quarters of the populace in Japan eat miso daily - after their meal to help settle the food. I lived there for a time. My soup had just the right amount of miso in the mix.
Seeing vegetable tempura on the menu also invoked memories. Umami’s version was mini deep-fried strips of carrot and sweet potato with an accompanying sweet chilli dipping sauce. Prawn, calamari and tuna are the pescatarian alternatives.
I was outside under the Cape ash and elderberry trees when my 14-piece vegetarian platter arrived. It included maki, rainbow rolls, inside-out rolls and vegetable inari – the tofu-wrapped sushi.
If you prefer it hot and sushi-free – vegetable, chicken, beef or pork fried noodles are other options.
I’ve moved to the back outdoor area under reed cover to sip my cappuccino and have a chocolate spring roll with melting marshmallow. Chocolate sauce oozes prolifically - landing everywhere but in my mouth. I look and feel about five.
The thick wall behind me is the remains of an animal kraal from the late 1800s. Walk off your meal at Imhoff’s Gift and explore the numerous other historical nooks and crannies here.
The Village Hub, Scarborough
Vegan ice-cream addicts don’t want to bypass Scarborough’s Village Hub. Home to Addictions Ice-Cream, the creamy, dreamy range of more than a dozen flavours is a pure lickable pleasure on a cone. My favourite? Salted caramel.
Kids love it here too, and you’ll be able to watch them from the deck tables, adjoining their wooden playpark.
Also popular with groups of cyclists for coffee and breakfast breaks and passers-by on peninsula drives alike, breakfast, lunches, teas and suppers are available daily.
Breakfasts include the carnivore wraps, with bacon and sausage; herbivore, with beans, cheese, chipotle sauce; flapjacks; and freshly-baked frittatas. Apart from the usual caffeinated hot beverages, juices and smoothies also feature.
Carnivores can choose between pan-fried calamari, slow-cooked beef tacos and a free-range lamb burger.
My friend and I chose a shared platter of vegetarian deli items. We started with an ordinary-looking but extraordinary-tasting tomato soup. Probably attributable to the asparagus and parmesan in it.
We giggled, chatted and nibbled our communal way through edamame beans with a delectable miso and tahini dressing, refried bean tacos dressed in smoked chilli and roasted garlic, potato wedges and truffle mayo and salad. Though all had vastly different colours, tastes and textures, everything was delectable.
Baking everything on their menu except croissants, the deli here also offers kefir, kimchi, wasabi and ready-cooked dishes.
Café Roux, Noordhoek Farm Village
Arguably the heart of the valley’s vibe-maker, Café Roux at the Noordhoek Farm Village is a long-established, lekker, local meeting spot. Consistently-decent food offerings, drinks, laughs and live music are also a crowd-puller.
Some big names included in their upcoming musical lineup are Majozi, Arno Carstens, Anna Wolff, The Rivertones and Jesse Clegg.
The je n’est se quoi
that is Roux’s glue ensures its appeal to both the young and single, families, special occasion meals and business meetups.
Burgers aren’t usually my first choice, but the vegan beetroot burger, with kidney beans, here is way beyond run-of-the-mill. It’s succulent and seriously moreish in flavour – probably due to the brewer's yeast it contains. Add on skinny or sweet potato fries.
But my friend and I started with salads. Her power salad, which included spinach, broccoli, quinoa, avo, vegan almost cheese, and my crispy butternut and goat’s cheese, which included parmesan strips and roasted pumpkin seeds, were both so yummy - and substantial.
Worth noting is the Vinologist rosé we sipped on. Mostly because it was decent quality quaff that didn’t get me drunk as most other wines do!
Sitting at the circular, outdoor tables under oak trees while digging into our lemon cheesecake and lemon meringue with coffee was a charm. Roux’s cheesecake is one of my tops – it’s subtle, light, and of course, baked.
Any restaurant playing “The Chain”, one of my favourites by Fleetwood Mac, receives an instant brownie point from me. But judging by the buzz of takeaway clients and the few, but full tables inside, there are other reasons to frequent this eatery.
In the heart of the village, you can also people-watch from the outdoor tables. Local business owners – from an architect and tattoo artist to a DJ and clothing store owner and locals with their pooches all popped in. Joon is their ‘home away from home’. That’s according to my delightful waitress, Faith, who handles all with a cool, calm hand. ”These customers come here every day.”
Being a small spot also made for a perfect eavesdropping environment. Their wraps, filled croissants and coffees were popular orders during my visit. But so was their speciality – pizzas.
I was there for their reputation on the latter and I didn’t leave disappointed. Not only was their popular thin-based Joon pizza perfectly-baked, but it was also laden with the butternut, feta, caramelised onion, roasted seed and fresh rocket topping.
Adding to the aesthetics, pizzas arrive on a circular wooden board, blending well with the wooden furnishing.
An extra bonus, almost unheard of in most pizzerias these days, was the three-in-one condiment carrier containing parmesan cheese, chopped chilli and garlic that came with my meal.
The same was also packed in with my friend’s takeaway pizza, the vegan, flavoursome Jangle. It contained spinach, mushroom, sun-dried tomatoes and avo,
You can wash all this down with a bottle of homemade lemonade, ginger beer or kombucha. The kombucha includes buchu, hemp and rose geranium flavours, which my tastebuds appreciated.