Owner Theresa Beukes moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg, where she owned Fino’s in Parktown North, and Sam’s Cafe in Melville, and ran a cookery school (see more about Theresa’s philosopohy about running a restaurant http://www.btimes.co.za/97/0525/btmoney/money5.htm), and loves it here. “Cape Town has been good to me”, she says. She says they are fully booked most nights, and turn tables over twice most nights.
Wisbeach Road is not easy to find – from Beach Road one drives up alongside the Winchester Mansions Hotel, and turns first left. The restaurant is just before the stop street, at Main Road. The exterior already attracts interest – a British terrace house look, with striped canopy. One steps inside a large bar area, with a massive stuffed cow’s head keeping an eye on things in the bar, giving a strong masculine first impression. From the bar area one moves into the tiny but buzzing restaurant, with just 14 tables, seating just over 40 patrons at a time. The tables are very close together. The interior decor has an old-world British feel to it, and feels feminine, and one thinks of The Grand Cafe’s in Camps Bay and in Plettenberg Bay, although there are no velvet curtains. One’s first reaction is that one has stepped into an oasis, from grubby Sea Point outside.
The food preparation area is inside the restaurant, and is at a raised level, allowing Theresa and her kitchen colleagues cooking in the “galley kitchen”, as she calls it, to have a good eye over the restaurant, without the patrons seeing what is going on behind the counter. Theresa’s sense of humour is soon evident, as every table has a porcelain dog on it, rather than flowers, as one could expect. A real well-behaved dog can be seen in the restaurant too.
The waitresses are beautifully dressed in bustier-style cocktail dresses which could be made from silk, most wearing it in black, but a cream-coloured dress looks equally attractive. The menu and winelist are printed on cream coloured paper, a no-nonsense listing. The wines look well-priced. A glass of Colmant Cap Classique costs R 35, the bottle of Iona Gunnar is the most expensive at R 190, while the De Grendel Merlot and Shiraz cost R 139 each. The starters cost R 45 – R 55, and include ‘Queen Mother’s Prawn Cocktail’, a traditional shrimp and avocado cocktail, with the avocado skin removed, and the prawns being warm. It would have been nicer with cold prawns. The presentation is unexciting, served on a bed of shredded lettuce. Other starters include steak tartare, fish cakes, and fish fingers. Mains cost R 70 – R 85, and include chicken curry, prawns, fillet steak, chicken bangers, lamb knuckle, fish and chips and the line fish. Desserts cost between R 35 – R 45, and the choice includes ice cream, pannacotta and chocolate mousse.
Our waitress is charming, and is honest in telling us that it is her first night at the restaurant. One would not have thought so. Food is brought to the table quickly, and the starter and main course are served within an hour of arriving. The fillet is not special, the verdict being that the quality of the meat is not what it could be. The kingklip is excellent, with a unique lemon, orange and ginger sauce. Theresa does not use cream or butter in her cooking, so the sauce is thin and runny, but yummy! The chocolate mousse is served in a coffee cup, with a dollop of cream on top, tasting a little sour. The portion sizes are small, and this explains the good prices of the dishes on the menu.
Theresa chats with us, in between a quick smoke break, and tells us that a lot about her restaurant is tongue in cheek, especially the name, which may create an expectation of grandeur, but in reality is unpretentious and good value, she says. The food presentation certainly reflects this, with no attempt made to decorate the plates. The business card has “bord kos” written under the name of the restaurant, and that is exactly what one gets at the Duchess of Wisbeach!
The total cost of one starter, two main courses, one glass of bubbly and one dessert was R290.
Duchess of Wisbeach is in The Courtyard Building, 1 Wisbeach Road, Sea Point, tel 021 434 1525.
Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com