Last Sunday it was a friend’s birthday and he decided to do something a little out of the ordinary. A group of about 30 of us were invited to St James (on the False Bay Coast) to dine for lunch at the Octopus Garden and if you have ever driven past this tiny place from the outside it doesn’t look like much so you might just give it a miss. Hopefully I will be able to sway that opinion.
Why I say this lunch was a little bit different is because instead of driving to the venue, which is generally what happens in Cape Town, it was suggested that since so many of us live in the “burbs” (Southern Suburbs) and it being a Sunday and all traffic could be quite bad into this area. We all hopped on a train which transported us to the venue. Now I haven’t taken a train since high school and cannot even remember which side of the platform I need to stand on. Thank goodness we had some seasoned train travellers with us …
We caught the train from the Harfield Village station and picked up some more guests for the party at various stations along the track (Kenilworth, Wynberg and Muizenberg). For only R11 return this is a quick and easy way to travel (R19 if your starting point is Woodstock). The trains only run every hour on Sunday so it is important to be on time, otherwise you could be in for a long and sometimes cold wait on the platform.
We sat in the first class carriage or ‘Metro Plus’ as I think it is called these days and the carriage was clean, although there was a fair amount of graffiti on the walls and seats. There was quite a vibe in the train with travelers of every shape, size and walk of life. Our carriage became a hive of activity when two young musicians hopped on and serenaded some foreign visitors with their rendition of “Welcome to Cape Town”.
Train travel is a wonderful way to see the city from a different perspective and I was also surprised at how quickly we got to our destination. Arriving within about half an hour of hopping on board we arrived at a chilly St James. It was only a short walk to the Octopus’ Garden as it is situated right at the station.
Walking in to the restaurant is a feast for all senses; you will struggle to find just one place to look as the restaurant is an eclectic array of little trinkets and quotes on the walls and interesting areas to look at. It is a small restaurant and our large group took up the entire inside section. There is seating outside, but I was happy not to be outside as the wind had a sharp bite to it.
The service is relaxed yet attentive and even though we were a large group I didn’t feel that you needed to seek out the waitron which so often happens in a bigger group. I didn’t have a starter but when I saw the Pan-fried camembert with fig preserve (R42) I regretted not ordering. It looked and smelt and from all accounts tasted delicious.
Although they have quite a variety on the menu there were three firm favourites. The Deluxe Octo-Burger (R65) with mushroom sauce, cheese and a pepperdew infused beef patty, the Kung-Fu Wrap (R65) a chicken wrap with salad and a peanut sauce and my choice the Cannelloni di-Mamma which was described as being stuffed with spinach and ricotta (R60).
My food arrived and it was huge! I was not able to finish it all, although it was described as cannelloni I must say that it was not tubes of pasta as I understand cannelloni to be, but it was layers of pasta, so more like a lasagne. However, it was absolutely moreish and if only my stomach wasn’t so small I could have happily made my way through the entire portion.
We spent a relaxed afternoon, swopping seats and sharing conversation. It was a slight rush at 15h00 when we all tried to sort out the bill in time to catch the train home at about 15h20. I am happy to say that Metrorail is on time and we took the easy ride home.
What a wonderful day, I will definitely be making a few more journeys this way!
St James Links:
Contact & Address:
Octopus’ Garden, Address: The Old Post Office Building, Main Road, St James
Telephone: +27 (0)21 788-5646