IT’S been some months since MyWeekend last went on a café cruise and so the leafy streets of Walmer get a turn as my husband and fellow food blogger Salvelio and I call at three popular spots that have changed ownership.
Our mission? To rate each java junction and find out if they crack the nod in terms of coffee, meals, sweets and service, all without making too much of dent in our money and minutes.
Marilyn’s at 123 Villiers Road
I visited this café a year or so ago and remember being somewhat under-whelmed as the movie star theme seemed kitsch and the meal unmemorable. Now erase that image as renowned PE chef Alan Fryer (ex Charlie’s Bistro) has completely transformed the place. Marilyn is still there but showing her classier side and the menu now offers restaurant quality food at café prices.
The coffee: The Illy cappuccinos (R15) were aromatic and piping hot – in our view the best of the three spots visited.
The food: Hake and chips (R55) for Salvelio and chicken roulade (R65) and salad for me. The fish was fresh and a decent sized fillet; the chicken nicely cooked (café chicken can so often be dry). Both dishes were deftly plated.
The sweets: Cheesecake at R20 was excellent value and almost too good to share. Though baked, it had a lovely lightness to it.
Service, timing and niggles: Waitress Faith was friendly and capable, though her pronunciation of chicken cordon “blue” made us smile. We arrived at noon and left at 12.55pm with just enough time for me to get to my Weekend Post afternoon shift. No niggles.
The damage: R170 (excluding tip) for two meals, two coffees and one dessert to share.
Cobblestone Bakery in Sixth Avenue
Those delicious breads and pastries are still there but the handsome brothers are gone. Cobblestone is now owned by Clarence van Rooyen and partner Lilian le Roux. Clarence is an old hand in the industry and ran Die Dros at Brookes Pavilion and in East London for some years.
The coffee: At R16 the Molinari cappuccinos were R1 more expensive than at the other spots visited. Espresso quality was there but the cuppas were too milky for our taste.
The food: Salvelio had a pizza with salami, mozzarella and preserved fig (R60). He liked the toppings but the crust was a little thicker than he prefers. The pizza was big enough to share. My rustic bobotie with salad (R55) was similarly portioned and I could barely finish it.
The sweets: We shared a pecan nut tartlet (R18) that was wonderfully caramelised and had a golden, nutty crust. This was the best dessert of the week, but the waiter said there was no option of cream or ice cream on the side.
Service, timing and niggles: Service was pleasant and the owners were around to keep an eye on staff. We were in and out in just under an hour. I was disturbed by an open office door directly in my line of vision.
The damage: R175 (excluding tip) for two meals, two coffees, one pud and one water.
Deli on Main at Ninth Avenue Shopping Centre
We used to love this café when Jennifer Kerr (now Borriero) had it. There was one lot of owners after her but they did not stick around; now it is helmed by Heather Martens in her first café venture.
The coffee: The Sumatran cappuccinos (R15 each) were made by a barista who knows his stuff. The attractive sheen on the frothed milk showed care and skill.
The food: My Vietnamese chicken salad (R55) with crispy fried noodles was an intriguing choice. Greens were fresh and chicken succulent, but the sweet, “green goddess” type dressing on the side was not quite right for a dish with pronounced Asian flavours. Salvelio’s chicken, mushroom and sun-dried tomato linguine (R55) was a generous helping loaded with chicken, but he found the sauce slightly too sweet.
The sweets: We again shared a pecan nut tartlet. This one was pricier, at R22, but did have cream on the side.
Service, timing and niggles: Service started out snappy but slowed a bit as the café filled for lunch. We arrived at 12.45pm and got our bill at 2.05pm. It was good to see Heather stepping in to help. Again there was an open kitchen door issue.
The damage: R174 (excluding tip) for two meals, two coffees, one dessert and one water.
Visits were unannounced and meals paid for in full.