That time at Open Door

Every time the #2015Bride (who’s name is Karen but she changed it to Karin because she lives in the UK permanently and finds most people there called her Caryn, which she hated so by changing the spelling everyone in South African now calls her Caryn and its all quite confusing) and Andy, her now husband (as the nuptials where in January) visit, I like to book a table for four at restaurant in Cape Town. One that impresses without being over the top. One that has a vibe, a good wine list, and great food. Mostly because the rest of our friends live in Somerset West, and that means any other evening meal the Semi-British couple have, is most likely is at the Millhouse. Which isn’t a bad option. Its just the only option. Every time. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Somerset West really should open another restaurant.

A whirlwind visit, longer than some of the previous spontaneous visits of a weekend (where the sms has come as I’ve left work on a Friday night announcing that they’re sitting on a plane about to take off and destined for Cape Town – he works for British Airways. Its not a kak perk to have), this time I booked a table at Open Door, because having a decent restaurant close to home which means no R150 taxi fee is fairly awesome, and also – I was impressed that other time.

Because as it goes, time with friends you only see once every six months, who lead lives distant from your own, and who have accomplished a lot since their wedding in January, including falling pregnant and buying a house (in Windsor) and moving into it (the day before they flew out to SA) – there was a lot to catch up on and no time to take out my phone and start photographing plates of food or bottles of wine. Ah, how a meal out SHOULD be enjoyed.

But because its a place worthy of a few typed lines, possibly more (current word count: 338 – shit, that goes quickly! Also, have never noticed that WP functionality. And now I can’t stop watching it. 356.), I thought about that first time we visited. About six weeks ago.

I never went to the River Cafe, so have no idea what was before. I saw pictures though – and what it was then, it is far from now.

En route – I told Karen (Karin) that Open Door isn’t a ‘wine farm restaurant’. Its much nicer. (Aren’t wine farm restaurants nice? she asked. I suppose they may be, but to me – Open Door feels like a top-class, stylish, modern restaurant that you’d find in a city. Not out in the burbs. Then again, there’s also Beau Constantia… So I guess my theory blows).

Hey, look – its like a door theme

Besides the BMX track that the deck looks out over, where I’m fairly certain there was once a vineyard, everything about Open Door’s decor is elegant, classy and stylish. Pick this here verandah up and insert into Hawkins House, and I’d be happy. The walls are a dark navy, the floors are a mix between beautiful tiling in the bar and bathrooms and wood in the restaurant, and the wall art is groups of locks and handles.

But you don’t go to a restaurant for the decor.

On a wine farm, I assumed it was a day time restaurant, however unless you’re sitting outside, watching your munchkin on a BMX, the restaurant is very much ‘indoors’ and therefore not necessarily only reserved for beautiful days. It also means its a dinner time option, something I’d never have considered it for.

The bonus of day time dining, is the Cafe Menu – which both girls of our lunch time visit ordered from. And won. I had the linefish – pan-roasted kingklip, served with crushed potatoes, cauliflower, mussels, and chili and lime (R135). Oh my actual. Well you know. It was top-shelf. And again, in case you missed it: R135! The other option chosen was the 300 gram Chalmar beef sirloin (R169). Not bad at all. The boys had the Braised lamb neck with butternut, roasted garlic and baby carrots (R169), a recommendation from the Chef’s fiance (who I happen to work with and who probably dines frequently here, so I was guessing he knew). It was good, although they finished it in record time, so it was a bit small – for the boys.

This may look like a chicken breast. It’s actually Kingklip. A lot of it.
Braised Lamb Neck. Deliciousness really.

Evening dining means no cafe menu, much to Mark’s disappointment as his promises to have the sirloin have been heard for 6 weeks, but it does mean the portions seem to be a lot bigger. Karin and I had the braised lamb, and it was phenomenal. I don’t really eat lamb, which is a stupid rule that I made up after my engagement party spit braai, but when I do, I’m sometimes blown away by how amazing it can be (and clearly a spit braai are words never to be ushered again). This, in my non-foodie way of describing things, was out of this world.

The wine list is extensive with plenty of options in all categories (including international), but in my opinion not many to choose from in the ‘reasonably priced’ category. Always a pain-point for me is the inflated prices of wines at restaurants. There’s that whole Porcupine Ridge Beluga priced thing I can’t deal with. But to be honest, these wine list prices aren’t inflated, they just don’t have many cheaper wines.

Our lunch time visit (1 x pregnant person, two bottles between three of us! ouch!) we had the Constantia Uitsig Chardonnay R195 (retails: R95). This time, (1 x pregnant person – a different one (we’re at that age) – and again two bottles between three of us!) we had the TSW Shiraz Grenache (first tried at Chalk and Cork – I think) which was R190 (retails: R80)  followed by the Pinot Noir Fist of Fancy (also tried at Chalk and Cork, that I like. And Mark officially doesn’t) – R160 (retails: R95 – second bottles are allowed to be cheaper. Its a thing).

I am a HUGE eater. No really, I keep going long after I’m full, and mostly because I just love flavours. So while I was so full after my main, both times, I soldiered on to dessert. Because when things like ‘Baked cheesecake with lemongrass foam, coconut soil and sour cream (R54) are on offer, how am I supposed to just say ‘thanks, but really, I’m comfortably full right now’. Why, when I can burst at the seems and try “Dark chocolate torte with grapefruit, dark chocolate crèmeux and meringues” (R62). So we ordered both, with intention to ‘share’. Mark doesn’t really do sweet things, but he was out numbered, and we turned our back on Prof Tim and ate all the sugary goodness that Open Door could serve up. Our evening meal was no different. Except that they’ve taken the cheesecake off the menu (I almost sobbed). Instead all four of us ordered the Chocolate Mousse, with no fake pleasantries of sharing.

Not your ordinary cheesecake.

I strongly believe every single dish on Open Doors’ menu will be incredible, and it is not a place you’ll go to once and tick it off your list (clearly). The small niggles, as if we’re honest – niggles always exist –  waiter knowledge and that service could be a little more attentive – both easy to fix, plus perhaps the introduction of a few more options in the ‘reasonably priced’ category of wine (they have good ones, they just have more in the R400 mark, which is too much for this suburban house-wife wanna be that actually has a career) means this could become a firm Saturday favourite this summer.

My first time (up Lions Head)

Some people are just fearless.
I’m not one of those people.
I can’t be sure what I feared about ‘the chains’ of Lions Head, but there was a little voice inside me that was pretty certain I wouldn’t manage the climb. In fact, the voice (not so little – more like a shouting one) was scared.

As part of the fitter, faster, stronger resolution (which is more of a goal, and not exclusive to 2014) – I figured I really do need to tackle one of Cape Towns most loved trails. To the top. Including the dreaded chains.

Up at 5.30, I’d been given the advice about the challenge:
“Go early”, “take water, gets hot up there” and “you’ll need free hands” but the best tip was this
@thejollyjammer: The first part is killer. Get up the hill and it’s smooth sailing from there.

Thank God for Kirst. You park, you feeling good, you take a photo of the mountain, the harbour, even a selfie. You set off… And then you walk up a shitty tedious hill. For… ever.

But Kirst was right – it’s smooth sailing from there. We walked, we photo’d , we circled the head that we’ve only ever looked up at from every point in the city below.

Trail runner (type people) are super friendly too – which makes the whole outing give you an even warmer and more fuzzy feeling … That is if the endorphins and view weren’t doing enough.

Yep, there are the chains. And to be fair, I was more than a little nervous as I grabbed hold of the first metal rod stuck into the rock by those who’ve done this a thousand times before me. But the metal steps and the chains are just the beginning of the scramble over rocks (so glad my hands were free), the wobbling knees (stronger is definitely key in the list of resolutions) and the slightly deeper breathing (looks like I’m not kidding about fitter either). The fear however, well that eeked away as I took in the 360 degree views of camps bay, bantry bay, sea point and tamboerskloof.

I made it to the top.
There was only one point when I thought I wouldn’t (it may have involved looking back down to our tiny car below and being just a little scared again).

I can’t say it was spiritual or meaningful up there. But the moment definitely occurred when I confirmed (again) that this is the best city I’ve ever been to. And that Id like to start more mornings this way in 2014.

Overheard at the top
“Yep, I do think dinosaurs came up here”
“Something about it makes me want to jump off”
“Wish I had a parachute”
“Geocaching”

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Me, on lion’s head.. obviously