Coffee heaven and brunch treats at Coco Safar

Coffee is one of the joys of my life. So I’m in heaven when I’m in Cape Town as there are coffee shops aplenty. Main Road in Sea Point is home to its fair share and also arguably the best of the lot – Coco Safar.

Coffee shops don’t come more stylish than this. There’s amazing coffee from specially selected coffee beans which are roasted in small batches in the Cape Town Roastery and Coffee Lab and also there’s an enticingly different food menu.

Coco Safar: latte

The beautifully artistic frothy coffee

What’s on the menu

The dishes all sound mouth-watering – and they taste just as good! They are served on trays with  a scoop of delicious creamy potato and a bowl of chilled herby citrus alongside. Seemed like a strange combination at first sight, but one that works surprisingly well with the fruit adding a refreshing zing.

We tasted both frittatas. For meat lovers the lamb and spinach combo is wonderfully satisfying.

Coco Safar: lamb frittata

Lamb frittata with potato and citrus

Or there’s a meatless option – a mix of delicious roasted vegetables.

Coco Safar: Vegetable frittata

Zooming in on the vegetable frittata

Avocado on toast is one of my favourite breakfast treats and it’s frequently found on South African menus. Today’s dish had a little bit extra – tahini avo toast with a wonderful mix of mashed avocado topped with slices dipped in white and black sesame seeds. Lovely touch – I could eat this every day!

Coco Safar: avo on toast

Avo on toast taken to a new level

Coco Safar: Tahini avo toast

Close up on the tahini avo toast

And the cakes! Coco Safar describes itself as a couture patisserie inspired by the great French tradition of patisserie and viennoiseries. There’s a large display cabinet full of the most beautiful sweet treats you could imagine. They almost look too good to eat.

Coco Safar: Patisserie

Delectable sweet treats all in a row

Coco Safar: Patisserie

Delicacies almost too beautiful to eat

Time for tea

There’s also a wonderful tea selection. I loved the local rooibos infused with ginger and lemongrass. Served up again on one of their delightful little trays complete with a colourful egg timer to ensure optimum brewing.

Coco Safar: Rooibos

A vibrant cup of tasty rooibos

As well as being a comfortable and luxurious place to while away several hours tasting the wonderful array of beverages and food, Coco Safar also sells a range of coffee-shop related goodies. Including the the world’s first home compostable, oxygen tight BIO-CAPSULE so you’re won’t be creating mountains of rubbish with your home-made coffees. Gotta love that.

Coco Safar: entry

The stylish entry to Coco Safar

Coco Safar is in the Artem Centre at 277 Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.

It is open from 7am to 9pm weekdays, 8am to 9pm Saturdays and 8am to 6pm Sundays.

Tasty seafood and stunning views at Gaaitje in Paternoster

The beach-side charm of Gaaitjie

Today we’re heading up South Africa’s West Coast to the charming seaside town of Paternoster at Cape Columbine. Known for its crayfish and white-washed fisherman’s cottages it’s a picture perfect little spot that appears in the distance as you come over that final hill. More about what to do in this beautiful place later. But first we are getting down to the important business of lunch. After our two-hour drive from Cape Town we were ready for some refreshment so we headed straight for the sea in search of Gaaitjie (which mysteriously means little hole in Afrikaans).

Gaaitje is quite simply the perfect restaurant for me. A basic white-washed fisherman’s cottage right on the beach serving food made using fresh local produce. And no holes in sight. Just expansive beach and ocean views.

Gaatijie: view

Welcome to Gaaitjie, beautiful in shades of blue and white

What’s on the menu

We settled in happily on the verandah with a bottle of Rose to peruse the menu which offered a lot of delicious fishy favourites. The local calamari came with charred corn, pickled red onion and garlic aioli. The prettiest of plates with calamari that literally melted in the mouth. Wow! Calamari will never taste like this again…

Gaaitjie: Calamari

Beautifully tender calamari with a slight crunch

My Saldanah Bay mussels were in a white wine broth with cumin and lime leaves, garlic and onions. I’ve eaten so many mussels in my time in Cape Town I’m thinking of writing a guide to mussel dishes around the peninsular! They are so tasty at this time of year and so versatile. Today’s choice came in a curry-style broth which I’ve never had with mussels before and it worked beautifully. I mopped up all those juices with our wonderful rosemary pot bread.

Gaaitjie: mussels

Plump mussels in a curry-flavoured broth

The special of the day was written up on the board as we walked in – Masala prawns. No need for Terry to look at the menu then, Indian flavours are his favourite. The prawns were enormous, juicy and beautifully spicy and served on the tastiest of savoury rice.

Gaaitjie: prawns

Giant masala prawns with savoury rice

To complement our meal these delightful little pot breads were delivered to our table piping hot from the oven. Soft and delicate, the fresh butter melted in creating little bites of heavenliness – all flavoured with fresh rosemary. It’s almost worth going to Gaaitjie just for the bread!

Gaaitjie: tin bread

Stunning little loaves of tin bread

The food at Gaaitjie is both simple and perfect. The best ingredients wonderfully cooked, a warm welcome and great service and those views! I want to go back there right now!

Gaaitjie: front

Gaaitje in its shades of blue

Gaaitjie: boat

The Gaaitje boat at the front of the restaurant

 

Gaaitjie: interior

Inside there’s a lovely beach-house feel

Today’s price point

Lunch for three which consisted of two starters, a main course and a bottle of Rose cost R565 (£34 at todays exchange rate).

As a general guide starters are around R80 (4.80) and main courses up to R200 (£12).

Gaaitje is off Sampson Street on the beach in Paternoster.

Mexico City and lunch at the San Angel Inn

Happiness is…chilling out at the San Angel Inn

I visited Mexico City on my way back from a wonderful trip to the stunning resort of Grand Velas Los Cabos. You can read all about my time on the beach there by clicking here. I was excited to be seeing my friend Lupita who I met on a cruise of the Baltic a couple of years ago and who had promised to show me around her home town.

Mexico City is a sprawling, bustling metropolis with a population of over 21 million which makes it the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. As you fly in it seems to go on forever and when you’re on the ground so do the traffic jams – there are a lot of cars in Mexico City and I mean a real lot of cars. Consequently, be prepared to spend time in the traffic – it’s certainly part of the city’s personality.

Mexico City: landing

Coming in to land in Mexico City

The city certainly has a unique energy – somewhat frenzied but with a laid-back, Spanish undertone. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and there’s so much to see and do. Oh and the food is incredible!

It also seems like a grand city with wide avenues, a stylish mix of old and new architecture – some of which is simply dazzling. And it’s great to walk around with monuments and statues around every corner.

Mexico City: Angel wings

Me and the angel wings

We took a slow meander through the magnificent  Chapultepec Park. Mexico City has plenty of trees and green spaces making it easy to get away from hectic city life and chill out. This strikingly enormous structure is the Monumento a los Ninos Heroes – honouring six young men who were killed while defending Chapultepec Castle – the last major resistance to US troops who invaded Mexico in 1845.

Mexico City: Monument

The striking Monumento a los Ninos Heroes

This stunning monument perfectly lines up with Chapultepec Castle down the Paseo de la Reforma to the Angel of Independence. The Angel is a tribute to the heroes of the Mexican war of independence from Spain.

Mexico City: angel of independence

The beautiful, shiny Angel of Independence

There’s so much to discover in this glorious city. I also explored the stylish Polanco neighbourhood which is where I stayed. It’s often called the Beverley Hills of Mexico City and is a  joy to walk around with the seemingly endless upmarket shops, hotels and restaurants.

The San Angel neighbourhood

On my second day in town we headed somewhere completely different. San Angel is a short drive away in the south-west of the city but it  feels like you’ve been transported to another world. The quaint, narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with elegant homes and an abundance of trees and flowers. There’s very little traffic, making it a joy to meander around.

Mexico City: San Angel

There are many beautiful homes in San Angel

There are plenty of lovely shops to browse through and the incredibly peaceful ex-convent of El Carmen to visit.

Mexico City: El Carmen covent

Take time out to enjoy the tranquility of this covent

You’ll also find Frida and Diego’s house, where famed Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived and worked. It’s been left as it was when they lived there and is fascinating to explore.  Plus you get the chance to see some of their work.

Mexico City: Frida and Diego's house

The brilliant blue that is Frida and Diego’s house

The San Angel Inn

One of the reasons for visiting San Angel was to have lunch at one of Lupita’s favourite restaurants, the San Angel Inn.

It’s loved by locals and tourists alike and you can see why as soon as you walk in – It’s the sort of place that instantly lifts your heart. The hacienda dates back to the 17th century and was originally a Carmelite monastery. A beautiful courtyard is surrounded by an expansive verandah and you’re basically in a tropical garden. I can think of no place I’d rather have lunch.

San Angel Inn: verandah

The beautiful verandah, the perfect spot to spend an afternoon

When in Mexico, drink margaritas. And this could be the best margarita in the world. Served in a little jug nestling in a mini bucket of ice you pour a little at a time ensuring your drink is always super cool. Heavenly.

San Angel Inn: margarita

The best margarita in the world? Possibly

As we sat on the verandah sipping on our margaritas we snacked on a delicious bowl of crunchy vegetables which we dipped into the beautifully creamy, cheesy dip.

San Angel Inn: crudités

Deliciously crunchy snacks with the creamiest of dips

What’s on the menu

As we pored over the menus soft warm rolls were served on one of their beautiful blue plates. I loved all the crockery here so much – how I would have loved to slip some into my handbag! No, of course I didn’t.

San Angel Inn: bread and butter

Bread and butter served on crockery in beautiful blues

I started with the Aztec tortilla soup. A rich tomato-based soup with crunchy crumbled tortilla and fresh chopped avocado sprinkled over. A wonderful combination of flavours and textures – and even more of those delicious Mexican avos.

San Angel Inn: Soup

Wonderfully rich soup topped with tortilla and avo

The caesar salad is for two and is made table-side. Quite a ceremony with the dressing also lovingly mixed in front of you. Seeing it being made with such love and focus makes it taste even better as a result.

San Angel Inn: Caesar salad

There’s plenty of activity as your salad’s prepared at the table

San Angel Inn: Caesar salad

Even the dressing is freshly made in front of you

Flaky white fish came with a hearty tomato and olive sauce.

San Angel Inn: Fish

The sweetest of local white fish in a rich tomato sauce

I tucked into the flavoursome grilled Mexican steak served with savoury rice, a sticky sauce and guacamole. Yes I am getting as much avocado in as possible while I’m in the land of the avo!

San Angel Inn: Mexican beef

Tasty beef with a side of extra guacamole

After mains the dessert trolley appears. What joy to see all those delectable dishes laid out – making it almost impossible to choose.

San Angel Inn: blackberry pie

Pie made with the plumpest of blackberries

San Angel Inn: chocolate cake

Chocolate cake to indulge in

I went straight from the San Angel Inn to the airport to catch my flight home. Which was all a bit surreal. It certainly was a whirlwind trip. Thank you Lupita for showing me around your wonderful city, I fell in love with beautiful Mexico and know there’s so much more I’d like to explore. Take me back soon!

Mexico City: Lupita

Here we are, reunited after two years

The San Angel Inn is at Diego Rivera No 50 y Altavista, San Angel, Mexico City.

Lunch in the Winelands at wonderful Terroir

Today we’re heading for lunch just off the R44 outside Somerset West in the Cape Winelands. Finally! Because I’ve been waiting for my return to Terroir for what seems a very long time!

Terroir is on the Kleine Zalze wine estate and opened in 2004. I’m pretty sure I’ve been every year since then! And it’s always an absolute pleasure to sit under the trees looking out towards De Zalze Golf Course, tucking into their amazing food. It’s certainly one of the most relaxed dining experiences you’ll ever have.

While we pondered our choices, the breadboard arrived to sighs of delight. The bread was served with a babaganoush puree, sage butter and smoked olives. Slices of ciabatta and tomato bread, still warm for the oven made the perfect partners to the silkily indulgent sage butter and the amazingly sweet and intense babaganoush puree – so good I’m going to have to make some myself.

Terroir: breadboard

The perfect start: bread, olives, sage butter and babaganous puree

What’s on the menu

There’s a choice of four starters and four mains, chalked up on the large blackboards.

The yellowtail ceviche was served with mango chipotle and a zingy grapefruit dressing. The perfect mix of sweet and sour with thin slices of melt-in-the-mouth fish. Another perfect summery dish.

Terroir: yellowtail ceviche

The prettiest of ceviche in shades of green and yellow

Terroir’s prawn risotto is legendary, served with the spicy Americaine sauce and topped with flavoursome prawns. It’s so creamy and bursting with flavour you almost want to cry. This is the restaurant’s signature dish and the only thing that remains permanently on the menu – apparently when chef Michael Broughton tries to take it off the protests can be heard echoing through the Winelands. Quite right, too.

Terroir: prawn risotto

The signature prawn risotto with stunning sauce Americaine

And now for an onion tart – something I’m very partial to. But this is no ordinary onion tart, with its crumbed goats cheese, honeyed figs, sage and sweet barbecue sauce atop the lightest, crispest sheet of pastry. The crunchy balls of cheese were quite a revelation and the amazing balance of sweet and savoury meant every mouthful seemed to dance in my mouth. One of my dining companions muttered between every mouthful about ordering another one…it seemed too good just to settle for one helping!

Terroir: onion tart

A mouthwateringly beautiful tart

Because it was so good I have to show it to you twice.

Terroir: onion tart

Close up to the delectable onion tart

The beef fillet was served on a swoosh of mushroom puree with Anna potatoes and baby carrots. I don’t know who Anna is but her potatoes are something out of this world. And that mushroom puree pulled all the elements together so beautifully. Pretty as a picture, too.

Terroir: fillet

The tenderest of fillet makes a beautiful plate

For a side we shared a dish of beetroot, hummus and pumpkin seeds. A totally yum combination.

Terroir: beetroot and hummus

Our lovely pink and white side

Seared springbok loin comes with dollops of vibrant pumpkin puree, beetroot, gingerbread (which is nestling under the beetroot) and the most incredible whisky sauce. The combination of flavours and textures in this dish produced something totally heavenly. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Seems like I can almost taste it!

Terroir: springbok

What a stunning springbok dish

Dessert you can’t resist

Terroir is one of those places where you simply can’t resist the puddings – and nor should you – they are truly memorable. This beautiful concoction of mango served with honey oats crumb, mascarpone, passion fruit and coriander again offers the incredibly perfect combination of flavours and textures.

Terroir: Mango dessert

What a plate of sweet and zesty deliciousness

And for those with not much of a sweet tooth there’s always the cheese plate. Substantial chunks of cheese perch on top of a crisp flat bread with the sweetest of pickled grapes and a zingy chutney. Clever!

Terroir: cheese board

Inspired serving idea – you don’t really even need the board

The Sacher comes with caramel crunch and kirsch ice cream. Sacher is a type of chocolate cake or torte that was invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in Vienna in 1832. Clever him! This wonderful version of the dish that will certainly satisfy even the most demanding of chocolate lovers.

Terroir: Sacher

It’s chocolate tart heaven to finish off with

As well as the lovely wines from the Kleine Zalze farm you’re eating in, there’s also a good selection of others – so you’re spoilt for wine choice.

Terroir: Wine

Our wine breathes in the decanter at the end of the table

Terroir: blackboard

The important job of dessert description

Today’s price point

Terroir is one of the top restaurants in South Africa and one of my favourites in the world, yes the whole world! Consequently it’s a bit of a more expensive dining experience than most of the meals we’ve enjoyed recently. Having said that it’s still on the low side for such a great experience –  amazing value for money.

Starters are from R135 (approx £8.00)

Main courses are from R250 (approx £14.70)

Desserts are from R130 (approx £7.60)

I was so inspired by my sublime lunch at Terroir I left clutching Michael Broughton’s recipe book, determined to create some of his amazing dishes at home. Wish me luck! I might even invite you round for dinner!

Terroir: Book

Time to recreate Terroir’s magic at home

Terroir is on Kleine Zalze Wine Estate just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Tasty Indian cuisine tapas-style at Thali

Thali for two

Today we’re heading up bustling Kloof Street to an exciting new Indian restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chef Liam Tomlin – who runs the successful Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street (where I still haven’t been – must remedy that soon) and also recently took over the kitchen at Beau Constantia.

Thali has the same menu concept of Tomlin’s other two restaurants – a set menu of dishes to share that come up in groups, making for four tasty courses. Thali literally means “a set meal at an Indian restaurant” which for me means the joy of no menu indecision and a chance to taste everything the chef wants to offer. The food comes served in small dishes arranged on large round copper platters which look stunning but do make photography tricky (food blogger problems!). However, I’ve done my best to give you a good flavour of what’s in store.

What’s on the menu

So first up we received the Aloo Tikki, a beautifully soft and spicy potato cake served topped with yogurt and a touch of tamarind paste. I love potatoes and I could definitely consume this version of my favourite starch on a regular basis. It’s served with curry salt and spices which you keep on your table for the duration of your meal.

Thali: Aloo tikki

Starting off with a delightful potato dish

Thali: aloo tikki

Close up on the delicately spiced morsels

Our next course consisted of three dishes (dhal, cauliflower and tandoori chicken), a buttery paratha, two dipping sauces and an onion mix.

Thali: second course

Never have vegetables looked so vibrant and tasty

The cauliflower plate was a veggie revelation with Tandoori cauliflower and cumin cauliflower puree served with a cashew and coconut sauce. A genius way to showcase the humble cauli, producing a dish with incredible depths of flavours and a wonderful range of textures.

Thali: cauliflower

Close up on the spiced-up cauliflower

Beautifully flavourful and creamy smoked tadka dhal was served with the softest of buttery paratha. Dipping heaven.

Thali: dhal

A beautiful bowl of glistening dhal

And the tandoori chicken skewers arrived in their own little tandoor, complete with burning coals. Great theatre and these little morsels were so perfectly cooked they melted in the mouth giving a pop of those tasty tandoori flavours. Another wonderful dish that was very difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea.

Thali: tandoori chicken

Happiness is…your own tandoori oven

Time for some fabulous fish

The fish course added a real freshness to the dinner. The fried fish tacos were packed with juicy cubes of kingklip, crunchy fresh veg and chilli.

Thali: fish tacos

Vibrant fishy tacos with a chilly bite

Unusually for an Indian restaurant, a ceviche-style bowl of raw line fish was served with a Cape Malay dressing, coriander emulsion, saffron and pickled onion. Even more fabulous flavours and textures to savour.

Thali: Linefish

Fresh fish with a Cape Malay dressing

Wonderful curries to finish with

Our final tray of delights brought the curry element to our table. Another incredible combo of dishes. Two curries, served with rice and naan – the perfect ending to our Indian extravaganza. The smokey lamb curry was packed with flavour with a silken sauce and wonderfully tender meat.

Thali: curries

A tray of curries to finish with

The Panch Phorand seafood curry was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Wonderful cubes of flaky fish, plump prawns and the freshest of mussels in a rich and spicy sauce. The mussels are so fabulous in Cape Town at the moment. So I’m eating them whenever I have the chance and boy were they great in this curry.

Thali: seafood curry

A masterpiece of spicy seafood

The rice was also spectacular – which I think is a sign of a really great chef. I battle with cooking good rice dishes – wonder if they’d be available to give me some lessons?

Thali: Rice

Rice doesn’t get better than this

Phew! What a great selection of dishes. Portions are substantial at Thali, and there’s quite a lot of heat in the sauces, dips and spices. You can taste the love and care that everything has been prepared with and you can feel the energy emanating from the busy kitchen.

Thali doesn’t take bookings (one of my pet hates) so we got there just before 6.30 to make sure we could nab a table for six. The restaurant was already about three-quarters full and soon filled up completely. While we were having dinner people queued up at the bar and some didn’t even stay, having been told they would have over an hour to wait. This is one popular place! Because of this service may be inconsistent.

The menu tells you to expect a selection of dishes to share which can take up to 90 minutes – it will probably take longer (as it did in our case). But what’s the rush? Arrive prepared to take your time and enjoy the courses as they come and I guarantee you’ll enjoy a wonderful Indian extravaganza.

Thali: kitchen

There’s plenty of activity in the open kitchen

Thali: kitchen

Making sure the platter looks perfect

Today’s price point

And finally, Thali for two is R700 (about £45 at today’s exchange rate).

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town, just off Kloof Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasty tapas at La Parada on Cape Town’s Bree Street

Today we’re heading back to Bree Street on the edge of Cape Town’s City Bowl District (CBD). My favourite street in Cape Town – it’s restaurant and bar heaven and perfect to stroll down sampling places along the way. Start at the top (Table Mountain end) of the street and weave your way down the hill.

It’s the sort of street you keep going back to and although there are myriad restaurants to try we regularly find ourselves drawn to La Parada on the corner. We even head straight for the same seats each time – if they’re not available we tend to feel somewhat peeved.

La Parada has been open for several years and serves tapas. A lot of the dishes are authentically Spanish and there’s also a nice South African twist to the menu. While the food has always been good, this year it seems to have been elevated to a different level – and on our first 2018 visit our waitress informed us that they have a new chef. He’s certainly put a little something extra into the dishes.

We visit Spain as often as we can and love Spanish food. Today’s gambas Pil Pil was authentic, with sweet, plump, fresh prawns flash fried in olive oil, chilli, garlic and lemon. The perfect combo of flavours giving a lovely garlic undertone and a real chilli bite.

La Parada: prawns

Luscious prawns in the perfect chilli, garlic sauce

Another Spanish classic – the ham croquettas were made with smoked ham and served with mustard aioli which they were sitting proudly on top of. Loved the slightly non-traditional presentation. The croquettas were delightfully crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy inside and the mustard aioli was a wonderful addition.

La Parada: croquettas

Beautifully soft croquettas with crunch

Served with star anise caramel and toasted sesame, the pork belly was sweet and sticky with crispy crackling and a lovely coleslaw-style salad . The sesame flavours came through wonderfully and I do love a bit of star anise.

La Parada: pork belly

Sweet and sticky pork belly

Possibly our favourite dish we’ve ever devoured at La Parada is the Champinones al Ajillo. A soft-poached egg is served on toast and a bed of mushrooms and truffle oil and topped with grated pecorino. So satisfyingly rich and earthy, I would order this every time I visited – come to think of it, I believe I have.

La Parada: mushrooms

The ultimately indulgent mushroom dish

La Parada: mushrooms

Topped with a perfectly poached egg

And then there’s the Patatas Bravas. Possibly the best-cooked potatoes in the world, this simple dish has been spiced up. After frying the morsels perfectly – crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft inside – the chef dusts the potatoes with paprika, giving them some heat. They are served with two sauces – aioli and rich tomato chutney. If all potatoes tasted like these I think I’d live off potatoes alone. Who knew such simple food could bring such joy?

La Parada: patatas bravas

Crisp, spicy potatoes with delicious dips

Lunch at La Parada is inevitably accompanied by a bottle of chilled Rose. I love their wine coolers – a sturdy plastic bag of sorts crammed with ice and water. Well, I do love everything about La Parada and I’m sure we’ll be back soon for some more delightful Spanish treats on my favourite street.

La Parada: Rose

A chilled and tasty glass of pinkness

Today’s price point

Finally, here’s what we paid. Our five tapas dishes cost R375 (around £23 at today’s exchange rate). Plenty for a substantial meal for two.

Wine starts from R135 (£8.20) a bottle for rose, R110 (£6.70) for white and R150 (£9.20) for red.

There are three branches of La Parada in Cape Town – Camps Bay, Constantia Nek and our favourite, Bree Street.