Coco Safar first opened in Cavendish in Claremont in 2016, and it is here that I met South African owner Wilhelm Liebenberg, who had returned to his home country after many years.
He and his Canadian partner Caroline Sirois opened a deluxe boutique outlet selling bespoke luxury coffees as well as Rooibos teas, each variant named after a world city, and the ultimate in Pâtisserie offerings.
It was two years after opening in Claremont that Coco Safar moved to the refurbished Adelphi Centre, renamed Artem Centre, as its flagship store in 2018. It uniquely took space in the large store at the Centre entrance, but also had a coffee brewery space, a chocolate making space, a take-away section as one enters the Centre, and seating in the communal Centre space outside the restaurant and outlet space. They started offering Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, never successful with the Dinners. Coco Safar became known as being very expensive, and customers complain about the dreadful coffee served.
The new St John’s Piazza store had been open for ten days when I visited it on Friday, looking very unkempt with boxes at its entrance, and a photo shoot happening on the other side of the entrance counter, taking over most of the restaurant, yet its doors were open and there was no apology. Every door was open to outside, and there was no closed off space that is warm and cosy, making it a summer-only space. Hordes of dining chairs stood outside the entrance door, so I was left to sit at one of their tables inside the communal Centre space.
I did not want to try one of their tarts if I could not get my phone charged, it having died whilst I was shopping at Woolworths next door, so that I could take photographs. The store had an Apple charger next to the till, but it was being used for a staff member and could not be offered to me. Luckily a waiter overheard my request, and asked one of his colleagues for his cable. One two three my phone was charged enough for me to photograph the interior, my tart, and some of the macaroons.
Whilst waiting for my phone, the waiters updated me on the expansion plans of Coco Safar. The Artem Centre store is to close. Further branches have been opened as coffee shops in Hertex upholstery fabric stores in Durbanville and Gardens, the latter being small and offering only a tiny representation of the Coco Safar Pâtisserie range. On its website stores in Rosebank and Sandton in Johannesburg are to open ‘soon’. Another ‘opening soon’ store is in New York, a promise made for a number of years already.
The St John’s Piazza store has none of the Artem store extras. It is predominantly a restaurant, with outside seating as part of the restaurant, as well as on the other side of the entrance, but not physically linked to the restaurant. The seating area inside the communal space is very close to the pet food shop. The selection of Pâtisserie items, including macaroons, is displayed in an open hatch, allowing one to buy items on a take-home basis. As far as I can tell after one visit, this is the sum total of what they sell.
The tart I wanted was sold out, so I settled on a Flatiron Guava chocolate mousse, with home-made Oreo cookie, local pink guava jam, Valrhona Jivaro milk chocolate mousse, and covered with a tart pink guava glaze. I definitely tasted a dominance of guava rather than chocolate. The price is R98. The prices are barely visible in the hatch display, 98 being written as a number. The waitress brought the tart on a white plate, and apologised that there was no further decoration on it, as it allowed them to drop the price from R125 to R98. It certainly will not be my choice on a next visit.
Other tart options are 5th Avenue Passionfruit St Honoré, Union Square Fig & Lemon Tartlette (out of stock as they do not have ‘Durbanville Valley Fresh Figs’ – why put this on the menu when fresh figs are only available from February to April?), Broadway Granny Smith Cheesecake, Brooklyn Banoffee, Little Italy Kumquat Tiramisu (out of stock on Friday), and Soho Opera (Coco Safar Havana coffee ganache, almond Joconde sponge, Napoli Coffee Crémeux, chocolate cookie, and chocolate hazelnut dipped).
The macaroon selection is as follows: Black currant, Lemon grass, Banana passionfruit and caramel, pink guava, pink peppercorn and mandarin chocolate, Cassis, Peanut butter and jam, and Smores (marshmallow chocolate). Each costs R22.
I would not rush back to the new Coco Safar even though I shop at the Woolworths in the shopping centre regularly. One felt completely unwelcome, the manager busy with the till, there being no hostess to acknowledge new customers arriving, the restaurant completely taken over by the film shoot action as well as related baggage, I even being asked to move from where I was standing to charge my phone at the counter, and it not yet having WiFi. I did appreciate the charger help from the staff!
Coco Safar, St John’s Piazza, Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town. www.cocosafar.com Instagram: @cocosafar
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide