Twelve hours later I stumbled out of the aircraft, filling my lungs with warm, dry, South African air. It felt really good to be back in Africa, back in South Africa, and back again in Cape Town. I got down on the tarmac, proceeded through the immigration check point, answered “pleasure” with a big smile instead of “business” which I did last time, and went to collect my checked baggage. Ahhh this was going to be gooood!!!
However, whilst standing there in my dreams, waiting for the conveyor belt to start pouring out luggage, a small and very cute little lapdog had sneaked up on me and was sniffing heavily at my hand baggage. My first thoughts were, “well aren’t you the cutest thing!” But then I saw the tiny leash, and then a rather large airport security personnel appeared from nowhere, asking me rather harshly, “got any fruit in there?”
Slightly taken aback I answered honestly, “Yes, at least three bananas!” I was going to eat them on the plane but had forgotten all about them. The rather large security personnel did not say anything, he just waved his arm in a way that could not be mistaken – just bring’em! I gave him the three bananas and he gave the not-so-cute-anymore dog a candy. Seconds later my bag came out and I walked through customs, entering South Africa without my three bananas that I had forgotten all about.
Well well! I found the exit, grabbed a taxi to my hotel, the Long Street Boutique Hotel. The cab driver had no problems finding it. The lessons learned from this initial taxi experience, that taxi drivers knew where they were going, and moreover knew how to, like, get to places, was however soon to be smothered. But before digging into that, let us turn the clock back some three months.
As soon as I had booked the wine tour with BKWine back in November, I started to look for good restaurants in Cape Town. The wine tour itself started on Saturday 27th of February, and I had booked two extra nights in Cape Town to get a little bit more out of my vacation. Departing Wednesday the 24th, landing in Cape Town on Thursday the 25th, it gave me two extra nights. Since I assumed that some of the other participants would arrive on Friday the 26th, and since we would all stay in the same hotel, we would no doubt bump into each other Friday afternoon, and most likely there would be suggestions to go out and eat something together, Thursday night therefore, seemed the best evening for something extraordinary.
It did not take many googlings to discover that Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen would be the primary option to discover what Cape Town could best offer in terms of fine dining. So I sent them an e-mail, probing Thursday the 25th of February for a reservation. I sent my requesting e-mail on the 18th of November. The following day, the 19th of November, I got a reply saying that they were... fully booked until 18th of May! Holy Moses! Trying to book a reservation three months in advance was clearly not sufficient. However, they recommended that I tried their other restaurant, ThePot Luck Club. I e-mailed them and yes – one person, the first serving, at 18.00 hrs, welcome. Great!
At first I found it a little bit disturbing, since I had tried to book such in advance, but then I got over it and started looking forward to the Pot Luck Club. Several reviews that I read on the Internet had stated that although the Test Kitchen was fine, the Pot Luck Club had in fact been a better experience. So after having unloaded my luggage in my hotel room, I undressed and slept for two hours, took a refreshing shower (nothing beats "a shower n' a shave...) and walked down to the street to find a cab.
This time I was not so lucky – the cab driver had absolutely no clue of the address, 375 Albert Road.
"Well I don't know!"
Then I remembered I had a screenshot of the restaurant:
"Ah, Woodstock! Yes, I know where that is! We go there first, find the street there!”
It did not sound that reassuring, but I thought that eventually I will get there... Now, if you have not been to Cape Town before, you should get rid of any images depicting “cute little town,” or any images saying it is a “town.” A few minutes after leaving Long Street, we got caught up in serious traffic jam. I realized that the estimated 15 minutes drive would take forever! But slowly and steadily, we got closer. And my cab driver managed, with some help form a smart phone to locate the place. Very nice, I got there 30 minutes late but that was no problem.
I had visualized that the restaurant would be located in a busy street with a tiny door, but it turned out to be within a gated enclosure. The Old Biscuit Mill, the name of the place, had been turned into a little sanctuary with a few other restaurants, a chocolate factory, and some other shops. Very peaceful and very quiet. A security guard pointed to an elevator and in the elevator the restaurant was clearly marked. I pushed the button and at last, I entered the restaurant.
The place was oozing calmness, so very welcoming. I was greeted by the head waiter and shown to my table. The restaurant was built on the top floor of the old mill and had a rectangular shape with large panorama windows. It was very airy and furnished in a modern style. I really liked the interior, it felt great to be here. Everyone from head chef and down - including the guests - seemed to be relaxed and in a good mood. Nice!
First, some wine whilst looking at the menu. I had a glass of 2015 Newton Johnson Resonance, a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Really nice.
Of course I had looked at the menu before, but I needed some finalizing time. This is what I settled on:
Firstly, the Pot Luck Club Fish Tacos. Very nice. Crispy tacos on top and on the bottom, with tasty pieces of fish filets and other things in between.
My second dish was the Crispy Octopus, Doenjang Mayo, Pickled Cucumber and Octopus Teriyaki. This I also found very nice. I really like octopus, maybe not the rubbery, tyre imitations type you can get sometimes, but the other ones - great! The combination octopus, mayo and teriyaki - so good!
Thirdly, I had the Pig Head Ssam (my first ssam), Pineapple Kimchi with Miso Dressing and Bean Powder. This was a knock-outer! The pig head: crispy rind with juicy meat (must have been cooked slowly and for a very long time). The pineapple kimchi - absolutely lovely! The combination, fresh and sour pineapple kimchi with a slight heat, together with the pork was stunning. Really loved this dish!
With this, I had a glass of red wine: 2015 Peter Max Crystallum Pinot Noir. A nice Pinot - not too much acidity, not that diluted, not that jammy. Good solid structure!
I could not resist joking with D, my waiter:
“Ok – this is the pig’s head?
“Well if this is the pig’s head, then this must be the skin. And if this is the skin, this must be the meat. And if this is the skin and this is the meat, doesn’t that make this the… brain?
“Moahahaha! Good guess but no – I think it’s the inside of the chin.”
My last tapas was the Smoked Beef Fillet With Black Pepper and Truffle Café Au Lait. Sweeeet Lord this was good!!! Excellent - I mean EXCELLENT meat - just browned, thus mostly raw, in this dense, creamy sauce. Best dish in my ten day's stay. Perfection.
The plan was to have the selection of South African cheeses, but – I forgot all about them! Sorry! Instead, I took the soofley… Malted Chocolate Fondant Souffle With Halva Ice Cream, which was a bit overpowering but very nice.
I finished with coffee and thought about staying for some drinks, the guests for the second seating had started to enter the restaurant. But I was at complete satisfaction after his wonderful meal and excellent service. Besides, the following morning at 8 o'clock I had booked a 8 kilometre Table Mountain run with Run Cape Town so I decided to go back to the hotel. It had been a long and most lovely day.
|A wine called Babiana???|
|Lion's Head and Signal Hill, from the restaurant's balcony|
Many, many thanks to the Pot Luck Club for an awesome experience!!! I am definitely going back, and if you are in Cape Town - book in advance and ENJOY!