Getting into Restaurant Rip-Off Spirit

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Cape Town Waterfront - a beautiful rip-off.
Cape Town Waterfront - a beautiful rip-off.

The first time I hit someone older than myself was on the Greek Island of Santorini. There I was peaceful, friendly and minding my own business when some hairy Greek git, all chains and Old Spice, tried to pull me into the restaurant he was working for. “Best souvlaki for you!” he exclaimed grabbing my arm. “Come, come inside for best souvlaki for you and best red mullet in Greece!”

Shaking my head to indicate I was not wanting to dine, he tightened his grip. “Moussaka!” he yelled. “Come have good Moussaka, for you!” Once again, I courteously declined his offer and told him if he does not let go of my arm I am going reward him with what is known in Afrikaans as a “poes-klap”.

He didn’t let go, so I dished out the aforementioned klap.

Now, here in my own city of Cape Town, I may just have to resort to repeating this sad episode from my history of personal culinary experiences.

Check out the Cape Town Waterfront. In that row of restaurants off the Amphitheatre, waiters and managers cajole, call, whistle and shout at you as you walk passed, all soliciting you to visit their establishment. The main culprits are Tasca Belem – a Porra place – The Greek Fisherman (get your knuckle-duster ready) and steakhouse so originally called City Grill. I have visited all three establishments and know that if my restaurant was so bloody mediocre, I’d also resort to standing outside the door verbally requesting passers-by to stop off for a chow.

Tasca Belem has had a bit of a make-over, so with the expected deluge of foreign soccer visitors in mind, I decided to check it out for research purposes. I hauled myself and guests to the al fresco arena, where a waiter quickly presented himself with menus.

I was parched, so set about ordering drinks. The waiter greeted my requests with the confused look of a Platter Guide wine judge asked to comment on a label-less bottle of wine.

“Uh ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ sorry,” the waiter said, smiling. “No English.”

If he was a darkie I could understand, as they usually can’t be understood even if they claim they can speak English. But this guy was white as the Ace of Albinos.

I tried a few phrases of diverse linguistic origin and found out he was Portuguese-speaking Brazilian. “Brazil?” I asked.

“Hey-hey, yeah!” the dude said with a big smile. “World Cup!”

So for the rest of the evening orders were issued in a combination of my pidgin Portuguese and pointing to items of the menu for Gonzala to read, although I gather he wasn’t that hot in the reading, department either.

Tasca Belem punts itself as a Portuguese joint with a bit of Turkish influence. A pretty weird combination, a bit like Siberian-Mexican – but high five for being cosmopolitan.

I kicked off with a couple of draught beers, which were irritatingly warm. We then resorted to Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc and downed a few bottles before getting to Gonzala and the food.

I pointed out two chorizo appetizers while Gonzala nodded sheepishly. The sausages appeared a few minutes later, perched above flamed clay bowls. They had been pan-fried, and were brown and lukewarm on the inside.

For main courses I went for a chicken espetada, while the others pointed to a chicken burger, Portuguese steak, seafood salad and some pasta thing with chicken and mushroom.

This is real dine-and-dash stuff. The food appears within minutes, and some greasy looking Porra-Turkish-Brazilian types stand at the entrance barking orders at the waiters in strange languages.

My espetada was cooked from fatty thigh meat and there was no semblance of juiciness or a sauce to make it more appetizing. The steak looked rare, but somehow the meat was also dry and required pepping up. The pasta resembled a wet dishcloth and according to the eater it was soggy and overcooked, but about as good a pasta as one could expect from a Porra place.

The space is cramped and noisy, and not worth the exorbitant prices, which should escalate during the World Cup. R100 for that puny chicken thing of mine? Give me break.

One dessert was ordered, namely hazelnut ice-bream in a pastry parcel, but the pastry was so old it put the eater right off the ice-cream.

Welcome to the Cape of Rip Offs. Have a nice day, and try not to assault the locals.

JP Bruwer

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2 thoughts on “Getting into Restaurant Rip-Off Spirit

  1. On this one w’re in complete agreement. Apart from the sushi at Willoughby’s and the occasional meal at Den Anker, dining out at the Waterfront is a bit like playing russian roulette- with 5 chambers loaded of course. You’re almost guaranteed to pick up a culinary case of the clap…

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