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

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....

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