Affordable restaurant food seems ofttimes a myth, especially within the confines of one of the most cosmopolitan cities on this great continent. You’d think KFC, Eastern Food Bazaar or even a place like Hudson’s, would offer up a better sit down penny-saving option, but even they have raised the marker of what was previously considered a free-for-all type of grub hub.
The thing to despair most, is likely that Cape Town is a foodie city, but most of its establishments come with a hefty tab for a good fry up, and often a forced tip system.
One of my favorite finds though, as someone prone to late night benders and in possession of a bottomless pit of a tummy, is Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room on Bree Street.
Imagine a diner-type dining joint, with Instagram visual prosperity. The Mother City hosts a very chill gem in its central business district.
I love the minimalist interior design, decorated with potted-plants and low-hanging lights, varnished wood, and low level tables and chairs that don’t invite you to stay long…but you will.
Clarke’s has an all-day menu which includes (thank God!) all-day breakfast options like egg omelettes, rancheros and even granola. Don’t panic if your stomach is hankering for something heavier. Clarke’s stay busy during lunch and dinner, with crowds in it for everything from 4 cheese Mac-n-Cheese(which will have you happy and sleep in 10 minutes), grass-fed beef burgers, fancy burgers with Zucchini and Aubergine, straight from the griddle, and eased into fresh, specially made burger buns. Offered up with these masterpieces of carnivorous decadence, are greens or golden hand-cut fries sprinkled with a little seasoning and a whole lot of yum.
…but what did I have, and did I like it?
I wanted the dining establishment to put their best foot forward, so I inquired about the best place to start on the menu, and my waitress recommended the Grapefruit Brûlée with ginger sugar.
Best decision I ever made.
Who knew the bitterness of Grapefruit could be tempered into something astounding to gorge yourself on?! The caramelized sugar creates flavor contrasts with the grapefruits citrus and bitter flavor.
Choosing your main breakfast dish can actually end up being quite difficult, as Clarke’s egg sandwich is served with Swiss chard, and their french toast comes with Nutella for example. My tummy grumbled its way into ordering the big Man Breakfast, which comes with two farm eggs, crispy bacon, a porky, mushrooms, tomato & a slice of toast.
The mushrooms were firm, the sourdough bread hard to cut and munch on; the porky sausage was just above the average of edible, but the eggs were perfect. Here’s the thing: I ended up full and sated, despite the individual inadequacies of what was plated.
Since I didn’t feel like leaving Clarke’s (despite dining alone) I had to nibble on something. Their sweet treats display was too tempting, and I activated my Sunday lethargy, with a Chocolate pie with a cappuccino.
I’ve honestly never had chocolate pie before, but I now have a moist, delicious basis from which all others will be judged. I really, really (really give me more) enjoyed the pie and cappuccino combo. The excessive sweetness of the pie, was mellowed by the cappuccino’s lauded bitter, dark humor.
Clarke’s is one of the city’s most celebrated dining joints, and as far as I’m concerned, it will remain thus. I hope they never lose their warm, but detached efficiency. I hope they never get jaded for being one of the coolest spots in Cape Town.
I will return for the aesthetic that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the synchronized staff service, the food (naturally) and most importantly: their eclectic as hell cocktail menu.
I’m really loving this spot guys. It get’s a 9/10.
What about the health nuts & vegetarians?
“We’re a small, busy kitchen & changes or substitutions are unfortunately not possible. We put a lot of love in our food and we hope you enjoy it.”
Clarke’s has said what needed saying, but they still have you somewhat sorted.
Each of their menu sections has one or two vegetarian options, such as the sandwich with pressed veg with duxelle, zucchini, baby rosa, Swiss chard & smoked mozzarella.
Let’s not forget that health nuts can indulge in a healthy portion of salads with Baby gem, green beans, asparagus & broccoli with lemon labneh dressing &
toasted pecans, or the Chickpea Salad with baby spinach, goat’s cheese, cucumber & pepper dressing, toasted sunflower seeds, pea shoots, carrot ribbons & fresh coriander.
Also, the ingredients from all the food, seem just genuinely fresh and healthy.
What of the drinks & booze?
Clarke’s have their liquor licence, so proceed to go in on their cocktail menu.
The Brunch Cocktails are really refreshingly crisp. I had The Pimms Cup, made with: Pimms, topped with Lemonade, Soda Water and bitters, and garnished up with apple, mint, cucumber, and oranges.
Try everything from drinks made with Hibiscus cordial, to tobasco; Non-alcoholic cocktails are there for the taking(what’s the point though, right?!), or head into a carefully curated wine, beer, sider and spirits lists, loaded with some of the best of local and international choices.
*P.S: There are smoothies, soft drinks, juice and water for the non-boozers. Their Milkshakes are known to be transcendent.
Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room get’s an all-round 9/10.
Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room
133 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8001
Monday: 07:00 to 17:00 (kitchen opens 08:00, last order 16:45)
Tel: (021) 424 7648