After a few weeks of walking up and down Kloof Str. I noticed the slow but determined renovation of a vacant store towards the bottom of the street and wondered what über-cool hipster abomination was heading our way. Would it be yet another trendy clothing store, a trendy deli of sorts or coffee bar with baristas with serious attitude and tepid coffee? I never gave it another thought and merrily went about my city-rat business looking for fun and interesting spaces to hang out in while reading, writing or just taking time out from the world.
Fast forward to late November 2014, and looking for a decent place to have brunch a friend and I stumbled up the Kloof Str. and the clean, modern and design forward ‘Molten Toffee’ immediately drew us in. There is nothing more welcoming than seeing a familiar face, especially when you have a history of great service with a smile and ‘can do’ attitude that you immediately feel like it’s home. To say that business partners and co-founders, Robbi Gorelick and Cian van der Vyver understand their target market is obvious in the fine line between street cool chic and serious business. With a bond formed during their time at Yours Truly café, these two young entrepreneurs are on to something.
With a strong belief in providing a place to anchor the local community, designers whose product is featured throughout and a range of pastries, raw treats and savoury delights made on a daily basis by Cian’s chef sister adds to the ‘coolness’ vibe. It’s a family place. A place where you feel like family.
Sourcing their coffee from one of my favourite producers, Deluxe Coffeeworks (the other being Tribeca Coffee but that’s another story for another time) the baristas are formally trained and knowledgeable about the product they are making. They don’t make cute bunny rabbits with the foam but what you going to do, right? The perfect cup is a rare find in a city like Cape Town where every Tom, Dick and Sally produce what can be described at crap coffee. My personal favourite, and yet to be beaten anywhere else is their Pulled Pork sandwich (sorry Jenna), however, the fresh selection of nibbles on display easily make up for the special that sell out in hours. To placate those that miss out, however, is a basic, balanced menu that offers deli styled foods (think crispy croissants with preserves, bacon and scrambled egg rolls, muesli and yoghurt cups, toasted sandwiches with a variety of fillings and salad bowls). Using quality ingredients, balanced seasoning and sizable portions the lack of garnish isn’t high on the list of necessity. Which is okay because the food is so good it doesn’t linger long on your plate for very long anyways. The food is definitely substance over style which is the point!
While not a big focus for the boys at Molten Toffee, they do some fantastic freshly pressed fruit or vegetable juices and gladly allow you to make up your own combinations from a mix of carrots, apples, beetroot, kale, ginger and other more dirt sounding and therefore ‘healthier’ ingredients which is a G’D send these past few weeks which The Mother City has experienced a few unusually high temperatures during the day. But while we’re on the topic of cooling down, do yourself a favour and hunt down a certain video of Cian cutting a rug behind the bar to a classic tune from their own growing playlist featuring their favourite musicians. Once the licensing issues have been sorted, the funemployed or city slickers who frequent this delightful deli will be able to stream songs from their personal devices via AirPlay.
Molten Toffee is one of those delis and coffee bars that translates to any capital city in the world because it’s so personable. We’re just lucky the empire started on Kloof Str.
*hipsters, schlebs and wannabes need not apply within. We’re full.
A recent restaurant review I read, the writer referred to the menu as an “insider’s joke” which is exactly what Societi Bistro is – an insider’s club in an over-cooked Mother City. Perhaps my view of the restaurant is a little biased because I’m a regular to such a degree that drinks are placed rather than ordered but Peter Weetman (legendary for his graceful hospitality and wickedly sharp humour) has created a fabled place of fresh seasonal dishes named after regulars who not only adorn masthead’s of glamorous fashion magazines, taste makers and trend setters but also family and friends who gather in the rustic courtyard of the heritage building to indulge in the Café Society atmosphere day and night.
Societi is not one of those overnight success stories but has become infamous over the past 11-years for its seasonal produce, local ingredients and ethically sourced range of meats which is more important in the gourmet providence of late than flash in the pan presentation. Head Chef Stefan Marais, whose Spanish, Italian and French training is the basis his gastronomic philosophy and approach as he produces a new menu that accommodates the changing seasons, fleshed out with specials that change daily. This allows diners to experience old favourites alongside the new delights every time they visit the restaurant and slowly introduce his ethics to a rather jaded urban culinary palette.
“I want to create honest food,” says Weetman “that updates nostalgic favourites with current food trends. Societi is not meant to be an exclusive fine dining establishment but rather a balance of the best quality and freshest ingredients at an affordable price. It’s an extension of my home and I want people to feel that way.”
No review of Societi would be complete without mentioning The Snug which becomes the epicentre of Societi during the dark and stormy months of Autumn and Winter within the City Bowl with a slow burning open log fire set against the overly-masculine leather wing-back chairs snuck into the corner creating an intimate space in a public venue. Like the expression ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ the unwritten rule in this space is ‘we don’t talk about last night’. On the dark grey walls hang an eclectic collection of vintage erotica portraits from the late 20’s to 60’s but that’s what’s cool about Societi: it surprises with little twists with a bookcase filled with books on food, wine and travel. It adds tasteful touches to a familiar neighbourhood local.
Best sellers are definitely the wide range of pastas (don’t expect the drenched soupy kind you buy elsewhere!) and the slow roasted pork belly, Caesar salad with anchovy dressing, the mushroom risotto with spinach, the fillet Au Poivre with Madagascan green peppercorns and brandy, and the organic venison burger with hand-cut fries and indulgent homemade mayonnaise to dip and twist. Other innovative dishes such as the north African inspired Venison served on a bed of couscous with stoned fruit salad is one of the best examples of flavour profiling and the art of balanced season. Fiercely “love local” befokked, all of the pairings on Societi’s wine list provides an informed curated list from the best estates and cultivars in the Western Cape.
Offered by the bottle or glass, the prices are a steal when compared to other establishments in the area which makes it a popular after-work hangout or pre-dinner drinks venue throughout the week. Like the food menu, the selection is supplemented with a rotating stock of the owners’ favourite vintners which always offers something surprising and exciting for even the most regular of regulars.
Societi Bisto isn’t out to win a galaxy of Michelin Stars or be the “IT” place to be during Season which is the point. We like that about it. We like the fact that real celebrities, royalty and potentates frequent Societi rather than the wannabes and schlebs that crowd out Atlantic Seaboard establishments. To sum up, the experience would be to reference a lovely anecdote told by Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandy’s about the time he was on a lecture tour of America and was served a buffet lunch of cold chicken.
“May I have some breast?” he asked his hostess.
“Mr Churchill,” she replied, “In this country, we ask for white meat or dark meat.”
The following day Churchill sent her an orchid, with the message: “I would be obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.”
Thankfully, Peter has a fondness for Orchids.
Denim. It’s a serious business. If you don’t know your Japanese cotton from your river-washed selvage, you’re gonna get sorely hosed, loser. Thankfully the good people at Denham —a clothing line based in Amsterdam—have created the perfect primer for just how intense being a denim snob can really be. This hipster takes on “American Psycho” is pretty much perfection. The YouTube screen might as well have a watermark on it because, well, those beards, those coffee grinds, those skinny new vintage jeans, and the blood. Oh, the blood.
You may notice the video is largely cribbed from American Psycho, referring to two important scenes: the business card scene and the murder of Jared Leto. This is totally deliberate. Denim snobs are sort of like car snobs in that you can’t bring them ’round without first having to talk about how many horsepowers the latest Dodge Challenger has, except the denim snob is waxing poetic about insanely expensive pants. The short is actually a brilliant marketing ploy from an innovative clothing line based in the Netherlands.
Other clothing lines could learn a thing or two from Denham because every ad for jeans should include at least a little blood and infinite amounts of facial hair.
Denham jeans founder Jason Denham says: “For us (the video) perfectly reflected the compulsive otaku culture that tends to characterise the inner core of the denim scene. We were confident it would make a brilliant parody of fashion in general and the recent heritage trend in particular. Plus, it reminds us to keep having fun and not to take ourselves too seriously.” You can check out Denham’s site here if that floats your boat