If you’re a foody and visiting Cape Town for the first time, you’re probably going to want to try Cape Malay food. There’s no finer location to try it than the Kombuis. Go for an early dinner so you’re there for sunset and take your camera with you. The view over to Table Mountain is magnificent. I wish I could say the same for the food.
We’d been really keen to eat here. The previous day, we’d been on a Cape Malay cooking tour of the Bo Kaap. The main focus of the tour was to visit someone’s home, prepare lunch with her and, of course, get to eat the fruits of our labours.
We’re familiar with “Indian” food, particularly that from the northern part of the sub-continent. So, we were interested to see how it would compare. Well, truth be told, not particularly well. The food at the Kombuis, as to a degree the food on the cooking tour was bland, mono-dimensional and uninteresting by comparision. And, by bland, I don’t just mean a lack of chilli heat (although there was a lack of chilli heat) - I mean bland by an underuse of spices generally. We’d hoped for zingy food and were disappointed.
We started with the “savoury platter” – the only one of the menu starters that seemed to have any Asian or African influence. It comprised deep fried samoosas, spring rolls, dalchies and an indeterminate bhaji. To be fair, they were OK. Nothing offensive. But nothing to get the taste buds tingling. It was good there was a sweetish chilli chutney alongside to brighten things up.
One main course was a lamb and butter bean curry. A good balance between the beans and the meat which, reassuringly, was served on the bone. And the gravy had a good texture. But, like the starters, it was uninteresting. The rooti served as the carb was good – and better than the homemade we’d eaten on the tour. The other main was, perhaps, the best known Cape Malay dish – bobotie. A lightly spiced minced meat affair, set by an egg custard into quite a solid piece. It came with rice and, oddly, some very western vegetables – carrot & cauliflower. At least I can say now that I’ve eaten the classic dish in its home environment but it was another unexciting plate of food – the sort of lack of excitement I’d feel if I’d eaten shepherd’s pie.
So, to conclude, not a particularly successful foray into Cape cuisine and not something I’d be in a rush to try again.