One of Cape Town’s newest restaurants is Seabreeze Fish & Shell, the owner-run seafood restaurant which opened on Bree Street in February, as a pop-up focused on serving oysters initially. It now operates six days a week for both Lunch and Dinner, and is a seafood lover’s dream in offering ‘mid-market elegant and contemporary dining‘, at very reasonable prices.
My friend Llewellyn Lambert and I had identified Seabreeze as a restaurant to try, having heard about it, and its reasonable prices. As a lover of blue, the exterior of the semi-detached building, previously the home of Palma restaurant in Bree Street, is a plus. It is evident that outside work has been done to straighten the pavement, and this allows new tables to have been set up outside, to capitalize on good weather days. It was a little too chilly to sit outside, and we were warmed by the notice board that informed that they have an Oyster Happy Hour from 12h00 to 13h00, and from 17h00 – 18h00 every day, which made our start dish choice immediately obvious, at R10 per oyster, reduced from R16 each for the rest of the day. On occasion oysters are sourced from Lüderitz Bay, at R18 each.
We sat down with Alex and Ruth Grahame, the hands-on owners of the restaurant, to learn more about their restaurant. The two had owned a seafood restaurant in Aberdeen, Ruth’s home city in Scotland (Alex is from London), and Ruth had traveled to our country regularly over ten years to visit family in Johannesburg. Occasionally she had visited Cape Town on these trips. When she and Alex visited Cape Town on holiday early last year, they fell in love with our city, sold their restaurant, and came back later in the year to do research on the potential for a local seafood restaurant. They source their fish from suppliers who offer them fish varieties many other restaurants are not interested in.
Whilst the decor is dominant in blue, their bowls and plates are ‘sea meets beach’ aqua green, made by local ceramicist Anthony Shapiro from Art in the Forest. It was nice to hear how the Grahames are wanting to keep things local. I loved the bubbles in the glaze on some of the bowls, giving a marine feel.
Palma restaurant had previously operated in the space, a double sized building, which offers generous seating inside, and the kitchen and bathrooms being located downstairs. The bathrooms were redone, and are of the best I have experienced in restaurants. The walls are painted blue inside, in a slightly different shade of blue compared to outside. Artwork is due to arrive, to finish off the decor. Wood-top tables are simple, while white and blue wooden chairs with wicker seats as well as white metal ones match the decor theme. Tables have a number of glasses already on the table, including a bubbly flute, matching rose gold salt and pepper grinders, a gauze serviette, and surprise of surprises was seeing the (very rare in restaurants) Fish knife, with a fork and a knife!
Chef Philip Alcock heads up the kitchen, and we were trying to work out where our paths had crossed previously. He has worked at Cellars-Hohenhort, the former Manolo, The Cape Grace, and Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point. Manager Crosby was previously at Burrata, and more recently at Umi.
The menu is a simple A4 paper one, with the food items listed on one side, and the wine and beer list on the reverse. I liked that the menu was dated, meaning that the restaurant has the flexibility to change its dishes linked to its seafood availability day by day, guaranteeing freshest seafood. We did not look past the natural oyster section, and chose to order six Knysna (warm water) and six Saldana (cold water) oysters, never having previously been offered an option of oyster origin. In presentation, the two oyster platters was similar, but the taste differed, in that the Knysna oysters (from the Knysna Oyster Company) had more of an oceanic taste and seemed more fleshy, while the Saldanha ones (supplied by Wild Peacock) were sweeter. They were served with a Sauce Mignonette, made with MCC, shallots, cracked pepper, and red wine vinegar. We loved the oysters, but were less partial to the sauce, not adding to the delicious freshness of the oysters, the lemon added being perfect. One can also order ‘dressed oysters‘, at R18 each, served with beetroot, pickled cauliflower, amasi, and radish; and chili nuts, cucumber, spring onion, and a soy and lime dressing.
Our starters were brought to the table before we had finished the oysters, but were returned to us on our request once we were ready for them. I had ordered three wild langoustines, avocado purée, and mayonnaise (which I received without chili on request), priced at R75. The avocado and lemon purée was a welcome addition to the dish, and Crosby brought another portion to the table, the one on the plate being tiny for an avo lover! A finger bowl of warm water with lemon accompanied the langoustines. One can order portions of six (R150) or nine (R225) too. I loved the sea rocket garnish, looking like seaweed, which I have not previously seen. Llewellyn ordered the hake ceviche with cream cheese, squid ink mayonnaise, and potato crisps (R55), a healthy portion at a very low cost. Other starters are fish soup; seared tuna nicoise, quail egg, olives, and green beans; a beautifully presented ‘pint of prawns’; smoked fish hash browns with purple trout; and grilled prawns. Starters range from R50 to R120.
My main course was hake and chips (R95), the hake portion being so large that I shared some with Llewellyn and took half home with me. The chips were not as crispy as we would have liked, but the tartar sauce was good. Llewellyn’s main course choice was pan-fried cob, served with pea velouté, chorizo (an interesting ingredient), new potatoes, and brocollini ((R140). Other main course options are fishcake with prawns, prawn bisque, and green beans (R120); Saldanha Bay mussels and Cape Malay sauce (two portion sizes at R65/R130); Tuna Burger (R120); kingklip with braaied corn (R125); squid ink tagliatelle, prawns, and chili (R145); SeaBreeze Fish Pie (R100); and pan-seared Angelfish, chakalaka vegetables, and aubergine chips (R130). Greens and chips on the side cost R35 each.
Only I ordered dessert, and I liked the sound of the coconut and vanilla pannacotta, which was served with mixed berries, beautifully presented, and the best value dessert in Cape Town at only R45! The inclusion of the coconut was not pronounced. Other dessert options are crème brûlée, lemon tart, and apple crumble cheesecake, each costing R45. I had ordered a dry cappuccino on arrival, and the froth tasted so exceptional, the best I’ve ever experienced, that I had four throughout our meal.
The winelist includes six MCCs by the glass, the L’Ormarins, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, De Grendel Brut, Villiera Brut Rosé, and Graham Beck Brut and Brut Rosé each costing R60 per flute and R280 per bottle. Five further MCCs are available by the bottle, in a price range of R310 to R420, and a magnum at R560. Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc sparkling wine is also offered, at R270. Wines are all sold by 250ml and 500 ml carafes or by bottle. The white wine brand options are two to four per cultivar. Beers are predominantly craft.
We were very impressed with the good value, the freshness and diversity of the seafood dishes offered, and their presentation. Precious was true to her name, but I struggled to get our bill from her as I had a time pressure, and to receive the second glass of water I had ordered. We were impressed with how busy the restaurant was, and were told that dinners are doing well, their Monday dinners receiving good support as so few restaurants are open on this day of the week. A Rum Bar opens on Friday, with eight specially created cocktails, in addition to rum standards. Bar snacks will be offered.
SeaBreeze Fish & Shell, 211 – 213 Bree Street, Cape Town. Cell 074 793 9349 Website under construction. Twitter: @SeaBreezeCT. Instagram: @seabreezefishandshell Monday – Saturday Lunch and Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein