Ola, readers! Trying a new thing: mini-review upfront, followed by more detail after. Let’s see how this pans out.
I’ve worked in De Waterkant for 6 years now, yet somehow, foolishly, I’ve walked past The Charles Café countless times and not walked in. Idiot.
Not only is the menu great (I’ll get to this later) but there’s a lovely area under the trees on the sidewalk to relax and watch the passers-by; a cozy “living room” style indoor dining room complete with fireplace; and last, buts defs not least, a beautiful rooftop area –perfect for basking in the sun while doing some work.
The menu is simple, uncomplicated, and the food is truly delicious with interesting flavour combos. A few of the items may need a relook at the pricing as a few of the dishes may be overpriced for locals, but there are options for all budgets. Highlights: beautiful flavour combos in the sweet potato gnocchi and the super oozy baked camembert – both well-priced dishes. Lowlight: overcooked malva pud. They also do Malay lunches & dinners on Monday nights with a special a la carte menu.
The Full Shebang.
While I would have loved to have sat outside on the sidewalk under the stars and countless twinkling fairy-lights, it was just a little too chilly. So I was thrilled when I realised that there was a fireplace inside! While outside seats about 30 guests, another 20 can keep warm by the fire, while 40 enjoy the rooftop. All three are great spots for dinner parties and classy events.
The menu is simple. There are no official starters at this point, but a few of the mains are well-priced and perfectly portioned for an affordable starter. So that’s exactly what we did, because what’s a dinner without way too many courses 😉
STARTERS – both of these could be a main if you aren’t SUPER hungry like I am 365 days a year.
Baked Camembert // 85
My business partner, Marvin, has a soft spot for baked camembert, which means that at every review that we do, if there’s one on the menu we have to try it. And good lord. This was heavenly, and without a doubt the most delicious one yet. Stringy, oozy, melty cheese, doused in white wine with plenty garlic and thyme, and served with great hunks of sour dough. There aren’t many food-travesties as severe as cheese that isn’t ready to be served and doesn’t melt properly under the heat – and this one… well… it didn’t disappoint at all.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi // 85
Plump gnocchi served on a rich cream sauce, with grilled mushrooms, sautéed baby spinach, firm and fresh peas and baby beetroot. The sweetness of the potato wasn’t overwhelming and played nicely with the sweet beets and earthy veg. It was topped with a parmesan crisp that I crumbled over the dish, adding saltiness and texture. A top class and oh-so-pretty dish.
Lamb Curry // 129
I didn’t order this because we were told it wasn’t hot (and I LOOOVE me some heat), but, in typical Kayli fashion, I ended up eating most of it anyway. The spicing was incredible. Complex and delicate, we were hit with layers of flavours from deep and earthy, then a bit of warmth, to sweeter and tangy notes of cinnamon and cardamom. I even liked the coconut shavings and banana sambals! What have I become!? Although I would have preferred that they were served on the side so I could at my own discretion. The lamb was perfectly cooked and super tender, I could eat this daily.
Ostrich // 185
I love a good piece of ostrich served like a steak, and that’s exactly what we got. Delicately seasoned, served on a bed of wild mmmmmushrooms, spinach and cumin mash, then topped with a perfect greenpepper cream sauce. A dish so delish that we fought over the last bite, but quite on the pricey side.
Malva Pudding // 45
Malva pudding is my dessert weakness. I literally can’t comprehend why some people don’t like it. This was a HUGE portion, topped with an equally huge portion of custard. All the flavours were spot-on, but sadly it was a bit dry. Thankfully the custard came to the rescue and now that I know this exists, I am going to go again for more, especially because I saw that our neighbour’s piece was perfect.
Great service, amazing atmosphere, breakfasts, pastries, sandwiches, salads and more. I can’t wait to head on over to the rooftop one afternoon to work, while eating a slice of cake and drinking a cocktail… I mean, coffee. I also love that they do Cape Malay lunches and dinners every Monday, inspired by Justine’s (one of the owners) experience living and eating in Bo Kaap, when she moved to Cape Town. On that note, the owners are incredibly friendly and involved in running the restaurant, which you can feel from the moment you walk in, because it just feels like home.
Directions to The Charles Café
137 Waterkant Street