The tail-end part of my break in Cape Town was marred by erratic fronts, both weatherize and personally. At points, I had desperately wanted leave the grey cold and gusting winds that had rolled in, leaving me feeling lonely and melancholy in a city where I felt I had seen and done it all. With no hope of changing my flight out, I was forced to endure those last few days over the Easter weekend. When I woke on the day of my departure, I was thrilled to finally be leaving. I packed my bags, checked out of the hostel, and planned to walk to the V&A Waterfront for a last Southern Right and sushi platter at Harbour House before my early evening flight. I never made it.
A Culinary Tour of Bree Street
Exiting the hostel, I decided to detour to Bree Street. This vibrant local street in the CBD is renowned for having an abundance of mouth-watering independent restaurants and sumptuous boutique stores. Having decided that I wasn’t going to be back to the Mother City for a very long time, if ever, I choose to wander this street properly as I wanted to see what all the fuss had been about. Although it wasn’t my intention, I ended up on a 3 course culinary tour of the most delicious and eclectic establishments I’ve ever been to.
My stomach had been feeling a little bloated and sluggish from all the indulgence over the last two weeks, and was craving something nourishing, healthy, fresh. Sexy Food sounded promising. As I wandered in, I noticed that all the tables were bunched together, and there weren’t any customers inside. The owner, James, in his hippy plaid shirt, rugged baseball cap, rough beard and jandals, picked up on my bewildered look and said, ‘We aren’t open really, but we are open. What were you after?’
I explained that I just wanted something like a green, healthy smoothie. ‘I’ve got just the thing for you. Have you tried Kombucha Tea?’ Ah, no. He tried to explain it to me, but to be honest I just didn’t get it, but ordered it anyway. Apparently it is some sort of fermented tea, that is supposed to be especially good for the gut. It arrived in a jam jar with a glass beaker straw. Apricot in color with cubed apples floating on top, it tasted of a cider with a strong bite to it. Refreshing and good for you tasting.
With chilled vibes on the radio and lots of potted plants and crystals dotted about, it seemed more like a new age cafe you’d find in Bali, not South Africa. But here they were serving things like Yogi Kraut Chi, Bookookoo, and Amast Kefir yogurt bowls with spouted coconut, turmeric and pumpkin seeds.
I liked the ambience. Concertina doors left an open 10 foot gap at the front of building allowing the warm breeze to float in, whilst framing the spectacular views of Table Mountain. One of the staff, black, was dancing away in his salmon colored ‘Sexy Food’ apron whilst he restocked the shelves. It felt like a very laid back place where everything was keeping as close to nature as possible.
Any other day, I would have stayed for a yogurt bowl, just to experience it, but I was on a mission to get down to the Waterfront for my sushi, so left.
Bacon on Bree
I didn’t make it far. Crossing the junction of Buitensingel, I quickly stumbled on a few restaurants that I had eyed up a year ago backpacking. At that time, I couldn’t afford to venture into these glitzier establishments. I started to feel slightly torn between keeping to course with the sushi, or trying something new. It didn’t take much internal persuasion to venture into the unknown when I read the menu at Bacon on Bree.
Every menu item from the three breakfast selections to the extensive range of sandwiches and salads all had ‘bacon’ listed somewhere in the list of ingredients. There was even a bowl of bacon! Admittedly, this is not a place for vegetarians, but for a pork lover like me it was heaven. The only problem was choosing what to have. The sandwiches came with intriguing sounding names like the ‘Joey Tribbiani’ and the ‘Unicorn Burger’. ‘The Yank’ sounded particularly gluttonous described as ‘Croissant, bacon, mac nut honey butt. Sweet and salty. Yin and Yang. Starsky and Hutch.’
In my ‘better be healthy’ mode, I settled for the Hall-Elijah Salad. Served on a wooden pig board, a black bowl was stuffed with horizontal layers of grilled halloumi, avo, charred tomato, rocket, and slabs of bacon for 80R (US$5.50). Simply pure indulgent bites of heaven! I added some Wiltshire sauce for an extra kick. I was bemused by the ingredients list: one anchovy and lots of spices. Not suitable for anyone allergic to anything.
Sitting there on a bar stool, peering out the open window onto the locals enjoying their Easter Holliday, I suddenly realized that the wind of the previous two days had finally dissipated. The sun and blue skies had returned. And along with it, my love of this charming city.
Honest Chocolate Cafe
With thoughts of going back to the touristy Waterfront for sushi totally abandoned, I got the brilliant idea that I should complete my Bree Street culinary tour with a coffee and cake at a third place. Having visited all the main tourist sites, indulging in some food seemed as good of way as any to spend my last three hours in Cape Town.
My finally stop – Honest Chocolate – wasn’t technically on Bree Street, but a short walk down on Wale Street. I had come across this Capetonian hand made chocolate store a week earlier in Woodstock. With a motto of ‘We’re into dark chocolate’ and claiming to use only the finest organic cacao, free of dairy and cane sugar, with no preservatives, artificial flavors or emulsifiers it was exactly what I was looking for. With so many dark chocolate ‘cake’ choices I couldn’t decide, so asked the waitress if I should go for the brownie or the Banana Bread Bunny Chow speciality. She unhesitantantly recommend the later.
Not sure exactly what I’d ordered, I wandered out to the courtyard oasis that was tucked off the back of the main road. It was a high-walled brick and rock facade on two sides, and two white walls on the other. A veranda with wrought iron hung over an Italian ‘marble’ fountain providing a lulling backdrop of music. Potted plants and hanging baskets were dotted about. The cobalt blue sky provided the ‘ceiling’ as if painted by Michelangelo himself. Admittedly not the view of the ocean, but a lovely sanctuary for the centre of town.
Lost in a dream world, soaking up the returned sun, I was suddenly brought back to reality with the delivery of my ‘Banana Bread Bunny Chow’. Exquisitely presented on a wooden board, was a mini banana muffin, with with centre drilled out of it in a cone shape, which was placed on the side. It its place, the hole had been stuffed with a dark chocolate spread, almost the consistency of ganache, and a rich vanilla pod spiked ice cream. Accompanying the sweet delight was the yang of spiced nuts on the side. A mere 48R or US$3.20. (Note: On returning to London I paid $US4.50 for a small slice of banana bread, that was no where near comparable.) The combination was an explosion of delight in the mouth. Seriously, who creates these concoctions! The nuts were a great added touch, balancing out the sweetness, when it got too much. This was the second time in a matter of days that I had encountered this nut and muffin combination, and I was beginning to like it. It was all topped off with a creamy flat white from yet another local roaster – Trump and Timbal.
Saying Goodbye Again.
As I sat there, eating a moist cake bursting with rich banana flavor, with a gentle breeze drifting on my skin, I was reminded what it was that I loved so much about this city. Ok, yes, the lovely weather for one – most of the time. But more importantly, that Cape Town is bursting with independent cafes, bars, restaurants, and boutique craft and clothes stores. And they are all intricately designed with eye-appalling interiors and quirky menus. Each one an intriguing assault on all the senses. And I learned this trip, that one of the things that makes me the happiest is always discovering something new, either in a city or within myself.
These new finds on, and slightly off Bree Street, restored my love for this amazing city, which on each of the three times I’ve visited have offered conflicting simultaneous emotions of heartbreak and deep contentment. Those hours devouring the culinary delights, reminded me once again that if you choose to lock away your negative thoughts when the bad weather rolls and instead head out with a positive mindset to chase the sun, that before long you’ll find it – maybe even glistening on a wide sandy beach – and the laughter will return along with the blue skies before long. No moment is forever; plough through as quickly as you can through the bad ones and aim to collect as many amazing ones as you can.
As I headed to the airport on the MyCiti bus, I turned to look back at the Mother City one last time. My eye caught several paragliders once again floating around Lion’s Head, the sunlight dancing off their chutes, and once again, I could feel my internal smile radiating out.
Serenity had returned to my soul and to Cape Town and I knew in that instant that my love affair with this city wasn’t over. I’d be back again. Soon.