We don’t get out much. No seriously, doing lunch is tantamount to a social occasion we manage it so seldom. When one works from home, lunch hour is something you snatch on the run whilst picking up the wee one and sprinting into the local bakery double time for fresh bread!
But yesterday we managed to have what definitely qualifies as a civilised lunch time interlude at Parks Café, Wynberg. The address is a little misleading, as Parks Café actually rests on Constantia Main Road, more-or-less across the road from Norman Henshilwood High School, in a simply beautiful restored Victorian villa (you probably drive past here on numerous occasions, but next time, swing inside – you’ll not be disappointed) …
I was interested to read fellow blogger Fred Roed’s write up on the Parks Café’s coffee. Whilst I am far from a coffee aficionado (I sadly drink mine decaffeinated, do not gasp!) Fred is perpetually on the hunt for the Great South African Cup of Coffee. Fred was more than impressed with Park Café’s cappuccinos. He waxed lyrical about well-balanced foam and rich aroma. He also mentions the hemp biscotti treat that comes as an extra and likewise accompanied my herbal tea, so I can attest to agreeing with his take on its numminess (although Fred would never stoop to using such inanities to describe a biscuit).
Coffee aside, the building itself deserves more mention. It was built at the turn of the century by a doctor, who used to consult from home in what is now described as the ‘cloakroom’ and which I’ve taken to mean the loo. Head off there to wash your hands and you’ll see a particularly beautiful floor. In 1906 the property, which must have been a bit bigger than it is today, was sold to the Retief brothers who ran a forage and grain store to feed passing trade, much the same as today except that then it was horses on the way to Constantia valley from Cape Town, not southern suburbs’ clientèle in need of a coffee fix.
The house then passed on to blacksmith Paulse in 1938 who, as his title suggests, shod horses and fixed carts until the smoke he produced from his forge was deemed ‘undesirable’ and closed in 1948 (it appears we worried more then about carbon emissions than now).
The house finally ended up as part of Zonnestraal Farm, set a little higher up the hill behind the house, and not only is the restaurant run from here but Hemporium shares the space and sells a selection of accessories, clothes, paper and cosmetics all made from hemp. Interestingly all the seats in Parks Café are covered in hemp fabric (should you be interested in this fabric as an environmentally alternative to cotton).
We had excellent meals, but before I launch into a description of our food, let me just interject and tell you that you can design your own breakfast here, which they serve until 11.45am. And you can enjoy all of the items on the breakfast menu accompanied with hemp nut toast. Otherwise settle for one of their omelettes or croissants served in various ways, all of them mouth wateringly tempting.
But we were too late for breakfast. And besides, once I’d read the lunch menu, I was all in favour of trying their roasted butternut and baby leaf salad with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, goats cheese and soya sauce roasted nuts! It was as good as it sounds.
It isn’t often that one eats a salad where you don’t have to squint to find at least two of the ingredients. And in this case, there were generous helpings of goats cheese, butternut and roasted nuts, and the salad leaves were really fresh baby leaf, which I love. And what an amazing combination for a salad, which the owner, Michelle, apparently designed herself, for herself. Enough said.
My partner opted for the vegetarian health burger (made with pulses, seeds, hempnuts, butternut and onion) with red pepper pesto, lettuce and tomato. This all arrived accompanied by chunky potato wedges. I settled for just one taste as my partner, upon tasting his first mouthful, was very quick to point out the measure of his appetite and the deliciousness of the burger.
Choose from homemade vegetable soup with homemade hemp bread, potato with avocado dip, vegetarian pasta pockets, beef burger (in much the same vein as the vege burger but with a walnut pesto), chicken burger with brie etc. and any number of filled ciabattas. There are also other salad options that include a smoked or char-grilled chicken salad, and a smoked salmon salad with avocado (when in season).
There is a lot to please and little to displease at Parks Café, especially as the weather has improved and sitting in the inner courtyard is an option. For those after coffee or tea, don’t leave without sampling the baked cheesecake or carrot cake, or if you just want a little something to nibble, then the chocolate chip and hemp nut cookie is a less robust option.
You can use the venue for a meeting, but book the meeting room ahead of time.
Address and Contact Details:
Parks Café, 114 Main Road, Constantia, Cape Town
Telephone: +27 (0)21 797-8202.