“No shoe, no Kwak,” it says in Den Anker’s beer guide. And in case you think it’s a joke, it’s not. Kwak is a dark beer served in a special glass, and because these glasses with their bowl-shaped bottoms and wooden stands are so difficult to replace, your server will take your left shoe to keep in a hanging basket as a deposit until the glass is returned. A custom that has been brought from 19th century Belgium all the way to modern day Cape Town, this unique and humorous practice makes perfect sense at a place like Den Anker.
This is because Den Anker reflects a charming union of Belgian beer standards and Cape Town’s fine dining sensibilities. As one of the V&A Waterfront’s landmark restaurants, it has the fortune of being situated an airy, windowed building directly overlooking the quayside. The revamped boathouse vibe, with its wooden rafters and tall ceiling, poses a gentle contrast to the elegant décor inside. Beer drinkers can relax at the bar, which is topped by an overturned boat with built-in shelves to hold liquor bottles, while diners pore over their menus at meticulously set tables with posh chairs. Best of all, everyone can enjoy their drink or meal outside, right by the water where yachts drift along and – on occasion – seals bask in the sun.
A word about the beer: Belgians are to beer as the French are to wine. Along with Kwak (R 39), you’ll find at Den Anker a multitude of artisanal and trappist beers that are the golden standard of brews worldwide. They take their beer so seriously, in fact, that each beer comes in its own special glass and individualized coaster. The tasting (R 45 for a sampling of 4 draught beers) offers a set of brews lined up with a tasting guide so you can experience everything from the hoppiest to the fruitiest. Generally being more of a wine drinker, I was thrilled to encounter a beer that really appealed to me: the Vedett Extra Blond (R 34), which was light and fizzy while creamy in taste, almost like champagne.
My husband and I had the Vedett Blond alongside a plate of the Sesame Tuna (R 70), and this is where we began to find that the gastronomic delivery at Den Anker actually matches the quality of the beer. The tuna was fresh beyond fresh, soft and rich but not at all fatty, and paired with a tempered – not kicking – wasabi mayo. I don’t know how many times I’ve encountered the same dish elsewhere attempting to mask the fishiness of old tuna by over-searing. No such gimmick at Den Anker. In the same spirit, the Croquettes Crevettes Grises ( R 75) presented velvety mouthfuls studded with generous bits of North Sea shrimp and offset by crispy deep fried parsley, while the mussels (R 60 for the starter portion) avoided buttery heaviness altogether with their preparation in beer.
The Steak au Poivre “Den Anker” (R 149) was a properly matured round of meat which, to highlight its natural tenderness, was pan-fried to textbook medium rare then flambéed in a rich cream sauce. The steak’s white peppercorn crust also lent a zesty crunch and aftertaste to each bite. For dessert, we were not about to leave without trying the smooth Chocolate Mousse (R 55) made with Belgian chocolate, and also relished the visual excitement of the Crèpes Flambées “Den Anker” ( R55) before downing them in all their orange-flavoured glory. Between all that beer and the sumptuous food, it’s a wonder we remembered to recover my husband’s left shoe before we departed.
by Esther Lim
Location: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Hours: 11am – 10:30pm kitchen, 11am – 12pm bar
Contact: 021 419 0249 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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