Today I was invited by Harbour House Group owner Michael Townsend to try their first new Easy Burger Bar, which opened on Bree Street two weeks ago, in the space that was previously Lucky Fish. The lunch served as an update of the latest developments in his restaurant group.
Easy Tiger Burger Bar is the first in a number of smaller take-away and quick sit-down burger outlets which Townsend is planning to open. Others are planned for Sea Point, Kalk Bay, and in Muizenberg. The interior is a mini-version of their Tiger’s Milk outlets, which have opened in Muizenberg and on Long Street. The metal bulls-head has become a trademark decor item, with a Paul Newman picture, a newspaper headline, a British flag, a set of horns, a meat grinder, and black and white photographs, with lots of greenery in the form of pot plants on the inside communal table, as well as on the outside tables. One can sit at counter bars too.
The menu is focused on burgers, with seven options. I chose a ‘Magic Mushroom’ burger, which is served on a tasty sesame bun, with a patty supplied by Bill Riley, a leaf of lettuce, tomato, gherkin, and a healthy helping of mushroom sauce, costing R52. I had asked for the red onion to be excluded. Townsend told me that they have taken on Michael Lauts, a Swiss master-baker who owned Crocodeli, who does all the baking for the Harbour House Group restaurants. The burger was slightly overcooked, and Townsend addressed his chef immediately, to show him the colour of the patty, saying it should be pinker. I was recently told that one should eat hamburgers by hand, and I tried it, but the burger is very saucy, so it felt messy to me. I tried to eat it with the plastic cutlery provided, but the fork broke. Townsend told me that more sturdy take-away cutlery is planned. Chips are charged at R15, and were too slap for my liking. Burgers can be made with beef or chicken, and the prices range between R45 and R65. The names are fun: the Triple Bypass consists of cheese, bacon, a secret sauce, and truffle-infused mushroom sauce; Rockstar has red onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado, and a secret sauce; and Tree Hugger has mushrooms, aubergine, red onion, lettuce, tomato, feta, secret sauce, and truffle-infused mushroom sauce. One can also order BBQ pork ribs (portion sizes cost R65 for 1/4 kg, R130 for 1/2 kg, and R230 for 1kg), and chicken wings (R30 for four, R60 for eight).
The first thing I saw when I arrived was the blackboard hanging in the tree. Yesterday it created a huge storm on the Facebook page ‘Cape Town restaurants: the good, the bad, and nastyyyy…‘. With close to 300 comments, the debate degenerated as the sign was judged to be sexist (by the female members in the group in the main), whereas the male members enjoyed its humor. The sign was changed into something more harmless today. the plan is to change it regularly, so that passers-by can check the newest saying. It caused a stir on Twitter, Instagram, and the Facebook page ‘The Great Debate’ too. The restaurant group must be grateful to blogger Sam Linsell for having posted the photograph of the previous sign on the Facebook restaurant group page, because it created such interest and debate, the best free marketing for the newest outlet of the Harbour House Group. It clearly was not what Linsell had planned!
Townsend had rushed back from Stellenbosch for the lunch, and it was news to me that he was opening in the student town. His first outlet outside of Cape Town is Tiger’s Milk, which is opening across the road from Hudson’s on Dorp Street in February. Johannesburg is also on the drawing board, with a Harbour House opening in Kramerville, and a Tiger’s Milk on Corlett Drive.
In Cape Town the renovated Live Bait reopens in Kalk Bay, but the one planned for Muizenberg will change its name (not yet finalized), and will serve small-plate foods. Tiger’s Milk will open in Claremont and at Century City too. Interesting is that Charango is also part of the Group now, and they plan to franchise the brand and roll it out. I asked Townsend how many restaurants he has opened or is in the process of opening (I counted about 20 when we last met), but he laughed and said he could not tell me! The total is at least 24 from the information he provided today.
The Harbour House Group is the fastest-growing restaurant collection, all the restaurants being company-owned to date. If a restaurant concept does not work, it is replaced with another!
Easy Tiger Burger Bar, 120 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 426-4659. Monday – Sunday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here