Day four and Camps Bay in the rain. Camps Bay is heralded as THE beach to see and to be seen hence the restaurants huddled around the bay are quite upbeat looking with new looking decor and a host of staff. Usually frenetically busy, Camps Bay was almost deserted other than a few tourists like me looking for something to get them out of the rain.
Ocean Blue chose me as their diner by having one of those engaging door staff who thrusts a menu into your hand and suggests that dining with them could be the turning point in your life! I was going to check out menus down the street but dry and warm seemed a far better proposition with the banter from the friendly doorman. The menu had the ubiquitous variety of grills, fish and steak and lobster etc. Specials were pointed out, one being “surf and turf” with sirloin steak and grilled calamari at R9.00 which is about £8.00. Although not a great lover of huge chunks of meat and little else I do love a bargain so ordered S&T. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent quality of the beef and calamari, both in massive quantity and very tasty. The beef was suffering slightly from the malaise that had struck my kinklip, it was tepid and a tad on the raw side so was sent back (no sushi bar here!). It returned with an apology and the right temperature.
Service at Ocean Blue couldn’t have been more different than my La Boheme experience. Having said that it wasn’t rude, it just wasn’t there! Once the meal order had been taken and food delivered there was not one bit of interaction with guests. Staff appeared to be working at half speed, perhaps in order to fill their day as it was so quiet. It was a strange mix as the chap on the door couldn’t have been more upbeat and pleasant. It would be interesting to return here when the sun is shining and the place is packed. Would the special be such a bargain? Would the staff have upped their game? Could the less efficient service be because they don’t have the regular clientele as does La Boheme? Could it be that customers just fall into the place during the season? I will probably never know.
Day three was a local choice which I had read about and wanted to try. It didn’t disappoint at all, in fact this place had the WOW factor which from this jaded diner is really something! La Boheme is the neighbourhood bistro everyone wishes they had on their doorstep, open from breakfast till late, menu written up on blackboards and changed as ingredients arrive or are sold. The team here (and I say team as they worked as one) were friendly attentive and interested in their customers. I arrived at the tail end of the Tapas and drinks session and the beginning of the full blown dinner session. I could choose where I wanted to sit and the menus were explained with enthusiasm and recommendations. Other customers were being well looked after, even when just having drinks.
An interesting crispy flatbread and warm crusty bread arrived once the order had been taken, swiftly followed by grilled sardines with lemon chilli and parsley. I also had riblets of lamb with hummus and tzatziki. The riblets turned out to be a large stack of crispy cooked lamb breast which had been tenderised by slow cooking and then crisped up in a hot oven, YUM! Service was well pitched with checks on enjoyment and appropriate clearing, by a variety of staff with no repetition as sometimes happens when dealt with by more than one server. Ever had three different staff ask if you want another drink or the bill? I will certainly be revisiting La Boheme before the end of this visit so we will see whether they can get full marks for consistency!
Day two’s meal of the day was taken at Willoughby and Co in the Victoria and Alfred waterfront which is one of the number one tourist attractions of Cape Town. I had walked what seemed like the whole waterfront eyeing up potential dining locations and again using the criteria of the busiest must be best went to Willoughby’s! Grilled kinklip with lemon butter was the special of the day and as this was an unfamiliar fish to me I went for it. TripAdvisor ratings put this place at No16 out of 260 other eateries in the area; although the last review (not so positive) echo my own feelings. The TripAdvisor comments are mainly for the sushi which seems to be judging it on its size, something I have never associated with sushi.
Staff were certainly friendly but in that no eye contact way and with little purpose other than to take the order and deliver the meal. Sadly for the business there was no satisfaction check or query of whether I might like anything else (yes more lemon and some black pepper for a start!). Sadly my kinklip was raw in the middle; perhaps this was the sushi rearing its head again! It took a good minute of waving to attract someone’s attention which was a tad embarrassing as the seating I had picked was in the centre of the main shopping thoroughfare. My waitress, whose tunnel vision prevented her from seeing me waving, then stopped at my table and noticing that my main plate had been cleared asked how I must have enjoyed my fish as I’d eaten it so quickly! Considering she had only delivered the said meal one and a half minutes earlier I was surprised to say the least. Apologies were made and the kinklip was returned correctly cooked and with fresh chips, hurrah!
My first evening meal was a hasty one as I had left it till the sun was just setting before walking down the hill. I was planning on walking along the promenade to a restaurant about half a mile away but was startled to find that the promenade and green was covered by thousands of folk all getting ready to sit and have a picnic. They were part of the local Muslim community who had come to the area to watch the sun go down as it was the last day of Ramadan. It unnerved me somewhat as darkness was falling and back home in Somerset 10 people constitute a crowd. I hastily changed plans and retreated back to the main shopping area below my guest house.
The Xiang Yuan Chinese restaurant seemed the busiest out of the four of five in a row so this was the chosen meal for the evening. Tucked into a bank of shops the place is unassuming as restaurants go. An open frontage and outside seating give smokers the opportunity to eat and smoke at the same time; a choice long gone in the UK. Sushi seems to be the national dish over here, nearly every restaurant I see has some form of sushi on offer and although this looked to be a down home Chinese restaurant with only 30 or less seats, there was the sushi bar at the back with the chef busily creating his wares. The menu was handed to me by a pleasant and attentive young Asian lady who explained the menu and what was on offer. There was regular Chinese, more authentic Chinese, (chicken feet anyone?) dim sum and of course the sushi. I love dim sum and I love sushi so a combination of dishes was ordered........in hindsight it was too much: Steamed roast pork buns, a crispy rice cake, steamed pork won tons and prawn California roll. The meal was rapidly devoured with my waitress returning to the table to check I was enjoying everything.
I guess the standard of service was good enough to warrant a 15% tip which is what was automatically put on my bill; however I am sure all will agree that we would prefer to make our own decisions about what to tip and not be told! Shame as it leaves a downbeat memory to what was otherwise a pretty good meal which in these times where the customer is King could be risky.