This place is more than its name. Ofcourse, anything with Chardonnay involved is bound to be great.
I first saw a picture by Sam (from Drizzle and Dip) posted on instagram (my general source of inspiration for Coffee Stops) and I realised, something worth mentioning and so close to my house needs a visit! Unfortunately, my first attempt took me to the wrong side of Constantia Main road which meant by the time I arrived I was grumpy as shit for driving back and forth near Wynberg instead of near High Constantia (how google maps can fail you when in need of coffee).
So for reference, and for your visit, Chardonnay Deli is near High Constantia shopping centre which is near the turn off to Groot Constantia. (Us Deep South people know, the rest need to look that up too).
The spot is not, contrary to the name, a deli of the olives, rollmops, feta dolmades, meatballs and fresh lasagnes. So basically – it is not Giovanni’s (as much as we all love Giovannis even if we’re mostly afraid of that one guy that when you order a flat white makes you feel like you’re sinning!) Instead it’s a bakery of all things in gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo and deliciousness, sugary, chocolatey proportion.
It’s a small town farmstall with a gravel parking lot selling unique cakes, pies and chocolate brownies, fresh flowers out front, and oh the heavenly loaves and loaves of fresh bread. Chardonnay bakery may have actually been a better name, except then we’d expect Chardonnay infused bread. Which may actually not be a bad idea (Oh Sober October you make me dream crazy ideas!)
Bread (glorious bread!) aside, there’s a patio (equipped with heaters for crappy winter days in spring like today), a courtyard with a view of… well, a forest, and an indoor dining room – for… When the rest is too full I guess. Truth coffee or freshly pressed juices accompany all sorts of breakfasts. Poached eggs, to oats, to chia and granola (or as I thought, chai and granola… so basically tea and granola. Which it isn’t. But it was awkward for a moment and confirmed what we know – I should either eat out more, read more books or just keep my mouth shut on food.)
As with what you’d expect from a suburban coffee shop deli bakery thingie, the people are amazingly friendly and happy to have that Sunday morning chit chat. Yes, even on a Saturday. They’re happy to adjust menu items (who likes ham anyway when you could have bacon?) and they also love dogs! Which is a win, as its a nice addition of places to visit to (people drinking wine before 12pm at) Tasha’s.
This isn’t Origin, where city people sit drinking coffee in neon running clothes after being up the mountain and down again in under an hour. It’s not Bootleggers where people are crammed in at window seats and next to other people (in sweaty post-run/walk on the prom clothes) at tables. And its not Rosetta where people sit on MacBooks blogging about product launches and restaurant openings they’ve just attended. The vibe at Chardonnay Deli is exactly what you’d think life in the burbs is all about.
And it’s worth visiting.
You know, when you’re out this way… on your way to a wine farm. Or just… seeing what its like with all the open space, the trees and the horses and stuff.
**disclaimer: My references to Origin, Bootlegger and Rosetta is in no way disparaging. In fact, these are some (while not my only) favourites coffee stops in Cape Town.
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).
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.
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.
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.