Seems we’re heading into the Cape Town rip-off season as some restaurants use the natural beauty of the city to disguise mediocre food and service. KAREN RUTTER is disappointed:
It’s not for nothing Cape Town is regarded as the foodie capital of the country. From internationally-acclaimed chefs such as Luke Dale-Roberts and Reuben Riffel to ground-breaking neighbourhood markets, acclaimed wine farm restaurants and more fine dining options than you could shake a stick at (although why would one?), the city has plenty to feel proud of. Hell, even the fish and chips are superior. And no, you don’t have to spend your entire Christmas bonus on a tasting menu. There are plenty of affordable – yet abundantly tasty – options available, from buying your own deli goods for a picnic to eating casually at a family restaurant.
Which is why it really makes me hot and bothered when I see some local establishments taking our hard-earned foodie reputation and fobbing off punters with second, or even third best options.
The Camps Bay strip is not a place where I usually hang out. Just happens to be like that. But a family member was in town, and a sunset was in order. With no game plan in mind we ambled along the main road, looking at menus and comparing seating options. And then we spotted … let’s just call it B. Second floor, stunning views stretching across the bay, stylin’ décor and a sussed-looking menu. We were in.
And to start with, it seemed fine. Okay, we had to wait a little bit to place our drinks order, but you know – sort of busy. And then two of the drinks arrived, but we had to wait about 10 minutes for the third. And the water we ordered was wrong. Okay, still not a train smash. (But keep in mind – this was a linen-tablecloth-and-napkin kind of place, where the waitrons were placing orders on tablets. It wasn’t – bless – a Spur.)
So then we ordered. It being early, we chose light stuff. With the option to order more if we felt like it. An option which was never even remotely considered, after our food arrived.
Cape Town rip-off season – the food
I mean, how’s this for a cheek? The Herb Falafel consisted of a pita bread stuffed with three falafel balls and four baby tomatoes, coated with a green sauce which tasted like Aromat. We suspected the pita and the falafel balls had been bought at the Pick ‘n’ Pay down the road and microwaved before serving. All this, for R120.
And then the White Fish Tempura. Which basically tasted like pieces of frozen hake in a stolid batter. With mayonnaise. And a really odd smell. For R150.
(Keep in mind, these were starter-like meals. Not main courses, which included a R350 Sea Bass, R295 Lamb Cutlets and R190 Calamari.)
The meals came with no extras, no salad or starch. You had to buy them separately. Bad mistake again – the Thin Cut Fries (R35) tasted like “McDonald’s chips when you eat them the next day” according to my niece. Who would know, being a Young One.
The service was erratic, and when it came time to get the bill, we had to eventually chase down the waitron after trying to get his attention for quite a while. Starting with politely raising a hand, to eventually waving like a tourist caught in a Camps Bay rip.
And, just to make it plain we were not alone in our experience – by chance, an acquaintance was there the same night, at a different table. When asked a few days later how she found the experience, she said it was very disappointing. The food and the service were weak. And she had an American relative with her, which was a tad embarrassing. Cape Town having this good reputation and all.
But I reckon that what happens is that some establishments rely on Cape Town’s good name – in terms of food – and on naturally stunning settings – like sunset over Camps Bay – to get away with serving mediocre (if not awful) food. And I think it all gets exacerbated over summer, when unsuspecting tourists (from South Africa and abroad) are lured into spending large amounts for very little value. It’s the Cape Town rip-off season. And it’s really not pretty.
PS: The restaurant we called B is part of a Kollection of venues. And this is the second time I have been to one of the venues, and been disappointed. Just sayin’.
PPS: Update. No, I was not talking about Blues – as some people have thought. The restaurant is called Bilboa and it forms part of the Kove collection.