Where to eat and drink on Cape Town’s Bree Street: Part One

So today we’re heading for Cape Town’s Bree Street. It’s on the edge of the City Bowl District (CBD) and I’ve watched the street develop into one of my favourite Cape Town areas. It seems like every year when I return a whole raft of new bars and restaurants have popped up and all the old favourites are still there. Consequently it’s a real challenge to keep up!

In fact, there’s so much going on I’m going to do a series on places you must visit in this buzzy street (lucky you). Here’s Part One.

Every year Bree Street has its Open Streets Day in January. Open Streets is a worldwide movement where a street is closed to traffic and all sorts of events take place. It’s a trend that’s growing in popularity around the world and such a great idea to watch people coming together to enjoy live music, street art, street food and eating and drinking in many of the lovely places.

The Station on Bree

Like at The Station on Bree. They bill themselves as the only underground station in Cape Town and all their signage is modelled on London’s tube system. As a Londoner I felt instantly at home here (I have spent many hours on the Underground after all!!).

Welcome to The Station on Bree

There are plenty of nooks and crannies to be discovered at The Station.

Follow the Underground signs to find your perfect spot

We settled in on the pavement under the enormous tree to enjoy some chilled Castle Light beer and people watching. We even won some Castle Light sunglasses – what style.

Showing off our prize sunglasses

Part of the street was turned into a work of art which everyone contributed to

La Parada

I eat at La Parada regularly – my love for Spain and its food is well documented. The best place in Cape Town for an authentic Spanish experience and food. Close your eyes and it seems like you’re in Spain. There are several La Parada restaurants in Cape Town now – one at Constantia Nek and one in Camps Bay- but this in my opinion is still the best one.

Tender salt and pepper squid and crispy patatas bravas

Fabulous mushrooms topped with a soft-poached egg

Delicately creamy croquettas

An amazing plate of pork belly

Of course, you don’t have to wait for Open Streets to visit Bree Street. Thankfully! Any day is a good day. And on the First Thursday of every month, as well as all the usual attractions,  you’ll have the chance to enjoy art and cultural exhibitions.

I’m going for dinner there next First Thursday. Hooray.

Watch this space for more on my series on Bree Street.

Do you have a favourite place you frequent here? I’d love to hear about it.

The Station on Bree is at 207 Bree Street.

La Parada is at 107 Bree Street.

Wonderfully exciting food at The Restaurant at Waterkloof

Today we’re heading back to the Somerset West area and climbing to the top of another hill to The Restaurant at Waterkloof. It’s rated the third best restaurant in South Africa in the 2016 Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards – behind The Test Kitchen and La Colombe in Cape Town. I had already been to both of these and had heard very mixed opinion of Waterkloof so was looking forward to making the comparison for myself.

The Restaurant is housed in a modern building with floor to ceiling glass and sensational views of False Bay and across the vines to the Hottentots Holland mountains. It’s cleverly designed with a huge glass box jutting out to make the most of these views – you need to be enclosed as the wind really howls up here. So don’t come expecting an al fresco meal.

The interior is modern and stylish with a circular fireplace central to the tasting area and the restaurant alongside. All open plan with light flooding in.

You can choose from the two or three-course a la carte menu or the tasting menu (with or without wine pairing). Bear in mind that whatever you choose you’re going to get more than you’re expecting as there are several delightful surprises along the way. We opted for two courses which in reality meant five with the extras.

Like this bread and butter extravaganza. Three rolls and five different types of butter to get you started – including smoked aioli, mustard butter, chive butter, garlic butter and plain butter. Never has this humble dish been more delicious or more beautifully presented.

Five types of butter at Waterkloof

An extravaganza of butter

The bread is delicious at Waterkloof

A selection of warm rolls

And then our next surprise – the amuse bouche. A mini Springbok tartare topped with with salmon cream, miso jelly and pickled seeds. A totally scrumptious combination of flavours and textures.

The amuse bouche at Waterkloof

A delightful mini springbok tartare

We ordered a bottle of Waterkloof’s Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc and (unusually for white) it was decanted and balanced in a bowl of crushed ice. Quite a charming touch, I thought – and doesn’t it look lovely. You can see the tasting area and the open kitchen in the background.

The wine decanter at Waterkloof

The wine nestles in a bed of ice

My starter of asparagus done several ways was served with an amazingly creamy parmesan mousse. What a beautiful plate of food and the delicate flavours blew me away. A truly wonderful dish for asparagus lovers like me.

Asparagus four ways at Waterkloof

A feast of asparagus

The plump scallop was served with an rich and earthy porcini mousse, that melted its bursting flavours into the mouth. Two outstanding starters.

The scallop starter at Waterkloof

A plump scallop and earthy porcini mousse

The attention to detail on each dish is incredible and you can see the effort going into every plate in the open kitchen.

The chefs in the kitchen at Waterkloof

Some serious kitchen concentration

The Mauritius sea bass came with confit leek, Saldanha mussels and cape gooseberries. The fish was sweet and perfectly cooked and balanced well with the sharpness of the gooseberries. And who’d have thought of doing confit leeks? A truly ingenious idea.

The sea bass at Waterkloof

Sweet sea bass with fresh fruit and veg

And how’s this for another masterpiece of plating? The Joostenberg Vlakte duck breast was served with saffron apples and glazed turnips. Beautifully flavoursome and tender duck matched well with the slight sweetness of the apples and turnips – and the saffron influence came through strongly. Seriously want to know how to make saffron apples, they were so perfectly infused with one of my favourite spices.

So that was the end of our two-course choice. And it was fabulous. Important for me to point out that portions are on the small side at Waterkloof so if you’re expecting large plates of food you’re going to be disappointed. Personally I like eating lighter and with the extras this was plenty enough for lunch for me.

In fact we decided against dessert as we were full. But then the selection of petit fours was delivered to our table – well, I think I’d describe them as pudding actually. This beautiful purple creation was delivered in a mini bell jar – the lightest of pastries filled with a blackcurrant mousse and topped with a blackcurrant macaron. Everything melted in my mouth with a zing of flavours.

Blackcurrant dessert at Waterkloof

A bell jar of deliciousness

There were also delicate chocolate toffee straws and little lollies of mint and coconut ice cream encased in white chocolate to pop into your mouth. Stunning.

So now I’ve been to South Africa’s top-three (on one list anyway) and I’d put Waterkloof first of the three of them. A thoroughly wonderful and exciting foodie experience.

Fruity little ice creams and chocolatey coffee delight

Wine tasting at Waterkloof

The contemporary fire is the focal point of the wine tasting area

The view from Waterkloof

The fabulous vineyard and mountain views

And here’s the glass box that juts out of the side of the building making the most of the sea views.

The sea views at Waterkloof

Clever design to make the most of the view

Today’s price point

Two courses from the a la carte menu cost R420 (£26 at today’s exchange rate). Of course you got all the extras included for this.

The bottle of Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc cost R190 (£12 at today’s exchange rate).

It’s really good value for great fine dining.

The Restaurant at Waterkloof is at Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Somerset West.

The Barbary: It’s simply stupendous

Today I’m back in Covent Garden – in the delightful surrounds of Neal’s Yard. It’s a really cute, characterful area that is home to sister restaurant to The Palomar which I visited recently.

The Barbary takes its inspiration from the Barbary Coast – an area around the Atlas Mountains which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The area was infamous for its pirates and until the beginning of the 20th century was home to the Barbary lions which are now sadly extinct.

The menu reflects these countries from the Atlantic Coast and also through to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel. It makes for an amazing mix of ingredients and some of the most stunning and different food I’ve eaten in a while.

Food comes in tapas-size portions so there are plenty of opportunity for tasting. Seating is around the bar looking into the open and buzzing kitchen. You can’t book so there’s always the risk of queuing (one of my pet hates) so I’d recommend you go for a later lunch (after 2pm) or an early dinner (around 6pm) and you shouldn’t have much of a wait.

It’s the sort of menu that needs some explanation before those big decisions are made and the staff are very keen to help and describe the dishes with passion. They make them all sound so good but even once you’ve been guided by their knowledge you’re still not sure what you’re going to get. It’s just food I hadn’t encountered before but the good news is there’s no need to stress – I’m telling you that whatever you order is going to be fabulous.

Make sure to start with the Araya which is in the snack section. Little parcels of mince grilled on the fire and served with a tahini-style dip, these are sausage rolls in a league of their own.

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Simply heavenly sausage rolls

Masbacha chickpeas are soft and succulent with a wonderfully herby dressing.

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Zesty, herby chickpeas

And then there’s the Jerusalem bagel, a tasty, elongated delicacy generously coated with sesame seeds and served with a twist of spices on the side for dipping.

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The beautifully chew Jerusalem bagel

I am partial to a bit of chopped chicken liver and again this is spectacular, I think my favourite dish of the day. It’s chopped with hard boiled eggs and spring onions and served with a creamy, mustardy sauce. Another combination made in heaven.

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Chopped chicken liver and mustard

The fattoush salad of chopped tomatoes and herbs is topped with the creamiest whipped feta and a lovely limey dressing. A real star of a salad.

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Juicy tomatoes and soft clouds of feta

Our waitress enthusiastically recommended we order the pata negra neck which came with golden bulbs of roast garlic. I don’t really have the words to describe this amazing piece of meat. Rare and tender with a lovely charred crust from the fire, it melted on my tongue, the richest of flavours dancing across my taste buds.

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Melt-in-the-mouth flavourful meat

The Barbary’s bread is also stupendous. This amazing buttery nan was the perfect partner for the fishy taramasalata-like dip in all its pinkness.

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Naan and a fishy dip

The final wonder today is the goat. The second time I’ve seen goat on a London menu recently, it was roasted, shredded and crisped up on the fire. Served on a bed of garlicky tzatziki and topped with pickled red onion and fresh mint. Wow!

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Anyone for goat gyro?

I loved the mats which give you a clear picture of the region that’s inspired this marvellous food.

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I thought I’d also treat you to a picture of the beautiful Barbary lion with its dark mane that goes all the way around its stomach. They needed to keep warm up in those Atlas Mountains.

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And here’s a magnificent Barbary lion

Today’s price point

This array of dishes cost around £70.

Wine starts from £29 a bottle.

The Barbary is at 16 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden.

Lunch at Frenchie, a lovely new Covent Garden opening

The eating opportunities continue to grow in Covent Garden with more and more deliciousness to enjoy. Frenchie, Covent Garden gives Londoners the chance to try chef Gregory Marchand’s fabulous menu. He hails from Paris where he has a restaurant, wine bar, takeaway and wine shop in the Rue du Nil in the 2nd arrondissement. Frenchie is the name Jamie Oliver gave to him when he ran the kitchen at 15 in Shoreditch.

It’s a lovely modern, bright room with friendly, welcoming service. The menu offers starters (generous enough for sharing), mains and desserts, as well as a five-course Carte Blanche menu.

We pretty instantly spotted four dishes we couldn’t resist so shared them for the table. I love asparagus (I know, I’ve said it before) and the white type is a particular treat. Served here with parmesan and puffed barley, it was a true masterpiece and a dish I could eat every day.

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Beautiful fresh white asparagus

Plump smoked anchovies were served with Neal’s Yard salted butter and shallots.These silken, smoked treasures are some of the best anchovies around and perfect served simply with toast, butter and lemon juice.

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Smoky and succulent anchovies

I’m loving all the pea dishes around this year. Here we have burrata with a fresh pea pesto and pecorino cheese. The creaminess of the burrata combines with the sweetness of the peas to create a real taste explosion. And dishes rarely look this beautiful either…simply wonderful.

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A stunning and delicious plate of green-ness

The squid came in a more-ish broth with home-made harissa and carrots. Wonderfully tender squid with a silky sauce with real depth.

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A delicately smooth squid dish

This is the kind of restaurant I can picture myself whiling away plenty of hours in. And you can also eat at the bar, now that’s going to be hard to resist this summer.

Frenchie is at 16 Henrietta Street, just off Covent Garden Piazza.

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Fabulous Icelandic cuisine at Hotel Ranga’s restaurant

On my recent trip to beautiful Iceland I was fortunate to stay in the fabulous Hotel Ranga (you can read more about that by clicking here). And even more fortunate to be treated to the genius cooking of their head chef Karl Johan Unnarsson.

The ingredients of Iceland are amazingly plentiful with ample lamb, fish and dairy. Salmon, trout and cod are particular favourites as well as at the tastiest of langoustines. And there’s also the more unusual with seabirds like puffin and other waterfowl and even shark (no, I didn’t go there!) plus dried seaweed and moss to add a uniquely Icelandic flavour.

Vegetable production is steadily growing with some vegetables started in greenhouses in the early spring and then grown outside. Tomatoes and cucumbers are produced entirely indoors. Crowberries and blueberries grow easily and you’ll find herbs growing wild, like thyme. And there are plenty of wild mushrooms on offer, too.

Karl is passionate about using local, seasonal ingredients and came up with two amazing tasting menus – one of four courses and the other of eight. Perfect for getting a really good feel for his take on the food of Iceland. And what a fabulous take it is, too, real food inspiration. Feast your eyes on a selection of the some of Karl’s creations.

An earthy, creamy wild mushroom soup is served with vivid drops of dill oil – an Icelandic store-cupboard essential.

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Beautifully silken mushroom soup

On the second night our first course (of eight) was this amazing tomato extravaganza. Tomato juice with slow-cooked mini tomatoes, onion, pepper and tomato sorbet. My love for tomatoes is well documented – a dish like this is always guaranteed to get my night off to a great start.

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Tomato heaven to get started with

A clever and pretty vegetable creation: slow cooked cauliflower with buttermilk sauce and pickled red onion.

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Cauliflower like you haven’t tasted before

I loved the salmon at Hotel Ranga. Well, it is one of Iceland’s key ingredients – we are in this island nation after all. This is lightly cured and blowtorched, served with trout roe and a smoked egg yolk. A dish that melts joyfully on the tongue.

Cured Salmon with trout roe and dill

And now for some beautifully flaky cod which was lightly salted and served with smoked haddock foam and mustard cress.

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Another great fish dish to savour

Seabirds are also a big part of Icelandic cuisine, here’s a dainty dish of beet and smoked puffin.

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Smoked puffin is local delicacy

The pan-fried langoustine came with onion puree, apples, celery and dill sauce (more of that delicious dill). The wonderfully sweet seafood went perfectly with the crunch of apple and celery.

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Plump and juice langoustine

Skyr is another great Icelandic product. It’s kind of like a cross between yogurt and cheese – it’s made using a cheese-making process which gives it a bit more of a savoury flavour, slightly more cheesy than yogurty. It’s widely used in desserts, like here, served with crumble and berries.

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I loved the tasty local skyr

And here’s Karl in the kitchen where he produces all his works of art. Because this is the gourmet food of an artist. A real joyful experience of tastiness and inventiveness. The food of Iceland rocks.

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Visit Hotel Ranga’s website to find out more.

Where to eat in Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui

So today I’m eating amazing food on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in Thailand. Just a short hop from Bangkok (love those 45 minute flights) and you land at what must be one of the best airports in the world. It’s a selection of little buildings spread through a lovely garden-like setting – it’s hard to see quite where the terminal is when you land and a little train-like bus takes you in. It takes minutes to get through what can be a painful process…if only more airports were as much of an enjoyable experience.

From there we headed for Chaweng Beach, a very short drive away. We soon discovered that October/November is rainy season in Koh Samui and boy can it rain! Don’t go anywhere without your umbrella – which all hotels supply you with in your room. Clearly for a reason.

For those really rainy-day lunches when we didn’t want to venture too far in the downpour, we discovered a lovely little restaurant called Hugo’s just across the road from our hotel. One of my favourite Thai dishes is green papaya salad, it’s crunchy and spicy and topped with freshly cooked prawns makes for a wonderfully flavoursome and healthy lunch. And it looks so beautiful, too.

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When in Thailand you have to get plenty of green papaya salad in!

Running parallel to Chaweng Beach is the main road. It’s a long, bustling street with plenty happening from massages and other beauty treatments, shops and stalls selling everything you could desire and plenty of bars and restaurants. It’s hard to choose where to go, but I soon discovered there’s no need to stress about it too much – you can pretty much eat anywhere and not be disappointed in this amazing foodie town.

A lot of the restaurants have a tempting array of seafood on display in front of their establishments and an enthusiastic group from the restaurant trying to convince you that theirs is the best place for dinner. We liked the look of  Terminal D with its contemporary design and substantial book of a menu. A lot of the menus in Koh Samui took some serious perusal, with so many offerings to choose from. The red snapper was a great choice in its amazing sweet and spicy tamarind sauce.

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The freshest of red snapper with zingy tamarind sauce

And then we discovered Samui Seafood. I spotted the bar first which was set up in a corner in what looked like a garden just steps off the main road, totally irresistible. And then you realise it’s part of a large outdoor oasis of a restaurant serving an impressive collection of seafood at really reasonable prices. It’s is sold by weight and you can choose your own quantities, which I love, match your dish to fit your hunger perfectly. Thai rock lobster is delicately delicious with amazing texture and served here with a light red curry sauce was a delight.

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Rock lobster with red curry sauce

Rock lobster was available cooked a wide variety of ways, with Thai and European options, here it is in a creamy sherry sauce.

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Lobster in the creamiest of sauce

And here’s the ultimate dish for me – a green papaya salad (told you I love them) topped with deep fried soft shell crab. What can I say, just awesome.

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Crispy, juicy crab tops a spicy crunchy salad

Wandering through some of the many market stalls scattered along the main road we spotted Green Bird. A small establishment always packed with locals that had delightful aromas emanating from it. A substantial menu at really great prices I mean, a substantial, tasty lunch for two for well under a tenner, gotta be happy with that.

The Vietnamese omelette came stuffed with a delicious stir fry of pork, shrimps, bean sprouts and other vegetables and served with a zingy sauce.

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The light omelette opens up to reveal its tasty filling

The menu had pictures for a lot of the dishes (as a lot do it Thailand) and this dish, which was called Hong Pan, looked interesting – there was no description of the ingredients and the picture wasn’t this clear but based on the experience that all food here was going to satisfy we ordered it, not quite sure what we were going to get.

Lettuce leaves stuffed with vegetables, topped with slices of omelette, pork and finally a prawn, all tied together with a chive. And served with a dipping sauce. I’m certainly going to be making my own version of these soon – well, lots of different versions I think. They look so pretty, taste amazing and are fun to eat.

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Tasty little hong pan parcels

Indian restaurants are usually really good in Thailand and we do like an Indian feast. So when we were invited into the Curry Hut (more people on the street talked us in), we couldn’t resist. Lovely chicken madras and the creamiest of delicious tarka dhal. Plus perfect freshly made garlic naan – I do love to sample one in every Indian restaurant I visit and Curry Hut’s was spot on.

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Spicy chicken madras and wonderfully creamy dhal

The prize for best starter of the holiday goes to these wonderfully crispy prawns served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce at a busy little establishment on the main road called Tumzaab. They were large and succulent and just perfectly cooked. Yummy! Their curries were also exceptionally tasty.

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A delightfully succulent prawn starter

On the nights we didn’t venture into the busy centre of activity we headed down to the beach for dinner. Our hotel sat on a little bay with a collection of eateries with tables set on the sand. When the tide was high we sat with the warm sea gently lapping at our feet. How I love dinner like this, no shoes, warm sea and one night even a beautiful full moon.

Lazy Wave was the first one in the line of restaurants which were all beautifully lit up at night with twinkling lanterns and spotlights focused on the sea. These crunchy little starters are nicknamed money bags – and you can see why – light pastry stuffed with spicy pork mince and served with two dipping sauces.

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Crispy parcels stuffed with spicy pork mince

I loved this delicious plate of food, a traditional Thai chicken dish with a lovely chilli bite and plenty of sweet Thai chilli. Love that they shaped it like a pineapple!

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Chicken with chilli and plenty of Thai sweet basil

The Massaman curry was beautifully creamy, hot and sweet.

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The luxury of a Massaman curry

The red duck curry was packed with fruity delights, plenty of tomatoes, pineapple and even grapes plus those crunchy baby aubergines that you only find in Thai dishes.

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A tasty bowl of sweetness and spiciness

A little further on was Sobaroso – another great beach discovery. With tables on the sand under little voile shelters and loungers on offer in front, it became a regular destination for us. Soaking up the sun and drinking their amazing shakes before taking the few steps to a table and ordering lunch. A simple Thai pork mince dish with a good hit of chilli was served with plenty of crunchy fresh vegetables.

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Spicy, limey Thai pork mince

How’s that for a delicious array of dishes? The food in Koh Samui is simply fantastic. How I miss those flavours.