Bubble Wrap: Sidewalk Cafe


Sidewalk Cafe

33 Derry Street, Vredehoek, Cape Town, 021 461 2839

‘Open to the world six and a half days a week for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner’

21 January 2011


My penultimate stop on Madame Zinagara’s trail of magic is The Sidewalk Cafe.  I was particularly excited when I heard The Sidewalk Cafe was coming under Madame Zingaras’s sparkling umbrella.  Vredehoek has always relied purely on the hugely popular Carlyle’s as a local.  Sidewalk Cafe has always been there, but, in its former life didn’t amount to much.  No atmosphere, nothing to wet your appetite or to cheer up your day, but now all these boxes have been ticked by Madame Zingara’s magic wand.  Vredehoek is very lucky to have this divine cafe in their hood.  On the rare days when the infamous wind isn’t howling down the Vredehoek pavements, they set up tables outside, beautifully strewn with white table cloths and tea candles.   You drive past and you can’t feel help but feel envious of these al fresco diners, so you book a table for the following night. 

The Sidewalk Cafe is tiny but they make use of all the space available.  Seriously you see one of the kitchen staff disappearing up a ladder through a hole in the roof.  Apparently that is where the freezer is!  Also for this reason you can guarantee the freshest of fresh produce being lovingly used to create their menu, as they don’t have space to store stock!  It is cluttered and should feel cramped but you don’t, more cosy and snug.  For this reason you must book; many a disappointed locals get turned away and leave let down.  However they must remember this is a first class eatery which appeals to more than just the locals.

As we walked in, we were warmly welcomed and shown to our table.  The staff here seem to be genuinely friendly without a touch of pretence; this is their home and you are their guests.  We appeared to have two wonderful beaming waiters; David and Natalie.  Natalie actually later turned out to be the part owner.  In line with the rest of the restaurant the kitchen is minute.  So out of curiosity I asked Natalie if we will have to wait for long for our food.  Her reply?  Three minutes.  I didn’t believe it until I saw it!  For the mains we were asked how long we wanted to rest after our starters?  Fifteen minutes we replied.  Fifteen minutes later our beautifully presented mains appeared.

The wine list is small but very appealing; I adored all the reds so chose the only one I hadn’t tried before Hartenberg’s Cabenet Shiraz which came highly recommended by our fabulous waiter.  I also noticed, at the bottom of the wine list, Jugs of Pimms (R65), as a Brit, my heart is now truly sold.

The menu is designed by the same person as The Cafe Mozart menu; and you can see similarities.  Unlike The Cafe Paradiso menu I was spoilt for choice; there was nothing on the menu I wouldn’t have devoured; which similarly made it very difficult to make a choice.  There is something to appeal to everyone’s tastes; seafood, salads, burgers, Aubergine Melanzane, pastas, risottos, curries, and hearty meat dishes.  I challenge you to find something that really does not appeal to you.  All the starters are fish dishes which can be upsized into a main.  So for starters we went for the Patagonian Calamari with Lemon, Chilli, Garlic & Rosemary (R45).   This was a wonderfully original version of Patagonian calamari which can so often be the same mundane taste wherever it is served.  The flavours beautifully combine in your mouth and you are left with a subtle kick of chilli.  

Asian Marinated Seared Tuna Asian Marinated Seared Tuna
 The other starter we chose off the Specials menu; Asian Marinated Seared Tuna, set on a bed of lemon, black sesame, coconut jasmine rice and stir fried vegetables sprinkled with chopped almonds (R60).  This we later learnt was concocted by the chef and his apprentice; a former local scullery boy.  And wow, has the chef discovered talent in his former sculler.  This was one of the most beautifully looking and tasting starters I have come across in a while.  When described; it sounds so filling you won’t want your mains, but that isn’t so.  All the textures and tastes bind together to make this sensory explosion .  The Tuna so soft with a crunch of almonds, the perfectly cooked rice with the popping of seeds....  mmm my mouth is watering as I reminisce.  To the mains!

The Rack Of Lamb on Lemon and Parsley Mash with veg topped with Jus and onion jam. The Rack Of Lamb on Lemon and Parsley Mash with veg topped with Jus and onion jam.

Myself and The Stunt Man both opted for The Slow Roasted Springbok Shank  (R115) but alas it was sold out.  I chose The Rack Of Lamb on Lemon and Parsley Mash with veg topped with Jus and onion jam (R120).  I am afraid to say this sounds a lot better than it was.  The ‘rack of lamb’ was a small steak and a cutlet.  It lacked seasoning and was bland.  The Stunt Man was not so disappointed, but more bowled over with love for his Beef Fillet, Parsley, Goats Cheese & Pesto on crushed new potatoes (R135).  Again such an inventive use of a simple dish; incorporating extraordinary flavours to tantalise your every tastebud. 

Beef Fillet, Parsley, Goats Cheese & Pesto on crushed new potatoes. Beef Fillet, Parsley, Goats Cheese & Pesto on crushed new potatoes.

There is a small dessert menu of homemade favourites; I would definitely recommend The ‘decadent’ Chocolate Brownie with homemade ice cream (R35) for chocolate lovers who still have space, and need to fulfil that sweet tooth.

The ‘decadent’ Chocolate Brownie with homemade ice cream The ‘decadent’ Chocolate Brownie with homemade ice cream

Even though small in size, The Sidewalk Cafe doesn’t project the same craziness of the other Madame Zingara eateries.  It is bustling and busy yet calm with a voluptuous atmosphere.  It is definitely my favourite, one I will return to over and over again for a dinner with the girls, Sunday breakfast with the papers or a romantic dinner with the boy; it fulfils every need.  The atmosphere, food and service all deserve "Gold Bubble Wrap" awards.

Bravo Madame Zingara and the Sidewalk family; a job very well done.

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