I was invited to the newly opened Coco Safar a few days ahead of its opening in the newly refurbished Artem centre, previously the Adelphi Centre in Main Road in Sea Point. A week ago I invited a young chef intern to join me for Brunch at Coco Safar, on a Sunday morning.
Based on the preview, I wrote the Blogpost above detailing the varied offering of Coco Safar, summarised as follows:
# A coffee roastery with world-class roasting equipment
# A coffee and Rooibos Tea Brewery, producing natural non-alcoholic Rooibos tea and coffee in bottles, to order when sitting down, to buy to take away. Flavors available are Red Rooibos Cold Brew Tea, Green Rooibos Cold Brew Tea, and Citrus Coffee Cold Brew.
# A Chocolate Laboratory: this was not visible as operating yet, when we visited a week ago.
# A shop section relating to coffee, with cups and saucers, books, coffee jugs, and more offered for sale, as gifts and as items to use at home, to make the perfect cuppa.
# A Capsule Emporium, selling packs of coffee and Rooibos tea bio-degradable capsules, strongly branded, the Kaapstad (Red Rooibos Tea Espresso), Manhattan (Espresso coffee capsules), and Napoli (Ristretto coffee capsules) being available already. Lisbon (Espresso coffee capsules), Havana (Espresso coffee capsules), Stellenbosch (Green Rooibos Tea Espresso capsules), Saint-Tropez (Espresso coffee capsules), Jakarta (Allongé coffee capsules), and Marrakesh (Espresso Decaf coffee capsules) are to become available in future. New York is the next city, its Coco Safar opening planned for later this year. I asked Wilhelm about the use of the Afrikaans city name for Cape Town, and he said that he is proud of his Afrikaans Heritage, and it is true to the origin of Rooibos, and its Cape heritage. It will be sold with this Afrikaans name in New York and its future international stores too. The pods are Nespresso-compatible, we were told.
# A Couture Pâtisserie offering Parisian quality croissants, as well as sweet treats, exquisitely decorated and presented.
# A Luxury Café, with an extensive menu, drawing on its Pâtisserie items, in including them in the menu,
#. An Espresso Bar, offering coffee and Rooibos tea cappuccinos, to drink in the Eatery or to take away. A world-class world first Spirit Idrocompresso Espresso Machine, has been made exclusively in Holland by Kees van der Westen. He is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of commercial espresso machines.
Rebecca Bourhill was my guest, an intern from the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, who is spending six months in Cape Town at John Brown Media, publishers of Fresh Living for Pick ‘n Pay. Rebecca’s job will be to assist in creating dishes for the magazine, and to assist in styling them for the shoots. She is likely to do some writing for the magazine too, writing being a passion. I first met Rebecca at the School, when I visited it in KZN last year.
It was easy to find parking in the shopping centre, and I struggled initially in not being able to retrieve a parking ticket, not seeing that the boom was open, and that there is no parking charge on Sundays.
Wilhelm Liebenberg, a South African but long-time resident of New York , with French Canadian Caroline Sirois, are the founders of Coco Safar. ‘Coco’ stands for Luxury, while ‘Safar’ means journey. The brand promises customers the following, according to its website: ‘… a daily journey that is extraordinary in every way – a journey beyond the ordinary’.
Coco Safar originally opened in Cavendish Square more than a year ago, and this is where I met Wilhelm for the first time. A problem with the operator of the branch led to the move and reinvention of the brand on an even larger scale, to Sea Point, a three-year project to date. Wilhelm is a passionate owner, moving from table to table, to chat to his clients, and to explain the Coco Safar concept. Impressively he recommends dishes to order, and requests feedback on one’s departure. Wilhelm emphasized their boldness in opening in Sea Point, and perhaps not currently in the best part of it. He sees Coco Safar as a catalyst to the regeneration of Sea Point, much as the Meat Packers District has been for New York. He sees their business risk as paying off, and is delighted that their customers are getting the concept, and seeing the attention to detail in its decor and furnishing, its offering, and quality of produce. Wilhelm said confidently that if Coco Safar can work at the tip of Africa, it can work anywhere else in the world.
On both of my visits in the new Sea Point outlet I saw Iain Banner, a partner in Coco Safar. He owns HQ and Roast & Co in Heritage Square.
I had not pre-booked a table, but we quickly were allocated a table near the street window of the restaurant. I was most surprised to see my Advocate in the Café, almost not recognizing him in his civvies and carrying his son. He was about to leave, and raved about the breakfast he had been invited to with his family. The Café was full, at 11h00 in the morning. We were given menus, large A3 ones for the food, and a thinner and slimmer one for the beverages. I did not see that each of the menus were double-sided, and we were not told this by our waitress. On our first visit we had seen the staff hard at training, over a 30-day period , and working through an almost 400-page manual. Little touches slipped, perhaps in the practical application of the training, in the waitress Stacey, who served us, I picking up a touch of arrogance from her.
Breakfast is served until 15h00. I tried to keep my order healthy, given my healthy eating and weight loss focus, so ordered the Turmeric Cashew Nut Cream, pipita (roasted pumpkin), apple, and chicory breakfast dish (R75), listed under ‘Breakfast Bites’. I found my dish expensive, and a bit boring, and would have liked some raisins added, for colour, taste, and texture. An alternative could be Greek-style yoghurt with orange and mint (R45); or grilled toast with Karoo crumble cheese and house-made preserves (R45).
Rebecca went for a heartier breakfast, the Croissant Benedict, with a poached egg, house-cured lamb bacon, roasted tomato, and Hollandaise sauce on a croissant, with a potato rösti, as well as a citrus salad (R95). She was happy with the egg croissant and rösti, but didn’t like the grapefruit in the citrus salad. Other savoury breakfast options are Bunny Chow Brioche (R110), Frittata (R95), Croissant Florentine (R85), and Avocado Tahini Toast (R85). Sweet breakfast options sound decadent: Clafoutis (creamy citrus custard, black cherries, multi seed biscotti, at R 85); lemon poppy waffle with warm berry compote, Crème Fraîche, and Canadian maple syrup (R115) – I photographed Wilhelm’s dish; and Pain Perdu (caramelised banana, butterscotch, and Crème anglais, at R85).
All-Day dishes include Bao Buns (R90), Fish Tagine (R135), pastrami sandwich (R120), chicken liver sauté (R115), lamb bobotie (R115), savoury tart (R85), vegetarian bao (R105), brioche pizzetta (R85), Salmon trout Nicoise-style salad (R120), Sesame chicken salad (R110), savoury galettes (R45), lamb bobotie croissants (R75), and grain and vegetable super bowl (R105).
On Wilhelm’s recommendation we ordered a butter croissant (R29) to share, he describing it as ‘100% Paris’. It arrived without butter or jam, but our waitress obliged when we requested these, and we were not charged extra for them. The croissant was excellent, and irresistible to eat, despite my strong resolve. Rebecca ordered a cappuccino, which is served with a small palate cleanser of sparkling water, to her surprise. A nice touch was that the coffee and Rooibos tea orders are accompanied by a pink raspberry meringue. I ordered a juice of green apple and spinach (R45), the name alone sounding healthy.
Wilhelm told us that to keep to a world-class standard, they have had to import international products such as flour, almond paste for marzipan, and more, pushing innovation in their business. He also said that their best sellers in the ten days of operation were their galette flatbreads with savoury and sweet toppings; sticky buns; croissants; and the rosewater bun croissants.
Cutlery is imported Sola, and thick gauze napkins with the Coco Safar branding are offered. Each wooden board has a branded piece of paper on it, making the presentation very professional. Straws are plastic, which should be switched to paper, in line with environmental standards. Seating is quilted brushed velvet and distressed leather. Fabric panels absorb sound, successfully at Coco Safar, this being a problem in many Cape Town restaurants.
For dessert all our resistance crumbled. Whilst I had planned to try the trio of sorbets (R65), the offering on the day that we visited being Rooibos Passion fruit; vanilla; and basil and strawberry. On our preview we had tasted a delicious Affigato, Rooibos cappuccino with a scoop of ice cream, a unique combination.
I opted for the Completely Raspberry, a Raspberry Mousse, with raspberry marshmallow, and raspberry crunch, which was presented with a topping of intricate white chocolate wheel with a chocolate flower, on a berry coulis base, served with passion fruit gelato (R75); while Rebecca chose the tempered Chocolate Decadent of chocolate mousse, orange blossom ganache, and chocolate biscuit, served with a hazelnut gelato (R85). Each of our desserts had a white chocolate Coco Safar logo disc on it. Other offers from the Couture Pâtisserie include salted caramel; Guava, cherry, and basil; white chocolate, passion fruit, and green tea; grapefruit meringue; honey, lemon! And chocolate; pear Mille-feuilles; mango, Rooibos, and pear,; mango, mint, and passion fruit; and blueberry cheesecake, costing R75 to R85.
The Coco Safar Food Ethos is a good play on words in part, located right at the bottom of the menu, and perhaps could have been more upfront, at the top: ‘We believe that food tastes better when it’s made fresh. That is why we spend all day preparing our signature dishes and beverages from scratch: the best authentic local ingredients get delivered into our store every morning: we source the best-tasting beans from hard-working coffee farmers: we chop whole seasonal fruit and vegetable without cutting corners: we make lots of dough as kneaded: we dice, spice, and bake with heated passion: we style and hand-craft every component of our couture pâtisserie and chocolates with sweet alchemy, and we like to call the shot when we pull your Espresso, toast green beans, or cold brew our 100% natural 0% alcohol drinks. We also pickle, candy, confit, churn, preserve, cure, but rest assured that we never deep fry. We do magic everyday, because we celebrate life and love what we do’.
The international quality stamp on every aspect of Coco Safar is impressive, as is the hands-on presence of the owners. We were regularly asked if everything is to our satisfaction. The international concept and its planned rollout is brave and bold. All it needs is more practical staff training, and a toning down of the arrogance where it reflects in its staff.
Coco Safar, Artem, 277 Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 433-1336. www.cocosafar.com Instagram:@cocosafarsa Open Monday to Sunday, from 7h00 to 21hoo.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein