Since Orphanage Cocktail Emporium opened on fashionable foodie Bree Street in Cape Town almost three years ago, it has established itself as a classy establishment with award-winning bartenders and unusual bespoke cocktails. More recently it has added a restaurant on the lower level, accessible via the Bree Street entrance, or its own dedicated entrance on Orphan Street. It has decided to give back to the industry by allowing ‘orphan chefs‘ to use their space for a year to set up a restaurant, which the chefs would not have been able to afford to do on their own, and to overcome the barriers to entry.
Chef Johann Breedt is the first ‘orphan chef’ to have been ‘adopted’ by Orphanage, and took over the kitchen in December. He was a finalist in the first season of Kokkedoor. I first met him when he was working at the Executive Club at The Westin Cape Town, where we were invited to a Graham Beck MCC tasting and lunch, and I remember the lunch as being excellent. Chef Johann moved to Shimmy Beach Club, then joined Taj, before moving to Orphanage. He trained at Chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and The Ritz Hotel in the UK. He also previously worked at The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa and The Lanzerac. Chef Johann said that he now has the freedom to be creative and experimental, but with the support to ‘learn all aspects of this complex business’. New Orphanage GM Brynn Felix also previously worked at Shimmy.
The venue is a long narrow one, with a bar counter, and a row of tables, with red leather upholstered chairs, and green and white striped banquettes. Lighting gets darker as the evening progresses, a challenge for photography, but was turned up for me to photograph the dishes. Katie helped with the Torch App on her phone too. Along the centre of the venue is a most impressive chandelier. The airconditioning works well, pouring cold air into the venue on hot Cape Town days.
The menu is a sharing one, the ‘Bijou plates’ being smallish and costing no more than R100. I was invited to try Chef Johann’s menu by owner Katie Friedman, who said that one or two dishes are a snack, while three or four dishes are for a ‘regular hungry person‘. The dishes also form part of the base menu which is shared upstairs and outside. Currently only dinner is served, but they will expand to lunches in future. The menu is printed on quality beige A4 paper, and is divided into sections by type of main ingredient. The menu invites patrons to inform the kitchen of any ‘preference, peculiarities or allergies’. It also states that R15 is automatically added to the bill, all of which goes to the St Francis Children’s Home in Athlone, which was the inspiration for the Orphanage name.
From the Tasters list, Katie ordered Bruschetta with goat’s cheese, broad beans, and mint (R40), while I selected the Pizetta with asparagus, mushrooms, goat’s cheese, and salsa verde (R50). A Pizetta Zucchini is also available, as is Bruschetta with wild mushrooms. A platter with prosciutto, cured meats, and marinated peppers costs R100. Fish dishes cost R60, and octopus and capers, salmon miso with dill aioli, salt and chili fried squid, and panga fritters are offered.
Katie ordered Lamb meat balls (R60) in the Meat section, while I had the rib eye steak with triple cooked potato chips (R95). Chicken skewers cost R60. Salads and sides cost R40 – R50. Desserts cost R40, and I ordered a dark and white chocolate mousse, a very unusual interpretation of the classic dish. Two further options are smoked vanilla panna cotta with summer berries, and an artisan chocolate plate.
While we were eating, Katie introduced me to Priscilla the Drag Queen, who does door duty. I could not believe it was the same Italian to whom Katie had introduced me, when he arrived in his civvies. They met in Mykonos (the Greek one), and invited him to Cape Town.
The menu at Johann’s Dining Room offers good value for diners wanting to have a bite before or after a show.
Johann’s Dining Room, Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, corner Orphan and Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-2004 www.theorphanage.co.za Twitter: @OrphanageClub Monday – Saturday 17h00 – 23h00.