Last Sunday, Tom and I woke up late and decided to go for a stroll through our city in search of a hearty brunch. Living in Tamboerskloof is such a blessing – I merely have to roll out of bed to have the whole of Kloof and Long Street at my doorstep, not to mention the array of cosy hipster hot spots nestled in the vibrant suburb itself.
Unfortunately, Cape Town gets sleepy on Sundays which means not many places stay open so competition for prime locations is stiff. I’m not quite sure where the tradition of ‘siesta Sundays’ started in our city? Possibly some European influence in our past or perhaps a lack of students in the vicinity to keep the area ‘vibey’? Regardless, there are a few places which go against the flow and keep their doors open; you just need to seek them out.
Having failed to secure a table at Clarkes in Bree Street, which was buzzing as per usual, we meandered through Green Market Square and headed towards Company Gardens which has been one of my favourite places since I was small. I love the serenity of the garden; the juxtaposition of children singing and dancing on the street against the backdrop of parliament, and people snoring softly on the grass. There’s a sense of history that hangs tangibly in the air, mixed with the sensual fragrance of roses and the intermittent tweets of tiny finches hopping busily in their aviary.
Everywhere, one sees fat, smug squirrels being fed countless nuts by obliging tourists, who squeal in delight and Instagram their encounters with Africa’s fierce wildlife. Pigeons are as much a part of the gardens as the statues depicting South Africa’s history, and some of them are so fat from all the feeding that they rest in feathery balls, foregoing the immense effort of flight. The National Library graces one side of the path, while a little way up one encounters the National Gallery and the Iziko South African Museum itself, which rests proudly at the garden’s helm.
Halfway up the path, Tom and I see a gathering of people laughing and swinging in giant bird’s nests. Children scamper between nests and some sweet soul blows bubbles while soft music plays in the background. The giant nests are a wonderful installation designed by Porky Hefer and commissioned by Madame Zingara’s Company Gardens Restaurant, which is increasingly becoming a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. These giant pieces of functional art play a wonderful role in bringing people together, and create a relaxed, fun atmosphere that perfectly complements the beauty and purity of the garden itself.
A little further down the way, two kids engage in a very serious game of chess on the giant chessboard which rests on the grass under the trees. Behind it, the restaurant is beautifully designed to blend seamlessly with its surrounds. With rustic wooden beams, stone, and massive open windows, the design is contemporary and timeless, and Tom comments that we could be in Italy with the white and green modern colour scheme, which is reminiscent of European aesthetics, with a distinctly local twist. We queue up for a table and end up sitting at the bar, which is actually rather pleasant, being slightly removed from the crowd. Children play around us and the coffee machine buzzes soothingly in the background, promising all kinds of treats.
We pay a moment of homage to the old Company Gardens Restaurant which we both rather loved despite (or perhaps because of) its unpretentious plastic chairs, influx of squirrels, and cheap toasted sarnies and chips with that delicious artificial-tasting tomato sauce you only get at certain kinds of restaurants. Madame Zingara has certainly changed the ambiance and feel of the place, but the group has also managed to retain some of the previous restaurant’s affordability and charm, with old favourites like toasted sandwiches and burgers still gracing the menu, but kicked up a notch.
I revert to childhood and order a strawberry milkshake and toasted chicken mayo, and I’m delighted when my milkshake arrives perfectly pink and covered in sprinkles, accompanied by a tasty-looking sandwich, salad and chips. The portions are generous, the food is fresh and delicious and the service is quick, friendly and efficient – it’s a winning formula. Along with toasted sandwiches and scones, the restaurant also offers a selection of South African inspired dishes, including a bobotie open sandwich, beer battered Camembert fritters (I will return to sample these), spatchcock chicken and organic sirloin with hand-cut fries. Oh and did I mention the cake table? Picture a long table covered in delicately crafted cakes, meringues, scones, and everything else that is nice in this world. Tom and I will most definitely be back to tuck into mud cake and lemon meringue.
The silly children were hogging the nests so I didn’t get a chance to play in them, but I did put Tom in one so I could grab a few hasty photos. If you somehow have a morning free in the week and can go outside of peak hours, I suggest heading over to the largest swinging-chair nest with a book, and ordering cake and coffee for breakfast while nestled under the tree. Just be wary of dive-bombing squirrels.