‘So what does Closer stand for?’, I ask Michelle as she hands us the menu. We’re sitting at a cosy table and chairs in the new (ish) café and eatery where items like Fairtrade coffee, trendy raw chocolate (if you haven’t managed to sample any, you don’t know what you’re missing!) and smoothies made with soy milk top the menu.
And not a meat item in sight. The name has been chosen for its links to food – the closer to the source, to local, closer to the heart and stomach, closer to people… one could go on and read into it what one may, but the essence of the pretty café is that it is about serving up delicious, home-made, made now vegetarian food that nourishes and is sourced locally as much as possible …
I know of no other purely vegan restaurants in Cape Town. It’s a courageous move if you consider that they’re on the former premises of a health shop that has recently closed (or moved, I’m not sure). But if it works anywhere then it will work in Muizenberg, one of the hearts of what it is to be ‘arty’ in Cape Town, without the artifice of Noordhoek.
Even the cow’s milk is replaced with oat, soya and rice milk options and Michelle assures me, when I raise my eyebrows (whilst I love soya, not everyone does) that most of their clients agree that their soya milk in particular is creamy enough to pass for milk for those who are used to it. And after all, this is a vegan restaurant, so no dairy.
It might have only been open for six months or so, but the eatery already has its ‘locals’ and whilst we’re there Michelle diffidently greets a regular who seats himself in a corner.
Things are a little slower in the holidays, Michelle explains, but they’re doing well, especially in the normal Muizenberg pattern of things. And Palmer road is a good place to be – full of character and nestled in amongst other equally charming shops and restaurants.
I take a closer look around. The restaurant’s décor is simple but effective. There are elements of hot pink, bright turqoise and demure green with a beautifully patterned floor. On one wall are a series of shelves on which stand various elements like the coffee they serve up here (Bean There (local) organic and Fairtrade coffee), fruit, little tin coffee urns, books for leafing through and clay pots with lids. There is a fireplace at one end to keep patrons warm during winter months, totally unneccessary on a day like the one on which we visit.
The heart of the café is a coffee bar on which stands a couple of delectable looking cup cakes, muffins and a chocolate cake. There are various organic teas behind the bar arranged on a brightly painted red shelf. There’s a black board resting against the bar with today’s specials on it and a smiling waitress, who spends most of her time in the kitchen preparing what is to be a fantastic meal.
The menu is a wonderful mix of healthy and tasty meals – extracted juices from orange, apple, carrot, pineapple, ginger and grapefruit; shakes that include coffee malt shake, ban-ini shake and vanilla, smoothies that include one called yum (oat, carrot, apple, date, cinnamon & oat milk), and cocopassion, which as it suggests is coconut milk with pineapple, papaya and passion fruit.
The meals for the day on the black board are equally enticing – organic oats with toasted almonds, banana and rice syrup, or muesli if you’re there for breakfast, bagel with fig preserve or with hummus and cucumber (my son would be very happy – this is favourite combination), toasted bagel with tahini, tomato pesto, cucumber and olives or with grilled baby tomatoes and a series of open toasted ciabattas or rye with seriously delectable toppings.
My other half orders a vegan burger like no other. It combines falafel and aubergine and comes with a home-made tomato sauce (nothing like the kind you get out of a bottle, which alludes to tomatoes but is anything but) which tasted incredible!
So much so that we find ourselves attempting similar a few days later, to rather dismal results (note to contact Michelle and beg/borrow/steal recipe). I make my way through a wonderful seasonal raw salad with a ciabatta and hummus on the side, whilst sipping on a cuppuccino with soy milk, whilst we chat to Michelle about the restaurant and the food, when she isn’t busy making our meal.
We cannot resist a couple of raw chocolates for dessert. They’re made with raw cacao, which is a healthier version of the cocoa you buy in the shops, but it isn’t heated beyond 45 degrees fahrenheit and hence retains all the goodness that cacao promises with anti-oxidants that exceed anything you buy in a health shop that looks like a pill. No wonder vegans look so healthy!
I have it on good authority that Closer’s pancakes are worth queueing for. The café sometimes does a pancake day where they serve up fillings like spinach and creamy cashew nut cheese, or banana ice-cream, maple syrup and almond – you won’t be sorry.
I trawl through Closer’s Facebook page and find that they have an avid following. As one of their regulars says – ‘non-vegans won’t even notice the difference’. And that’s just it. Vegan it might be, but the food is soooo good that you’re not even aware that what you’re eating doesn’t have those things you might miss.
Whilst there, stroll along Palmer Road – it’s full of little nooks and crannies, and interesting shops.
More about Muizenberg
For more about this eclectic suburb visit Muizenberg Attractions, where you will find additional information on what to do in Muizenberg and where to stay. Muizenberg accommodation options include guest houses, bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation including holiday homes, apartment rentals and suites.
Address & Contact Details
Closer is at no 42 Palmer Road, open daily between 9am and 4pm, and you can contact them on +27 (0)74 144-0033.
And it’s cash only, so go prepared.