Trendy usually sends me running for cover, screaming and foaming at the mouth. So guys, no, don’t call this place trendy. Trendy means it’s going to attract the foodie lemmings, and the problem with foodie lemmings is that they come – and then they go.
Like brides or grooms who don’t pitch at the altar or who somehow can’t manage to get past that “I do” moment, they’re only there for the fun, the buzz, and just are not going to stay the course.
And there is nothing more flighty than a Cape Town food trendoid. The kind of eatery they just adore, darling, simply has to be trendy, yet the same people seem to care not a jot for the commonsense that the very trendiness of a venue is almost guaranteed to make it short-lived. Because that’s what a trend us. Something “for now”. But not for long. Soon to be replaced. It’s the restaurant for the fickle, the eatery for the fainthearted. If you want gusto, if you want character, if you want mettle, you do not want trendy.
So where are we for lunch today? We’re at the Rockwell. Oh dear. This is a monument to “trendy”. It’s near the “Green Point strip”. It’s right at the foot of the building, entered from Napier Street, so it is an entity in its own right. And you can pretend it is not in this fashionable pile but in some Parisian side “rue”.
But wait, there was an example once before of a restaurant not far from here, in this same trendy, buzzy, vibey cool-as-Kate (Moss, not Windsor) atmosphere, that defied the very trendiness of its location to become celebrated for only one thing: sublime, utterly memorable food. That was called The Restaurant, and its owner Graeme Shapiro achieved fame in abundance and very quickly before he footed off to Australia where apparently he is doing very well.
So maybe this place will go that way, and defy the dreaded foodie lemmings. I want it to, because, put it this way, there are very few restaurants that I go back to a second time, and I decided on just one short outing that this place was going to become of my very few regulars.
It’s called Café Dijon, and you may know the Stellenbosch original. That one is gone, owners Johan (Dup) and Sarah du Plessis (Sarah being in the kitchen while Dup charms you front-of-houseé) having decided to move business, but not house. So, madly, insanely, they are still living in the Boland and commuting every day and night to their new premises in the (dare I say it) trendiest part of Cape Town.
To which they bring not just Sarah’s excellence in the kitchen and Dup’s winning charm at your table, but that lovely little French thing that they did so well in Stellenbosch.
I first went to that original Café Dijon there about four years ago, not long after they had opened. The original dark wood, marble-topped bar from those premises has been brought to Green Point, in fact. It was a lunch time that day in Stellenbosch and we were the only two diners in the place on a lovely sunny day. It seemed such a pity, because there was style and Frenchness everywhere, and the food was delightfully, authentically French.
Not only that, but this man knows his meat. He can talk for hours about the source of his meat, the cuts (including French cuts we are not well familiar with in this country), ageing techniques and times, while Sarah clearly has a gift for cooking their speciality steaks. So if you’re looking for a new contender for serving among the best steaks in the Mother City, you’ll be wanting to check out Café Dijon.
They call their style Cape Provencal. You sit on perfectly apt bentwood chairs at wrought-iron-footed bistro tables, checkerboard tiles below your feet, and the outlook is airy and bright with its enormous windows facing good old Anatoli across the road. There are outside tables in the lane for summer diners. Can’t wait for that. In a way, I am reminded of Societi Bistro here, one of my other favourites. There’s a similar style sans any pretentious attitude.
Sarah’s menu includes lovely French things. French onion soup with Gruyere, snails Bordelaise, steak tartare, duck a l’orange, a delectable charcuterie platter including duck liver paté, a tomato and Dijon mustard tartlet, coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon.
And onglet, a cut also known as a New York Hanger steak. And another signature steak, the Dijon cut, which is the one I chose. Utterly tender, richly flavoured, what an excellently marbled piece of meat. Served on a wooden board for a trencherman to destroy. Proper pommes frites.
And Johan makes his own Toulouse sausage, and I swear I am going to be bothering him to buy it directly from him to cook at home. He needs to stock up for me right now. Listen up, sir.
Desserts, well, I had to head off and had no time for it, but I don’t doubt for a second that a chef of Sarah’s abilities can rustle up a winning baked apple tartlet with almonds and honey, or a caramelised lemon tart.
But no, please don’t go. Avoid this place, I am not going to share it. I don’t want the lemmings to find it. I mean that. Stay away. Just go home.
Café Dijon Grill & Bistro, Napier Street, De Waterkant 021 418 3910