A Bar at Portofino

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PORTOFINO RESTAURANT

Harbour Edge, 10 Hospital Street, Green Point. Tel. 021-418-4500

I was to meet Calculus to talk about a war and a good suit, and he suggested a bar and restaurant at the end of town run by an Irishman with a great hair-cut. Balking, I asked whether said Irishman was the so called “rudest restaurateur” in Cape Town, whereupon Calculus nodded sagely and led me through the door.

Portofino is airy and white, and it looks clean and good, but with a modern homeliness. Walking in I almost tripped over a chocolate Labrador belonging to a well-known chef, but this went without incident: dogs like me, and I love them.

The wind was roaring outside, and we were pleased to be in a place promising sustenance and cold liquid containing good amounts of alcohol. Calculus provided, plonking a bottle of Henri Giraud Champagne into an ice-bucket. Besides that, he had brought a bottle of Chamonix Pinot Noir, while I had lugged a Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1995 as well as a De Wetshof Bateleur 2007.

But we drank Champagne. It was yeasty and biscuit and cold, with a lot of sparkle.

Cormac the Terrible waltzed over resembling a pop star from the 1980s. Cool and certain, and calm. He sipped the Champagne, and asked us what he was tasting. Brioche and grapefruit. Melon and chalk.

Cormac’s fringe flopped languidly as he agreed with our comments, and suggested we eat Parma ham with melon.

The tables looked inviting with their crisp linen, but Calculus suggested we eat at the bar. It looks cooler, like something out of a Peter Lorre movie. And the bar could accommodate all our booze.

Besides the melon, one could start with a prawn, watermelon and goat’s cheese salad. Bruschetta. Capraccio or melanzana parmagiana. Then there is the famous antipasto platter with squid, vegetables and Parma ham.

Calculus poured the last of the Champagne, went through the battle plan one more time and ordered the Parma ham and melon. Ditto.

Upon deciding what to drink next, I asked Cormac whether he served Guinness on tap. I got a look that would make an ice maiden turn into Jameson. “Where do you think you are?” he asked.

I felt like answering by repeating the line from the classic movie The Hangover, the one that goes: “On the corner of fuck-off and get a map.” But I saw the glint of humour in Cormac’s eye, and let it pass. Besides ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Calculus was in the mood for war, so this was not a good time for a bit of IRA from another corner.

The Chamonix Pinot Noir was corked, with enough mouldy sack to make your contact lenses fall out. So we drank the Paul Sauer 19995. It was a fine wine, ripe and complete and full of nuances tricky to pin down. But in excellent condition.

The Parma ham came, and we ate it with the melon, and I loved those salty cured flavours hitting the sweetness of the melon. It was a civilised starter, in a civilised place.

I mentioned the good suit, and before we started the discussion, Cormac asked us what we would like for a main course. Pasta and risotto. Tasty-sounding meat dishes such as chicken thigh wrapped in Parma ham. A veal parcel. Honey and mustard porked fillet.

Calculus called for the prawn risotto while the spaghetti Carbonara had my name on it.

It was very pleasant at the bar. Soft music and interesting people whispering next to the coffee machine. Just then , we opened the De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay as the Paul Sauer was empty.

The food came just as Calculus had the last say about that damned bad suit, and we hunched over our bowls like Sicilian peasants protecting their first-born. My pasta was creamy and eggy with tasty lashings of Parmesan. Crispy bacon made for good salt in my mouth, which made the Chardonay tast very pleasant and excellent.

I like the place, and could see Calculus likes it too. It is a well-lit, accommodating restaurant with an agreeable air of formality and convention offset with a homely feeling of ease and comfort. Like a woman dressed in Chanel and Gucci, but not wearing any underwear.

Calcalus contemplated ordering some or other decadent chocolate dessert, but with battle now only a few days away, he relented. I joined him for an espresso as we finished off the last of the Chardonnay and walked out into the wind and the night lights, hoping the Irishman was looking forward to seeing us again.

JP Bruwer

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