Firefly Café is a most unusual Café in Camps Bay, which opened in September. Expecting a coffee shop from the initial description, it opened with a tiny open -plan kitchen, serving largely dishes with air-fried chips, with coffees and teas too. I have visited the restaurant regularly, and have only two dishes which I would order there.
After some trial and error, it is flying now, and seems to attract an increasing number of patrons, locals in the main.
Owner Herman Bezuidenhout is a gentle giant, not so giant anymore after he lost a lot of weight, giving up his rugby career as a Lions player up north, and moving into the restaurant industry, previously on Bree Street, then in Pretoria, and now in Camps Bay, in a fabulous location, which was created from the former Seeff as well as the neighbouring estate agents office on Victoria Road.
From the renovations taking place, I felt excited, as a good quality coffee shop was sorely missing in Camps Bay, coffee outlets such as Vida and the former Maison J mainly offering stand-up coffee drinking or on a take-away basis. Sadly this has not materialised, despite my many hints for some quality cakes! I have seen some vegan squares, which do not entice me at all, Camps Bay jumping on the Vegan bandwagon, with okja (former Maison J) and Plant Café being purely plant-based, and Firefly Café dabbling in it too, but not exclusively, luckily.
Initially I was shocked that everything was served in throw-away paper cups, hardly my favourite way of drinking tea. On the day of opening they had no tea other than Rooibos, as their tea supplier had not delivered to them. I suggested Dilmah teas, and their Earl Grey is my favourite, so lent them a sample pack of teas to offer clients who also do not like Rooibos tea. The Café accepted my suggestion, and soon they had Dilmah tea, unfortunately having ordered untagged teabags. Quickly I was upgraded to a proper cup and teaspoon, but the croissant and all other meals were served in throw-away bamboo containers, particularly uncomfortable for eating their scrambled egg on toast, the bamboo cutlery not cutting it to cut through the hard crust of the toasted bread. Now it is served on proper crockery and with beautiful rose gold cutlery.
Service was very up and down initially, staff dancing in the restaurant instead of looking after clients. Waiters are called ‘runners’, supposed to only bring food from the kitchen, the customers having to order at the counter when one arrives, and this could hold up the flow of being served if one has never eaten there before and does not know the menu for their foods. The beverage menu is very visible above the beverage service station. The manager usually checks one’s satisfaction, and she knows me so well by now that she knows exactly what I like and what I order. But I have heard staff behind the beverage counter, loudly chatting to each other, and having phones which are not on silent. I have seen ‘runners’ huddle together and then laugh, feeling to be the target of their jokes, so upset by this that I swore to never return. If it hadn’t been for Herman promising to address this, I wouldn’t have returned. Now all of that is behind us. The chef is Melissa Laing, who moved from Salsify at The Roundhouse, who is so busy that it is hard to chat to her in her open-plan kitchen.
I found it hard to write a review of Firefly Café, and it has taken me two months to do so, despite having been there twice a month on average, a convenient meeting place. The cakes have not arrived, so at best I order a warmed croissant for R25, which is accompanied by little paper cups of a smear of butter, berry jam, and grated cheese. The scrambled egg on toast has been served with the most beautiful presentation touch of circled avocado slices on top.
Recently I met Jason Laing, a part-time Manager there, who recognised me from dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek four years ago, and even showed me the Selfie he had taken of us at the time, before he left for Canada, only retuning back home during Lockdown.
Firefly Café has had a wobbly start, seeming to not know what it stands for and what it serves food-wise. It has been lucky to pick up many of the dissatisfied former Maison J clients, who were unable to get their coffees made with dairy milk, being forced into a plant-based options, and no longer selling their amazing croissants since it has become plant-based okja. Both outlets face competition when Starbucks opens next door to okja/Pick n Pay next week.
Half the A3 menu is based on Fire fries, served with a variety of ingredients, including meatballs, ‘vegan cheese’, hummus, ‘vegan cheeseburger’, hake nuggets, butter chicken curry, barbecue pulled pork, coconut cream, and many more, ranging from R55 for plain fries to R115. Four Buddha bowl dishes are offered, with options of smoked salmon, Vegan, Chicken, and hummus, ranging in price from R85 to R125. Breakfast dishes offered are also unusual: pumpkin flapjacks, scrambled tofu, Vegan, a fire fries eggs benedict, and chickpea flatbreads with a variety of toppings to choose from.
Firefly Cafe has a homely feeling, with green velvet chairs, and interesting wood top tables, some triangle-shaped. It has many plants inside and outside, adding to its green decor touch. Its bathroom is less delightful, shared with other tenants in the centre building. A disappointment is that the promised Organic Food Store is not appearing to materialise. Its closing time at 16h00 is too early for our sunset suburb. It has no website, strangely.
Firefly Café is still not perfect, but it is much improved since it opened. It is starting to fly, as it gets to know us locals better, and moves away from throw-away cups and plates to becoming a professional restaurant. No restaurant has challenged me as much as Firefly has in trying to get to grips with its heart and soul.
Firefly Café, 93 Victoria Road, Camps Bay. Instagram: @fireflycafe Closes at 16h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein