Restaurant Review: Bizerca

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BIZERCA. Jetty Street, Cape Town. Tel. ,(021),418-0002,

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It is a nice, well-lit space. All modern austerity, allowing the tailored patrons to display their Hermes ties and Vuitton containers with suppressed ostentation. And patrons there are in droves, and why not: If you are not spending the night peddling drugs or pimping teenage sex slaves, there could be worse ways relaxing in Cape Town’s city centre than a visit to Bizerca.

I’ve been there about six times since the place opened 15 months ago, so regard myself as a modest expert on the state of its offerings. These are usually thrust upon you in a faux Australian accent by co-owner Cyrilla, who has a tendency to invite her to join any conversation you may be having with your dining companion.

The carte is usually tightly scrawled on a board, as is expected in French establishments. The blackboard is complemented by a less glamorous paper version in-front of you offering the more regular staples which are less dependent on seasonal products.

On the board you may find steak tartare or a pear, pancetta and gorgonzola salad to start. Norwegian salmon salad. How about oysters in a champagne sauce? Or inside the printed carte, the stuffed pig’s trotter, the “house dish”.

Mains venture from Provencale lamb stew, chicken ballotine to something simple, such as pumpkin gnocchi. Pork belly. Ox tongue. Linefish. That sort of thing. The cooking is clean and pure, with an accent on short but intensely flavoured sauces. French at heart, but with a spurt of Asian-Pacific excitement.

I remember the good meals with relish. On my first visit, the cassoulet was fantastic. Rich, authentic with the correct bean-to-sauce ratio allowing you to mop the bowl with bread. (Pity about the bread, though ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ real baguette as made by Christophe Dehosse at Joostenberg wold have gone down a treat.

The steak tartare, finished with a gay touch ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ i.e. a quail’s egg ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ was satisfyingly raw and fleshy. And the pig trotter is, and will always hopefully be, deliciously good. Looking like a spring roll, the skin is thin and crisp. Inside lies a treasure trove of pork foot confit. Simple, decadent, sumptuous.

But then I have been party to some mediocre fare.

A duck breast was tough and bloody, and looked like a body part that had fallen from a hospital lorry in Gaza. If you want me to eat bloody duck, get a bloody good duck, Monsieur.

The lamb stew I once had had me rushing to the bathroom mirror to check whether I had not grown fangs. For the sharp fresh garlic piled on the dish would have nuked any vampire. In my instance, it only spoiled the potential depths of flavour the garlicky dish may have had.

Bizerca is typically irritating of all things French, things, by the way, I tend to like. One day the offerings are delightful and magic, conjured with passion and panache. On other days, however, the experience reeks of boredom, indifference and sloppiness.

Two of you are going to dine for around R400, thanks largely to the huge mark-up on the wines. As Cyrilla says: “We don’t make anything on the food, so the wine mark-ups can’t be that unfair, can they?”

Are you telling or asking?

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,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,E. Louw Joubert,,

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