I have the highest admiration for Richard Griffin, who must be one of the most creative restaurateurs in Cape Town as far as restaurant ‘theatre’ goes. Café Mozart has been a Cape Town institution on Church Street, in the section that is a pedestrian mall between Long and Burg Streets, in the antique center of the city, and is one of the latest additions to the Griffin restaurant collection. It is a friendly inexpensive pitstop for locals working close by and for shoppers, given the shortage of parking in the area. Unfortunately, there is no Mozart at Café Mozart!
You cannot miss Griffin’s new improved Café Mozart when walking down the lane – it has a little wooden fence around the outside seating area, decorated with lots of plastic flowers, attracting one to the restaurant. In a corner there are a number of wacky ‘cakes’ decorated in a floral hat theme. Looking lost is a wire and beaded goat (I saw a similar one at The Sidewalk Café), which is the inspiration for a Facebook competition which Griffin is running across all his restaurants. Black table cloths are covered with thick red velvet cloths and lace overlays. Centre point is a wonderful tree giving shade to the restaurant area, making it perfectly cool for a hot Cape summer’s day. The restaurant interior is tiny, although there is an upstairs seating section. The open-plan kitchen is visible as one enters the restaurant, the new counter having changed position since Griffin took over the restaurant in September. In the window is a lovely display of cupcakes and other treats. Plates decorate the walls of the interior. Cutlery and paper serviettes are brought to the table in a mini-champagne bucket. Beggars coming to the table is off-putting, and spoil the magic.
I drink a lot of water, and loved the water which was poured from a jug with lemon slices, mint and nectarines, a refreshing summer drink. The wine list is short and sweet, with only 13 wines. A Mozart House wine is inexpensive at R22/R90 for the white and red wines, vintage, variety and origin unspecified. Jordan Chardonnay costs R165, De Grendel RosÃ© R22/R90, Simonsig Shiraz R105, and Warwick’s First Lady R135.
The menu is dedicated to Griffin’s parents Jean and Malcolm Griffin. It is an unassuming photocopied A4 page, cleverly folded to separate the food items from the beverages. The menu introduces the restaurant as follows: “Nestled in the heart of the Cape Town CBD, Café Mozart is a renowned landmark which has been charming both locals and visitors alike for just under 30 years. This beautiful historical building has been witness to the growth and evolution of the Mother City and has been home to many a business, including a locksmith in 1939, one of the first recorded enterprises on this site”.
Breakfast is served until a generous midday, and eleven options are offered, from the predictable muesli, fruit and yoghurt (R30); French Toast (R32); and omelette (R35); to such unusual items as “Cumberland bangers, eggs, baked beans and toast (R35); Eggs Royale with smoked salmon (R48); and The Full Mozart (R48). Gourmet sandwiches are served on a choice of ciabatta, wholeseed molasses, and German rye, with a side salad. They range from R35 for brie, to R45 for an interesting sounding Bobotie sandwich! Plain “Toasted Governments” are available in nine variations, reasonably priced from R26 – R31, which includes a salad. Salads can also be ordered from a “chef’s salad table” on weekdays, costing R40 per plateful. Fifteen lunch dishes are offered, quite a mixed bunch including further salads (R35 – R45), mussels (45), Bobotie (R65), a Mozart Royale burger (R45), sirloin (R85), and a delicious Chicken Schnitzel, three pieces served with linguine are excellent value at R65.
Peta Synn is the Manager, and has come a long way with Griffin, since 2006. She is very friendly, and eager to help. Griffin first attracted attention when he opened Madame Zingara in 2001, the first time a Cape Town restaurant had seen “foodtainment”, with belly dancers and jugglers wandering through the Loop Street restaurant. An overnight fire in 2006 closed down the restaurant, but became the inspiration for the new Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams, which Griffin set up underneath the highway outside the harbour, and put on the most amazing circus-type entertainment whilst serving hundreds of patrons in the middle of nowhere. It became the talk of the town, and of the country, to such an extent that a backer attracted him to open in London, unfortunately just as the recession started biting, and the backer withdrew, leaving Griffin and his team high and dry, forcing him to close both the London and the local operation two years ago. A Cape Town backer couple supported him to get him back onto his feet, to help him reappear on the restaurant scene with the opening of the Bombay Bicycle Club, at the top of Kloof Street. Then came The Sidewalk Café in Vredehoek, Café Mozart, and his most recent conquest is Café Paradiso on Kloof Street, which has just re-opened under his direction. Alongside this, he resurrected Madame Zingara earlier this year, this time located at Century City, and now touring the country.
Café Mozart is hard to get to if one is reliant on parking close by, but if one is in town, it is well worth making a stop, sitting under the CafÃ© Mozart tree to catch some Cape cool, whilst watching the hustle and bustle of the city pass by.
Café Mozart, 37 Church Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-3774. www.themozart.co.za. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 15h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage