Back in the day, Sea Point probably had more restaurants than the rest of Cape Town put together. The country’s first vegetarian-only restaurant, the Granary, opened here; the rich and famous hung out at La Perla and went dancing over the sea at the Carousel; the snazzy Ritz revolving restaurant was still a sensation; there were the four-hour breakfasts at Reece’s, Cape Town’s only genuine continental delicatessen, and at the upmarket Europa, paella nights on Sundays. Eventually steak ranches, pizzerias, Italian, Chinese and Indian eateries stood cheek by jowl.
Then in the 1990s, with the opening of the V&A Waterfront, Sea Point lost its monopoly. The seamy side, which held some attraction when it was all strictly verboten under apartheid, was no longer a thrill. Reliable dagga peddlers were replaced by violent drug pushers; busty sex workers started stalking passersby; the rent boys seemed to go to seed quickly; the risqué nightclubs turned into nasty, strip clubs; moving out of the wings, various fraternities of developing world mafia hoped to divide up the cake. Property values foundered uncertainly. Vacant shop fronts became commonplace.
Franchises and fast food outlets went on to dominate Main Road. Now their grip might be loosening. For some time, locals have been falling out of love with the Waterfront. It may be the nicest tourist dragnet in the world, but if you can choose between schlepping down to the V&A or going somewhere pleasant close by, the neighbourhood wins hands down.
Two brave, young gastronomic entrepreneurs, Anna Rasclosa and Faisal Khakoo, were prepared to go where angels waivered. They have now practically joined their abutting establishments, winterized with heaters, and put up an awning that conjoins their pavement seating. I prefer sitting inside cosy La Bruixa (the espresso and tapas bar), and ordering from La Boheme (the bistro and wine bar) next door. “La bruja” means “witch” in Spanish, and little dolls on broomsticks hover in the windows. A two-course meal costs R90 and a three-course R110; in addition are blackboard specials (ordered a la carte). Around 60 wines are available by the glass and priced fairly.
The food is generally good, rarely disappointing, never disastrous. The kitchen is good with meat, but struggles with pastry. The spanakopita triangles are a nifty way to package chorizo, and the accompanying hummus works unexpectedly well with it. The tomato tart is more like a mini-pizza. The Ravioli can be over sauced. They’re better at salads, such as the rocket salad with ripe, roasted tomatoes and parma ham rolled with mozzarella. The thinly sliced seared beef with cherry tomatoes, rocket and blueberry sauce works, but I wasn’t convinced by the addition of olives.
Most mains are served with veggies on the side – corncob sliced, beetroot, butternut. They claim to use fillet in the beef bourguignon, but the sauce is the star here and the mash is pleasantly light. The tagliatelle with ostrich meatballs is clearly still experimental; the meat is sweetish and the balls mealy. I ate less than half and was surprised the waitress didn’t inquire. There aren’t many vegetarian options, and pork plays a big role on the menu. Their signature dish is probably the popular pork belly with mustard sauce.
The cheesecake is like bread and the crème brûlée too heavy. Recommended among the desserts are a delicious gooseberry, pear and apple tart with pastry closer to cake, and the croissant pudding (a fancy version of bread and butter pudding) à la Nigella Lawson but with ice-cream on top.
Seapoint is definitely back on the menu.
La Boheme and La Bruxia, 341 Main Road, Sea Point. Tel: 021 434 8797.