So when we were in Krabi in Thailand last year we met a lovely couple from Cape Town. We had dinner, chatted well into the night and exchanged phone numbers, promising to reconnect once we’d settled down in the Mother City.
Somehow Iain’s number disappeared from my phone (never trust technology). I tried googling but only had first names and vague job information, so no luck. Then I had a brainwave – they had talked about their local restaurant, the Gypsy Cafe in Observatory. So I found the restaurant’s website and sent an email explaining how we had met Iain and Katt and asking the owner to pass my details on to them if, by any chance, he knew who they were.
Clearly Observatory is a friendly sort of place as a few hours later Iain phoned me and we arranged to meet for dinner on Friday. The wonder that is the internet. With a bit of creative thinking and effort, I really believe you could track anyone down!
Okay, so the Gypsy Cafe, as I said, is in Observatory (or Obs as it’s affectionately known by the locals), an area of Cape Town I’m not familiary with – well, I’ve driven through it a few times. It’s known as a student neighbourhood as the University of Cape Town (UCT) is nearby and also home to the legendary Groote Schuur Hospital where Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in 1967. Plus you’ll find the South African Astronomical Observatory (originally the location of the Royal Observatory) which the area got its name from. So there’s plenty of history to savour.
During the apartheid years Obs was one of the few ‘grey’ suburbs where all the races lived together and is described by Wikipedia as “a somewhat alternative part of town”! There are loads of restaurants and bars and a buzzy (if slightly edgy) atmosphere. Oh, and lots of friendly locals.
Like Jaco, who’s really responsible for our reunion at the Gypsy Cafe. Iain tells me the restaurant is a real labour of love for Jaco, who has another 9 to 5 full-time job. Must be tiring? You wouldn’t think so by the energy and enthusiasm he greets you with and the passion he describes his food with!
There are two menus, the “basic” one on a blackboard and the “special” one which changes every month and gives you the chance to travel the world. Today we were in Tunisia, which made me very happy – I love Moroccan food and obviously it’s very similar. Katt and Iain said they have tried to get through the “basic” menu but can’t as there’s always something new to try on the “special” menu. Terrible problem to have.
The restaurant is small, welcoming and beautifully decorated in a casual vintage style. Jaco talks you through each dish with love and excitement and makes everything sound delectable. Yikes, I battled to decide…
The starter of meat kefta meatballs was rich, juicy and satisfying.
What a delight to see snails on the menu. Memories of last year’s plateful on the cruise meant I had to order them and they were perfect in their rich, creamy, cheesy sauce which I scooped up every last drop of.
The pork wonton was cleverly done – deconstructed and served as a crunchy tower of sweet and savoury.
My camera gave up the ghost temporarily after starters, so thank you Iain for stepping in as back-up photographer.
The fish of the day was local kabeljou (aka kob). Perfectly cooked, chunky and flavoursome with loads of vegetables and a delicate balance of spices.
Portions are generous here, so dessert wasn’t going to get a look in. Jaco described the coconut tart as a milk tart (which is traditionally South African) topped with fresh coconut. He convinced us we had to try it and just as well, the addition of coconut to the smooth, delicate flavours of the milk tart was just perfect.
Love discovering new places, thanks to the Obs locals…I’ll certainly be checking out where in the world the Gypsy is wandering off to next month.
Gypsy Cafe is at 87 Station Road, Observatory, Cape Town
Find out more at www.gypsycafe.co.za