The House of Machines opened on Monday in a pedestrian lane on Shortmarket Street, and promises to be a good coffee spot as a start, as its co-owner Brad Armitage was a co-owner of Vida e Caffè when it first opened. We found a motorcycle shop discreetly positioned at the back of the outlet, and experienced a vibrant coffee shop, bar, and light snack restaurant with very friendly and attentive service.
The building dates back to the 1890s and has housed a bar, a restaurant, a workshop for furniture designer Gregor Jenkin, and most recently a yacht design company. All three the co-owners designed the interior. It is dominated by a massive black bar/serving counter, with wooden table counters attached to the wall at which one sits on signal red (not Vida red, as I joked with Brad!) stools. Each table can seat up to four comfortably, and has a glass jar with Bakers & Chef cutlery, and Natural salt and pepper grinders. Beautiful ceiling beams and weathered cement floors have been left as is. The seating wall is covered with a collection of photographs of the three co-owners with their bikes, on their visit to the USA, which they undertook to obtain ideas and inspiration for their new venture. Paul van der Spuy is one of the owners, who loves coffee shops, is a men’s fashion designer who owns Blue Collar White Collar, is the unofficial ‘Mayor of Cape Town‘ according to Brad, and is often seen in the local social pages. Brad co-owns &Union, and is strong in marketing, which his involvement in Vida e Caffè has shown. Drew Madocsi is the technical expert on motorcycles, an Australian bike enthusiast who already owns La Macchina Speed Shop in Florida, bringing bespoke motorcycle designing to Cape Town. All three co-owners are bike lovers. In the background, in a separate glass-encased room, is the motorcycle workshop, which is the ‘heart of the business’ Brad said, with a range of local and imported apparel by Thom in front of it. Brad told me that one refers to one’s motorbike as a ‘machine‘, hence the name of the outlet, or as one’s ‘baby‘, ‘girlfriend‘, or ‘daughter’! They have connected with a Florida-based bike builder, and he will be spending six months with them to build motorcycles in the shop.
A massive chalkboard brands ‘Evil Twin Coffee Pedlars‘, the name of the excellent coffee brand which Brad discovered in Brooklyn, New York, for which the beans come from a single coffee estate in Honduras and are roasted in Spain, making them European Union organic certified. I couldn’t help but get a feel of the interior being a mix of elements of Truth on Buitenkant, Deluxe (the outlet off Buitenkant Street, for its bike connection, even though they do not display the parts on the wall, as well as the brown coffee cups), and Superette (the white tiles on the wall behind the bar counter, although they do not write the menu on them). As the food preparation space is minimal, most of the food is brought in from suppliers who are ‘mates’:
* Honest Chocolate for hot chocolate
* Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants for a snack meat bowl of droë wors and biltong
* Jason’s for rye bread and pastries
* Earthshine, whose Natalie Reed won the Eat Out Innovation Award for her Kale Chips earlier this year, and who has written ‘Easy Living Food‘, being an advocate of raw food. They supply raw pizzas, yummy cookies for the coffee, and vegan granola.
* Gusto for the soup of the day and sandwiches
The menu is small: health granola with yoghurt, bananas and honey (R60), a delicious avocado on rye toast, seasoned with lemon and coriander (R45), toast and preserves (R25), sandwiches (R45 vegetarian and R50 meat filled), a slice of raw pizza with an unbaked buckwheat and linseed pizza base, with options of The Greek mascarpone, red onion, and pesto; pineapple, mascarpone and an African spice; The Mexican with tomatoes, guacamole, and jalapenos (right); and Sweet & Sour Butternut (R35). Bacon strips cost R50, soup R30, the meat snack bowl R40, and paninis R45. Fruit juices are made fresh, with apples, carrots, and beetroot, with a touch of ginger.
The liquor licence has been applied for, and once obtained, the Prohibition Bar will open on Thursday and Friday evenings. Private functions can be catered for in the evenings. Brewers & Union will supply The House lager, Jorgensen’s Distillery the gin, and they have a number of bourbons, vodkas, and craft beers coming to link to their American theme.
Brad was generous with his time in providing information about The House of Machines, and also took our orders, with Manager Johnny Cavanagh assisting too, and showing me the book by Natalie Reed. The music was quite loud at times, and Brad asked for it to be turned down, so that we could hear each other. When I asked for the bill, Johnny said that I had the choice of paying or receiving the meal on a complimentary basis. I insisted on paying. He then returned to our table, saying that they are still waiting for their credit card machine, inviting me to accept their offer. Parking on Bree Street around the corner can be difficult to find, the only downside of supporting Cape Town’s newest eatery with very friendly service and healthy food, and excellent perfectly made coffee!
The House of Machines, 84 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 426-1400. www.thehouseofmachines.com Tuesday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00, Saturdays 9h00 – 14h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage