In the buzzing city on a weekend night it can be difficult to find a good restaurant that doesn’t appear to double as a nightclub. Blaring music and groups of overly indulgent party people can ruin a good tête-à-tête with friends. The Sidewalk Café, however, is a refreshing member of the restaurant scene that manages to be both lively and intimate.
Situated on the corner of trendy restaurant-lined Derry Street in Vredehoek, the beautiful mountainous backdrop is amazing in the daytime, but even at night you can feel its looming presence.
The small restaurant was full last Saturday night, yet no conversation suffered as a result. There was still a substantial Saturday night buzz to be felt from groups of friends enjoying snacks and drinks and couples sharing a meal on a date.
The café is another Madame Zingara reinvention that over the past 13 years has managed to build up a firm reputation as a favorite for locals and travellers alike. Similar to other Madame Zingara creations, the Sidewalk Café has a distinct personality, as defined by its detail-oriented décor.
Though more subdued than other Zingara hangouts, it still has every inch of the personal attention needed to create such an eclectic look. Kitchen utensils – painted white – hang from a mobile in the corner of the room while bunches of garlic and herbs are suspended from the ceiling near the bar, giving the restaurant a rustic, farmhouse feel. Red wooden hearts and cast iron frying pans cheerfully line the walls of the two-roomed restaurant. Distressed wooden bookshelves are filled with mismatched vases, small mirrors and potted plants giving off a homey vibe of happy clutter.
The simple paper menu is small but diverse, offering mains such Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Leek, Pea and Mint Risotto – something to satisfy every taste bud. Service was friendly and efficient and I was soon enjoying the Asian Beef Salad – a delicious mix of juicy beef, carrots, avocado and sprouts in a delectable sesame and soy dressing. The salad was perfect, managing to be both light and filling at the same time. My fellow diners thoroughly enjoyed their Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Burger; Fish and Chips and Patagonian Calamari. The burger and fish and chips were both served with delicious, thick and crispy potato wedges whereas the calamari was served, surprisingly, with creamy mashed potatoes that complemented the spiced calamari beautifully.
Although a lovely spot for dinner, the Sidewalk Café is busy from the early morning, as evidenced by a menu which offers a wide selection of breakfasts from wheat-free muesli with yogurt and nuts to a steaming stack of French toast coupled with berry coulis, as well as a variety of gourmet sandwiches. Whatever the time of day it is the perfect place to sit down with a light meal and a coffee and enjoy the views and the ambience and the great food.
But it’s best to book beforehand: not only does it get busy, but as we discovered, the “tempting delights” of the “ever-changing dessert board” as boasted on the menu had all been eaten, and all that was available for us was a banana loaf and brownies. We tempered our disappointment with some great cappuccinos and Belgian hot chocolates.
With delicious meals in our bellies and an all-around feeling of warmth, we found it hard to wrench ourselves from the cosy comfort of the café for the cold Cape Town winter waiting for us outside. But I’m already looking forward to discovering what a great place the Sidewalk Café can be in summer too… was that a jug of Pimms I noticed on the menu?
The Sidewalk Café is open Monday to Saturday 8am to 10.30pm and Sundays 9am to 2pm. It is licensed and also offers corkage at R 35 per bottle. Children welcome. Average main course: R 75