Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some gorgeous cafes and eating places I've discovered in and around Cape Town

Dec 10, 2012

Fraiche Ayres, at Starcke Ayres Nursery

Pottering around in a flurry of indecison about what shade of petunia to select from the overwhelming rainbow on display, and being one who is easily flustered by too much choice, I made a different and far simpler decision. Coffee. It must have been something to do with the enticing whiff of a fresh brew wafting over the shrubbery from a restaurant in the middle of the nursery. A place with a bit of a mouthful of a name,  Fraiche Ayres (!),  I had no resistance and followed my nose.

A vicious south-easter was launching a savage onslaught on tender seedlings and whipping the trees into a fury and it was a pleasure to find an outdoor table sheltered by drapes of weeping willow, and browse the menu. Some interesting and delicious sounding lunches on offer, and they also do breakfast and the usual tempting sweet treats. They had my favourite lemon meringue tart but at R30 a pop I wasn't inclined to indulge and settled for just an Americano. It was the real deal,  put a spring in my step and gave me the necessary shot of caffeine to resume my exhausting petunia mission.

Lister's Tea Room, Tokai Forest

Just take a look at these beauties - how could I resist?   Baked that morning, it had to be the Cranberry with white chocolate topping, melting in the mouth and made with real butter... yum double yum. Too hot for coffee, I washed it down with a Coke, an urge I succumb to once or twice a year on the very hottest day.

A friend and I had a lazy morning meander through the Tokai forest, the path eventually coming out onto a dirt road where we had to give way to a passing horse and rider.  I looked up at the imposing Elephant's Eye cave on the side of the Constantiaberg and thought hmm, not today, it's too hot (any excuse) and elected to rather take a photo.

The forest was an experiment started by one Joseph Lister in 1886, with the aim of researching the economic viability of trees planted in this area. Can you believe that he sourced these trees from around the world, well over 100 years ago and then planted them here? It's interesting to walk through these international giants and be able to identify them, but apart from that not too onerous mission, just being in their presence and surrounded by the green smell that I love so much, with the odd twitter and the occasional call of a black shouldered kite or bark of a baboon, or if you're lucky, the cry of a fish eagle, is extreme soul food.

Of course Lister's Tea Room was named after the man and that's the next pleasure, after your hike - to sprawl at a table under the trees and, having fed your soul, feed your tum!

It's quite a popular venue for kids' parties - a stray pink balloon high in one of the trees bearing testament to this. The usual snacky offerings and temptingly decadent cakes and tarts all priced around R25. The muffins are R20 and just one of these beauties easily satisfed two of us.  Open normal hours Tuesdays to Sundays.

Sep 26, 2012

West Coast Farm Stall, near Yzerfontein

Yes indeed, that does look like a different kind of coffee shop! This has to be one of the zaniest, most surreal places I have visited on my quest for that ten out of ten cup of Americano! And to think we almost didn't visit it! My friend Viv and I were on a short trip to view the spring wild-flower extravaganza in the area and needed a caffeine shot.

Check out the sign at the entrance to the farmstall - Visit our lions! And there's a similar sign introducing a tiger or two. We couldn't believe our eyes and decided we really needed some coffee to clear our heads. Just take a look at the froth on that cappuccino! Impressive, hey. 

But before we got to the coffee, we made even more discoveries. Walking through this seriously quirky place, past all the preserves and crafts (now minus one lime green bag that one of us could not resist...) and out through the back door, we were hit with a kaleidoscope of vivid and noisy parrots of every description, all looking very chirpy and full of the joys of spring in their spacious cages.

 I'm vehemently anti birds, or for that matter anything, in cages, but this place is different, somehow, created and fitted with care for the birds' welfare. Trying to take photos of the birds and fight off some cheeky attempts to pinch the strap on my camera, and avoiding some vicious looking talons and beaks, I heard the muted roar of a lion. Ha, I said to Viv, that's a sound track, can't be the real thing. But it was, as I found out later.

The owner, something of an eco warrior, runs a game farm in the area and breeds white lions, one or two of which can be viewed in the enclosure behind the parrots, every hour on the hour. But, pressed for time, we drank our coffee, bought some home-made biscuits and hit the high road to the nature reserve, where we saw plenty of game, albeit not lions, running wild and free.

If you happen to be cruising along the west coast, make a point of dropping in here to see a coffee shop with a difference.

Sep 18, 2012

The Marmalade Cat in Darling

The day I visited this Darling coffee shop the proprietor was caught napping! Sleeping on the job and leaving the staff to attend to the customers, we were shocked at first, but when this gorgeous creature lifted her head and turned her lazy eyes on us, all was forgiven and we were well looked after by the waitron!

A friend and I were passing through the unremarkable dorp of Darling on our return from a sensory overloaded trip to view the spring flowers in the area. We needed breakfast and The Marmalade Cat looked charming from the outside and indeed was all we hoped for indoors. A cosy space with floor to ceiling shelves piled with cat themed arts and crafts and goodies to buy.

Viv had a huge hunger pang and ordered the full breakfast - bacon, egg, mushrooms and oven baked potato wedges, as well as toast. Not really in a bacon mood I ordered scrambled egg on toasted ciabatta and I honestly can't remember when last I enjoyed such uber creamy scramblies. To die for! I had the obligatory Americano and Viv a Cappuccino.  The menu has a selection of the usual suspect munchies from sandwiches through salads to very delectable cakes and tarts.
Open 7 days a week, evidently they are also open for supper at the weekend and Friday night is pizza night.

After breakfast we discovered a barn behind the restaurant operating as a viewing gallery for beautiful paintings and pottery and more crafty things like handbags. We browsed the tempting goodies then sauntered through the Cat Walk next door, a boutique style store with some tempting clothing on sale. The heavens opened just as we left and we had to run for the car and a slow and cautious drive back to Cape Town in the wet.

Sep 10, 2012

Kalk Bay Expresso

Kalk Bay Expresso is a quirky cafe in a derailed old blue train carriage located right alongside the Kalk Bay station. The decor and fittings are authentic old school train stuff and when the real deal train rumbles into the station you get the feeling that you are also on the tracks. This is a favourite of mine when I'm with somebody I want to have a proper conversation with and not have to shout above the usual coffee shop din, because the table setting is intimate and eye contact is unavoidable. I generally go for their pancakes, which are delicious, and this time it was spinach and mushroom, accompanied by a nice little green salad and very more-ish salad dressing in an elegant decanter, with which I almost drowned my salad, it was that delish. They also offer breakfasts and the usual sandwiches, and I can personally attest to the divine decadence of my personal favourite, the lemon meringue pie. Yum. Coffee is good, served in decent sized cups, and a nice touch is the fact that my friend, who takes hers black, was not short changed and had a cup that was filled right to the top. Friendly service and reasonable prices, it's open for breakfast, lunch and tea.

Aug 20, 2012

Cafe Roux, Noordhoek Farm Village

Attended a 60th birthday brunch celebration here on a chilly winter morning. All bundled up, what was I thinking, as I had to peel off layers in the stuffy over-heated room. Cafe Roux caters for families, with a designated play-room for the little ones, and just our luck our long table had to be situated right next to this area, didn't it! As one or two of us were feeling wan and nursing fragile heads for various reasons, the decibel level of screeching was a challenge, to say the least, but we soldiered bravely on, fortifying ourselves with extreme doses of caffeine.

I was pleasantly surprised by the food, having heard rumours of stingy portions. My French Toast was simply delicious - 3 slices of French bread, each topped with a perfectly grilled slice of banana and drizzled with tangy berry coulis. I ordered a portion of crispy bacon to complement it and was more than satisfied with my filling meal. No complaints about my multiple cups of Americano coffee, accompanied by a decent sized jug of foamy milk.  Friends around me were tucking into full English breakfasts and omelettes and I was amazed that they could clean their plates. The omelettes in particular looked very abundant, their bellies puffed up with more than enough mushroom and bacon filling - the omelettes, not my friends! 
It would be pleasant to sit at one of the outdoor tables under the trees on a warm sunny day and enjoy the rural farm village atmosphere.  Just remember that it can be quite rowdy at the weekend, so possibly not your ideal romantic venue. Cafe Roux specialises in breakfasts and lunches, with occasional live music entertainment. Check the website for more details

Jul 22, 2012

Easy Dig, Sunnydale

I discovered a gem! At last, after a run of ho hum eateries, I stumbled upon this quirky cafe tucked away in a corner of Harry Goemans plant nursery in Sunnydale, on the way to Kommetjie. Why didn't I know about it when I lived in the area, I ask myself!  Karin and I picked a balmy Indian summer afternoon wedged into the icy heart of a cruel week of winter to buy some plants, and decided to grab coffee in the cafe. Being such a gorgeous day the outdoor area was filled up, so we found a spot indoors, at a rustic table which was one of a collection of zany distressed furniture - cupboards, dressers, book shelves - designed by the cafe owner and knocked together by a craftsman  just down the road.

 There's quite a comprehensive menu of breakfasts, lunches and sweet delights, but we weren't hungry and just wanted a shot of caffeine. Karin said her cappuccino was just what the doctor ordered, and my espresso macciato in its tiny cup went right to where it mattered and set me up for the rest of the day. I'm planning to return to re-browse the furniture and try out their munchies. A lovely spot in a peaceful green setting. Open during normal business hours.

Jul 18, 2012

Manuka, Steenberg

This is the kind of underwhelming plate put in front of me at Manuka this weekend. I don't enjoy blogging about a place that has been a big disappointment, but I guess you need to know. A couple of years I ago I had dinner there with a friend and the food was superb and the service excellent. In the meantime the place has been taken over by the same person who had Tony's at Longbeach. My friends and I would avoid that place because the service was almost non-existent and the food bland and uninteresting. Well guess what...ditto at Manuka. One can generally get a quick profile of management by the attitude of staff, and the waiters here are surly, disinterested and bored, so we could only presume they were unhappy with their lot. Why should we have to chase a waiter around the restaurant in order to request a knife that will cut the bacon? My friends both ordered egg with mushrooms, which was reported to be tasty, but my eggs had been swimming in oil and the meal was lukewarm and bland, with half a dozen chips and, once again, my pet peeve - cheap and nasty pre-sliced bread. I paid R48 for a ho hum breakfast that I could get at Spur for half the price,  plus a cheerful smile thrown in. Oh well, the Americano wasn't too bad.

Jul 15, 2012

The real deal Americano!

At last! At last! I found the real deal Americano! Stumbled upon in a pizza place, Primi Piatti in Claremont, and not at any of the coffee shops I've been exploring!  I just knew I had one of these a long time ago and for the life of me could not remember where, and here it was, purely by chance.  A little cameo of presentation perfection - an elegant skinny white serving plate with three in a row : tiny jug of boiling water, same of warm milk, and cup with a shot of espresso. Just the way it should be! Oh the rapture! Only it wasn't for me ... I had ordered a boring decaff because it was late at night and caffeine at that time disturbs my beauty sleep. I could only admire it and inhale a long draught of the aroma, sigh... I didn't have a camera but am determined to go back and get a picture for you. Any excuse for a decadent interlude with one of these darlings. 

Jul 9, 2012

Thandi's, Bergvliet

Eat, play, love, that's what this happy eaterie is all about. I've passed it so many times and finally made a plan to visit last week, not the sunniest day of the year, but a friendly little fireplace warmed the room up nicely and we had a cosy corner table.

It's a great place for moms and their offspring, a playroom down the passage with a punch and judy tent, and for sunnier days a jungle jym outdoors where kids can play in a safe space while mom catches up with her girlfriends. One of the front rooms has funky fashions for big girls and there's also a room dedicated to gorgeous colourful kiddie clothes, plus all sorts of quirky crafty goodies for sale throughout the house.

A pretty little menu offers enough to choose from for breakfast, just a bite with coffee, or a light lunch. There are yummy sounding pasta dishes and hearty soups to warm the cockles on a chill winter's day. Helen needed an early lunch and ordered an egg mayo sandwich, which was a very generous portion served with a small salad. She couldn't even finish it and it was popped into a box to take away. I wasn't hungry and asked if they could do a simple slice of toast and honey. This was no problem and cost me all of R8 but was very disappointing, as was the same bread used for Helen's sandwich, tasteless prepackaged sliced brown. We both felt that some wholesome home-baked bread would make a nicer taste sensation.  Our Americano and Cappuccino coffees were adequate.

Thandi's is open from 9 to 4 and I believe will shortly be opening on Sundays as well. Situated just down the road from the Spar centre on the main road, parking can be iffy and it's recommended that you park across the road.The focus is definitely on moms and kids and their catered parties are popular and booked up well in advance.  Highly recommended if this is your lifestyle. 

Jun 8, 2012

Cafeen, Kenilworth

If there's one thing that turns me off in a restaurant, it's stingy portions. Well Cafeen almost takes it to the other extreme, with food nudging the edge of the plate and threatening to spill over it, not huddled meanly in the centre of a vast ceramic expanse. On a bleak wintry day with a fine chilly drizzle we couldn't have picked a cosier spot for three girls to catch up over brunch. Situated in Kenilworth it was my first visit and I was certainly enchanted by the quaint room.
Think quirky "old school", a jumble of vintage knick knacks and retro signage, and a melange of mismatched furniture. Wooden chairs and tables rubbed seats and shoulders with green formica, winging me way back to my mother's kitchen, while an old timber bench piled with funky cushions had me nestling down nicely for the duration. We shouted for coffee and instead of the usual americano or flat white, I ordered the curiously named Cinnamon Bun Steamer just to see what it was all about. A different kind of flavour, in retrospect too spicy for my taste, (a bun stirred into steamed milk and topped with a dollop of froth), but the cappuccinos were pronounced excellent.

The menu offered the usual suspects plus Big Breakfasts and Hangover Breakfasts, and some interesting croissant combinations, like brie and bacon . The French Toast sounded good to me and was served with crisped banana and bowls of syrup, sugar and lemon curd. Totally delicious, I could barely finish it. A bit of bacon would have rounded it off nicely, but no sooner had I voiced this than both Helen and Viv donated rashers from their over generous portions. Helen settled for traditional scrambled egg and bacon and Viv ordered the Health Stack, an intimidating pile of creamy mushrooms, tiny tomatoes and lashings of (healthy) bacon on toast. We were offered three choices of bread.

The buzz level in the room was climbing at a ferocious rate and we ordered more caffeine in order to keep pace. My americano more than hit the spot. Excellent. Next time I go I'll order a muffin. Seriously quirky, they are served straight from the tin mug they're baked in. Also loved the quaint crockery touches, like this gem of a honey pot working as a sugar bowl. Baby it was cold out there, but indoors the cosy atmosphere, the fabulous service and the comfortingly generous portions had us all feeling warm and fuzzy. (Open Mon-Fri from 8 to 4.30, Saturday until 3, Sunday until 2.)

Apr 28, 2012

Arnolds, Kloof Street, Cape Town

Away from the comfort zone of my usual local stomping ground, I found myself in Kloof Street this week, having undertaken what we jokingly refer to in this part of the world as the"great trek" over the mountain to the city. I was off to see a midday movie at the one-of-a-kind Labia Theatre in Orange Street, and afterwards my friend and I walked a couple of blocks looking for a cafe to grab coffee and a sandwich. Arnolds looked like a cheerful and casual refuge from the grey winter clouds pushing down on us, and the bright orange walls, happy music and ridiculously chirpy waitrons gave us a warm welcome. The place has been there for ages and has quite a history and reputation, which you can read about in detail on their website and also check out the menu with some unusual suspects like warthog and crocodile ribs! But we weren't walking on the wild side and settled for one all-day-breakfast special at R26 and one toasted cheese and tomato with pesto on ciabatta, at R35.  Ya, boring I know, but my sandwich was tasty and generous and I couldn't finish it. My friend ordered tea and was delighted to get a whole pot of it, and I had a so so filter coffee. Really letting the side down here, in the quest for the best americano, maybe it was the weather or the movie playing in our heads. There's an extensive menu which really caters for every taste and pocket, starting at a free-range lite breakfast at only R15, believe it or not, and ending at gemsbok steak for about R150. Inbetween are all the usual sandwiches, salads, pastas and sweet treats. Fully licensed with some interesting cocktails, there was a lot of champagne cork popping while we were there. It's busy and buzzy, has the biggest pepper grinder in town, and Chris ("Shoes"), our waiter, was on top form, having mastered to perfection the art of attentive and discreet service spiked with a dash of friendly flirtation with ladies of a certain age.  Great 3 spoon service!  Vist the website

Apr 24, 2012

Cherry On Top, Bergvliet

Discovered this unpretentious little place tucked down Hawthorn Road in Bergvliet, next to the line of shops where Woollies is. What a find! If you're needing some impressive sweet nothings for your next girlie tea, this is the place. Just look at these tiny fruit tarts, the detail that went into them, and they cost only - wait for it - R5,50 each! Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it.  Then there are the little cheesecakes, the tiramisu, the chocolate brownies, the lemon tarts...

This was one of those impulsive coffee outings as I was in need of some sweet TLC. My friend had O.D'd on chocolate earlier in the day, so was all sugared out and settled for coffee, which came with two of the teeniest crunchies ever. I had my usual Americano, which was just ok, and a darling little tiramisu. Oh me oh my, what a delicious treat. In the interests of you, dear blog reader, I decided I should try something else as well, so had the lemon meringue. The choice of delectables in the display case is a bit overwhelming at first and one would probably have to visit several times in order to work through everything on offer. A regular size tart or cake costs R12,50, a crazy price for something you would pay double for at most restaurants. Baked cheesecake looks like the real deal, and next time I'm in the area...

The setting isn't the most glamorous. It's a working bakery after all, and there are pies, quiches, bread and rolls for sale, plus they also create cakes for special occasions.. We sat at one of several tables on the stoep.  I'm not too keen on the functional plastic tablecloths and would prefer something more attractive, but if it's absolute value for money you're after, this is a good option. The place has only been open for a few months and it's definitely worth checking out if you have a sweet tooth.

Apr 17, 2012

TriBeCa - Kalk Bay and Tokai

I've been a fan of Tribeca coffee for quite a while, often picking up a cup-to-go from the Kalk Bay cafe, always hot and strong, just as I like it. Lately it hasn't been much fun in KBay due to the ongoing roadworks and mammoth earthmovers churning up the road just outside. It makes gentle communion with a cup of coffee well nigh impossible, and anyway I've never been into venues where conversation becomes strident to compete with churning espresso machines and clattering crockery (why DO they have to crash cups onto saucers and cutlery into drawers anyway?). I'm quite allergic to places where voices bounce against high celings and there's a general atmosphere of clamour, and the clang of metal chairs on tiled floors. Not that i'm picking on Tribeca, it's just a personal irritation and at the KBay outlet seems magnified by the roadworks. I'll go back when things are back to normal in the village!

When I received an invite to meet a friend at the new Tokai outlet I was keen to revisit. I'd been there once before and shared a wonderful sandwich overloaded with filling and way too much for just one person, plus an Americano, always reliable. Situated off a parking lot in a small centre, it's not the most leafy setting setting, but convenient for a quick catch up. We had picked one of those heat wave days we've been experiencing late this summer, and it was way too hot for an Americano, so I ordered an iced coffee. Oh me oh my, what a surprise! So used to generally getting a sweet coffee milkshake masquerading as iced coffee, I was offered a choice : either chilled coffee with an icecream topping, or coffee poured over chipped ice. I chose the latter and was delighted to find it even came unsweetened (I don't do sugar) and just the perfect icy treat for a sweltering day. This plus the attention to service by the waitron, and food presentation, definitely scored a 5 spoon reward.

By the way if you're wondering about the name TriBeCa - it comes from an area in Manhattan .. the Triangle Below Canal street!

Apr 10, 2012

Starlings, Rondebosch

Look at the loo! It's not every blog post that has a picture of a loo to kick things off, but a friend and I have this secret belief that you can tell a lot about an eating place from its bathroom! This room is as delightful as the cafe itself, with a bath full of plants and knick knacks, fragrant things and candles, mirrors and pictures on the wall.

I'd been promised I would love Starlings and it sure lived up to my expectations. What a divine space, the charming and quirky decor offers way too much for an artist's eye to admire over a single cup of coffee, and then there are all the eat-me delectables on show, cheesecakes and little chocolate deaths and tarts tempting our tastebuds. 

But it was a gorgeous day and the three of us headed outdoors to the garden to soak up some late summer sun. There are fairies in this garden! Among the flower pots and creepers, a rusty old bicycle frame, mirrors and a filigree gate, doo dads hanging from trees, and tables tucked into leafy corners inviting  intimate confidences, the fairies are hanging out just waiting for some interesting company, and it seemed they wanted to join us. We found a cosy nook between two leopard trees and soon Chris, our friendly waitron, brought an umbrella to shade us from the fierce Saturday morning sun.

We ordered coffee - Origins and faultless -  and were uncharacteristically boring in our choice of munchies, electing for toast and croissants, served with little dishes of butter and honey, rather than the delectable rich cakes on offer, which i'll certainly go back for, some time in the near future! Apparently the home made bread was delicious and as I grappled with a disintegrating croissant I browsed the menu to see some interesting breakfast options and had to smile  at their recommendation...."our eggs are from a family farm where the hens scoffle around as nature intended". 

There was definitely something in the air that day and being three creative people we were bouncing ideas around the table with hardly a pause to sip our coffee. We imagined, we designed, we planned, we dreamed, we sparked one another with inspiration and by the time we parted, after more coffee of course, we each felt wired and ready to hit our drawingboards with excited anticipation of what we could create. Was it the coffee, the ambience in the magic garden, or ...  maybe ...  the fairies?

Apr 6, 2012

Casa Labia, Muizenberg

When you walk through the ornate front doors of this special casa, you leave the 21st Century behind. Built in 1929 in the style of an 18th century Venetian mansion, and owned by a count, this national monument recently had an extensive makeover. Overlooking the windswept False Bay, the interior is exquisite and houses an art gallery, boutique and gorgeous Italian cafe.  Not really a place to just pop in for a cappuccino, the setting begs a lingering lunch or lazy afternoon tea.  On a previous occasion a friend and I wanted to view a specific art exhibition and then enjoyed tea and scones on this verandah, but last week I was treated to a special treat, a birthday lunch in the cafe. 

As the cafe itself was full, we were seated in the ballroom, flocked wallpaper, sparkling chandeliers, marble fireplace and priceless oil paintings providing the background.  A stiff white linen cloth draped a table set with heavy silver cutlery, dainty crystal cruet set and starched napkins and then a waiter offered us bread from an enormous basket tucked under his arm. All home baked, everything from rye to wholegrain, my slice of olive bread was perfection, and portions of butter were wrapped up like toffees. I ordered the Casa Laba Club Sandwich and could hardly finish it. Unusual toasted sweet potato bread was piled high with slivers of smoked chicken, avo, salami and cheese, and my favourite, caramelised onions - yum, with a generous rocket salad. My friend had a starter - slices of Bresaolo (beef) with fresh marinated mushrooms. After all that we could do no more justice to the decadent dessert menu than drool over it, so opted for tall creamy lattes. A gentle refined interlude in an exquisite setting.   

Visit their website

Mar 28, 2012

River Cafe at Constantia Uitsig

"Sumptuous breakfasts", the website menu proclaims!  Perhaps my idea of sumptuous is different from theirs, as I have to admit to being a wee bit disappointed. If there's one thing that turns me off a place, it's a stingy portion! The plates is vast and white and my River Benedict cowers in the middle of it, far from the edge. However, I have to say that, apart from the limp streaky bacon, it was absolutely delicious and the coffee was great.  Others at my table ordered the scrambled egg with smoked salmon, and we were also taken aback at the size of that offering - a small mound of egg with the salmon stirred in. Friends at another table said they were delighted with their traditional breakfast, so maybe it was just the way our food was presented that made it look mean, although the prices are certainly not mean! Our table went through several baskets of toast - white, wholeweat and rye, as requested, because we had to admit that the eggs hadn't satisfied our appetites, and there were generous jars of marmalade, jam and real butter. The setting in the courtyard at this wine estate is pleasant enough but nothing out of the ordinary, so I'm not sure why it has such a grand reputation.

We lingered long over our breakfast and lazy conversation, then sauntered through to the wine tasting room and sampled some of the estate wines. Before sinking into complete sloth for the rest of the day we had a quick look at the vineyards surrounding the buildings. It was way too hot to walk in the sun, as planned earlier in the day, so we headed down the road for a stroll through what's left of the Tokai forest. A nice outing but nothing I would rave about.
Visit their website

Mar 9, 2012

On the terrace at Cellars Hohenort

Okay so it's not a coffee shop, but I have to squeeze this venue in, to share the pictures, as it is just such a gorgeous place. Take a look at those roses! Arty friends and I were there to view an exhibition of Ardmore ceramics and took the opportunity to stroll through the incredible gardens of this historic hotel set in the rolling green hills of Constantia.There's actually 9 acres of garden, sweeping and swirling around the buildings, beneath a canopy of majestic trees.

A little woodland dell here, a swathe of purple there,  terraces of white iceberg roses, a bed of luscious rhubarb, all add to the mix.  Prickly green chestnuts the size of golf balls scatter across the path, defying one to try and pick them up, but of course one of us did. Cross a rustic bridge over a lily pond and find a secret leafy nook tucked away in a corner, with a bench beckoning any blocked author to sit for a while with pen and paper, awaiting the muse's guaranteed visit. It's also a photographer's dream, a tree lover's paradise, and I had the feeling there were fairies peeping out at us from deep secret hiding places.

It was way too elegant an afternoon to drink coffee, so we slipped into the refined atmosphere of the venue and enjoyed tea and scones on the terrace, our eyes enjoying a green bath as we gazed at the gentle vista and made slow small talk. Even the birds were muted, perched somewhere out of sight. High Tea is apparently quite an event, with silver tiered cake servers offering a selection of decadently delectable sweet things.  Worth checking out for a special occasion.     Visit the website

Mar 3, 2012

Octopus' Garden, St. James

"I'd like to be, under the sea, in an Octopus' Garden with you" ... inspired by this old Beatles tune from way back when dinosaurs roamed, the restaurant is situated in an historic post office building next door to the St James railway station, where in winter you can watch whales cruising across False Bay. Well, I was there on probably the hottest day of a heatwave summer down south, there wasn't a breath of wind, and the only thing cruising was probably way down under the sea. About 15 of us were seated at a long table under umbrellas in the back courtyard, a bougainvillea draped fence separating us from trains sleepily trundling past on the track between us and the sea. To say it was unbearably hot is an understatement and the umbrellas were not really doing the job of blocking out the sun. The serving staff were unable to solve the problem for us, so in desperation someone in the group fetched a sheet he just happened to have in his car (!), and we managed to drape it between the umbrellas for a little more shade.

I'm not sure about this place. It's certainly picturesque inside, a crazy collection of knick knacks embellishing a brightly painted room with wooden floors and a piano in one corner. Apparently there is live music some nights of the week and the setting must be quite romantic under the magical little fairy lights. The menu declares that the fare is Mediterranean and there is an interesting selection of tapas, but we were there for brunch, at 10 am, and were a tad disappointed in the offerings. Definitely not your average bacon and egg breakfasts, the closest was savoury scramble on a croissant, which I had, and which was very yummy, but there was a dis-satisfied vegetarian among us, as well as someone who didn't do croissants and just wanted an egg on toast. The waitrons were unable to accommodate us, declaring that the owner "doesn't do bread".... hmm... I found that a little bit precious and wondered why in Cape Town, of all places, there wasn't a bit more of a relaxed attitude. Apart from that grumble everybody seemed to enjoy their munchies - which ranged from Thai fishcakes and stuffed peppers, through a smoked salmon croissant, to my St. James Surfer, and the service wasn't too bad, just lacking a few smiles (maybe a remnant of a late night?). It was too uncomfortably sticky to linger over the table, so as the party broke up, a few of us sauntered off along the boardwalk to Muizenberg, hoping for a cooling seabreeze, but not feeling it, and instead opting for a couple of beers before the hot traipse back. Most definitely a day to rather be under the sea....

Feb 28, 2012

Sostanza, Lakeside

This is a great little coffee shop tucked away in an otherwise rather dreary shopping centre, alongside a cycle shop, vet store and print outlet, among others, although there's a great fresh fish supplier and good ol' Woollies, as well as an  Italian bistro oozing wafts of sizzling garlic at certain times of the day.

At Sostanza you can sit indoors if you don't mind competing with the grumble and hiss of the coffee machine and aren't anticipating a meaningful conversation, as the stone floors and metal furniture do little to muffle voices. Or you can find a table under an umbrella in the glass roofed courtyard, browse a newspaper and people-watch.

The coffee is the real deal and my Americano was rich and strong. Two of us shared a delicious baked cheesecake, which came divided up on separate plates. We agreed that no way could we have finished a full portion, the slice was that generous. My friend's obligatory cappuccino looked good and on that day she eschewed the sweet stuff for some simple toast and jam. No skimpy slices of tired white bread; there were three chunky offerings from a health loaf baked on the premises, nicely presented in a basket with butter and jam. I was impressed and she cleaned up every last crumb, it was that good. A wide variety of breads, cookies and other wicked stuff for sale at the counter.  Perfect for a quick coffee meeting if you are in the area, but not really conducive to lingering.

Feb 13, 2012

Imhoff Farm Stall, Kommetjie

Imhoff Farm is probably what we locals would call a tourist trap, and you are sure going to find some tourist prices at the farm stall! After a lazy meander along the spectacular route from Simonstown around Cape Point, through Scarborough to Kommetjie, a friend and I pulled in for tea and cake. Half a dozen camels lay snoozing on the lawns, with kids begging their parents for a ride. We popped into a couple of art and craft shops, a cheese shop and a CD store, and then into the farm stall itself.

There were some enticing goodies for sale in the shop, but we found the deli items extraordinarily expensive and I couldn't help wondering what was so special about their olives that a tiny portion should cost almost R30!  Same with the mushrooms. I fancied some wrapped in an omelette for my supper, but R27 for some fungus grown in organic compost put me off. We found a shady table under a tree outside and studied the menu. Same story with the prices - almost R30 for a slice of cake and the most expensive  Americano I've yet come across - R18! I settled for a filter. Next door was a quaint and very tempting little Hansel & Gretel chocolate shop, but the catchy sign actually deterred me from entering what looked like a den of temptation. A minute on my lips would be way longer on my hips...

As for the tea and cake, my lemon meringue was sinfully rich and delicious, and apparently the carrot cake equally good. The coffee was just ok but I hadn't expected more. A pleasant enough coffee break in farmlike surroundings but nothing that special.

Feb 12, 2012

C'est la Vie, Kalk Bay

Up a cobbled lane off the main road through Kalk Bay village is a boulangerie I've been visiting for a few years now, tucked up against an art gallery and cosied up to the Kalk Bay Theatre next door. It's never been advertised but is well known in the arty community, and you're often likely to spot an artist or other creative soul hanging out.  A teeny tiny courtyard is the best place to sit in good weather, green ivy and pink geraniums spilling down the walls. It's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so you must pick your day to visit. Indoors you can watch the action in the tiny kitchen as a flurry of kneading and whirring and baking fill shelves of baskets with interesting loaves, croissants, muffins and the like. It delights me to buy bread and have my ciabatta wrapped in a sliver of greaseproof tied up with string.

My favourite snack is a friand, an almond flavoured delicacy at the startling price of R7, and muffins don't cost much more. I must admit I was peeved on this day to find they were sold out of friands, as my mouth had been anticipating the taste for a couple of hours!  In summer I love the freshly and noisily concocted carrot, ginger and apple juice, but at all times the hot drinks are winners. You can have a veritable bucket of coffee if you so wish and as for the hot chocolate...fortunately the cup is so big that you don't get to the bottom of it too soon. Just look at these beauties and you'll agree that they are very tempting. Here's a cappuccino, latte and hot chocolate. A cute and unpretentious little eatery for either a quick snack or a long linger over the newspaper. (NB ... closed on Mondays and Tuesdays  and they don't do credit cards)

Jan 26, 2012

The Annex, Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay Books is a one of a kind little shop of books covered in a stone building on the main road through Kalk Bay. The intimate space encourages unhurried browsing through books you just don't see in any old store and it's impossible to walk out without buying something.They also host regular book launches awash with complimentary glasses of wine to sip reflectively while authors share enticing snippets of their craft to encourage you to buy their latest book.

The countless delectable recipes, as well as taste samples from many cook books launched over the last few years, seem to have encouraged the birth of a divine eating place wrapped around two sides of the book shop. At The Annex (clever wordplay on the name of owner Ann Donald) you can sit indoors next to a fire on a chilly day, or escape the pesky south easter in the sheltered courtyard, or climb a few steps to an open space under a gorgeous stone pine and gaze sleepily over your refreshments at the colourful harbour and False Bay beyond. As it was a gorgeous summer day this spot was the most appealing, in the company of zany statues of fey maidens.

I had a reunion with a friend not seen for ages, it was late morning, she needed breakfast and I just wanted a snack. One of the specials on the blackboard propped against the tree appealed to her and she ordered scrambled egg with salmon and avo, which was beautifully plated and apparently tasted just as good. My croissant with jam and cheese was warm, fresh and crisp and also nicely presented. I'm a sucker for good presentation. To drink, we both had tall glasses of mochaccino which was very more-ish. The service was friendly and I was also impressed that the manageress popped by to check that everything was ok.

As can happen so suddenly along the false bay, a nippy little wind whipped up off the sea and we were offered fluffy lime green throws to toss around our shoulders, which certainly warmed my chilly bare arms.

Next time I visit the book store I'll be sure to follow it up with a cappuccino,or two, next door.  Visit their website