I had noticed the fish restaurant Fisherman’s Catch on the main road coming in to Franschhoek for a few months, the building previously having been used as a Tool Hire shed. The signage outside promises ‘West Coast comes to Franschhoek‘! While sceptical of trying a fish-focused restaurant in Franschhoek, it was better than I expected, yet has the potential for great improvement!
From the photographs I took of the outside signage I noticed that the restaurant has two names, its latest name being Fisherman’s Catch & Grill. The owner Ian Davie from St Helena Bay explained that its official name is Fisherman’s Catch. Ian is the leaseholder, and had a West Coast person manage the restaurant for him at the beginning of the year. Ian had to close the restaurant for a while after the manager had a heart attack. Ian re-opened a month ago, adjusted the restaurant name slightly, appointed Brett Smith to manage the restaurant, and appointed the kitchen staff (ex Reuben’s and Kalfie’s), who came to train on the West Coast. Ian had the decor done.
Outside a yellow van advertises both the restaurant as well as an animal farmyard, which is to be introduced next month. The colour is bright and attractive, but has no bearing on the sea interior once one steps inside, which is dominated by the red of the check table cloths. The van is used to collect groceries in town, but they do not offer a delivery service, which could be ideal for winter. A menu board misleadingly headed ‘Fresh Line Fish‘ is outside the door, and reflects one which is inside, or so I thought!
The restaurant can seat just over 50 patrons in a main section, and a small side section, which leads to a small lounge and fireplace, and a tiny bar with only four chairs. The restaurant interior has a wood stove too, which will make it nice and cosy in winter. One table is set up outside, but more are to come when the animal farmyard opens, for which a staff member was painting poles with strong smelling tar. They plan to have ponies, ducks, geese, chickens, Alpacas, and goats. Once they open this added facility, they will offer a more extensive printed menu, a day-time Farmyard menu which includes breakfasts (which will range in price from R40 – R61), a kid’s menu, and meat dishes too, and a dinner menu of fish dishes only.
Brett was apologetic about the restaurant not yet having a liquor licence, but offered Calla Field Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc at R50 a bottle, and its Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at R60 a bottle. Backsberg Cabernet Sauvignon is available at R90. The interior is very heavily marine dominant, with a mural along the longest wall, and other marine artefacts like fishing nets, life vests, lifebelts, buoys, and a shell collage, intermingled with a guitar and an accordion hanging on the wall. Old Cape metal coffee pots and a scale on a shelf, a potjie on the floor, and paraffin lamps on the tables give the restaurant an old Cape and rustic feel. Perhaps that is why the cutlery is the most basic kind, a soup spoon is the dessert spoon, the serviette is the cheapest bulk pack kind, and the fine salt and pepper are in tiny shakers on the table. I was impressed with the fish knife however. A nice touch was the roosterbrood, which arrived with branded butter portions and All Gold jam portions.
Being careful about my order, given my trepidation about eating there, I chose the hake, which comes with chips or savoury rice, and a side salad (R75). The chef very kindly cooked white rice for me, on request. I asked whether it came with tartar sauce, and Brett said it did, but that I could have lemon butter with it as an alternative. The rice was tepid, but the fish well prepared, pan-fried, with lemon wedges, and served with a side salad of wilted leaves and fresh tomato and yellow peppers. My first bite included a bone, which annoyed me, as I have a childhood fear of fish bones. I didn’t find any further ones, checking very carefully. Other ‘fresh line fish‘ options on the menu are tuna cutlet (R90), yellowtail (R90), ‘dorodo‘ (sic) (R95), butter fish (R95), angel fish (R95), kingklip (R120), crayfish (R160), seafood potjie (R60), and calamari (R65). Brett told me that all fish is brought in from St Helena Bay twice a week, which made me wonder how ‘fresh’ fresh really is! I heard the ping of a microwave from the kitchen, which worried me. The mussels advertised on the street sign were not available, but are used in the potjie, while the prawns were also not available.
The dessert list sounded like a blast from the past, Cassata evoking memories of a bygone era, with Maraschino cherries and extravagant chocolate drizzling! The desserts are ridiculously cheap, at R30. One can also order Malva pudding, Strawberry cheesecake, Cappuccino cup, and Mint kisses. The desserts are bought in. ‘Moerkoffie’ is available.
Brett was very attentive, chatting and sharing information about his background in the aviation industry in Johannesburg, never having worked in a restaurant before. Patrons can come to collect take-aways from the restaurant. Heavy rock music was irritating, and inappropriate, one expecting Afrikaans folk music, given the interior theme. I was annoyed at the extra R10 charge for the lemon butter sauce, which Brett had not told me about when he ‘sold ‘ it to me, and it is not on the outside menu board price list, yet is on the inside board. Fisherman’s Catch & Grill may be too rustic for many, expecting a quality dining experience in Franschhoek. Some of the dishes were very reasonably priced, and other prices were on a par with other fish restaurants, placing pressure on the restaurant to improve its cutlery, salt and pepper, and serviette quality.
Ian called me a day after my visit, answering some of my questions which Brett could not. He will be joining the Fisherman’s Catch full-time from May.
Fisherman’s Catch & Grill, R45 Franschhoek, next to Grande Provence. Tel (021) 876-3895. No website or Social Media. Tuesdays – Sundays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage