A must-have guide for the gainfully unemployed, the late-riser and the hungover
By Lucienne Bestall
I’m employed on a we’ll-call-you-when-we-need-you basis, so I generally have ample time to while away the morning in my local cafe. And, after much practice, I have become something of a brunch guru. Here’s my advice for the uninitiated: take a book, do the crossword, meet up with friends, play a game of cards. Take your time. Order another coffee. Do some people watching. Productivity can wait. Breathe.
Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But there’s nothing like stodgy eggs and tepid tea to disrupt your inner peace. Which is why I’ve compiled this list (it’s a pleasure), to help you on your journey towards ultimate brunch bliss.
From wasabi bagels to polenta fritters, chicken mayo and eggies galore, this post has your Saturday sorted. For brunch lovers and haters alike, it offers a look at Cape Town’s ever-trendy café culture at its most capricious. And delicious.
For your reading pleasure I have featured the holy trinity of Cape Town's favourite cafes (Clarke’s, The Power and the Glory, and Yourstruly), and I've thrown in a couple of lesser-known spots too, because sometime you've just got to get away from the crowd.
THE RATING SYSTEM: The secret to good brunching is to identify what mood you are in and to pick your brunch spot accordingly. Are you a little peckish or absolutely famished? Do you want to be seen, or are you still drunk from last night? Are you feeling fancy or do you just want a no-nonsense, straight-up plate of grub? Well, worry not! Here is my easy-to-use rating list to help you on your way:
The Mimosa Scale – think nouvelle cuisine, a plush setting, exotic ingredients, food served in unexpected shapes, and bubbly.
The Red Ambulance Scale – think hangover-friendly comfort food, large portions, and general greasiness.
The Bloody Mary Scale – think Cape Town cool kids, facial hair, coffee snobbery, the ubiquity of faux fur, and fixed-gear bicycles chained up outside.
SPOILER: I'm a recovering vegetarian (don't ask) so these brunches are largely lacking in sausages, bacon, black pudding and other meaty delights. Sorry.
Clarke’s food is amazingly greasy. You’d probably have to get into a bath after eating one of their burgers. I’m not quite sure how they manage to coat everything so entirely, but, that said, the food is pretty great. My favourite brekkie is the hash eggs (that’s two poached eggs topped with lemony micro greens and hollandaise sitting on a generous serving of whatever hash is). If you'd rather not commit to a full-blown brunch, opt for the avo and labneh on toast. Their labneh is made in-house and is absolutely delicious.
Their coffee is good, and they have many breakfast-friendly cocktails, homemade cordials and juices. Plus, they serve breakfast all day. Which is why I love them. Not everyone understands.
Clarke’s is very, very trendy. Even the staff are unbelievably cool (for the most part they’re fashion designers, musicians, artist, and nonspecific creatives). Luckily they sell rollie starter kits to help you blend in, but you should probably bring your Boston terrier and best pirate-inspired tattoos for extra cred.
MIMOSA SCALE: 7/10 They have fancy cocktails and fancy hollandaise. Plus, I have no idea what goes into their hash *mysterious*
RED AMBULANCE SCALE: 9/10 If that amount of grease doesn’t help you I don’t know what will.
BLOODY MARY SCALE: 8/10 Get there early, all the young and trendy descend around midday.
HOT TIP: Try their Bloody Mary. It's served in a jar (obviously).
THE POWER AND THE GLORY
Unfortunately the P&G only serves breakfast until midday, but the bar opens at twelve (hurray!). I generally arrive at the last minute, just in time to squeeze in the last brekkie order. That’s one single-shot flat white and the avo breakfast, which includes grilled tomatoes with balsamic glaze, half an avo filled with cream cheese and pesto, lemony rocket, and rashers of bacon. I never order anything else. It’s the avo brekkie every time. Despite what you’ve heard, I don’t have commitment issues. The hungrier among you might want to add some toast, as this order is carb-free. And, as a side note, it's acceptable to have a hotdog for brunch, as long as you do it on the sly.
The P&G is a pretty trendy spot, but there’s a nice mix of freelancers, regulars and young parents with kids during the day. It feels quite low-key until the sun goes down and the yuppies descend. For the full P&G experience pair brunch with a task – play backgammon, read a book, type up your autobiography (better yet, write it out longhand in a Moleskine journal).
MIMOSA SCALE: 5/10 P&G’s menu balances simple meals with more elaborate options – from the avo on toast to the deluxe olive tapenade sandwich.
RED AMBULANCE SCALE: 7/10 If a coffee and protein-packed brunch isn’t enough, pop up to the bar and sample one of their delicious craft beers. Keep drinking, that’s the ticket.
BLOODY MARY SCALE: 7/10 The trendy regulars are perfectly friendly and largely too preoccupied with their new blog/Indesign project/independent zine/nonspecific creative project to notice you.
HOT TIP: Swap your bacon for scrambled eggs! It'll make your avo brekkie far more substantial (they are very generous with their eggs). You can also add (rather than swap) scrambled eggs if you are emotionally dependent on that bacon.
Now this is a good spot. You probably won't bump into anyone you know, the service is fantastic, the food is no-nonsense, and there's a dog. Plus, the portions are huge. Even the regular cappuccino is the size of a small bath.
I often go here with my friend Bert. He orders the exact same thing every time (that's the chicken mayo sandwich on brown bread with fried baby potatoes on the side). He swears by it, so you should probably try it.
MIMOSA SCALE: 2/10 This is good wholesome food without frills or useless green sprinkles.
RED AMBULANCE SCALE: 10/10 Puka might as well be in a parallel universe – it’s in ever-trendy Tamboerskloof, a stone’s throw away from P&G, but you will never ever bump into your ex here. If you do, which you won’t, let me know and I’ll upgrade your cappuccino to a large.
BLOODY MARY SCALE: 0/10 Ha!
HOT TIP: Arrive hungry.
Far away in deep Sea Point is a great little spot for a late breakfast. Kleinsky’s serves excellent nosh and delicious coffee, and is the newest addition to my list of favourite brunch cafes. If you're feeling adventurous opt for the Californian bagel with wasabi cream cheese, smoked salmon, avo and pickled ginger. But please note that this order is almost definitely too complex for the hungover. If you're sticking to a more traditional breakfast have the latke with hollandaise, smoked salmon and poached eggs – a classic eggs Benedict with a potato twist.
Grab a window seat to do some premium people watching while you eat. Chances are you won’t bump into anyone you know, unless you know people from Sea Point. In which case you’re snookered. Too bad!
MIMOSA SCALE: 8/10 Hollandaise!
RED AMBULANCE SCALE: 6/10 Eggs, bagels, coffee, check.
BLOODY MARY SCALE: 4/10 Who leaves the city bowl?
HOT TIP: Don’t be a schmuck.
Eggs are out (alas). But you can grab a fab sandwich, pastry or salad instead. Plus they have the best brownies in town. My go-to choice is the health sandwich, a lush combination of beef tomatoes, red onions, frilly lettuce, hummus, avocado and cream cheese served on 100% rye bread. I’m convinced that Yourstruly has the strongest coffee in the neighborhood, so it’s probably best to swap your second cup for a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Did I mention the bar is open from eleven?
The crowd that frequents Yourstruly is incurably cool. Every self-proclaimed DJ, events manager, fashion blogger, sponsored skater and foreign model within the province can be found squeezed between Ocean Basket and STA Travel.
MIMOSA SCALE: 3/10 Look, they don’t even have plates.
RED AMBULANCE SCALE: 5/10 Pair your sandwich with a beer for a quick fix.
BLOODY MARY SCALE: 10/10 Unless you woke up feeling fabulous you might want to give this place a skip.
HOT TIP: You will see everyone you know. Literally. Wear a wig.