The latest Kove Collection restaurant to open is SurfShack, taking over the space of its predecessor Umi on the first floor of the Promenade building in Camps Bay. I invited our apartment building manager Henry to join me at the restaurant for a Christmas lunch. I was surprised at how good it was, despite being on the pricey side, as are most of the Kove Collection restaurants. The menu warns one about the prices, describing the restaurant as ‘Camps Bay’s hottest luxury diner’, a contradiction of a description!
SurfShack may be a misnomer for this restaurant name, as it is hardly a ‘shack’ and there is no sign of any surfing decor, a surfboard the minimum one could expect, as Tiger’s Milk down the road has on its walls. In its furnishing it feels like any of the other Kove Collection restaurants, so restaurant goers should not expect any lesser quality or lower prices from the name. The media statement describes this restaurant as a ‘diner’, an American term for establishments serving burgers and grilled foods, another misnomer! .
One definitely wants to eat outside on the deck, which was full when we arrived, not thinking to book ahead. So we asked if we could sit at an empty table of La Belle, and order off the SurfShack menu, belonging to the Kove Collection too, but this was definitely not allowed. Luckily a table became available shortly afterwards, and we grabbed it. The hostess had suggested that we sit inside but eating in Camps Bay without a view in a large interior space that has little character, and is visually dominated by a pizza oven at the far end of the restaurant, is not an option. The view onto the Camps Bay beach from the first floor terrace tables is to die for!
The beige linen napkins are as bland as the interior decor of the restaurant, with a mix of uncomfortable looking wooden chairs. A large bar counter is almost hidden inside, against a wall on the right. Blue would have been a far more appropriate colour for a beach-themed restaurant I would have thought. Cutlery is by Brasserie, a brand I’ve not seen before, as bland as the decor colour. An unusual touch was a lemongrass scented holder brought to the table with two white compressed cloths, looking like earbuds, which expand when dipped into the liquid and then used to wipe one’s fingers. This was a trendy surprise offer at fine dining restaurants many moons ago, and did not seem to match the character of SurfShack at all.
Travis Pyoos is the Restaurant Manager and he came to check on us regularly. Brian was our waiter, and I found him to be increasingly overpowering and pushy whilst serving us. Even after asking for the bill, he asked us if we wanted a coffee or another drink.
A number of meal options are available, and I liked the look of The House salad (R120) immediately, described as consisting of greens, tomato, cucumber, feta, red cabbage, seeds, puffed grains, boiled egg, and tahini ranch, the latter a name for a salad dressing which Travis could not explain to me, finding out that it was a mixture of agave syrup, plain yoghurt vinaigrette, and tahini beans. All the salad ingredients sounded healthy, except the red cabbage, which is not a seasonal ingredient, despite adding colour to the salad. So I asked Travis if it could be replaced with avocado instead, offered as an extra ingredient on the menu as an SQ item, After checking for permission, I received the good news that it was allowed. Other ‘Garden & Green Things’ are an Iceberg salad and a Dirty Caesar, both costing R135.
Henry kept it simple, ordering an avocado pizza, a generous size but expensive at R145, of which he only managed to eat half. Pizza prices start at R125 for an anchovy pizza, topping at R220 for a Prawn pizza.
The menu commences with ‘Sharables’, ranging in price from R75 to R135, the more expensive items being prawns and cured salmon, but some are marked SQ, probably even more expensive. Sides cost R45. ‘Buns’ consists of a number of burger options, including tuna, chicken, and beef, a lobster roll and a Hot Pastrami Dog, expensive in ranging from R145 to R175. ‘The Main Show’ offers expensive main course dishes of various steak options, ribs, lamb chops, and chicken, fillet costing R250 for 250g and lamb chops R320. Fish options are largely SQ, a crispy coated or plain white fish at R165 being the lowest priced.
Given that it was a special lunch, I ordered a beautifully presented Campfire & Marshmallow (R85), its name sounding intriguing. It was served in a beautiful French-imported Revol plate. Its base was oat cookie crumble, topped with chocolate, praline ice cream, and topped with meringue and finished off with extravagant gold leaf, it was delicious, but the ice cream melted quickly, making the dessert appear messy. Henry tried a scoop of ice cream (R45). Other dessert options are frozen mousse, a slice of birthday cake, milk panna cotta, and banana cream pie, the frozen mousse being the most expensive at R95.
Wifi is advertised for the restaurant, but it did not work on the deck, and the hostess suggested that I go inside to use it, hardly convenient if one has a table outside. Travis suggested that I try the La Belle WiFi and it worked at our table! Travis admitted that they have problems with the WiFi, and we should have been told to use the La Belle one immediately on asking.
Getting the bill took some time, Brian having abandoned our table. A nice surprise on leaving was seeing Pail Kovensky, owner of the Kove Collection, sitting inside at La Belle, and we did a catch up chat, including about my Camps Bay Clean initiative. Paul suggested a meeting of all Camps Bay roleplayers, scheduled for this week.
For tourists the prices at SurfShack would be a steal, but for cash-strapped locals they are far more expensive for salads and pizzas which one can get less expensively at other Camps Bay restaurants. The service is more proactive however than elsewhere on the Promenade, even if a bit heavy-handed.
SurfShack, 201 The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town. Tel 021 437 1802. www.surfshackdiner.co.za Instagram: @surfshackdiner Monday – Sunday from 12h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein