Restaurant Review: Café Charles in De Waterkant disappoints with Lamb Curry Collection!



I am not a big fan of Take-Away food, it usually arriving cold, the delivery costs being exorbitant if one uses Uber Eats, and the presentation of the dish and atmosphere of the restaurant cannot be replicated in a Take-Away.

I wanted to spoil my friend Gary on a day forecast to be cold and rainy, a perfect day for Lamb Curry, which I saw advertised by Café Charles as a Take-Away Delivery or Collection during Level 4 Lockdown, before Sit-Down was allowed. Remembering a fantastic Lamb Curry delivered to me by the restaurant a year ago, I ordered a repeat of the dish ten days ago. Sadly the experience and food was chalk and cheese compared to that of a year ago!

I messaged owner Justine about my order a week in advance, double-checking the closing time, always surprised that it is so early at 15h00, informing her that I would pick up the order just before a 15h00 client meeting.  On the day, I messaged her again, to double-check the details of the order and the Collection time. She sent me the bill during the day, and I was shocked to see the cost of R175 per person, thinking it was shareable with Gary. I also ordered a Bobotie, at the cost of R165, which I would take home with me. She wanted payment by Snapscan, but not having it on my phone, she accepted my credit card!

When I arrived Justine was in a meeting. Her ‘Floor Manager’ did not appear to know about my order,  and did not know where the delivery paper bags are kept. He did not know the price of the croissants, which I’d seen when I walked in, but I declined them at the very pricey R32 each!  Justine came out of the meeting, and was not her normal bubbly self. My packages were assembled at the kitchen, separating the lamb curry and Bobotie. I was not told what was in each. I asked her if there was a poppadom, and she said it was in the delivery packet. Despite advertising to be accompanied with  sambals, there were none when we unpacked the Lamb Curry package, with two containers. The photograph above shows the container topped with what was predominantly turmeric rice, and a roti (the ‘poppadom’) squeezed into the container. The presentation was disappointing, there were more potatoes than lamb, all dominated by the rice, and there was no taste of curry at all. There were no sambals nor chutney. I told Gary that I was disappointed, but we dutifully finished our bowls, having a lovely evening together anyway. The next day Gary told me that he too was disappointed with the meal.

I slept on this for 24 hours, but once Gary gave me his feedback, I wrote to Justine, as follows:

Hi Justine

What a disappointment the Lamb Curry was last night. And that at R175. Mainly rice and lots of potato. No condiments, barely a taste of curry. No special beautiful packaging like you did last year, with a dish description, and a bay leaf to decorate the overall package. The guy had no clue about my order or your business. I asked you about a popadom and you told me it was in the food container, but it was a moist roti.

It was pouring outside, and there was no care or assistance in getting me and your paper bags to the car safely and dry.

I had such high expectations after your delivery last year. I voted your Restaurant the best for its presentation and information then. It felt that you don’t care yesterday. (See these 2020 Photographs)

I’ll let you know about the Bobotie when I’ve had it.

I didn’t receive a reply from Justine in more than 24 hours, so expressed my disappointment. She wrote back 24 hours later, promising to reply, but that she had to first open her restaurant and get the day going. Only at the end of the day did she send her reply, basically admitting to all the errors I pointed out to her:

Hi Chris..

I respect your feedback immensely and I really am sorry our takeaways were not at all similar to last year. You’re absolutely correct. We do need to make more of an effort! And we will! I had an excellent head chef last year at that time who was handling all of that for me, but the last year we have not had him around so things have been a little tough but we are pushing through.

Regarding the curry, it was a Cape Malay curry so it’s not prepared to be spicy but more fragrant. I will do a taste test tomorrow with the chef who prepared the dish and check on flavour. As it was a single portion being shared I think she tried to compensate with overplating with rice and potatoes perhaps? Again, I will ask her tomorrow as she has been off for the past two days. We packaged the curry as “ready to eat” (my call) but maybe it would’ve been better to put it into “reheat to eat” packaging (foil). That’s why the roti was placed inside the container (again my call) to keep it warm and moist and ready to eat straight away. They’re not supposed to be dry and crispy. (We’ve never made or served poppadoms as those tend to go more with the Indian style curries.)

My floor manager.. All I can say is, again, I’m sorry.. I cannot explain. This is a whole other situation all on its own I am currently dealing with…

Seeing you out to the car could have definitely been handled with more care and consideration, I agree. And once again all I can do is sincerely apologise. We will do better Chris.

I do appreciate you bringing these points to my attention, as hard as they are to digest, it’s made me realise that, especially in times of stress and despair (like these past weeks/months), one tends to focus inward and forget what’s happening around them, but one needs to stay focused on the outward, being their guests.

Mark and I would like to offer you one of our lunch dishes on us as an apology, or perhaps a tea and slice of carrot cake? x’

While I appreciate Justine’s honesty, it just wasn’t good enough a reply to explain why the restaurant is operating below par, especially in the preparation of a dish which was offered a year before,  inconsistent in every respect.  She did not contact me after her taste test and discussion with her chef. We know each other well enough that she could have picked up the phone immediately, and not wait 48 hours to reply in writing. It was not about the offer of a free meal, even if it was an off dish on the day. I would have delivered a perfectly prepared replacement dish, had it been my restaurant. She has my address from last year.

All I’m left with now is a very negative Take-Away experience in general, and a huge disappointment with Cafë  Charles, offering me a dish missing its sambals and most of the lamb curry, and overpriced. The Bobotie dish is 28% more expensive this year than it was a year ago!  The only hope I have is that the feedback will help to improve the food, pricing and service at Café Charles.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide



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