Winter in Cape Town. Grey. Dank. Soggy ground under your boots. Endless ceiling of thunderous clouds overhead. Stack of umbrellas in a basket at the front door, half of them broken from over-use. Temperatures constantly around 10degrees. On a good day. Right? Have another look at the main picture. I took it in mid-June. In Cape Town.
It is all very boere-gay, with ribbon-bound old books adorning tables, tannie’s crockery on the walls, saucepans, koppies en pierings flung into the (white-painted) mish-mash madness of things happening in the ceiling installations above your head, not to mention knives and forks, ribbons and who knows what else lurks up there like so many miniature Swords of Damocles ready to descend if you frown at what’s on your plate. Best not to diss the food until you’re safely out the door. It is also perhaps best not to look too closely lest you spot something you left at the restaurant last time you were there.
Why are restaurateurs in this country unable to find our own themes and names for things? Tapas is not African. Small portions aren’t either. And there is one truly glaring omission from this supposedly African menu: there is no red meat on the menu other than a tiny portion of bobotie. In Africa, land of the cow, the goat and the buffalo, there is no meat on a showcase African menu. This is like not having soy sauce on a Chinese menu, or omitting the spices in a curry. Come on, we’re Africans, we eat meat.
Peruse the annual awards lists of the last 10 years and you’ll find many examples of restaurants that were once just the place to get to, dahlings, their chefs’ names thrown about as if the Gods had come down to save our palates. Then they slip down the lists until, in a year or two, they drop out of the top 10 and are often never heard of again.
How on earth is 9th Avenue Bistro, which has a nondescript al fresco area overlooking a plain-as-chips parking lot, better than the Tasting Room at le Quartier Francais or Overture with its world-beating view and Margot Janse’s fabulous cuisine? I don’t buy it.