Restaurant Review: Cafe’ Chic decor more chic than its food!

A brand new restaurant to open in Cape Town just over a week ago is Cafe Chic, located in Gardens.   A beautiful historical building has been lovingly restored over  a period of eight months, to meet the Heritage Council as well as City Council requirements, and beautifully furnished, with lots of chandeliers, interesting couches,  and a surprise in every room of the house.

Cafe Chic is a multi-purpose building, which has an informal breakfast and lunch room, a formal dining room, a non-smoking whisky and cognac bar in strong red tones, a smoking bar, a patisserie, and a Moroccan tent room, as well as a small boutique selling handbags and clothes, and a few shoes.

Francoise Queyroi, the owner, ran restaurants in Paris and in Ibiza, and has been in South Africa for six months.   Her husband is an engineer and architect, and he masterminded the renovation of the building, as well as the interior design.   Her daughter Gillian is a lawyer, who runs the boutique and conceptualised the whisky and cognac bar.

Francoise was not at the restaurant on the night of our first visit, but Lucas, the “Floor Manager” was a welcoming host, doing a guided tour of the premises.   No expense has been spared in making this restaurant tres chic.   It is immediately visible if one drives up Breda Street, as the lighting on the building and on the tree attracts attention, and shows off the beautiful building.  The restaurant also has generous parking across the road, and alongside it.

It being a hot evening, a smallish table outside the front door seemed a good choice.   The menu and winelist have the same silver covers, adding to the chic-theme.  Most of the food listed has a French feel to it, yet not all (e.g. an interesting sounding Caprese soup).  Twelve starters range in price from R 38 for the soup  to R 175 for a crayfish salad.   Foie gras is offered, at R 130, and the Le Chic salad with chicken livers spinach and apples costs R 45.   The crayfish salad was served cold, to the customer’s request, but had very little salad served with the three tiny crayfish tails – they looked decidedly underweight , and the ‘lettuce leaves’ were of a spiky variety, not easy to pick up with a fork!

Vegetarians are catered for, at R 70, with a gratin and a vegetable crepe.   Meat main courses start at R 95 for the baby chicken. Other mains are a rib-eye steak at R 115 (served with 4 skimpy mini potato wedges, and a grilled tomato, the steak was very tough and had to be sent back, and no steak knife was offered), lamb a la Provencale at R 140, a sirloin roll at R 145, and expensively, duck breast and venison at R 180,  For fish lovers grilled sole costs R 95, R 175 for a warm crayfish curry dish, and R 145 for a prawn risotto dish.

The dessert list feels decidedly French, with a choice of twelve desserts, some from the patisserie.   Sliced fruit costs R 35, as does ice cream, a Rum baba costs R 40, as does a Trio of Creme Brulee.   A lovely Tarte Tatin with fresh cream cost R 45, as does the Strawberry Mille-feuille, a Mont Blanc cost R 50 , as does a Chocolate Kif.  A “Samoosa”, described as containing chocolate, blue cheese, sweet chilli enhanced with vanilla ice cream, and strawberries, costs R 55.    The pastries are beautifully made and presented, and cost between R 10 – R 20, and can be bought as take-aways.   One senses that their strength lies in the desserts and patisserie.

Ten champagne brands are stocked, ranging from R 650 for a Moet & Chandon to R 10 000 for the Cristal Roederer!  But South African Cap Classique wines are also available, at R 190 for Villiera to R 220 for the Graham Beck Rose’.   Three or four wines per variety are offered, and a number by the glass too.   Arra is offered for almost every category, coming from Paarl.   An Arra Shiraz costs R 120, while an Arra Reserve Shiraz was on the winelist at R 375.   The most expensive red wine listed is an Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc at R 960, while a De Meyr white wine cost R 100, the most expensive whites being the Waterford Sauvignon Blanc and the L’Ormarins Chardonnay, at R 220.

The chef was not on duty and perhaps this showed in the food quality, in a kitchen still finding its feet.  The Executive Chef is Morne Botha, previously with the Bay Hotel and the Giggling Gourmet.   Michelle Gawinowicz is the General Manager, having worked in London for 15 years, but has returned to her country of birth.  

On receiving the bill, a glaring error was evident, which should have been picked up by the waiter and his manager, in that a strawberry tart was charged ten-fold.  However, the bill was quickly rectified.

A lunch organised by Cafe Chic for the guest houses of Camps Bay four days later went much better.  The garden salad with a poached egg, and the blue cheese litchi salad received rave ohhhhhs and ahhhhs.  The linefish in a sauce vierge was acclaimed too, while those ordering the Roasted Coquelet felt the chicken to be too bony and too dry.   A trio of tiny desserts was equally impressive.  

If the food quality is addressed, as well as the presentation of the food,  and a touch of French music is added, then Cafe Chic has all the potential to be a winner!

Cafe Chic, 7 Breda Street, Gardens.  tel 021 465 7215 www.cafechic.co.za

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

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