The Dining Room in Cape Town

Karen Dudley expands beyond the kitchen with her delightful new Woodstock venture

Karen Dudley has too much zest for life and too much love for food to be contained in one space. So, when a venue opened up just next door to her popular little eatery, The Kitchen, in late 2013, she pounced on the opportunity to spread the passion a little further down Woodstock’s Sir Lowry Road and launched her second restaurant, The Dining Room.

Open for breakfast, lunch and private dinner parties, this treasured creation is The Kitchen’s more sophisticated, grown-up sister. And in as much as Karen’s neighbouring long-time deli captures all the chaotic commotion of the place where the cooking occurs, her new venture is, rather, as its name suggests, a spot to sit down quietly with friends, share in good conversation and feast.

“The Dining Room really is a dining space as opposed to one that has all the natural hustle and bustle of a kitchen,” says the bubbly local chef, who’s garnered quite a name for herself in Cape Town’s culinary circles and published two cookbooks to date. “What we’re trying to do is reacquaint guests with their grandmother’s dining room, where the focus was on sharing a meal around a table.”

And it feels like this sort of environment too, with a warm yet stately interior that channels a 19th-century sort of charm. Grand, old sideboards hug the restaurant’s edges, vintage crockery sits stacked in a worn wooden cabinet, wallpaper depicting a 16th-century nature-inspired painting adds richness to the back wall, pineapples (a colonial symbol of hospitality) rest on every table and a traditional pudding trolley glints from the eatery’s floor following main meals.

Plus, in much the same way it would work in anyone’s dining room at home, guests are offered whatever it is the cook is making that day, rather than having a diverse array of alternatives, as you would in a normal restaurant.

“In a world of incredible choice, it’s so refreshing to not have to make a decision and just trust that whatever’s being served is going to be good,” Karen says of her very simple, one-dish-a-day philosophy.

The early-morning offering usually includes items like Cinnamon Oat Pancakes Topped with Banana, Lemon Curd and Cream or a Turkish Breakfast complete with boiled eggs, olives, roast aubergine and more, and lunch generally comprises a speciality meat accompanied by a few of Karen’s famous salads (think Beetroot, Fennel and Fig or Sweet Potato, Capers and Dill). The exact dish on offer changes daily. So on Monday, it might be Quail and Chicken Liver Terrine with Spiced Almond Butter; on Tuesday, it could be Beef Brisket; and on Wednesday, it’s possibly Slow-roasted Salmon with Dill Sauce and Pistou. And for those who aren’t in the mood for the main meat, there’s also typically a delectable version of a ploughman’s platter.

Although the setting is more grand and upmarket than The Kitchen’s, the new restaurant still embodies the same sense of generosity and warmth present at its next door sibling. Karen’s delightful energy and deep desire to host and feed resonate throughout the space, and her open-handed tendency is reflected in the offer of complimentary cordials for everyone (rose geranium and buchu are two of the flavours available) and toast on the house with any coffee order.

Another way in which she extends her hospitality to patrons is by giving them the option to hire out her precious new restaurant for private bespoke dinner parties in the evenings (there must be a minimum of 20 people attending). She and her team organise every last detail, from the canapés, music and flowers to the desserts, cheese spread, whisky trolley and washing up, and the quirky, old-world ambience makes for a rather magical night out on the town.

In essence, The Dining Room is a spillover effect of Karen Dudley’s passion for people and appetite for life, and Cape Town’s cuisine-loving crowd can be grateful that it’s come into being. 

Tip: The Dining Room does not yet have a liquor licence, so visitors are encouraged to bring their own booze; there’s no corkage fee.

The Bill: Prices at the new restaurant are fair. Breakfast rings in at R45, lunch with various salads goes for R90, a pot of coffee for one person costs R18 (toast included) and a pot for three costs R30. As far as the private dinner parties are concerned, Karen charges around R9500 for 20 people, all services and extras included.

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 3pm (private functions can be arranged for any night of the week).

117 Sir Lowry Road | Woodstock | Cape Town | +27 (0) 82 710 5824

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Looking for a spot to enjoy an early-morning meal closer to home? Check out our overview of breakfast venues in Cape Town.

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