Peninsular touring and seafood at Live Bait

Cape Town is frequently ranked one of the most beautiful cities in the world in those never-ending Best of… lists that pop up everywhere. I’ve spent a lot of time here – I know, lucky me – and it’s pretty much impossible to beat, there’s so much going for it. .

It’s scenically stunning and diverse with myriad beautiful beaches, the ever-present majesty of Table Mountain, forests, mountain trails and gardens and some of the most stunning drives you’ll ever experience. It has a warmth to its soul, a great energy and welcoming people. There are hundreds of fabulous restaurants which are great value – and of course there’s all that wine that has to be sampled.

I was recently reminded that African penguins live here (I didn’t mention the wildlife yet, did I?) so the purpose of today’s outing was to say hi them at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. I think I’ve been suffering from penguin withdrawal!

Our journey took us from Sea Point to the other side of the peninsular. It’s a magnificent drive through Camp’s Bay, past Llandudno and over Chapman’s Peak. The road clings precariously to the mountainside –  an amazing feat of engineering – and the sea shimmers down below.

Live Bait: Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most stunning drives ever

Once you start your descent Noordhoek Beach appears on your right. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, and even though I know it’s coming, the view elicits an involuntary gasp. And I always wonder who lives in that house! What a view they must have.

Once you’ve crossed over the peninsular it’s a slow meander through sleepy seaside towns to penguin-land on Boulder Beach. Hello little penguins! I felt instantly happier on seeing them.

Live Bait: Penguins

African penguins lap up the warmth of the sun

Penguin fix sorted we headed back towards Cape Town Central following the coast road until we got to Muizenberg. Famous for its beautiful beach and warm Indian Ocean (the other side of the peninsular sits on the Atlantic and is decidedly chilly), Muizenberg is considered the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. There’s a big surfing community here all centred around Surfer’s Corner. Which is where we’re headed – for a spot of beach-side lunch at Live Bait.

Live Bait is right in the middle of all the action with a long glass front looking out over the sea. It’s a beautifully blue view and there’s plenty of surf-related action to observe. Inside it has a rustic beach house feel which so perfectly matches the surrounding seaside vibe. There’s a lot of fish on the menu and a great selection of sushi which is freshly made in front of you.

Our delectable light lunch today started with a portion of Thai fish cakes to share. Shaped more like fish balls, they were lovely and light with well-balanced Thai flavours and a nice crunch.

Live Bait: Fish cakes

Soft and flavourful fish cakes with Asian flavours

For mains we shared a portion of tempura prawns – and a very generous one it was, too. Served with crispy fries, the prawns were perfectly cooked in the light batter and served with a dipping mayo. We asked for some chilli and mixed it into the mayo, making for a delightful spicy hit.

Live Bait: tempura prawns

The large pan of juicy tempura prawns

Live Bait: Prawn tempura

Close up on the delicious prawn crunch

There’s a relaxed vibe at Live Bait, it’s the sort of place I could see myself spending many an hour drinking wine, feeling fine and absorbing some of that Muizenberg chilled-out surfing attitude.

Live Bait: Interior

Beautiful blues and whites inside and out

Live Bait: Beach house

There’s a beach house feel throughout

This is your sea view. Which goes on  much further on both the left and right of this picture.

Live Bait: Muizenberg beach

Looking out at beautiful Muizenberg beach

While Muizenberg is great for swimming and surfing, it’s also home to Great White Sharks (more wildlife)! The area is well monitored though with shark spotters on high and at the beach who seem to know where the sharks are. I’ve been on the beach when the shark siren goes and it is a bit of a scary experience if any of your party happen to be in the sea. That Jaws music creeps into your subconscious! There are experts on hand to tell you about these powerful creatures and there’s plenty of shark-related advice posted all over the place (in several languages). Like how to be shark smart – do remember not to swim at night or if bleeding! The presence of the Great Whites certainly adds to the Muizenberg adventure.

Live Bait: Sharks

Beware of the sharks!

Oh and before I go, here I am with my latest penguin friends.

I can’t imagine there’s another journey more filled with beautiful views, lovely food and exotic wildlife. What joy – Cape Town I love you!

Live Bait: Boulders Beach

Me visiting the African penguins on Boulders Beach

Today’s price point

Starters range from R45-R85 (£2.70-£5.10)

Main courses range from R99 to R225 (£6.00-£13.60)

White wine starts from R125 (£7.50) a bottle and red wine from R130 (£7.85)

All conversions are at the today’s exchange rate.

Live Bait is at 70 Beach Road, Muizenberg

The fabulous Food Barn, officially one of my favourites

People are always asking me what my favourite restaurants are. Okay, I do visit a fair few but strangely enough when I’m asked the question my mind usually goes completely blank. I do think that’s partly because it depends on so many variables…the weather, your mood, the type of food you feel like and your own personal taste of course, something that even the best restaurant can’t deal with if you simply don’t like that type of food.

But a recent visit to a Cape Town restaurant helped me to think more clearly on the matter. The Food Barn in the sleepy town of Noordhoek is definitely on that list. And actually I don’t think any of the above criteria particularly matter in this case.

Chef Franck Dangereux has created the perfect formula. The restaurant is situated in an old barn which gives it a charming, relaxed feel and you’re guaranteed a good helping of fine dining, too – without all that formality that often comes along with it.

On our visit today the menu had changed significantly. Now that was a bit of a shock…there are old favourites (that word again) that people order religiously on every visit. To the extent that our friend, Candy, on seeing the new menu, asked the waitress if she could check if maybe there was the chance of her having his legendary prawn starter even though it was no longer on the menu. The chef was asked the question. His answer? No, it’s time to try something different. So we did!

I’d already seen the new rock lobster starter being advertised and had firmly made my mind up that this was for me. It came warm on a bed of glass noodles and mushrooms with a light and beautifully tasty Asian-style sauce. Plump, juicy lobster and wonderful clean flavours. Okay, that one’s a winner.

rocklobster

A beautiful and exotic lobster starter

Another starter choice, the strikingly green ravioli dish. A large parcel (now there’s an usual take on ravioli) packed with a beautiful combination of peas and tarragon served with emmental and truffle cream and tender leaf shoots. The tastes of summer on a plate with a wonderful truffle undertone.

ravioli

The luscious, plump ravioli parcel with its amazingly light and creamy sauce

Summery comfort food at its best, the home-smoked salmon came with steamed courgette ribbons, gratinated with artichoke and white truffle cream. A picture in pink and green with the soft smokiness of the salmon perfectly complimenting the slightly crunchy courgettes and the lovely gratin flavours.

salmon

A superior kind of salmon bake to savour

All Franck’s dishes take inspiration from flavours all over the world. Another reason why everyone’s taste is catered for at this establishment. The lamb rack had a decidedly Moroccan touch – roasted with crumbs and spiced honeyed apple and served with a nut and turmeric tatin, cumin and mild chilli jus and coriander yogurt.

The lamb was oh-so flavoursome and tender and all the other components with their exotic flavours and different textures made for a wonderful dish. I could have done with less jus – clearly I need to start asking for the sauce on the side. Fussy or what?

lamb

Lamb that’s soft and tender with great Moroccan flavours

The fish of the day was cooked more in a European style (with a definite Frenchness about it) with a saffron and garlic potato mousseline, petite fennel salad and a creamed fond de roche sauce. The earthy aromas of saffron welcomed the dish to the table in all its vibrant colours.

fish

A pretty and tasty fish dish

The steak dish also had some European touches served with a raclette and potato croquette (cheesy!), a shallot and syrah sauce, tarragon cream drops and wilted baby spinach. The steak was perfectly done and bursting with flavour – I’d highly recommend you go for the sirloin rather than the fillet.

steak

Sirloin steak with a wine sauce and the cheesiest of croquettes

Portions are generous at The Food Barn but you still really do have to order a portion of vegetables which they say serves two, but it’s big enough for four with your meals. The yummiest combo of carrots, courgettes and cabbage with a light, creamy sauce and plenty of herbs. You won’t regret ordering it.

veges

One of the nicest vegetable side dishes you can imagine

So now we were perfectly replete. But I’ve learnt a lesson about top-quality restaurants. Don’t ignore the desserts! We shared two between three of us and they were top-class. And light, too – we had no problem polishing them off.

This one is called Squashed Hibiscus Marshmallow. Now how can you not order that? It’s served with stone fruits, spring berries, condensed milk sorbet and lime pannacotta. Who’d have though condensed milk sorbet could be such a revelation, very clever.

marshmallow

A pudding that tastes as delicious as it looks pretty

The lime posset was served with raspberry consome, soft meringue and a raspberry tuille. Again, light, fresh tasting and beautifully constructed.

limeposset

Another dessert to wonder at

Okay, I’ve gone pretty big on my praise here, all I’m saying is it’s well justified. This lovely food is combined with great, friendly service – we asked our waitress Nicola for a bit of a break between starters and main and she organised it with a smile. There’s also a comprehensive wine list with some unusual choices that we hadn’t heard of before and it’s not going to break the bank. Hate it when restaurants overload the prices on their wine – which they often do.

Oh and if you’re lucky enough to be coming from the centre of Cape Town make sure to take a leisurely drive over Chapman’s Peak to get there. This amazing pass is built on top of a layer of granite, cut into the softer rocks above. It’s hard to find imagine a drive that’s more stunning.

ChapmansPeakDrive_View

One of many stunning views from Chapmans Peak Drive

The Food Barn is at Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek.