Culinary Quest: Casa Labia by Ideas Cartel

Though city-bound Ideas Cartel is far more of an innovation intersection, comprised of a spectacular cosmopolitan multi-use ecosystem previously unseen on South African shores, there is surprisingly no skimping on one lifestyle attribute, at the expense of the others throughout their properties. Take the Ideas Cartel seaside sanctum Casa Labia Cultural Centre for example…

Casa Labia Cultural Centre does as its apt name implies: becomes an epicentre of a multitude of cultural needs, from facilitating the romance of weddings, to the tradition of breaking a fast.

The Work | Stay | Play model that has defined Ideas Cartel’s tempting urban lifestyle pillars, becomes lived in at this branch.

Beautiful and bold interiors, designed and styled by interior talents Kojabu Concepts, bring modernity to the historical architecture and opulent golden gilding in the ground-floor spaces. The polish and pomp of this Casa’s look is tempered by the familiar and welcoming – beginning at gourmet dining pleasures like Afternoon Tea, to the attentive service by Casa’s bustling team who are balancing streamlined restaurant operations with regularly booked celebrations on the grounds.

Escape the familiar, and choose to enjoy what I can only describe as an “aesthetic staycation by the sea”, when you book one of the convenient, contained, and attractive apartments that Casa Labia now offers up on Airbnb.

* Pro-Tip: Bring socks and your own slippers, and if you find your nights by the sea chilly, have a warm shower and then settle into the plush bed for a good nights sleep.

The opportunity and access to categorically eat and drink your way through the satisfying food & beverage menus, is tempting – as is just having a self-catered stay, which the Casa Labia apartments allow its guests to enjoy too.

The Food

You are required to pay attention to your culinary journey when visiting the medium-to-high end Casa Labia restaurant. Here, dining is ceremony for something you do so regularly.

I’m a person who likes to eat with all the finery of my context; So if it’s street food I’m gorging myself on, then I want that hot dog while walking Central Park, and if I’m enjoying a stay amid quiet opulence, then I require those crisp white restaurant linens, the fine dining table setup, and the food and service to match. Ideas Cartel made sure their unique Muizenberg-based offering made for an exemplary restaurant experience; And, where even a whisper of fault lay, the diligent team were quick to fix it.

The morning vigil of breakfast, was probably my favourite while staying at Casa Labia. Whether I chose my apartment’s balcony, the dining table, or a seat near the restaurant Bay windows, there was always peace and food fulfilment.

Yes, cake can be breakfast!

A full English Breakfast is my go-to order when travelling to review – one of the few times I’m not adventurous with food. See, it’s a pretty good way to gauge how quality and satisfaction can be reached using the basics. If the chef manages to stumble with an English Breakfast, it’s really a worrying indicator of what could be coming in meals of far more complex construction.

Casa’s closest English Breakfast option, complete with fried mushrooms and fresh rocket, left a surprising impression: flavoursome, comforting, and essential.

Much of the Cape’s restaurants seem happy to wade through the world of fusion food; and in some of its menu choices, Casa Labia is no different – though the South African taste sensibilities are never too far enough in the cooking, to make diners feel removed from home when eating.

Elements of traditional Italy, English fundamentals, and French brassiere style, find their way onto diners plates. However, this is not the purposeful diversification of fine dining due to trends (nor has the restaurant also chosen the pandemic pivot of many fine dining restaurants, to include takeaway options, tasting menus and wine pairing offerings by the way) – placating the worldly palates of visitors coming from all over South Africa, is more the compass of these foreign elements.

Anyway, whether you dine for breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner, much of the designed menu at Casa Labia, is pretty straightforward…with a side of family dining consideration.

The skilful culinary talents of the Casa chef and their team – as well as being so close to fishing sea waters – mean that the seafood dishes particularly at this establishment, are delicious and support local business too. I recommend either the Scallopini to lunch, or the Grilled Linefish with lemon and thyme, sauteed potatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, baby marrow, and mushrooms, and complete with fresh basil with garlic cream.

If you’re travelling solo, don’t worry because you can have the sea as your table compatriot. They’re a rather divine sounding board for your thought, and infinite in their wisdom.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea at Casa Labia, brings with it the time-honoured multitiered stand, however NOT showcasing compact sandwiches with flavour options in the classic tea, like Smoked Salmon or ham. Here they serve up storybook pastries, dependable scones, and something different. Savouries emphasize Cape’s love of spice and heartiness, with the likes of utterly delicious Mini Pita Pockets with Coronation Chicken and Coriander. There are Crostini’s topped with Ostrich Carpaccio, pickled baby beetroot, as well as amazing Wild Mushroom Pinheads with Garlic Aioli.

Pandemic protocols mean visitors are deprived of a decadent dessert tray, unfortunately, but there’s a menu full of choices to up your tea from Afternoon tea, to High Tea. I discovered the wonders of Naartjie loose leaf tea among the decent tea choices available (tea-bagged predominantly), and the virtues of fresh juices with Afternoon Tea here. I enjoyed every sip of my beverage choices throughout my stay, to the soundtrack of the crashing waves nearby of course.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the time in the world to eat here the way convention would insist though. The restaurant at Casa Labia, does its best to get ones food and drinks out in a timely manner; And with whatever time you have, eating here will be an experience regardless.

The soundtrack to your settling stomach is blues and crashing waves by the Atlantic Ocean – a timeless and endlessly unpredictable ballet.

The Location

One of the finer views of Muizenberg and its beach, can be enjoyed from several spots on the Casa Labia Cultural Centre property. Whether you are a guest to one of the apartments, or a visitor coming for a safe event or a meal, one has a view of the refreshing landscape and entrancing seascape.

The building itself is a palatial wonder between others that aren’t as grand and stately, as warm, nor as ideally situated. Meander and stroll through greenery and pebbled walkways designed to be fun for solo travellers, families, and anyone who wishes to soak up a bit of nature, adventure, and relaxation tinged with sea salt in the air.

The Hygiene

In keeping with national health and safety protocols, the property screens any arrivals, including their own hospitality team, logs and sanitizes visitors, and then situates them appropriately from other guests, as Casa’s various rooms, terrace, and grounds allow for spacious enactment of pandemic protocols.

Should you wish to sequester yourself, there is also the allowance of sunrooms, and outside nooks fit for secluded diner revelry, but do make sure to book first in order to avoid disappointment at availability.

The Verdict

I see that some that visit Casa Labias restaurant, are regulars – greeted by name, able to giggle to some inside jokes with the team, and their orders already known and patiently prepped. So, Casa can be what you need for a celebration but, also cater to your needs daily. It is dependable enough to connect with locals seeking their daily bread, and travellers seeking something memorable.

Digital nomads rejoice too, because booking into the Ideas Cartel brands ‘work and play’ duality, means unfettered access to the equipped shared workspaces – complete with gorgeous contemporary spaces, refreshments at the ready, and a view tempting enough to dive into.

I’ll return for the tea for sure, but considering how extensive and intriguing the Ideas Cartel’s event calendar for Casa Labia is looking, which is open to the paying public, I think I could be back from the city, for a Gin experience too.

Casa Labia is a lot of things, but wildly expensive and inaccessible is not one of them. Grab your loved ones, or treat yourself, and visit this Muizenberg spot.

I dare say you wont regret that first drink and selfie atleast.

By my recommendation: Casa Labia Cultural Centre

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