Richard Griffin has made a name for himself as one hell of a restaurateur. The man behind the magic of the legendary Madame Zingara restaurant – not to mention the new grand dame of dinner theatre, the Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams – is up to more culinary tricks on the Cape Town restaurant scene. His latest gifts to our city’s gastronomic spread take shape in the form of The Bombay Bicycle Club and the reinvented Sidewalk Cafe.
One has to marvel at the man’s Midas touch. The Bombay Bicycle Club took up residence at the very top of Kloof Street in a building that has yet to play host to an even mildly successful restaurant in recent years (perhaps thanks to old favourite Bacini’s pizzeria being right across the street). However, Griffin managed to quickly change any lingering negative energy about the place, if the regular throngs of diners pouring through his doors are anything to go by.
The bohemian touch we’ve come to expect from what’s referred to by Capetonians in the know as ‘the Madame Zingara crew’ is very much in evidence here, from the vintage bicycle perched jauntily above its entrance to the flickering candlelight, colourful staff and tightly packed tables within. The decor demands attention – a bed frame hangs from the ceiling, a life-sized tiger light-fitting stalks the upstairs level and every available inch of space on the walls and shelves is covered with old books, picture frames and other second-hand-store paraphernalia, giving the sense of dining at the home of an eccentric collector, or in granny’s attic.
It goes without saying that the food at this gypsy-style den of merriment is sublime. It’s also quite encompassing and difficult to categorise, with a selection of grills, pasta and fusion food, as well as some local dishes thrown in for good measure. It’s glamorous and gourmet yet more than generous in portion (and an exercise in gluttony when it comes to ordering dessert). Picking items off the menu to recommend seems like cheating the reader out of the singular pleasure of perusing it oneself, but be advised that the famous MZ chocolate chilli steak is still available on selected nights. A decent wine list and cocktail menu of classics (think Lynchberg Lemonade and one of the only drinkable mojitos in Cape Town) complete the experience.
No lower on your foodie to-do list should be the Sidewalk Cafe on Derry Street, Vredehoek. Operating in this residential ’hood, the vibe here is more homely than hedonistic, but no less of a winning formula. Again with the inspired hodge-podge decor, though the overall feel here could best be described as ‘inviting country kitchen’, with a collection of aprons on hooks, old-fashioned kitchen implements hanging above the counter, and baskets of breads and teatime goodies for sale. Great city views score the Sidewalk some extra points with visitors (as if it needed any help…), while numerous plug points and free wireless during the day make it a good spot for doing laid-back business too.
The paper menu of casual comfort food is still slicker than your average – a chicken burger (served on Turkish flatbread) and good old crispy fish and chips jostle alongside mussels in white wine sauce and slow-roasted springbok shank – and you’re more than forgiving of the tiny winelist when your meal arrives. A popular neighbourhood breakfast spot, it’s got all the classics, while the options for a lunchtime sandwich put your usual toasted chicken mayo to shame. All in all, another feather for Griffin’s cap.
Despite the success of both the Bombay and Sidewalk, Griffin isn’t resting on his laurels. Though it fell victim to liquidation as a result of the global credit crises while touring London in 2009, the Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams is back on our shores – bigger and better than ever, according to Griffin. Be sure to join this ‘dinnercirque spectacular’ for her 2010 Love Magic Tour, which kicks off in May at Century City, Cape Town, before touring to Johannesburg and Durban.
Addresses & Contact Details:
The Bombay Bicycle Club:
158 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town.
Telephone: +27 (0)21 423-6805
The Sidewalk Cafe:
23 Derry Street Vredehoek Cape Town.
Telephone: +27 (0)21 461-2839
Please call +27 (0)21 001-3366 to reach the Box Office team and they will assist with any queries and will put you in contact with the correct member of staff.