The Pepper Club on the Beach was a safe refuge on a night that a black southeaster swept through Camps Bay, keeping potential restaurant patrons at home.   Whilst its name makes one think of summer specifically, its menu is suitable for all seasons, as it has one of the most extensive menus, challenging Tuscany Beach further down the road on number of menu items!

The Pepper Club on the Beach was called Summerville before it went into liquidation, and was taken over by the owners of The Promenade in Camps Bay.  The Solomon Brothers are not the favourite landlords in Cape Town, but they have money, and they invest heavily in the projects they take on.   When they built the Pepper Club Hotel in the center of town, on the corners of Pepper, Long, Loop and Bloem Streets, they came up with a novel idea of bringing their hotel guests to Camps Bay, by renaming Summerville as Pepper Club on the Beach, offering the Pepper Club hotel guests a free transfer to Camps Bay in the hotel’s Rolls Royce Phantom, and usage of deck chairs, beach towels and a shower facility, in the hope that they will eat at the Camps Bay restaurant.   The manager was honest in telling us that the Pepper Club Hotel guests are still slow in making the journey to the beach in Camps Bay, given the weather, and that the hotel only opened in April. 

As the owner of a guest house in Camps Bay, I received a voucher to try out the restaurant a few months ago.  Somehow I never got to go.   A call from the General Manager of Pepper Club on the Beach, Gavin Lockitch, inviting me to try the restaurant, was the call to action which my colleague and I needed to get us to try out the restaurant.   Our “welcome” outside the blustery entrance to the restaurant was odd, in that the hostess would not let us inside until we told her our name.  We could see that only one other table was occupied, so that availability of tables, or matching our booking with that on a list, would have been simple.    She did not appreciate my feedback in this regard.  

The restaurant is large, probably seating 100 – 150 persons, so it needs lots of guests to make it buzz.  With three tables filled in total during the evening, this was difficult, although the Buena Vista Social Club CD playing initially helped “fill” the space.   In some sections of the restaurant the tables are further apart, which makes it feel even bigger.  A private smoking dining room can seat up to 20 persons.   The colour scheme is neutral, with white and beige.   Nothing stands out decor wise, but many tiny downlighters give the restaurant a sophisticated touch.   The chairs are comfortable.   The only splash of colour is the collection of red menus.   The deck outside the restaurant has new furniture, and new heaters will make it comfortable to sit outside on cooler evenings.

We met two Managers, one newer, and the other, Lynn, had been at Summerville.  Ten of the Summerville staff are at Pepper Club.  We had the feeling that we were almost “over serviced”, there being more staff on duty than patrons in the restaurant.  The Austrian chef Reinhard Schwaihofer came to visit our table, to tell us about his favourite dishes on the menu, a welcome touch.   Reinhard was previously at Summerville, and has worked at Zerbans, Fancourt and the Paternoster Lodge, amongst others, in his 20 years in this country.  Carsten Kocke was the Executive Chef previously, and was a Michelin-starred chef.   It was surprising to receive an e-mail from him recently, requesting that his past connection to the Pepper Club be removed from the www.campsbayinfo.com/blog.  No one wanted to tell us why the chef had left after such a short time at the Pepper Club.   

Our waiter offered us a drink while we paged through the big red plastic menus and winelist, branded on the outside but difficult to read, and therefore difficult to differentiate between the two documents.  The menu contains a vast choice, and contains many of the Summerville items, to which has been added burgers, sandwiches, and other light meals which are served outside of lunch and dinner times.   Starters are expensive, in ranging from R 64 for Calamari to a Lobster avacado cocktail at R 105. Five salads are offered, including a Prawn and Avocado salad at R 89.  Steaks range from R 120 for a 200g ladies’ fillet to R 150 for a 300 g beef fillet, and they are served with a choice of two side orders, including chips, salad, mushrooms, and mash. Four sauces can be ordered additionally, each costing R 25.   Other interesting dishes are the Cape Malay lamb curry (R 130), Trio of game (R 165), 13 fish dishes (the cheapest seafood platter for one costs R265), and six pasta dishes start from R 70, five pasta types available for each dish.   Close to 30 sushi options are available as well. 

Once we placed our order, we received European style rolls with cumin seed, served with the most attractively presented garlic butter, herb butter and paprika butter.   My Avocado Ritz (R79), a favourite, was excellent, with the avocado taken out of the skin, and the three prawns thick and juicy.  I could only fault the over-decoration of the plate with bits of lettuce, paprika and tomato.   My colleague was very happy with her grilled calamari starter (R64).   For the main course I enjoyed veal cutlet (R130), looking and tasting as if it came straight off the “braai”, absolutely tender, placed on top of the best mash I have ever eaten, as well as three asparagus spears.    My colleague’s herb-crusted ostrich steak (R148) was too large (250g) for her to finish.   The portions are generous, and so too was the Apfelstrudel (R55), which Chef Reinhard recommended as his speciality.  It was served warm, with well-cooked apple and large raisins, “oven fresh” the Austrian way, said Chef Reinhard.   A very generous portion of real fresh cream came with the dessert.    

The winelist is even more extensive than the menu, running to ten pages, a page per variety.  Laurent Perrier is the most pricy of the three champagne brands stocked, at R1490, and Pongracz Desidirius the most expensive of the four sparkling wines, at R395 – however, the standard Pongracz costs R169.  Sauvignon Blanc wines feature most prominently on the list, including Southern Right (R149), Neil Ellis Groenkloof (R158), Steenberg (R167), and Iona (R198).   Twelve wines-by-the-glass are offered, and the reds include L’Omarins Terra Del Capo Sangiovese (R38), Warwick 3 Cape Ladies (R58), and Porcupine Ridge (R32).   The Ridgeback Shiraz, one of the two shirazes which can be ordered by the glass, was out of stock, but the waiter brought an Asara with the same vintage in its place, a commendable gesture.  Corkage is R25 for the first bottle, and R40 thereafter.

My colleague and I were most pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our dinner, and would return and recommend it to our guest house guests.   One would hope that it would fill up, to give the large restaurant more of a buzz and a vibe,

Pepper Club on the Beach, The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay.  Tel 021 438-3174.  www.pepperclubonthebeach.co.za. (only the menu is available)

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