Cool couple set up hot new eatery with tempting menu

THEY are arguably one of Port Elizabeth’s coolest couples and now these two creatives are also working side by side.

Well-known sculptor Wehrner Lemmer has for the past three months embraced the role of cafe owner and manager, and his cosy, contemporary spot is right next door to wife Annette’s popular Jigsaw hair salon in Newton Park.

The new cafe has the catchy name of RAAK, Afrikaans for touch, and is in the same space that was occupied by Vovo Telo until April, when that franchise’s lease expired.

The timing could not have been better as Wehrner had for years toyed with the idea of running his own cafe.

Design-savvy Annette had been closely involved with Vovo Telo and her sister, Lindie Alcock, well known on the Bay cafe scene for many years, was equally happy to help Wehrner refine his menu.

The result is that RAAK, like its predecessor, is already a popular spot for touching base with friends over brekkie or lunch, or simply just for weary workers from the surrounding businesses to enjoy a sanity-restoring cuppa.

When my hubby Salvelio and I stopped by for lunch last Wednesday, we could see the Lemmers’ style written all over the trendy interior with its rough brick walls and acid green accents.

There are now fewer tables than before, giving the cafe a more spacious feel, and the hearty but healthy menu, though small, instantly appealed.

We also realised our chosen time – a little before the regular lunch hour of 1 to 2pm – was wise as the place was soon packed to the rafters. There is additional seating outside but on a chilly winter’s day this is not always such a good option.

Steak salad (R55) for me and a belt-busting RAAK burger (R45) for my man arrived promptly and were presented with a flourish by our capable and friendly waitress, Monica.

The burger patty was a decent size but even more impressive was the home-made bun – a beautiful, bouncy specimen bearing zero resemblance to the tasteless supermarket bakery stuff. Considering that very many Bay cafes are now charging upwards of R60 for their “gourmet” burgers, this one represented excellent value. The chips, too, were hand-cut, and most of the breads at RAAK are artisan-baked.

Made-from-scratch accompaniments do make my day and so I also relished the salad dressing – Wehrner’s own zesty concoction of chilli, ginger, garlic and fish sauce. It gave the salad of crunchy cucumber, carrot, mixed greens and baby corn (punctuated by the sweetness of pear and the nuttiness of bean sprouts) a pleasing Asian-style zing, though the steak was a bit well-done for my liking.

We ended our meal by sharing two desserts – a whopper of a slice of moist, gluten-free “hummingbird cake” packed with the tropical flavours of pineapple and banana (R24) and a very pretty, individual little lemon meringue (R20) with a rich, buttery shortbread base that could have rivalled Nigella’s best efforts any day.

RAAK’s excellent Illy cappuccinos are also worth a mention. Again, there is never a sensation of being ripped off as cup one costs R15 and subsequent refills only R12. You even get a loyalty card with a stamp for every cup you have – and every 10th one is free.

RAAK is at 27a Pickering Street, Newton Park, and Wehrner is on 083-609-8490. The kitchen is open from 7am to 3pm (weekdays) and 8am to 1pm (Saturdays).

This review visit was unannounced and the meal paid for in full.

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