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Cafe Mojito Restaurant & Cocktail Bar in Cape Town
The little Cuba on Long Street where daily happy hour specials meet tasty, finger-licking food
Cafe Mojito, a tropical Cuban restaurant and bar with window seats and streetside tables that allow for endless hours of soaking up Long Street's infectious, cosmopolitan energy, has long been a popular Cape Town city centre hangout for locals, tourists, students and corporates alike.
The last time I was here was back in 2008, when my occupational circumstances permitted me and my former colleagues to make this our everyday, after-work escape. And though five years have passed since I packed up my office – along with my entire life – and hit Mojitos (it’s nickname of sort) for the most memorable of farewell bashes, I'm amped to be back in town and report that my old local hasn't changed much. And it's all thanks to its new owner, Kenneth.
"I was born in South America and I've spent some time in the Caribbean and Cuba. I love the sun, the rum, the culture and atmosphere," says Kenneth – he took over the joint in 2013. "In one way or another, this restaurant already had that atmosphere, and the moment I first walked in, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I didn't want to change anything, because everyone loves it just the way it is. I'm only adding more Cuban flavour."
Like in the good old days, the first thing I notice upon entry is the familiar island-style corner bar with its green corrugated roof, a most welcoming sight during a hot summer's day or after a long haul at the office. From here, friendly barmen conjure up the watering hole’s famous cocktail and namesake, the mojito. A mixture of the freshest ingredients, the colourful concoction has a reputation that precedes itself and has kept regulars returning for ages.
Then there's the décor, a fusion of classic portraits and rustic furnishings that inspire me to contemplate the romance and mystery of Latin America. The ceiling fans, which I'm sure were primarily installed to serve their practical purpose, also evoke the ambiance of a post-colonial, Columbian-style cigar lounge; while a massive, somewhat offbeat mural of the legendary Che Guevara and the newly restored fireplace in the smoking room add an air of contemporary pizzazz.
"The Cuban vibe is not the only asset in this place, there’s also the multidimensional crowd Mojitos attracts,” says Kenneth. "I'm talking about people of all colours and lifestyles from countries around the world. People who embrace the freedom of expression. It's essentially a melting pot in which there is no room for pretension."
It's also a melting pot of great grub and refreshing drinks. I tip back the last of my Hurricane Sunrise, a mixture of Red Heart Gold rum, Olmeca tequila, grenadine, orange and pineapple juice, and inspect a menu that's packed with everything from brunch-type fry-ups, toasted sandwiches and Mexican favourites to tapas, burgers and pizzas – not to forget a modest selection of desserts.
"Cafe Mojito has always been known for its burgers, and we've always made ours differently," says Kenneth. "But my personal favourite is the fajitas, which are super fun to eat because you spend three minutes preparing one before you put it in your mouth, and when you do, it's splash, splash all over the place. You can really play with it!"
As for drinks, the Cuban-infused institution caters for the barley lovers and grape fanatics alike with its wine and beer selection, but its real claim to fame is the 25-strong colourful cocktail menu – though, you can also opt for a good ol' rum and Coke or straight tequila shot if that tickles your fancy.
Specials? You betcha. Happy hour comprises not one but three hours every evening between 4pm and 7pm during which cocktails go for R29 a pop, a double shot and mix for R25 and a bucket of five Castles or Black Labels for R120.
Wednesdays are a knockout as well, with 200g-homemade beef, chicken or veggie burgers on offer at two for the price of one. And Thursdays, well, I'm seriously considering investing in a wig, a dress and some makeup to take advantage of the all-day ladies happy hour specials on selected house cocktails.
What's more, every Monday night from around 9pm, Shey grace the prized local with a healthy dose of their fresh reggae jams, Caribbean music and general funky vibe. Count me in.
Cafe Mojito is many things: a chill-out spot by day, a bustling hub by night, a restaurant, a bar. But most of all, it's a place where people can let their hair down and be themselves.
Where have I been all this time?
By Dylan de Castro
Tip: Play it safe and book a table to guarantee your spot at Cafe Mojito as it can get pretty packed, especially during happy hour (4pm to 7pm daily). Opening hours are 10am to 2am from Monday to Sunday.
The Bill: Tapas ring in between R24 and R59 each, while a platter of your favourite four will cost R174. Sandwiches range from R49 to R63; signature dishes, like spiced fish and a full rack of BBQ ribs, range from R74 to R125; and all burgers are R69. Salads are between R60 and R85, pastas come in at R64 and a margherita pizza for R54 can be topped with extras for R9 to R15 each. Beers range between R23 and R55 (Mojito also stocks a range of craft beers), a glass or bottle of wine costs between R25 and R170 respectively, while cocktails start at R45 and top out at R89.
Looking for a place to party late into the night on Long Street? Check out our overview of places to dance in Cape Town.
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