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A Bulgarian crêperie in Observatory
“The Italians, they would come to our stall saying ‘Ah, crespella, crespella’” Fuad Shendy tells me in his thick Bulgarian accent. The Italian word for pancakes stuck when he and his wife, Lubka, decided to move from a stall in the Blue Shed at the Waterfront to open their own crêperie in Observatory.
Fuad was born in Iraq but moved to Bulgaria where he studied, and started his career as an architect, before working in Libya for a number of years. It was in Bulgaria that he met Lubka and after getting married in 1970 they had two children together. First their daughter and her husband moved to South Africa in the ‘90s and then their son joined her when he came to study in Cape Town. After visiting South Africa regularly Fuad and Lubka decided to move here eight years ago when he turned 60 and was told to retire.
“My wife knew how to make crêpes. She’s the master, better than me at making them” says Fuad. Partly due to their age and partly because of the language barrier, they decided not to continue with their professions of architecture and economics and instead they opened a crêpe stand at the Waterfront. “We enjoy it very much, we chose this business – it’s happy”. That same year their stand was voted runner up for the Best Fast Food Restaurant by the Waterfront Restaurant Guide.
“You learn from life, I never make coffee when I’m an architect but now I make latte, I make everything,” Fuad tells me, “People tell me they’ve never had coffee like it, they like this Segafredo.” Crespella stocks Segafredo Zanetti, imported Italian coffee, and they also offer a variety of teas.
While we’re chatting outside, one of their regulars arrives and Fuad greets him happily and leaves us to chat as he prepares the order. Well ‘leaves us’ is an exaggeration as the kitchen and seating area are all in the one room, so we talk as we watch him swirling the crepe batter onto the big flat pan, getting ingredients out the fridge and carefully assembling and folding the crêpes.
“I come whenever I can. The chocolate chilli crêpe is my favourite, closely followed by the brinjal one...but there’s nothing quite like chocolate and chili.” The regular tells me. “Also, I know he won’t spit in my food if I criticise some of his other creations!”
It’s a family thing
Lubka tries out new crêpe recipes every couple of months and if the customers like them then they keep them on the menu. There are nearly 40 different crêpes on the menu already so it’s safe to say that the majority of new recipes are a success. She makes the fillings at home with the help of her daughter and then they bring them to Crespella as the only things in the kitchen there, are a coffee maker, the two hot plates and a fridge.
Fuad tells me that they look for good, fresh ingredients that they like and if they can’t find them, then they will make it themselves. This is the case with some pickled peppers that he serves next to the spinach and feta crêpe that he’s prepared. “He’s never eaten these before, he’ll be happy,” he says smiling.
I return on a Saturday morning and Fuad and Lubka break off their conversation to greet me. Sitting there as they prepare my food I feel like I’m in their own kitchen. Crespella is sparsely decorated but the friendly couple make it feel like a home. The white boards on the walls are covered with comments and messages from customers proclaiming their love for both the crêpes and for Fuad and Lubka. Plants sit on the windowsill next to homemade pickled vegetables, which are also for sale. It’s not a particularly fancy place but the food is fresh, delicious and extremely well priced and there’s a lot of care put into the food.
I eat my apple, cinnamon and cream crêpe as I decide which one to try next. I’m looking forward to becoming a regular.
By Lindsay Callaghan
116 Lower Main Road | Observatory | Cape Town | +27 (0)82 224 0747
Opening times: Monday-Friday: 8:30am-5pm, Saturday: 9am-3pm.
In the mood for more crêpes? Pay a visit to this authentic Parisian crêperie on the corner of Buitenkant and Barrack Street.
Find out more about Cape Town's top bakeries.