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Oct 7, 2013 10:42 AM

Update On Cape Town?

Noted that discussions here are dated. Anyone have updates on great eats in and around Cape Town for trip planned early December? Looking for suggestions for both business dinners during conference and post work enjoyment of nearby wine region.

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  1. Have only just arrived but can already recommend Pot Luck Club for casual dining with interesting flavor and texture combinations. Will attempt a full report while traveling but, at the latest, by end of month. You must book several weeks ahead for parties larger than two.

    Also on our list is their sibling, The Test Kitchen, very highly regarded by locals and also needing to be booked well in advance. Again, details to come...

    7 Replies
    1. re: erica

      Just to quickly follow up, before a longer report later, our dinner at The Test Kitchen was superb. Intricate combination of textures and flavors and well worth the price which, while high for CapeTown at ZAR 1483 for two persons (currently about 10 ZAR to $US1), presented excellent ratio of price to value. Again, will write in full after return.

      1. re: erica

        As promised, more details on my (two) dinners at The Test Kitchen in the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town:


        We had two outstanding dinners at this award-winning restaurant which occupies a ground floor former industrial space in the Old Biscuit Mill Complex, not far from its more casual sibling, the Pot Luck Club. Diners adhere to one of two set menus; there is no a la carte option. The dishes do not change much in the course of a week so, essentially, we had the same meal on two different evenings, something I cannot recall ever doing in a restaurant. Dinner was so good that this was hardly a hardship. (The restaurant has just snagged the top spot in the 2013 EatOut Awards for the best restaurant in South Africa)

        On both evenings, my partner had the Discovery Menu (R520) and I had the same, with wine pairings (R765). All wines were South African.

        Dinner opened with two amuse and a bread plate highlighted by wonderful pretzel bread sticks, followed by a shaved salad starring pickled yellowtail accompanied by BBQ carrots and a honeycomb dusted with Ras Al Hanout spice blend. This was truly lovely.

        Second course, for me, was Plum-cured foie gras with cinammon poached guava. Marvelous! For my partner: Grilled scallop with miso and shitake mushrooms, prepared two ways. Like all of the dishes we enjoyed, these were intricately arranged and imaginatively presented in a manner that reminded me a bit of the work of Wunderkind British Chef Paul Liebrandt. Next, for both of us: Pork belly with apple and honey, served alongside pork cracklings. Absolutely smashing; perhaps the best dish of the trip!

        Main course, again for both: Chef’s signature dish of duck, magret and confit, with truffle and foie gras egg. Another winner.

        Dessert: Assiette of chocolate..intricate and fantastic.

        I gave the barest details above; the dishes were so intricate, and so inventive, with so many complimentary elements drawn from not only European and South African, but also Asian and North African flavor profiles, that it is very difficult for me to recount with any accuracy exactly how they were presented.

        Here is the menu, with a bit more detail; the menu had changed slightly when we dined there last month:

        The industrial-chic design--metal, wood, and brick elements, towering ceilings crisscrossed by weathered wooden beams--is handsome and, thankfully, the dining area was not deafeningly noisy. There is counter as well as table seating. Dress is casual. Service was exemplary: Informative and very friendly.

        Taxi fare is about R70-80, each way, from the center.

        Reservations are needed many weeks in advance, perhaps more for high season. Outstanding! The total for dinner, for two of us, amounted to
        R1483, including tip, or about US$150.

        1. re: erica

          @erica: I've just returned from Cape Town and wrote about my (negative) impression of Gourmand Menu at The Test Kitchen in the other thread. I know you did the shorter Discovery Menu for both of your meals. How long did it take on both nights?

          1. re: Ponder99

            I'm so sorry that you had those issues at TTK. I would say that our Discovery Meal on the first night took under two hours. The second dinner there were three of us and we dawdled longer, so maybe 2.5 hours. We did not have any service issues that I can recall, and we liked the place a lot. I do think that, as you mentioned, Cape Towners are more relaxed, and more willing to overlook less than optimal service than we would be in NY.

            We did encounter less-than superb service at The Greenhouse; although the food there was very good, if perhaps a bit complicated, service there definitely needed work.

            1. re: erica

              The problem with The Test Kitchen is that the expectations are going to be high, but if they are really as good as they should be, they should be able to deliver every single night. It definitely has the "big fish, small pond" aura working for it in Cape Town.

              Looking around the room while we were eating, it didn't appear that the other tables were too relaxed about waiting. At least one other table inquired about what was taking so long and the body language of other customers (restless looks, playing on phones, constantly looking at the time and looking back to the kitchen) led us to believe the service wasn't acceptable to them other. At one point, I walked to the restroom and only about 2-3 tables had food. Nothing else on the remaining 15-20 tables, or whatever they have.

              The biggest grievance as I posted in the other thread was that other two other 2-tops who started the Gourmand menu 30 minutes after us somehow finished 30 minutes before us.

              I've never even come close to considering walking out on a tasting menu, but The Test Kitchen had me seriously considering it. I can't even remember dessert because we were so distracted by the wait and just wanted to get out of there.

              1. re: Ponder99

                That does sound unacceptable, I agree. Just to provide a comparison: Since we last "met" here, I had lunch at a good NYC restaurant (The NoMad). We waited 50 minutes for the first course (the much-lauded chicken sandwich) to arrive. When we spoke to the manager on duty about this, she aplogized profusely and told us that she would remove the item from the bill. But at TTK, it sounds as if they would have had to comp most of the diners' dinners on the evening you were there!

                1. re: erica

                  They did apologize for our poor experience, and had we mentioned it before settling the check, at least one TripAdvisor review would lead me to believe they would have taken a couple hundred rand off the bill.

                  An easy gesture would have been a follow-up e-mail recognizing the problem, but it never came and I don't expect to ever hear from them.

                  We never made it to La Columbe and with the poor experience at The Test Kitchen, I regret that we didn't make the effort to get there.

    2. my husband and i are heading to Cape Town this weekend for our honeymoon. would appreciate any food advice esp for lunches and breakfast.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nonibear

        Espresso / Breakfast:
        Origin Coffee Roasting
        28 Hudson St, Cape Town 8001, South Africa ‎
        +27 21 421 1000 ‎ ·

        Great place. Flat whites are tasty, weaker than I like so I would add an extra shot.