If you could taste Cape Town, then the Mother City would probably taste like ...
A new life for Sidewalk Cafe in Vredehoek
The incarnation of Vredehoek’s favourite cafe is all friends, fun and loving food
Sidewalk Cafe in Cape Town’s windy Vredehoek suburb holds a fair amount of nostalgia for me. I used to work here as a waitress while studying many years ago. Some of my most vivid memories were created within these four walls. This is where I have made some of my best friends, told my deepest secrets and learned my toughest lessons. I am surely not the only one who has such fond memories as the Sidewalk Cafe has been around for 14 years.
One of the latest Madame Zingara* incarnation of this corner cafe in Derry Street is all hearts, dried flowers and pretty cupcakes on the bar counter behind which I spent so many hours listening to the joys and troubles of the regulars. Owners Peta Synnot-Marzetti and Natalie Harrison worked with Richard Griffin while Madame Zingara’s Tent of Dreams toured London. In October 2009 Peta and Natalie opened the doors to their Sidewalk Cafe back in Cape Town.
Warm and intimate, from the food to the decorations
It’s a chilly day in Cape Town and a jovial waitress in a rose patterned apron welcomes us to the heartfelt warmth and a cosy table inside the small restaurant. There are shells and pretty tins and all kinds of rustic kitchen equipment to entertain my eyes. Aromas of braised pork belly, pastas and curries are coming from the kitchen. A quick cappuccino does just the trick of warming my insides on this stormy day. Cupcakes and other pretty sweet things are displayed behind glass on the bar counter. They are made by a friend of Madame Zingara’s Executive Chef and I can’t help but smile at the cute icing decorations.
Chef Anthony Viver (the Madame Zingara group rotates chefs between the stores) is originally from the Eastern Cape. As a former game farm chef he finally had enough of safari and here at the Sidewalk Cafe he managed to make a firm favourite of the risotto (with chicken, peas, mushrooms, white wine, red onion, spinach and Parmesan) for a reasonable R60. Although he insists that the mussels are his speciality (R45 for a starter and R70 for a larger main portion). I manage to coax the secret out of him and discover that he makes a veloute out of the water used to steam the mussels, adding a bit of butter, flour and wine to make a sauce packed with mussel goodness.
Determined to try the chef’s recommendation, I order the mussels with some Turkish flatbread form Knead and quickly give in to the freshness of the mussels itself and the disarming flavour of the sauce. Other popular menu options are gourmet sandwiches for R49 and slow roasted Springbok shanks. Anthony describes his food as “imaginative with local South African flavours and a bit of French influences“. The menu is expected to change on average three times per year, keeping the favourites and replacing some seasonal options.
The 'pavement special' of Madame Zingara's family
The Sidewalk Cafe is otherwise known as legendary Madame Zingara’s ‘pavement special’ amongst the self-proclaimed odd bunch of people that is involved in this family of restaurants. And it really has a family feel. The restaurant staff knows their customers by name. Nice to know is that WiFi is free and there’s a social feel with local residents coming here for a coffee and to use the internet. When the sun is shining, some outside seating offer a real neighbourhood atmosphere and some fresh air.
“It really feels like this is my home. Like I am entertaining guests at home,” says Peta.
Her personal favourite part of the Sidewalk Cafe is the counter seating with a view over the whole city: “I love that fact that you can have an espresso and read the paper. You look up and you’ve got Signal Hill and Lion’s Head and Milnerton; Big Bay, the Cape Town Stadium... and the sun sets over it all. Sometimes I cannot believe that I live in such a beautiful city”.
This typically Capetonian love for the city will go a long way in making sure the Sidewalk Cafe has a long and happy life with the Madame Zingara family and anyone who chooses to pop in for a visit.
33 Derry Street | Vredehoek | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 461 2839
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 8am - 10pm; Sunday: 9am - 2pm
(Sidewalk Cafe also caters for private functions)
*Madame Zingara started as the popular gypsy style restaurant in Loop Street that made chocolate chilli steak famous in Cape Town. It was a loss for Capetonians when the restaurant burned down but Richard Griffin quickly resurrected the concept as a theatre style dinner tent called the Theatre of Dreams. The tent toured South Africa and London over the last few years. The Madame Zingara group also opened the popular Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant at the top of Kloof Street and then decided to give the Sidewalk Cafe in Vredehoek a new lease on life.
For the best of Cape Town’s restaurants, be sure to visit our Eating Out Section.