I have found my favourite bar in Cape Town.
Underneath it lives a restaurant that could easily become my favourite.
The reason, of course, that Dear Me (the restaurant in question) does not shoot up into immediate top position is because restaurants take time to crawl the list, while bars move up and down quickly. I show less loyalty to bars. Bars are ephemeral; opening and closing (as opposed to pubs who are solid) while restaurants – even if they open and close like a whore’s legs – offer the idea of permanence, or possibly the hope. Bars are here today and, where am I? Why does my head hurt? What’s that? A slip for a bottle of Krug?
Back to Dear Me. No, hold on a second, I need to make it clear that I am not a restaurant critic or reviewer, I usually don’t do it as there are better-equipped bloggers who actually derive pleasure from doing it. What I do is mention restaurants when they piss me off beyond belief – like Caveau – or point them out when I am mightily impressed. Thus, Dear Me.
First off it is beautiful. Sure it may appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities, but I have good taste so that’s OK. Just look at these photos.
I stole them of their website, as I hate photographing in restaurants, it makes me feel like a douche. Also I’m not very good at it.
Seriously though, I think the décor and design in Dear Me is wonderfully balanced between class, funk, sex, cool, function and awesome . Yes, I do have a degree in interior design. How did you know?
The food is equally balanced. It had a freshness, and zing to it that I enjoy with wines as much as food. The textures had quite obviously been considered, and I had the best reslish that has ever passed my lips.
There were three of us, and in the end I had tasted the Confit Tuna Niçoise, it was solid, very good but did not bowl me over – a meal for the non-adventurous. Solid portion, great tuna, R85. The Pork rilettes, pickles, relishes and toast was bloody delicious. We had this as a starter, I could have it for breakfast every morning. Brilliant. R58. Honey roasted parsnip soup, crispy sage, pine nuts was a blinder, although a bit rich for the full portion, as a stater it would of been perfect. this turned out to be a spot on match for the HB riesling (read below), producing a wonderful flavour of earthy granola with tropical fruit. 10 points and a high-five.R70. The (Ok this is a long one) warm cous cous salad, marinated buffalo yoghurt labneh, mange tout, baby carrots, red chard, orange zest, cumin, dates, and preserved lemon was another winner. My mother, who had ordered this, couldn’t contain her excitement. R65 (bloody bargain). West coast mussles, choriço style free range sausage, tomato, smoked paprika, raost red pepper, salsa rosa. This was scrumptious, hearty, warm and comforting but, in my ‘umble opinion, just not as good as the others, it lacked the precision of flavours the others had. I don’t know maybe I was just too full by then, still a solid plate of food R58 for a starter portion. There was also a mushroom risotto that was incredible, loads of different mushrooms, with rich, almost meaty flavours.
(Wine is so much easier to write about. I hated that paragraph almost as much as I loved the food)
The wine pairings work, but there will in time be a tweak here and a tweak there. But that’s wine pairings for you. We ordered the Howard Booysen Riesling 2010 which is brilliant. The closest to a German Kabinett that I have tasted from SA; although there is a sunny aspect to this one. It is fresh, off-dry, with tropical flavours and some mineral notes, the bright balancing acidity makes you go back again and again for another sip. I can finish a bottle in 20min. Easy. So damn, delicious.
The other interesting aspect of Dear Me is that all the meals come with a secondary option that caters for those generally known to piss off chefs.
So in our case we could have had the starch free option for the tuna salad, gluten and wheat free for the pork, and a lactose free option for the soup and cous cous salad,
This is great, and although I didn’t taste any of these options (I prefer my food as god intended it) I trust Chef Vanessa Marx with them unwaveringly.
The menu changes often depending on what is best sourced and seasonal. Please visit Dear Me, I don’t work for them, I am just trying to offer you a happier lunch time.
And then once you have finished your long, lazy lunch, you can simply move on upstairs to Tjing Tjing.
It’s a bar for grown-ups who like to play. People dress well here. So far they all seem well educated. Am I sounding snobbish? Well excuse me if I don’t like being thrown up on my some poppie whose vocabulary falters when the letters in a word add up to more than five. Places where Bru, and Hawzit ring out like battle cries, where a glass of wine comes from a papsak, or if from a bottle off a list – I can almost guarantee this – that is as interesting as yesterday’s mealie pap. It is also not one of those overtly trendy bars where, because fashion dictates, all customers must sit on nail shaped bar-stools (pointy side up), white noise is played continually through the R40 000 sound system, and the staff instead of working sit sullenly reading Sartre.
Tjing Tjing is not like this. It offers a really good wine list, an excellent tapas menu (with, perhaps the best charcuterie board in Cape Town, for both quality and price), a waitress with the coolest hair, fantastic wallpaper, the setting – a coverted attic type room of a 132 year old building with dark exposed wooden beams. I love old wood and red leather, so I am baised.
The cocktails are well made, it still feels exclusive without being snotty, and the owners are some of the friendliest I have met. I am starting to gush, so I will end it here. But I will bet my bottom dollar if you have lunch at Dear Me and then a few drinks at Tjing Tjing after it will be a good day and you will be happy. And when you have had your happy day, you can thank me with Riesling.
165 Longmarket Street, Cape Town
Breakfast (from 7am) & Lunch every day Monday to Friday
Thursday nights: food and wine pairing
021 422 4920
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 4pm to late