So I will admit, I’ve been sitting on this one for about 2 weeks now, not really sure how to approach it… The name Conrad Gallagher is surrounded by so much negativity due to his previous business dealings here in SA (as well as in other parts of the world), but I really don’t want to go into all of that here… (I’ll let you do a bit of Googling for yourself if you’re not really sure what I am referring to)
To set the scene, however, I was invited to the restaurant launch which I couldn’t attend due to another commitment, but that said, I have learnt to not base any reviews/comments on a launch event, because you never really get a proper feel for the place in this way. I’ve therefore gotten into the habit of rather arranging to review the restaurant on a me + partner/friend basis a few weeks after a restaurant’s official launch. But why would I want to dine at a restaurant owned by such an infamous chef? Well because during the early parts of his career, he was awarded 2 Michelin stars, and I for one have never been lucky enough to eat the food of any Michelin star chef before. I decided therefore that I would put everything else aside and focus purely on the food & dining experience. As full disclosure – I was given a budget of R600 to spend.
So let’s get down to it:
Firstly the venue is beautiful, but I’ve always loved that space. I couldn’t really spot too many big changes from what the previous owners had done, but from what I understand they did do a bit of a revamp:Price wise you’re looking at R65 to R95 for starters, R160 to R285 for mains, R45 to R65 for extra sides, and R75 to R95 for dessert (that’s excluding the cheese platter which is a bit more). Now that’s not too exorbitant from a Cape Town fine dining perspective, but I did feel that their prices are definitely sitting at the top end, with many of my other favourite Cape Town eateries (which I would also class as fine dining) coming in with prices lower than these.
The wine list is where I had a real issue though. The cheapest bottle of wine is priced at R210, and it really wasn’t a special bottle of wine at all. We opted for a bottle of Warwick First Lady Chardonnay, a wine I love & know very well. Their price for a bottle is R250, where I know the cellar price for this bottle of wine is only R75. I expect to see a markup on wine prices at restaurants, it’s frustrating yes, but seemingly the norm, so normally you’d see this bottle of wine sitting around the R140 – R160. How did they get to R250 exactly? That felt like a massive rip-off to be honest & something I did discuss with the general manager, but he seemed to believe it was justifiable.
Moving on to the food… For starters I opted for the Salmon Rillette (R85) while my friend D went for the Pappardelle (R95 – a pasta dish with duck). Then for mains I had the duck breast (R180), while D had the yellowfin tuna (R180).As you can see, everything is beautifully presented and therefore a real feast for the eyes. Both starters were really good, and that duck breast main of mine was a truly beautiful dish. The problem dish was the tuna. It was extremely bland, with almost zero flavour at all. It was a beautiful piece of fish, but there was just nothing to bring this dish alive. The rosti was too thin to make any real impact, the sauce which was drizzled over the top was minimal, and the tomatoes, etc. didn’t really add anything to the overall taste. We actually heard the table next to us ordering the same thing and when the gentleman’s tuna arrived, he almost emptied out his entire salt dish onto the fish in what I’m assuming was an attempt to give it some flavour… So I highly doubt that it was just D’s plate in particular which was an issue. Again, when we discussed this with the manager after our meal, but he said that they had had no other complaints and that it was a very popular dish. So I dunno.
We didn’t opt for dessert, because 1) After 2 courses & that bottle of wine, we were already way over our R600 limit; and 2) We had spotted them taking a small plate of truffles & other sweet things to another table when they were paying their bill, so I figured that would at least take care of any sugar cravings I may have. (sneaky, yes – but I was still quite irritated about those wine prices).So all ‘n all I left there very torn… On the plus side:
- My dishes were really good
- The space is beautiful
- And the service was good
On my negatives list:
- Wine prices are crazy (my tip would be to just take your own bottle of wine & pay the R60 corkage)
- I do think you can get a similar dining experience (even better at some) at food prices lower than theirs – they do however have a Friday lunch menu (3 courses for R210) and a Pre-Theatre Dinner menu (3 courses for R235) which seem like a much better deal.
- I don’t really understand how they got that tuna dish so very wrong
- The dining room does lack ambiance
- I was given a lot of excuses & I don’t think the manager was really prepared to listen to my feedback
Therefore it’s really hard for me to score this one. I figured the best way was to break it down as follows (according to my Miss K Kiss-o-Meter scale of course):
Café Chic is open for lunch on Fridays (12 – 3pm) and dinner Mon – Sat (4:30 – 10:30pm). Their Bar & lounge is also open Thu – Sat (4:30pm – 2am). For reservations, contact them on 021 465 7218 or email@example.com, and then you’ll find them at: 7 Breda Street, Oranjezicht
Do I think you should go and check it out for yourselves? If you’re intrigued, then why not. My goal here was to simply give you enough information to make up your own mind…
I will of course still say thank you to Conrad & the Café Chic team for inviting me to come and do this review. I had hoped that the food would shine above everything else, but unfortunately in this instance, it did leave there disappointed.
Thanx for a well-written and informative HONEST opinion about this restaurant. Great article and super justified ratings.
Thanks Theresa, that means a lot.