As winter in the Cape tightens its grip, restaurateurs Neil Swart and Anouchka Horn of Belly of the Beast fame are giving hungry Capetonians a new reason to brave the cold, with the opening of the city’s most exciting new seafood restaurant, Galjoen.
Horn and Swart are well known as chef-patrons of their intimate inner city restaurant Belly of the Beast, and have fast grown a loyal following for their curated set menu experience. At Galjoen, set just a short walk from Belly, the pair has brought that same sense of culinary focus to Galjoen, where the spotlight falls squarely on sustainably caught South African seafood.
Head Chef Isca Stoltz
“People come to Cape Town and eat imported seafood, and that just makes no sense to us,” says Horn. “You should be eating the fish that’s from our own oceans, so from the beginning we decided we’re not going to cook with anything that’s imported. No prawns from Vietnam. No salmon from Norway. No calamari from Argentina.”
While Horn and Swart have created the concept, a set menu served to all tables – and guide the culinary philosophy for Galjoen, the kitchen belongs to Head Chef Isca Stoltz.
After training at the Prue Leith Culinary Institute Stoltz carved out a stellar career in some of Cape Town’s leading kitchens, before landing the role as Sous Chef at Belly of the Beast. When Horn and Swart decided to open Galjoen, they knew Stoltz was the perfect choice for Head Chef.
In creating the menu of elevated seafood-focused cuisine, Stoltz draws heavily on memories of childhood holidays in Mozambique, with shellfish foraged on the shoreline and fish fresh from the local market. Building layers of flavour, and with no shortage of creativity and technique on each plate, each dish ensures that fresh seafood is the hero.
“With every single plate we really put the focus on the ingredients,” says Stoltz. “Everything we do in the kitchen is to make them shine.”
Fish & tjips, but not as you know it
Galjoen will offer a set menu, with the number and composition of courses changing according to the whims of the weather, and what the boats bring in, leaving Stoltz to create new plates and tweak signature dishes according to what’s fresh.
“One of the dishes that will always be on the menu is our own version of the humble fish and chips, but given our own interpretation and a bit of flair,” says Stoltz with a smile. “We cook the fish, whatever is fresh that day, over open coals with lemon butter. It’s a plate that’s meant to transport you to eating on the quayside, with all those wonderful flavours of salt and vinegar and fish and potatoes.”
To ensure a steady supply of fresh produce Galjoen has partnered with some of the Cape’s leading seafood merchants, ensuring they support both environmental and socio-economic sustainability. Farmed mussels come fresh from the waters of Saldanha Bay, while Abalobi and Greenfish merchants provide a range of fish caught largely by self-employed artisanal fishermen.
Just don’t ask for Galjoen
Perhaps ironically, the one fish you’ll never find on the menu is the namesake. Galjoen is red-listed by SASSI, and cannot be sold commercially, but for Horn and Swart the name was a matter of pride.
“In all of our cooking we really celebrate South African produce and South African recipes, and by naming the restaurant Galjoen we wanted to both raise awareness of our national fish and spark a conversation with our guests around sustainability in seafood,” says Swart.
That conversation is carried through into the intuitive interior design created by Annelise Vorster, owner of Studio NAN, and Yolandi Vorster of YV Ateljee. Together the pair has shaped a stylish space that combines light-industrial elegance with a subtle coastal motif.
The name ‘galjoen’ derives from the Dutch word for a galleon sailing ship, and the duo drew on these two inspirations in creating the look and feel of the restaurant. “We wanted to bring a distinct nautical feel to the space, but without being too overt,” says Annelise Vorster. “It’s relaxed, and tongue in cheek. It needed to have a bit of a twist.”
That’s been neatly achieved here, with subtle aesthetic cues scattered throughout the space.
Balcony balustrades may remind you of a ship’s gangway – or perhaps a fishing net – while eagle-eyed diners will notice the fish-eye mosaic that gazes up from the entranceway. Above the tables finely crafted woodwork echoes the hull of a ship, the central light fitting the rod and line that delivers each day’s catch to the chefs below, while ceramic light fittings are modeled on traditional buoys used by local fishing boats.
They’re the work of local ceramicist Amelia Jacobs, who also created the bespoke crockery for the restaurant, and fired the glazed bricks cladding the pass and banquette seating. In their shimmering shades of green and black, they’re reminiscent of a galjoen beneath the water. Don’t forget to look up, where the ‘barnacles’ beneath the mezzanine floor suggest diners might be beneath the waves, while out on the balcony a striking mural by Adele van Heerden brings the dramatic Cape shoreline to an inner-city setting.
Pair all of that with the culinary journey created by some of the best chefs in the city, and Galjoen offers a truly immersive South African seafood experience.
Galjoen opening hours
Lunch is at R550 per person : 12.30pm Wednesday to Saturday
Dinner is at R750 per person : 6.45pm Tuesday to Saturday
For Galjoen reservations, see www.galjoencpt.co.za
– Some dietary requirements and allergies are catered for, but can only accommodate them with at least 24 hours’ notice.
– Chef Stoltz and team cook a multi course menu, so the restaurant can not cater for: dislikes, low carb, vegans, onion, garlic, alcohol, coriander, black pepper, butter, cream, soy, sugar, and egg allergies.
– Vegetarians and pescatarians welcome.
– Although the chef team take great care with regard to dietary restrictions, the small kitchen uses lots of different ingredients that may contain allergens.
– No guarantee that there are no trace elements of allergens such as, nuts, shellfish etc. in the dishes that are served.
What: Galjoen seafood restaurant
Where: 99 Harrington Street, Cape Town, South Africa