Hole-in-the-wall eateries in the Mother City are intimate spaces where it feels as if you’re dining in secret or having a ‘kuier’ in someone’s kitchen. Under hyped, low on notoriety and simply styled, the focus is on the finest fare and these small seaters are the hidden gems that take the kiosk concept up a notch.
Description: Lucky Bao in hip De Waterkant is the second outlet after owner-chef Cheyne Morrisby opened in Hout Bay a few years ago. Ever on his Asian A-game, he has created a cool street side kiosk with a menu he describes as “Japanese junk food with a Korean kick.”
In the kitchen: Pillowy bread-like bao dumplings are the star attraction, filled with delectables like soft shell crab and crispy duck. For the veggie brigade there’s the tofu and mushroom bun or switch to noodles and order the miso and roast aubergine ramen.
You would kick yourself to miss: The Lucky Wagyu Burger made with a Hokkaido milk bun, Korean BBQ sauce, crispy bacon, and kimchi.
Address/contact: Grey Hotel, corner Jarvis and Napier Street in De Waterkant @LuckyBaoBar on Facebook / 0646617474
NO RESERVATIONS Bar on Bree Street
Description: The blink-and-you’ll miss-it street side bar is affiliated to Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse. It’s a cool recessed space under the Cape Heritage Hotel where you get the sense that you’re tippling inside a cave.
In the kitchen: Nothing – that’s what Chef’s Warehouse is there for, right next door, the home of pricey tapas where bookings are verboten, hence the play on the name.
You’ll kick yourself if you miss: One of mixologist Benjamin Bond’s superb cocktails- ask for the Moscow Mule made from boozy ginger beer and other unnamed ingredients.Dress up/down:casual
Description: Walk through the hanging noren at 83 Loop Street and you’ll find minimalist Marrow, a broth bar owned by the self confessed soup obsessed Dennis Williams and Jeanne Marais, the duo behind the Secret Gin Bar on Wale and the more recently-opened Botanical Bar. The interior, with counters and low stools flanking the each wall, is specifically designed to encourage swift in-and-out foot traffic while delivering on a prime experience.
In the kitchen: Executive chef Danielle Smith together has honed a simple offering of four broth types that are prepped and beautifully presented by the talented trio in the kitchen. Choices are the clear (Asian style), the white (vegan with coconut milk and veg), the green (dashi based pescatarian option with umami flavours) and the brown (inspired by North African spices with meaty flavours).
You’d kick yourself to miss: The Clear Bowl, a bone broth seasoned with soy sauce and served with roasted chicken, chorizo, spring onion and julienne carrots. Plop a turkish delight square into your mouth afterwards, made from ginger, tamarind and other secret ingredients that round off the consommé cuisine experience perfectly.
Description: If it wasn’t for the enticing coffee aromas wafting past rows of multi-coloured houses on upper Wale Street, you’d probably miss the unobtrusive stop-and-sip Deluxe in the Bokaap neighborhood at the top of town, and the very first outlet in Metal Lane, off Kloof Street. SA’s much loved home grown coffee brand owned by South African Carl Wessel and Kiwi Judd Francis, has to date brewed over five million cups across their stores and outlets in the local corporate and hospitality sectors.
In the kitchen: Unless you happen to stop by their Church Street branch bright and early on a Friday for the free doughnuts, it’s always coffee only, a blend of Guatemalan, Brazilian and Ethiopian beans, Rainforest Alliance certified and ethically traded.
You would kick yourself to miss: Join the masses and line up for a smooth flat white, their top seller.
Description: Banters best give this New York style bagel bar on Bree a wide berth. The holey rolls are made from stone ground flour, boiled in water spiked with malt syrup, hole not too big, and soft and chewy with a blistered crust, the real NYC deal according to afficionados. Owners Andrew Kai and Matthew Freemantle, initially famed for their paella stand at the Old Biscuit Bill, opened up in 2014 and created a quirky dough-on-the-go space in the CBD.
In the Kitchen: They have a tight offering, perfect for the mid-morning munchies snacking or a light lunch. Try the Reuben with pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian sauce or the Lox or the grilled fennel and leek combo.
You would kick yourself if you missed this: the B.A.T is the favoured front runner, stacked with cream cheese, bacon, avocado, tomato and mayo.
Description: Opened in 2011 by Ethiopian Yeshi Mekonnen, Little Ethiopia is in the heart of the CBD and hailed as the go-to spot for simple, traditional fare.
In the Kitchen: Meaty stews simmered in herbs, lentils, garlic, onions, potatoes and chili, come with gluten free injera (spongy pancakes) on the side, used to dip and scoop the tapas and soak up the flavourful sauces. Vegetarians have several choices, like the deliciously prepared gomen(collard greens), and kik alicha(split pea dish). This is finger-food and meal sharing at its most satisfying.
You would kick yourself to miss: The doro wot, a spicy chicken stew made with onions, berbere (Ethiopian chili paste), kibe (spiced butter) and garlic.
THE GENERAL STORE
Description: An unpretentious eight-seater luxe deli owned by Collette Robert, formerly of Finn’s in London’s Chelsea whose initial inspiration was to create a friendly local, based on the grocery store concept of yesteryear that were marked by simplicity, goodness and character.
In the kitchen: Sit down or take away, Collette provides healthy contemporary breakfast and lunch options (vegetarians are catered to), and an array of ridiculously good looking salads that will have you salivating on sight. Note- there’s a civilized rush over lunch time as the white collar professionals close in, so if you head down, do so by midday to get a spot.
You would kick yourself to miss: All the food, all the time, and the chocolate brownies that have a cult following.
ROYAL TEA SA
Description: It’s fairly rare to find an authentic tea shop in this city and the new Royal Tea SA emporium in the Lifestyle Centre on Kloof Street is causing a stir with a range of speciality teas guaranteed to pique your interest.
In the kitchen: If you’re after a cup of rooibos, keep walking. Royal Tea SA goes beyond the ordinary and has tea lovers all over town in a tizz. It’s a friendly place, and the owners Jacob McGowan from the UK and his wife Lanty Zhou from China have created a welcoming atmosphere that attracts locals and tourists alike and many a Chinese visitor, a sure sign that the tea offering is on point.
You would kick yourself too miss: The Cheese Tea, a popular new drink described as a refreshing tea base with a light cream cheese based topping sprinkled with matcha powder. The drink is a well balanced combination of flavours and the different consistency of the tea and the topping complement each other perfectly.