Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Something for those who have the Knead for pastries....

Forgive me, imagined readers.
I made a good start.
When I have time I will write a longer post to explain what it is that I've been working on that's been keeping me so busy!

In the meantime, I just want to tell you about Knead! Some of you may already know of Knead, as it already has branches in Wembley Square and in Muizenberg, but it most recently opened in a nearby haunt of mine, the Dean Street Arcade.

Knead is kind of a boutique bakery - but it's better the the Limmos kind, because it doesn't bother with fancy namby-pamby icing and sugar sculptures. It's just an honest-to-goodness, delicious breads and flaky pastries heaven.

It does also offer some savoury foods, including pies, curry and a pretty effing delicious toasted sandwich, which comes with a side salad. This makes it an excellent lunch spot for people who work in the area. A word of warning, though, they charge a cheeky R5 extra for takeaways "to cover packaging costs". Next time I think I'll take a tuppaware along.

What I really want to tell you about is the pain au chocolat though. It's clearly made with some superior quality chocolate, because it is positively orgasmic. And it's only R12.50. Not cheap, by snack standards, but it is by pastry standards. And it's totally worth it.

Image courtesy of kthread.com

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The thing about Pancho's...

Pancho’s is a Capetonian institution you absolutely must visit. As far as Mexican food is concerned, it has the best (and most value for money) nachos and quesadillas in town, and the margaritas are in close competition with the Fat Cactus’ for the number one spot. Some friends and I met up there on Friday night for some cheesy goodness.

Me! One of my favourite things about Pancho's is that if you go on your birthday they let you wear this outrageous sombrero and give you a free shot of tequila.

I have just one quibble with Pancho’s though. I have been eating there since my sister turned 21 (now more than 10 years ago), and as a loyal patron, I find it very sad that I am not able to eat there as freely as I once did. Booking has become mandatory (they will literally laugh at you if you try to walk in on a weekend night), and even booking has become difficult – a friend of mine tried to book for a Wednesday night on a Monday and was turned away. I booked a large table (20 people!) for my birthday last year, weeks in advance, and was phoned days before the date by the manager, who complained that whoever allowed me to reserve a table for 7pm went over his head, as they only do 6 and 8’o clock seatings on Fridays. Even though I stood my ground, and said it was hardly my problem if someone at their end made a mistake, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Then the manager had the cheek to request confirmation of my booking on the day via SMS!

It is a great shame to me that when restaurants become successful they become unattainable to walk-in customers – who are usually responsible for the restaurant’s success anyway! A reservations-only policy should be the reserve of fancy establishments, like La Colombe or Maze. Pancho’s is not an upmarket eatery, it is your friendly neighbourhood Mexican joint, and should remain accessible to its clientele. Being told rather officiously that you have to be out by 8pm and that your table WILL be given away if you are 15 minutes late puts a serious dampener on the experience.

Pancho’s could learn a thing or two from Royale Eatery on Long Street. There has been a lot of hype about it, and it is ALWAYS busy, but the entire downstairs section, which is very much the larger portion of the restaurant, cannot be reserved, and is exclusively for walk-in customers. Even so, you are never guaranteed a table unless you book, but at least if you give it a try and are turned away, you feel like you were in with a fighting chance. A walk-ins-only section I think should be compulsory in every restaurant.

FYI: Pancho's can be found at 127 Lower Main Road, Observatory. Call them (really, call them!) to make a booking first on 021 447 4854.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's go down...to Chinatown

Not really in the same vein of leisure activity as a visit to Superette, Chinatown does make for a fun day out with your girlfriends. Located opposite the Pick n Pay Hypermarket in Ottery, Chinatown is not the Chinatown you’d expect from American TV, but it is an excellent place to pick up a bargain. A collection of stores that have just one thing in common – all their contents hail from China – you can buy anything here, from a dish rack or light fitting to a pair of panties or a wig. High quality is not exactly the soup du jour, but you can count on everything being extremely cheap.

I returned from a daytrip with Crystal and Bianca with the following:

  • Knee-high argyle socks  - R10
  • Laundry hanger peg thing – R10
  • Sequinned mini hat (for New Year’s costume party) – R33
  • Even mini-er mini hat clip (for shits and giggles) – R9
  • Grey panties with pink lace trim and bow – R10 (upon trying these on at home, discovered that China’s approximation of XL is a little bit too small for me, but I’m going to take this as a challenge that I REALLY need to get back to gym)
 I was tempted to buy 50 plasters for R5, but resisted.
Pretty amazing, huh? The shop from which I got the hats has an extensive party section, with loads of decorations, gags, accessories and costumes, and I will definitely be returning to pick up my Halloween costume in October. Chinatown is a great place for sourcing costumes of any kind really – if you need a specific item of clothing for an outfit, but don’t want to fork out for something you’ll only wear once, this is the place to get it.

The entire experience took us about two hours. If it takes you longer, you can always stop at the food court for some (also cheap!) sustenance. If you want a shopping experience that is recession-friendly, or just want to browse somewhere completely different, try Chinatown. And let me know if you pick up a bargain!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Breakfast of champions: Superette

A Saturday morning haunt in Cape Town that definitely does not need any more press is the Old Biscuit Mill’s Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock. If, however, you wish you could enjoy the market’s glorious food without fighting the indie hordes, then you’ll definitely want to check out Superette. Just a couple of blocks down from the Biscuit Mill, Superette is an old school-style deli with fantastic food, quirky decor and a sunny, upbeat vibe. A bright yellow counter greets you as you walk in, and the menu is innovatively written in black marker on the white tiled walls. A small selection of very interesting fresh produce (think courgette flowers, unusual lettuces and Jerusalem Artichokes - don't worry, I'd never heard of them either) can be bought, as well as the best of what the Neighbourgoods Market has to offer (such as the mouthgasm-inducing Dunk cookies).

 Le decor

If you’re there for a meal, you can either sit at one of the large communal tables or prop yourself up on a ladder-stool to eat at one of the counters overlooking the street. The breakfast menu is positively drool-worthy, and I wish had suppressed my urge for a small bowl of ProNutro on the morning I went, because I would have liked to have sampled several dishes. They have some creative fresh juices – I had the pressed pear juice, which tasted like summer in Provence, but I am keen next time to try the pressed banana juice out of sheer curiosity.

 Le menu

For the meal, my friend Bianca, whom I must thank for introducing me to this spot, had the poached eggs (for which Superette is best known), which are served with fresh asparagus, a slice of homemade bread, rocket and a deep-fried courgette flower. My own meal of Nutella-filled French toast with crispy bacon and a pecan nut and pear compote is one of my top three breakfasts OF.ALL.TIME. Really. French toast, when made well, is delicious in itself, but stuffed with melty, gooey, chocolately hazelnut goodness – I was ready to die there and then just so I could die happy.

 Le food (okay, this isn't what I ate, but doesn't it look good?)

I intend to go back as soon as possible – whether I’ll try one of the other very appetising dishes or succumb to my desire to go to chocolate heaven again is debatable. If you want to check it out for yourself (and you really should), get there around 10am as it gets very busy. Enjoy!

You can find Superette at 218 Albert Road, Woodstock. Check out their website here. All images courtesy of Superette.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hometown glory

I have a new love in my life. He isn’t tall, dark and handsome, nor is he broad, blonde and built. He doesn’t take me to dinner or hold my hand in the dark of the cinema. He isn’t even human, or a ‘he’ for that matter.  I have fallen in love with my hometown. 

Sounds ridiculous, right? I’ve been lucky enough to live in the Mother City my whole life, and have always had great affection for it, but in the last year I have seen my city through others’ eyes, as if anew, and like what I see. So many of my friends have moved away – mostly to the UK and to Jozi for work – and they are all rather homesick. They pine for Cape Town, and their longing has made me realise how very lucky I am to live here. One friend claims to have such a spectacular reaction to being reunited with his favourite city that “it’s like I’m on drugs!” he says. I suggested it might be the change in altitude between Joburg and Cape Town, but he promptly pooh-poohed the idea, saying “It’s definitely more romantic than that.” The kind of dizzying, heady daze he experiences when he visits the Mother City is not uncommon, and it’s starting to rub off on me.
We Capetonians get a lot of flak for being smug about our city, and I have no doubt  that we are thoroughly annoying to be around, or Facebook friends with, particularly in summer. Endless updates of “Ryan had the BEST weekend, like, EVER. Wine tasting at Constantia, cocktails at Caprice and Goldfish at La Med. Hells yeah!” have got to grate after a while. And when we’re not deliriously happy in recounting our weekend exploits, we’re either bitching about the heat or moaning about the wind. During our two-week mini ‘heat wave’ in February one of my friends living in London commented “We get it, Cape Town! It’s hot there. Stop complaining already!” She was right. We practically live in paradise, what on earth are we bothered about?

But we’re entitled to be smug. While I admit my snobby prejudgement of Jozi was ill informed (here) - nowhere else in this country can you go wine tasting, sunbathing, hiking, surfing, and picnicking in one weekend (one day if you’re feeling energetic). And if you don’t get too comfortable with your routine activities, there is always something new to do. In the coming weeks I aim to explore some new places, revisit some old favourites, and generally bask in the sheer beauty and vibrancy that makes this city a place I will always be proud to call my hometown.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Weekend in the City of Gold

Living in Cape Town, you are constantly reminded of how lucky you are to be here. When people ask me where I live, I usually respond "The Most Beautiful City in the World", because as far as I'm concerned, it is. As Capetonians we are smug and rather derisive when it comes to talking about our northern counterpart, Johannesburg. When people try to defend Jozi we exclaim, "But where is its mountain? Its beaches? What's the point of a sunny day if you can't spend it by the sea or winetasting in Stellenbosch?" There is an inherent distaste for the hole that we consider Joburg to be.

Having spent a long weekend there recently there, though, I am afraid I misjudged it. I went up to visit some friends of mine who work there now (this being part of the reason for my loathing of the city: it's like a black hole that sucks in cute guys and good friends), and I have to admit that I was unfair on it. The city has a number of strong points. For example:

  • It's like a first world city in Africa. There is something very glamorous about five enormous hotels on one block. That, and the fact that basically every major company and firm in the country has its headquarters up there. When you're in Jozi you feel like you're really part of this big, buzzing THING. I can understand why the locals find Cape Town infuriatingly sleepy.
  • Consequently, there are a lot of other first world characteristics - the shopping is fantastic (well, I believe so, I didn't get to do much shopping up there), there are some excellent restaurants and, well, a lot of strip clubs. I know it's sleazy, but it's also kind of cool. On my first night we went to a great steakhouse called Chef & the Fat Man, and in the same complex we discovered, to my guy friends' delight, that a Hooters is about to open. Only in Jozi.
  • The nightclubs - a) more selection and b) they are just bigger and better in Joburg. On the Friday night my friends took me to the notorious Hat (the Manhattan Club) and it is about three times the size of our Mother City version, Tiger Tiger. There's also a novelty Top Hat bar (just for men) and a ladies-only bar (of unremembered name). The music was a bit dodgy, but altogether the experience was very charming. 
  • The weather is also pretty awesome. Although, let's face it, a blue sky is a lot less thrilling over the Joburg cityscape than it is over mountain and sea, at least in Jozi it doesn't piss rain for weeks on end.
  • Lastly, and probably only lastly because I was there for just three days (and spent a good portion of those on the couch recovering from the nights), there are some good people up there. I felt very welcome and included by my friends' friends who had only just met me, and it was extremely cool to catch up with some of my good buddies who are living there. 
Sometimes bad cities happen to good people. Usually this is because of work. But sometimes those bad cities aren't actually all that bad. Us Capetonians, I think, should learn not to judge so swiftly. I for one will definitely be visiting again in the near future.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We wants, we wants!!!

A cup of tea really does make everything better. It doesn't necessarily solve anything, but the world certainly looks less bleak and sinister when peering at it over the rim of a cup of steaming Jasmine green tea (Jazz, as my old housemate Sash calls it).

What would make my cups of tea INFINITELY better though is if they were poured from the Teatoaster, available at the Teapottery. Isn't this just too adorable? It would look perfect in my kitchen, which is a) accessorised with pastels and b) suffering from a cupcake paraphernalia overload at the moment.
But this is exactly why I think I would be very bad at living in England - yes, the weather sucks, but there's just too much goddamn stuff to buy! This little darling would set me back £37.95, but if I lived there I'd simply HAVE to have it.