221 Waterfront Restaurant a standout affair for V&A Cape Town

As outstanding a dining experience as one could hope for – with a view

It was without expectation that I entered 221 at the Waterfront - I had never even heard of the restaurant, let alone seen it. And yet I had passed underneath it often, dismissing whatever it had registered as in my sub-conscience as just another of the countless tourist-catering eateries at the V&A.  

A smiling, gracious hostess opened the glass door for me, (the entire restaurant’s exterior is walled glass) saving me from my ever-increasing embarrassment as I struggled to work out the old push/pull conundrum.

Attention to Innovation

The unique view of Table Mountain and city lights that the waterfront offers is easily appreciated when seated inside 221 – as I mentioned, the walls are glass, allowing a panoramic view of the Waterfront. 

The first interior feature I noticed was the low light – a simple yet underutilised technique in creating a warm feeling in a restaurant ; especially effective here in juxtaposition to the manic humdrum of the Waterfront surrounds. “Welcome” was the feeling the interior decor gushed. Makes yourself at home.  An abundance of wood finishing somehow managed to add rather than detract from the nouveaux chic feel.

 My companion and I were seated politely and without fuss. So swiftly in fact that I was barely able to survey the interior until after I had perused the extensive wine list (included in the menu) and made my choice – a recommendation by the manager.

Another nice touch – the wine list is a selection by the manager himself, who showed an extensive knowledge of fine wine. I went with Red, the ever delicious Chocolate Block from Boekenhoutskloof, while my company opted for a white, Springfield Life from Stone. Both proved impeccable choices.

Warm In Every Way

Now being afforded the opportunity to take in the interior properly, I was instantly charmed by the minimalist, chic decor. As one walks in they are fronted by the reception and cashier desk; to the left lies for me, the best part of the entire restaurant – the cocktail bar lounge. Bars require my extra dedication (well, they get it whether they like it or not) so I took this opportunity to sink into one of the cocktail lounge’s chairs.

What a pleasure; the same minimalist decor, but even more effective in a smaller room. Plenty of comfortable options for seating; and the best part, a fireplace. Comfy couch chair et al to sink into. In the same room is the wine cellar, which were we informed holds over 100 choices. The bar itself has the added novelty of a metallic strip running all along it which is itself frozen – ensuring your drink stays cool long into the most epic of conversations.

I returned to my table in time to order starters; I went with the ‘Crispy Prawns with a twist’,  Prawns wrapped in crisp kataifi pastry (a Middle Eastern pastry made with a special form of shredded phyllo dough), deep-fried and moistened with a southern Cajun butter sauce – as the menu describes them.  My partner ordered the Baked Brie - Brie cheese from baked with mango jelly, set in buttered phyllo parcels.


Fit For A King

While we waited our attentive waiter brought us the usual bread appetizer – but even this proved exceptional, the bread itself fresh as could be; but the real treat being the porchini (mushroom) and parsley butter provided alongside it.

Then our starters arrived – after barely any time at all. Despite having been thoroughly described to me, no amount of simile could prepare one for the delectableness of these prawns. Devoid of shell, but still crunchy due to the kataifi pastry, and quite simply - utterly delicious.

The baked brie-cheese did not disappoint either, and if not for the palate satisfying qualities of my own starter I’d be very jealous. When the waiter brought a bowl of water for me to wash my prawnified fingers, he informed me that many clientele opt to simply reorder the prawns as the main, loving them so.

As much as I wanted to follow in their steps, for the sake of variety I reigned in my desire and ordered mains, for myself the Baked Fish Pangasius – similar in taste to Kingklip, baked in verjuis and topped with buttered fresh green asparagus. For my partner the 221 Grilled Fillet, beef - topped with a creamy blue cheese sauce and sprinkled cashew nuts.

Ideal for any Occasion

While we were waiting for these (not long by anyone’s count) curiosity reared and talked me into checking out the private function room, located at the far end of the restaurant. Not so much small as intimate – with space for up to 110 guests, we were informed that 221 is prepared for any possible scenario. Decked with all the facilities you’d expect, and could possibly need. It certainly looked pretty swanky.

Out mains arrived in good time, and these proved as well chosen as the starters. My fish was as tender as anything I’ve ever tasted, and the portion sizes were laughingly huge - but so palatable I could not but finish. My date was just as happy with her choice. Being a rather picky eater, she asked for her fillet to be done well, a request that is normally enough to make most chefs sneer in disgust. But the preparation couldn’t have been more perfect – even being well done, the knife still sliced through the fillet like butter.

We took a bit of a breather after the mains to try and build up some space for desert, spirit willing but flesh failing.

Despite at this point being full beyond belief, we managed to power through our desert through willpower and greed alone; Choco torte for my date and Nougat Ice cream for me. Both meals continued the theme for the night – luscious served promptly by knowledgeable efficiency.

Our bill was brought with absolute decorum, and pleasant surprise at the fair pricing.

Entree’s cost an average of sixty rand, desserts are all under fifty rand and the majority of main’s cost between one hundred and a hundred fifty –  but you get what you pay for and then some.  With the wide selection available – more seafood than you can shake a stick at, a wide selection of meat and salads; one could eat at 221 every night and never tire of the menu.

Really about as great an evening dining as one could wish for; made so by a fantastic meal in a fantastic setting. They manage to somehow balance fine dining without exclusion; a phenomenally hard feat considering the otherwise bustling Waterfront setting. 221’s greatest success perhaps lies in the fact that from the moment you enter you’re filled with the feeling that you’ve stepped into a delicious secret all your own. 

During one of the brief moments when I wasn’t putting food in my mouth I enquired after the popular cruise and dine special on offer by the restaurant – In collaboration with the Waterfront Boat Company, 221 offers customers either a one hour lunch Cruise & Dine (two course set menu) or the one and a half hour Sunset Cruise (including 2 glasses of Sparkling Wine) and Dinner (three course set menu).

By John Scharges

For more about Cape Town’s abundant offering of fantastic restaurants, visit our Eating Out section.


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