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Goeiedag, Cape Town.

My trip to South Africa was sure an eventful one. From close encounter with the wild life, to close encounter with the ‘friendly’ local, my days in Cape Town just getting more exciting and colourful each day. My misfortune doesn’t translate to the friendliness of people in this beautiful city, there are smiles with pearly white teeth beaming at you wherever you go. As I dig deeper into this city bowl, there is an exciting food scene waiting to be unfold.

Bo-Kaap (Malay Quarter)

Talking about colours, Bo-Kaap or the Malay Quarter is well known for its colourful neighbourhood where homes are painted in shades of rainbow. Almost every street in this part of town is a fun kaleidoscope of vibrant colours. Bo-Kaap is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill, the township is an historical centre of Cape Malay culture, rich in history.

Nowadays, Bo-Kaap has become a pitstop for tourists and wedding photographers wonderland, many wealthy outsiders have also moved into the suburb to snap up homes at cut-rate prices, many trendy bars and restaurants are actually located here in Bo-Kaap.

Bo-Kaap museum is worth seeing, it is the oldest house in the area, dated back in 1760s which is still in its original form. Here you will learn about the history, the cultural contribution made by early Muslim settlers.

I adore the colourful mural on the wall at the grocery store around the corner. And you’d be surprised the different variety of food you can get in Cape town. Not only you can get roti pratha here in Bo-Kaap, I also find delicious dumplings for lunch in the city.

 

I ♥ my laundry

Is that a laundry? Is that a clothing and gifts store? Is that Chinese dumpling house? It is I ♥ my laundry. That’s right, it is all of the above and it shouldn’t work but it does! Only opened in March 2012, transformed from a former cafe, this wild concept shop is now a talk of the town frequents by the locals and tourists. The shop is tiny, with a 14-seater concrete communal table takes up the whole floor. Trinkets and jewellery spread out on the table are for sale, so as the funky printed tshirts hanging on the lines above head. Behind the curtains at the back of the shop is the actual laundry and also the kitchen.

There isn’t a menu, one of the co-owners Clayton Howard takes his time explaining the selection of dumplings on offer today. We choose a steamer basket each of kim chipork and chive and pork, chicken and spinach dumplings. Yes, I am eating Chinese dumplings in South Africa, thousand miles away from Asia, and surprisingly these dumplings actually exceeding my expectation; the dumpling skins are paper thin and soft, and the flavours are as close as what you can get back home. Kim Chi is my favourite, at 30 Rand (around AUD3.30) for a basket of 8 pieces, we shout for a second.

Clayton Howard and Mico Botha are two very clever business partners, apart from the shop, they also using the power of social media to promote their side business, I ♥ My Wine where good South African wines are offered to public at a friendly rate. We’ve been told usually all the wines got snapped up within hours once they announced it on twitter or facebook.

I ♥ MY LAUNDRY
59 Buitengracht Street
Heritage Square, Cape Town.
P: 084 660 0777

Opening hours: Daily 7am - 7pm

 

The Pot Luck Club & Gallery

The Old Biscuit Mill at Woodstock is where you want to be on Saturdays. It is famous for its Neighbourgoods Market which focuses on local produce, regional organic food, hand made products like cheeses, breads and beer. Sadly our itinerary doesn’t fall on Saturday and missing out the fun. But that’s not the end of the world, I still determined to go to the Old Biscuit Mill to check out a couple most raved about restaurants in town.

Being listed in San Pellegrino’s World’s 100 Best restaurants (only two in South Africa are on the list), chances of getting into The Test Kitchen is slim if you don’t have a booking months in advance. We tried but ended up scoring a table at its sister restaurant right next door. The Pot Luck Club & Gallery has a more relaxed and casual setting than the fine dining next door, an intimate space that is both eatery and contemporary art gallery. The menu here amplifies influences and inspirations from around the world, particularly Asian fusion. We settling down with a couple of cocktails and opening up the appetite wit ha bowl of shaved parsnip crisps, seasoned with Madagascan black pepper salt which has a subtle spicy heat.

My dining companion who had been to this restaurant knows what dishes are a must-order, but he also warns me to order two portions as he is not willing to share as most dishes come in small portion. Hence, we order two portions of the Pot Luck Club Asian tartare. The tartare is a mix of diced tuna and salmon, coated in creamy wasabi miso vinaigrette dressing, a beautiful spread to go on top of the thin crispy toasts. I am glad we don’t have to share this dish.

“I am not sharing this either,” he claims. Fine. Another two serves of Pot Luck Club fish tacos we order. Not your usual looking Mexican fish tacos, yellowtail fillet is doused in spicy sambal oelek and jalapeno chilli dressing, served on crunchy spring roll skins. Best to get the whole taco into your mouth in one bite else prepare for messy fingers.

From Japanese to Latin and now we are onto something more Thai and Chinese influenced, looks like a San Choy Bao, on each lettuce cup is filled with fried local prawns dressed in creamy and rich tom ka gai butter sauce and a generous sprinkle of fried shallots and toasted peanuts.

Mushroom on toast sounds so simple but it is a delightful vegetarian dish on the menu. Nothing can beat a simple sauteed of mushrooms in garlic butter, with toasted brioche soaking up all the earthy delicious juice. A generous shave of parmesan and a sprinkle of porcini dust add depths of flavours and richness.

Pork belly and red cabbage & apple goes hand in hand. Three tiny cubes of braised pork belly are meltingly tender, topped with homemade Luke’s XO dressing which is intense with salty shredded ham, good to have the refreshing red cabbage and apple slaw to offer some relief.

I am loving the small dishes concept which means you get to try more food and also still have room for desserts. The first dessert we order has an unusual combination of strawberries, goat cheese, honey served on creme brulee. Goat cheese may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I do love its sharpness works rather well with strawberries and the sweet brulee.

The churros with tonka ganache is our favourite. The warm cinnamon sugar dusted churros are pillowy soft, together with the cold stem ginger ice cream, a classic flavours combo just like eating a gingerbread. Honeycomb debris adds crunch.

The meal at The Pot Luck Club doesn’t disappoint, with the currency conversion rate, no doubt us Aussies are spoiled dining in Cape Town.

The Pot Luck Club 
375 Albert Road | Shop 104 A
The Old Biscuit Mill
Cape Town Central, South Africa 
P: 021 447 0804

Opening hours: Tue - Sat, 6 - 10pm, Sat lunch 12.30pm - 2pm

 

La Mouette

You can actually eat very well in South Africa, I struggle to understand how the restaurants run the businesses and still make money as I found the price tag on food is so low in comparison to other cost of living. For instance, South Africans are more than happy to go shopping and buy imported clothing and perfumes at 800 Rand (AUD88.00) a pop, whereas a 6-course tasting menu for 185 Rand (AUD20.40) in a fancy restaurant is still considered an indulgent splurge. That’s exactly what they are charging here at La Mouette (*note – the price has increased since 1st November). Too good of a bargain that I ditch the media group and go lunching at this restaurant on my own.

Originally from England and after working in numerous Michelin starred establishments and around the world, chef Henry Vigar and wife Mari Vermaak moved to Cape Town in 2010 and within three months in the new city, they opened La Mouette in Seapoint.

The menu emphasises on fresh local produce and offers modern French cuisine with a distinctly Mediterranean flair. The first course is pea soup at its finest, aerated warm green pea soup is poured at the table into a bowl consists of confit onion, yoghurt curd, perky green peas and mint oil. It is a great appetiser but what had me salivating are the cheese and truffle croquettes.

These tiny golden crispy balls are the bombs, cheesy and gooey on the inside with an intense aroma of truffle oil. Pop one in the mouth and let it melts… bliss.

Next course is salt and pepper crusted prawns served on wooden board. Deep fried prawns can be challenging in controlling heat and timing, but these are cooked to perfection, tender and juicy yet a nice crust on the outside, served with artichoke puree, brioche croutons, rocket and a shave of pecorino cheese.

Third course is pan-fried line fish with char-grilled green beans, dry roasted hazelnuts, ricotta and hollandaise sauce. The fish fillet is yet again, flawless; flakes of white flesh is sweet and succulent, a nice balance with the crunch of spiced roasted hazelnuts and creamy hollandaise sauce.

Next to arrive is the protein, a decent portion of lamb shoulder is confit and prepared with Moroccan flavours and a pastilla on top, spiced up with tomato harissa and smoked aubergine puree goes exceptionally well with the lamb.

The apple and custard is absolutely adorable in presentation, the shot glass is half filled with creamy custard pannacotta then topped with zingy green apple foam, the little warm cinnamon doughnut on top is a one-bite-satisfaction.

I actually pay an extra 145 rand (AUD16.00) to have wine pairing with the meal. The wine selected were great match with each course, but I particularly enjoy and delighted to see they actually picked a ‘bubbly’ to go with the desserts. This is actually also the first time to see the word ‘bubbly’ used on the label. The wine is named after the Moreson family’s dog Miss Molly, who now also has her own range of wine where a small amount of money from each sale is donated to the South African Guide Dog Association for the blind. I just love the Braille dots on the label.

And the last course is lemon meringue pie. The pie has been deconstructed into tear drops of crunchy sweet meringue, dollops of tangy lemon curd and a long stick of buttery short bread, then served with a big scoop of lemongrass and lime leaf ice cream which gives the dessert a nice twist.

La Mouette fed me well, staff was friendly and Mari was a superb hostess, it is a restaurant that definitely worth visiting if you are ever in Cape Town.

La Mouette Restaurant 78 Regent Road
Sea Point, 8005
P: 021 433 0856

Opening hours: Dinner - Daily 6-10.30pm, Lunch - Sunday 12-3pm

 

The Bombay Bicycle Club

If fine dining is not your thing, then The Bombay Bicycle Club will be right up your alley. This place is wild, let alone the restaurant name itself is whacky enough, so prepare to expect the unexpected. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, hundreds of photo frames covered all walls, old knic-nacs literally sprawled out the whole restaurant. They also like people to play dress up with all different kind of hats lying around for you to put on.

The menu has an eclectic mix of bistro style food, bar food or fancy pub grub, from deep frieds to pasta, ribs and steaks, however or whatever you want to call it, you won’t be disappoint. Not to mention the exceptionally cheap cocktails here will guarantee a good night!

Anything deep fried is fine by me, especially cheese! The name of this dish already makes my heart goes all gooey and squishy, the drunken camembert is camembert cheese coated in beer batter then deep fried to a nice golden brown, served on basil-infused tomato coulis.

Before you attempt to put the whole thing in the mouth in one gob, well DON’T!

Inside is now filled with extremely hot molten cheese that just oozes out when I cut it open. Ermahgerd! Be still my beating heart! The herbacious basil-infused tomato coulis lends its flavour beautifully to the camembert.

The next small snack we try is the cajun calamari. A whole Patagonian calamari is cut into thick rings, spiced up with cajun seasoning, then quickly pan seared then tossed in lemon, rose mary, chilli and garlic dressing.

A signature dish at The Bombay Bicycle Club, it is their version of mole poblano, the beef fillet is like resting on a tar pit, doused in almost pitch black chocolate chilli sauce that is a little sweet for my palate, but the beef itself is tender and juicy, served with rocket and sauteed mushroom you can hardly see buried in the sauce. It also comes with a side of potato gratin.

Make sure you have two stomaches, the portion of the Bombay ribs are insanely huge! They claim to have the softest, stickiest and yummiest ribs this side of town, and they are not kidding! There are two full rack of pork ribs on the plate looking utterly divine, forget about the fork and knife, dig in with fingers and ready to get messy but oh so worth it! The meat simply falls off the bone and do I need to say more?

I think the picture sums up what a happy chap I was….

The food scene in Cape Town has been unreal and sensational, I hardly had any bad or mediocre food during my stay. When there is good food, it deserves to pair with good wine, I mean good South African wine. The only way to learn about South African wine is to be in the midst of it, we pack our bags and head east to the heart of South Africa wine country, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for some serious wine education.

…to be continued.

 

The Bombay Bicycle Club 
158 Kloof Street, Tamboerskloof
P: 021 423 6805 

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat.
4pm – 6pm: Drinks
6pm – 11pm: Kitchen


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[A Table For Two has travelled to South Africa as a guest of South Africa Tourism. Meals at I love My Laundry, La Mouette, The Pot Luck Club, and The Bombay Bicycle Club are paid at own expense.]