Many years ago Gerd Zerban had the most amazing confectionery and bread bakery, linked to his two Zerban’s restaurants in the Garden’s Centre and in Sea Point.  His new EuroHaus restaurant, which has just opened as part of what is still called Marcelino’s Bakery but will change its name to EuroHaus, is a bitter disappointment, and is no reflection of the old Zerban’s.

Marcelino The Bakery opened two and a half years ago, as a big open-plan bakery.  The owner was Marcelino Siljeur, and his mentor and colleague was Mr Zerban.    Zerbans was THE coffee shop and bakery in the 1980’s, attracting patrons with a European background in particular.  Marcelino’s father worked for Mr Zerban at that time.  Mr Zerban sold his business to Checkers in the late Eighties, and took up a challenge from Natie Kirsch to set up eight ’Hot & Crusty’ outlets in Manhattan.  He enjoyed the taste of New York, and then became a consultant for supermarkets in New York.   Returning to Cape Town, he set up the baking side of New York Bagels in Sea Point, and there he trained Marcelino as his apprentice.   They went their separate ways, and then decided to get together to start up Marcelino The Bakery.  Earlier this year Marcelino left, and Mr Zerban has chosen to rename the Bakery to EuroHaus, with the pay-off line ‘A culture movement’. The name is meant to represent five European countries, and the logo currently used has a football feel about it, with the flags of Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain depicted. Despite being so new, the logo is to be changed, and the pay-off line will become “Where flavours and people meet”! The idea is that each day two specials will be offered, and they will represent two of the EuroHaus countries. Despite Mr Zerban’s German background, and one’s expectation that he would repeat some of his popular Zerban’s menu items, the EuroHaus menu is extremely basic, with breakfast items, salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta, grills, and pies, with only a few German menu items, and almost none from the other European countries.

The interior is an interesting mix of wooden beams used to make counter tops and seating, coming from recycled wood from a ship. Turquoise blue has been used in the upholstery of wall benches and lamps, but does not strike one as a bakery colour, nor particularly ‘Euro-pean’ either.  Two decor oddities are the ‘chandelier’ made from Consol glass jars, each jar containing an LED light and a little toy, a decor quirk costing R20000, and the disassembled piano parts against a wall (almost like Deluxe Coffeeworks has motorcycle parts on the walls of its outlets), coming from an idea which the Modules Interior Design consultancy had seen in an American restaurant, which has a grand piano jutting out of a restaurant wall, I was told. Hanging from the ceiling is a ‘Sputnik’, the first in the country, which removes moisture and dampness, and costs R75000!  Weird too is the mix of very rough wooden ‘home-made’ benches for the counter, and fine Bentwood chairs at the tables.  Table tops are black metal, and don’t really match the wood of the rest of the furniture.  Seating is available outside too, where the MyCiti Bus pavement has been newly prepared.  The top windows were dirty, looking like they had not been cleaned since the builders left the site.  Cutlery is by Fortis Hotelware.  The five European EuroHaus flags will be put up outside the Bakery.

I tried to ask the waiter some questions about the restaurant, but did not get very far, as he did not seem to understand much of what I asked him, saying yes to every question.  When I asked for the manager, he pointed at the gentleman sitting at the neighbouring table, who was having his lunch, and had ignored all my questions directed at the waiter.  Reza Daniels is one of two brothers who are the joint managers. He was most suspicious of my questions, and got annoyed when I asked him at which restaurants he had previously worked, trying to make me understand that having been a purser on a cruise ship and a duty manager at a Best Western Hotel in the UK qualified him to run the restaurant.  He walked away from my table, refusing to answer any further questions. It was clear that Mr Zerban has delegated most of the running of EuroHaus to the two brothers, with disastrous results!  They also run a laundry in Kenilworth. The second brother Shaam is much friendlier, and was very relaxed in filling in the missing details, and volunteering information.  He too sat down at a table close by to have his lunch.

The restaurant had no ice for the water on the 30°C day, and the butter that came with the rolls accompanying the food was soft.  I laughed when I saw the Robertsons salt and pepper grinders on the table, one of them already having the label half torn off! The focus of the restaurant is to not offer fine-dining, and for clients to not have to feel obliged to order a full meal, so that they can just pop in for a coffee or a drink at night, Shaam said.  I ordered the Vol-Au-Vent, the two pastry cases containing the Ragout Fin (chicken and mushroom cream sauce) being crispy and light (R 45).  The menu states that each dish comes with a choice of chips or a French side salad, but my order just arrived with the salad, without my choice having been asked.  The two ‘European’ specials of the day were Farfalle Primavera (R45), and a 200 gram sirloin steak with savoury rice and three vegetables (R 69). Soups come in two sizes (R18-R25/R30 – R38) for Goulash, Chilli Con Carne, and Soup of the Day; Chicken, French, Niçoise, Greek and fruit salads cost R25 – R45; Pasta dishes such as lasagne, marinara, bolognaise, and macaroni and cheese cost R25 – R50; hamburgers and chicken schnitzel cost R50; a quarter grilled chicken R45; ‘boboti’  (sic) and rice R50; veal loaf, Frankfurters, and Bratwurst with potato salad R35; pies R35; and cheese and cold meat platters cost R45.  Coffees are served as a double shot, and cappuccinos cost R19/R22. Breakfast is served until midday, and free-range eggs are used. A Continental Breakfast of 3 rolls or a croissant costs R24, a mini breakfast of egg, bacon and tomato R35, a full English breakfast R45, a Farmers Breakfast R40, and a Health Breakfast R40.  Omelettes cost R20. Sandwiches cost between R20 for cheese and tomato – R50 for grilled steak.

Shaam admitted that they have had a ‘crazy teething period’ since they opened just over two weeks ago.  A liquor licence has been applied for, but currently they are sharing that of Royale Eatery close by.  Chef Deon Locke had started at the restaurant on the day I visited, and said that he has 22 years’ experience, having returned from Africa, where he did contract catering for US Aid on construction sites in Sudan and Afghanistan. He helped open Balducci’s, and has been a chef at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

One wishes for Mr Zerban that he can find someone to pull the restaurant together,  to give it a professional identity and one brand name, professional service, waiter training, and friendliness to its customers. It is clear that Mr Zerban appears to have handed over control of the restaurant to the two Daniels brothers.  The food is good quality, and I was told that all the recipes are those of Mr Zerban.  The value for money is good for most of the menu items.

EuroHaus, 210 Loop Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-0168 www.marcelinothebakery.com Monday – Sunday 7h00 – 21h00 – 23h00.

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