I heard earlier this week that the German Club had been given a new lease on life, with a new owner of a renamed Roodehek Restaurant & Bar, and that the Austrian & Swiss Club were invited to join, to create a German-speaking ‘home’ for patrons enjoying German food. What I found was a German/Thai/South African restaurant mix, without focus, stuck in a time-rut.

The building dates back to 1679, having been the Roodehek Homestead, according to an illustration on the menu. The building is not the most attractive in Cape Town, and has no distinctive architectural style.  There is ample parking outside, and a German and South African flag welcome guests, with a Thai Tuk-Tuk parked outside.  I and a bar patron were the only guests in the building over lunch yesterday.  It was a picture perfect day, and Table Mountain formed a beautiful backdrop.  In the ‘Sixties, my Onkel Gustav, whom we visited on holidays at his Camps Bay home, used to bring us here, having been the German Club since 1930, for a second breakfast, after my aunt forced us all to have ‘Trennkost’ for breakfast.  It used to be a special outing then.  My visit yesterday made me remember those breakfasts, and in many respects the building and its interior seem to look exactly as I remember it from that time.   The central restaurant room is very dark, with the bar on one side, without any windows, and the terrace section bringing in some light.   The decoration is tasteless, with grass green walls on one side, contrasted with light green walls on the other side.  Orange overlays are on the white tablecloths, and the chairs have red or green Scottish check upholstery, a complete clash of colours. Paintings decorate the walls, and are for sale.  The most modern aspects of the restaurant were its aluminium sliding windows, and the TV set in the bar!  The crockery is plain white Continental china, the cutlery cheap, the salt and pepper pots are supermarket-quality, but there was a material serviette.  A glass jar of imported German mustard was brought to the table, not likely to be used for the Schnitzel which I had ordered!  The tablecloths were badly ironed.  The table was wobbly, and already had a piece of paper under one of the legs to try to stabilise it.

The owner is Martin Diebold, who took over the management of the restaurant in February.  He started the Rak-Sa Thai restaurant in Durbanville two years ago.  The menu is a strange mixture of German and Thai food (“multicultural cuisine”, says the menu), and the waitress Rowena explained that the owner has a Thai wife. A Thai chef makes the Thai food, and two local chefs make the German dishes. The most German aspect of the restaurant was the German folk music played, which were such classics that they may well have been played in the ‘Sixties too!  The waitress was not immediately to be seen, hidden in the bar area, and she greeted me with a menu, still chewing her lunch!  I asked her what she would recommend from the menu, and she told me that everything is good.

The restaurant and bar is fullest on Friday evenings, especially when the German soccer team plays a match, which is broadcast in the bar, I was told by Rowena.   The menu was a paper one, even though I saw a beautiful leather-cover one when Rowena showed me the dessert selection (oddly not on the paper menu), but two of the six dessert items were scratched out! Rowena explained that they do not show the formal menu, as many of the dishes on it are not available.  The menu offers ‘Today’s Special’ (different to what I saw on a Special’s Board as I came in), with a collection of German dishes (Leberkaese, Kaese-Spaetzle, Eisbeinsuelze, Schnitzel) and a mix of such non-German standards such as burgers and lasagnes, ranging from R38 – R75.  Soups cost about R38, and are Thai (Tom-Yum) or German (Goulash, Linsensuppe, Erbsensuppe).  Four German sausage styles are served with potato salad, at R38.  A 500g T-bone steak costs R99, and sirloin and rib-eye steak R95 each. Eisbein and Sauerkraut costs R89, Schnitzel R62, and Cordon Bleu R69, each of the main courses served with a choice of chips, Bratkartoffel, baked potato, or mash, as well as a side salad of tomato, cucumber, carrot and potato salad, included in the price.  The Thai specials cost between R65 – R95, and one can choose between stir-fried chicken, Thai Green curry with a choice of prawns, chicken, beef or vegetables, and two kingklip dishes, served in Thai sauces, one  chilli, the other a curry one.  The mash was lumpy, and the Schnitzel was a generous thin portion, severely beaten from what I heard from the restaurant. The carrot garnish was made by the Thai chef, Rowena told me.  The salad was freshly made, and the coleslaw excluded, at my request. All desserts cost a mere R28, and the Apfelstrudel served with fresh cream was excellent.  Other options are chocolate mousse, cheesecake, and ice cream with chocolate sauce.

The bill had a farewell greeting in German (‘Auf Wiedersehen’) and in Thai (‘Khob Khun Krap’).  I am not sure if there will be an Auf Wiedersehen, with such a poor old-fashioned interior, even if the food wasn’t bad (except for the lumpy mash).  As a German I cannot see how anyone will come to Roodehek Restaurant, other than to watch German TV, if they can have better quality food and service at Raith Gourmet close by, the mecca of German food in Cape Town, in a more modern environment.

Roodehek Restaurant & Bar, 6 Roodehek Terrace, off Hope Street, Gardens, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 461-8845.  www.roodehekrestaurant.co.za (The website promises that sushi is served, but none was on the menu yesterday.   It also presents a far more extensive menu than the one I was given.) Monday – Saturday, 9h00 until late.

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