Menu shows a taste of Cape palate

Yazeed Kamaldien

It is often exciting to read about a restaurant, coffee shop or side-walk offering in a magazine or newspaper and then heading off to conquer it.

Well, perhaps not everybody finds this exciting. But it’s gained near hobby status in my mind. I diarise places to visit based on recommendations from others. That’s sort of what happened when Cape Town-based publishing company The President’s business director Hannerie Visser showed me a copy of their book ‘Cape Town Menu: The Best 167 Dishes’. My Things-To-Do list is bulging.

‘Menu’ is a luxurious little map that serves as a treasure hunt for the ordinary everyday just like you and me looking to make meal time a bit more diverse.

It’s a food spot guidebook without the self-pleasing sarcasm that usually accompanies guidebooks geared at tourists.

‘Menu’ editor Peet Pienaar writes in his introduction that “shopping malls killed our food culture”. Their publication intends to direct consumers to local choices without listing the franchise staples. Quality is not a benchmark of the featured food stops. It’s more the local flavour that it adds to one’s daily diet that matters.

Visser says they wanted to “feature local food heroes, people that have been an integral part of Cape Town’s food heritage for many years and have established our city’s food culture”. This comes via interviews and photos with chefs or kitchen staff.

Visser continues: “We’ve made a serious effort to include street food and restaurants that are for everyday eating, not necessarily the most expensive, award-winning, formal establishments that one so often finds in most restaurant guides. That would have been too easy.”

The book’s contents are divided into different sections that read like a menu. Among these sections are breakfast, light meals, braai, Portuguese & Italian, Seafood, Asian, Snacks, Cakes & Desserts.

These sections are categorised by menu items. One chooses what you would like, perhaps, for breakfast – scone, French toast, poached eggs, croissant – and under each of these items you would find a suitable venue to head to.

You would also find the price of the menu-listed item. Information on the venue includes its address, contact details and operating hours. This is not an exhaustive list but intends to direct an appetite to an appropriate plate. As a result, one encounters Cape Town’s cheapest breakfasts alongside much pricier meals.

As it is not exhaustive, there are shortcomings. The bread listing offers only two entries. This is strange considering the number of new arrivals offering interesting breads in the inner-city alone.

An interesting revelation for those who didn’t know is that Pollsmoor Mess inside the Pollsmoor Prison in Constantia is open to the public. Waiters are “inmates nearing the end of their sentence”.

The food at this restaurant, according to the ‘Menu’ review, is “honest, straightforward, reasonably priced… often way above okay”. Although, the Greek salad “doesn’t have feta cheese, the coffee is instant Ricoffy sachets and they smother your chips in Aromat”.

The Afropolitan section of ‘Menu’ features meals from beyond South Africa. It is an example of how easily all things African are painted with exotic words. A sub-heading worded ‘West African Wonderful’ directs one to a Cameroonian chef. Then there’s ‘Ugandan Yummy’ that sums up where that’s at in a way that one uses the word ‘nice’ when you’re lacking a more genuine reply.

Where to find street-style staples like the Bunny Chow and Gatsby are obviously included. A less obvious – for me, at least – but wholly welcomed inclusion was information on where to buy a piece of braai – red meat, chicken or seafood – especially on weekends when making a fire just isn’t worth it when there’s an ocean full of pleasure on the clock.

‘Menu’ is available at The President’s shop Church, 12 Spin Street, in central Cape Town.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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