I bought Café Paradiso! Yay! It’s mine! I am converting it back into a house and I shall live in it, very happily, for many years to come.
That’s what I dreamt about after going there for dinner. From the moment I set foot in the restaurant I fell in love with it completely. The outdoor garden area has a beautiful water feature and on cold nights, fire displays, the rustic interior is decorated lovingly and the little upstairs balcony over-looking kloof street, is one of the cutest spots I have seen in some time.
We settled ourselves down next to the cozy fireplace upstairs, ordered a bottle of delicious, Kanonkop Kadette 2010 and I announced to my friends, “this is a happy place”.
Until I took a look at the menu.
“Kayli what starter do you want?”
“What about a main?”
“Well, what do you feel like?”
“Is anything jumping out at you?”
“Stop asking me so many questions!”
I went into menu-panic mode and couldn’t choose anything. The starters all sounded amazing. “I know what I want! WAIT! No I don’t!” I started doubting my decisions. Maybe I should have ripped Carpaccio with thyme, olives and Parmesan? Or perhaps haloumi with asparagus, rocket and salsa Verde? But maybe not? Maybe I should have butternut, gorgonzola and pear salad? BUT WHAT IF I SUDDENLY FELT LIKE MEAT!?
On the spur of the moment I chose my starter. The waiter looked at me and with terror in my eyes, I blurted out: “duck liver parfait with charred ciabatta and fig and walnut salad”.
Boy, did I make the right choice. If you have only ever had chicken liver, you have merely breached the surface of the creaminess and richness that you get from duck liver. It was smooth and velvety, with the perfect amount of red wine to add flavour. The figs in the salad added sweetness, the walnut’s had crunch and the vinaigrette cut through the liver to make each mouthful, perfect.
My friends both had the salt and pepper squid served with a spicy homemade aioli and a chilli-mint dressing. The squid was wonderfully crunchy, without being dry or over-cooked and the dressings complimented it beautifully. I may have stolen a few pieces when they had their backs turned to look around the restaurant. WARNING: The chilli-mint dressing is not for the weak and has quite a kick.
Incredibly satisfied after my starter, I thought I would be able to handle choosing a main. But oh, how I was wrong. By this point, what was a little fire upon our arrival, was now roaring violently next to me. I was hot, panicky and once again – couldn’t make up my mind.
Maybe I should go for the gnocci with sweet potato, crushed walnuts, gorgonzola and butternut? But I already had walnuts. Well then perhaps the herb-roast chicken with quinoa, feta, tomatoes and herb salad? But I had chicken for lunch. Oh what about the sirloin with Café de Paris butter, grilled black mushrooms, rocket and parmesan? But after my starter I wasn’t sure if I was that hungry.
Once again I decided last minute.
Norwegian salmon on herb risotto, with blistered rosa tomatoes and hollandaise sauce. It was the sauce that made my toes curl, but sadly, it was also the sauce that disappointed me most.
It isn’t easy to serve a great piece of seared salmon. It has to be brought to the table immediately because the middle must be pink, which means that the piece of fish isn’t very hot. Not only was my salmon cold, but so was the hollandaise sauce. It had begun to congeal. The hollandaise also hid the fattiness of the salmon, so when I took my first bite I had a watery mouthful of fat. The risotto itself was absolutely delicious, hot and perfectly al dente, which saved the dish from being a complete nightmare.
I watched jealously as my friends ate their mains. The one had a lamb salad with aubergine, olives, sunflower seeds, baby spinach, lemon, garlic and aioli – which was just great. The lamb was tender and the flavours balanced each other well.
The other had the star of the evening: lamb rack with garlic, rosemary and orange, served with gingered sweet potato wedges and green beans. The lamb was perfectly pink, the potato was well-seasoned, the jus was sticky, sweet, tart and rich and the portion was enormous. You should have seen her eyes light up as it was placed in front of her.
Although we didn’t have dessert I food-perved a few tables. The ice-cream looks amazing, the crème brulée was flawless and the fondant, oozy!
Café Paradiso welcome children and even pets. They run kids projects, such as cookie-icing and pizza-making to keep the kids entertained. It has such a wonderful ambiance that you feeling like you are eating in a friend’s home, not a restaurant. My main course wasn’t great but I have built a bridge, gotten over it and would definitely go back. The food isn’t cheap, but there should be something to fit your budget. The starters are quite big so if you are strapped for cash but feel like a night out, you’ll be ok.
Fatty fish? Oh well.. Next time I’m having that lamb.
Directions to Cafe Paradiso
110 Kloof Street,
021 423 8653