I met my friend Mieneke the other day for lunch and because she works in Woodstock (and I live just a couple of hundred meters away), we decided to try The Kitchen. There are some really cute, cosy quaint and quirky places in that area that offer amazing lunchtime food and for great value. Plus, most of it (I find), is pretty healthy too. Win!
The Kitchen is probably the most well-known because a few months ago when Shells Obama, America’s first lady was in town, she had lunch there and all of a sudden this little hole-in-the-wall eatery shot to stardom. Of course when you hear and read so much about a place, it only amplifies ones curiosity… so of course when Mieneke said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I immediately suggested The Kitchen.
Driving along Sir Lowry Road (which at times is hard enough, what with having to contend with giant lorries and belligerent taxi drivers), The Kitchen is rather easy to miss if you aren’t purposefully looking out for it. Luckily though I spotted the sign and after driving around the block three or four times hunting for parking, I found myself in what has to be the loveliest little establishment.
One immediately gets the sense that seating is limited; two small benches spill out onto the pavement and inside- a longer bench runs the length of one of the walls. That’s kind of… it.
Cosy, homely and a little bit chaotic is what I’d best describe the atmosphere. I found the service to be friendly and quick and any questions were promptly answered with well-informed replies.
The menu is written on a big chalk board that hangs high on the adjacent wall like a masterpiece. The space is relatively small and I’ll admit I expected there to be more on offer but then again when I think of the size, this makes sense. The ‘signature’ or speciality of The Kitchen is without a doubt their extensive array of beautiful mouth-watering salads, and being a huge salad fan, I found myself salivating over each and every one. One of the popular dishes is their “salad plate” which literally consists of six different choices. I really like this idea because you can pick and choose whatever tickles your fancy.
They also serve sandwiches which come with home-made pesto’s pickles and mayo’s. Think fillings of salami & pecorino, Mellanzane & Danish Feta, Honey mustard sausage and grilled chicken. Mieneke and I finally decided that we’d share a salad plate. It was amazing and just what I felt like! Don’t you love it when that happens? You order something that you’re just craving at that very moment and it just hits all the right spots! I wasn’t full afterwards, but I was satisfied. We sat at one of the outside tables and watched the world pass by (As a side note- great place for people watching! After all it is Woodstock and filled with aberrant creatives!)
Being the chatty twosome that we are, there were no silences and without realising it, we were slowly being rained on. Cape Town does that to you, I’m afraid. We decided to go inside and order coffee and a little dessert. I had a mini chocolate brownie square and Mieneke ordered what looked like a dense lemon cake of sorts. I wanted to ask her if I could taste it but I wasn’t fast enough. It must’ve been good because it was gone in five seconds. Oh well… next time:)
Our lunch was short but sweet. Mieneke had to get back to work and I had errands to run but I think we chose the perfect spot for a midday meal. The Kitchen isn’t the sort of place I’d want to linger for too long over a serious DMC. However It’s filled with energy and there’s a great buzz (it can be a bit loud but I think that just adds to its character and charm). The decor is very unique and one can truly get a feel for the owner’s own style and taste. I’ve already said that it’s small and I think it can get quite cramped but at the end of the day, there’s a reason why people go there. It’s unpretentious, it’s relaxed, easy and if you drop or spill something- so what? It’s The Kitchen!
“Skinny Legs & All” is the name of one of Cape Town’s inner city café’s which opened a few months back. Set in an unobtrusive section of Loop Street, the “Luxury café”-which takes its name from the book written by Tom Robbins, is easy to miss but once you’ve driven around the block countless times and eventually found parking, any displeasure’s soon melt away once you step into the calm, serene space.
Previously an art gallery, the simple, clean, earthy-zen styled cafe is run by twin sisters, Jess and Jamie Freidberg, who both relinquished their studies at UCT after realizing that their hearts lay in making delicious food. “We’d always talk about what were going to go home and make for lunch”, says Jess with a smile.
My friend Mieneke and I made ourselves comfortable at a corner table from which we had a generous view of the intriguing artwork that adorned the walls. In fact the waitress (who happened to be none other than Jess herself), was forced to come back several times to take our order because we were too busy gawking at the interesting choice of paintings and images; each one creating its own talking point.
My favourite is the one that hangs in the open kitchen- a portrait of a woman with a great fifty’s hair-do. Being the curious cat that I am, I asked who she was. “Everyone thinks she’s our great aunt”, said Jess laughing. But in fact it turns out that the woman is a famous South African artist. “We both love art” Jess explains.
The café appeals to anyone looking for a quiet, peaceful sanctuary- away from the bustling noise and general “hurry” of the City Bowl. As I said, it took us forever to peruse the menu- there’re a good number of breakfast options including a toasted banana bread dish that I simply HAVE to go back for! Lunch options are also substantial; think open gourmet sandwiches, goat’s cheese-sprinkled salads and warm vegetarian soups. Then there’s the selection of home-made baked goods. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the display of hazelnut chocolate brownies. Those unfortunately also had to wait until next time.
We finally made our choices and went with a porcini mushroom risotto (for Mieneke) and a Mediterranean quinoa salad for me. To drink we both tried some of the fresh lime, ginger and grapefruit juice. I found it a touch too sweet but the flavours were well-balanced and I would have preferred to have had it served in a normal highball glass and not a small, itsy-bitsy two-sip thimble.
Our food was presented in gorgeous olive green pottery bowls which were specially made for the restaurant by someone in Woodstock. (I like the unique element of that). Mieneke’s risotto was perfect; oozing with mushroomy goodness and deliciously creamy, but my salad on the other hand was rather disappointing. The quinoa (although lightly spiced with cinnamon), was very under-seasoned and there were literally 3 small pieces of roasted aubergine. I do however commend the girls for complimenting the salad with a decent-sized handful of raw almonds (I know how expensive they are!). But I did find the prices rather high for a place that prides itself on a “back-to-basics” approach. Hardly any of the lunch menu items fall below R50.00- making a meal at Skinny Legs quite out-of-reach for a lowly student like myself.
We could not leave without sampling something sweet, so Jess suggested we try the chocolate chip cookies. After deciding to share one, Mieneke and I both found ourselves in deep biscuit decadence! It was perfectly crisp with big melting specs of dark chocolate that had us gauchely licking our fingers. I don’t even care who was watching.
I’m not sure exactly what is meant by the term “luxury café” but I expected a little more from the state of the restrooms. There was all but one toilet- devoid of windows or paper towels. I thought the presence of one single half-damp hand towel was a touch unhygienic but maybe that’s just me.
Although I think there are places that could rival Skinny Legs & All, there’s definitely something a little different about it. Perhaps it’s the twins and their interesting story. Perhaps it’s the café’s intriguing and quirky name. Or Perhaps it’s the smell of granola baking in the oven. Either way, I’m going back for that toasted banana bread!