With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
Con Brio Bistro in Vredehoek
The new family-friendly eatery that serves up fanciful dishes in an intimate setting
For 15 years Cape Town-based foodie Vanessa Rose has had a hand in running others’ large-scale restaurants. And for almost as many years, she has yearned to have her own baby, a private venture that she could pour her whole heart into and approach con brio – with gusto, vigour and passion.
In early 2015, her thirst for such a space was quenched when she swung open the doors to the aptly named Con Brio Bistro next to Deer Park in Vredehoek and set about sprinkling the venue with the magic of her own personal touch.
“I liked the idea of something small and homely,” says Vanessa, who has had the privilege of visiting all sorts of different eateries thanks to her extensive travels around the globe. “I want guests to get the feeling that they’re in someone’s house.”
She achieves this in part by adopting a very hands-on approach – she’s at the restaurant every day mixing and mingling with customers as though they’re old friends – and in part by keep the eatery’s aesthetic warm and characterful, intimate and understated (there’s a casual, covered terrace and a lounge-y area with low seating and scatter cushions). Not to mention, in keeping with the small neighbourhood vibe, she’s firmly established the 40-seater restaurant as a family-friendly joint that caters for kids with a few mini menu items and even lets little ones dine for free on Tuesdays.
That said, though Con Brio gladly receives tiny tots, it’s also very focussed on promising an enjoyable dining experience for adults. As Vanessa says, “Parents don’t want to have to go to a Spur; they want to go somewhere nice where they can get more than just toasted sandwiches and french fries.”
Truth is, you’ll find neither of the above on the menu. The food is imaginative, fresh and threaded with a little twist of something special, and accordingly, it draws in everyone from couples on a date night to business folk looking for a light lunch just beyond the buzz of the CBD.
Moreover, Vanessa was especially struck by a tapas bar she happened upon once in New York, and so one of Con Brio’s culinary highlights is a selection of small plates meant to be shared and swapped amongst table members: envision options like deep-fried gnocchi served on a bed of sautéed spinach and blue cheese cream or a mussel pot cooked with bacon, red onion, basil, spring onion and cream (“people literally drink the leftover sauce,” says Vanessa).
There are a variety of mains too, including grilled rib-eye steak, a fish dish of the day and an assortment of gourmet pizzas, and because the lovely owner’s sister is vegetarian, a good balance of the menu is geared towards non-meat eaters – Vanessa especially recommends the crispy phyllo parcel with filled with camembert, roast butternut and mushrooms.
Similarly, for drinkers who like to tread lightly on the earth, the restaurant stocks a few organic and Fairtrade wines, and for those boozers who’re in the mood for something a little playful, there’s a tight collection of cocktails too.
And right at the centre of the entire offering, pulling together the eats and the drinks and the décor and ambience is a whole heap of heart and soul: a given when a place is owned and run by a lady who does everything con brio.
Tip: The restaurant runs a daily pre-theatre dinner special that entitles anyone who has a yet-to-be-used theatre or cinema ticket that’s valid for that day to a 20% discount off any meal. Similarly, it also offers half-price cocktails between 5pm and 7pm on Fridays, and don’t forget about the great children’s deal, which lets little ones enjoy anything off the kiddies’ menu for free on Tuesdays.
The Bill: Vanessais intent on offering customers good value for money, so she makes an effort to keep prices reasonable. Small plates cost between R30 and R70, salads range from R60 to R80, pizzas sit between R50 and R110, mains are anywhere from R65 to R149, kids’ items are all R40 and cocktails are between R39 and R58.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 12pm – 10:30pm; Sunday: 10am – 4pm (open for brunch on Sundays).
2 Deer Park Drive (next to The Woodlands Eatery) | Vredehoek | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 461 9957
Images by Domenic Gorin from Infinity Studios
Looking for other eateries that welcome little ones? Have a look at our overview of child-friendly restaurants in Cape Town.
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