Capetonians mourned when the popular Dutch closed its doors in De Waterkant, but Stephan van de Ven now serves his familiar comfort food at the new Dutch in Wynberg. By KIM MAXWELL Photographs by WARREN HEATH
People who love eating usually have favourite haunts. One spot was the favourite of many Capetonians who frequented De Waterkant. Dutch, in a blue double-storey building with a bright orange awning and deck, was the place to go for lazy breakfasts, midweek coffees and lunches. Patrons were assured of friendly service and a chat with owner Stephan van de Ven. It was a place to watch pedestrians, to catch up on food magazines and to read newspapers.
The food was dependable and the coffee of European strength. Stephan is, after all, from the Netherlands. When he opened the original Dutch in 2000, he was one of two eating venues in De Waterkant. When he closed, seven years later, there were 32 places serving food. In 2007, Stephan decided to close up shop due to extensive construction in the area, which turned the street into a dust bowl. He took a well-earned, two-year sabbatical to travel and spend time with his family, also working occasional shifts at restaurants such as Aubergine and Joostenberg Bistro.
Then, to the delight of loyal patrons, Dutch was reborn in September 2009, this time in the fashionable Chelsea corner of Wynberg in Cape Town. The new Dutch is in a Victorian building owned by Stephan’s fellow Netherlander, Tin Korver of Twiice International. Around the corner, Korver’s wife Lisa operates a high-end children’s boutique, and next door to this is a florist, also run by a Hollander. Dutch number two has a fresher, more upmarket feel than its predecessor, thanks in part to Korver’s Ghost chairs and tables set against charcoal walls, with pale wood framing doors, windows and shelves. Resurrected is the wall of mounted black-andwhite photos with orange accents that depict life in the Netherlands and South Africa. The open kitchen is a new innovation, but the sociable atmosphere is the same. Former staff members, including manageress and part-time cook Marizka du Toit, have also returned.
Although he misses the burgeoning vibrancy of De Waterkant, Stephan is enjoying working nearer to his home. He jokes about having become a “mature house-dad in a mature suburb,” but having time to transport his twin five-year-old daughters to school and ballet is one of the advantages of working daytime hours in the hospitality business. Stephan was born in Maastricht in the south of Holland, where the culture of food and wine was firmly entrenched, thanks to neighbouring France and Belgium. He studied hotel management in Amsterdam and worked in restaurants in the USA and Sydney.
A visit to London in 1989 resulted in a six-year stay, culminating in the management of Terence Conran’s flagship restaurant at the time, Le Pont de Latour. Stephan met Jennifer, now his wife, in London. They married and returned to her native South Africa, with Stephan stipulating that he would only move from Europe if it was to Cape Town. He joined the Vineyard Hotel, working closely with chef Christophe Dehosse at Au Jardin and later becoming the hotel’s food and beverage manager. After four years he was ready to open his own place. All the Dutch recipes are his own creations, but he says he prefers to attend to his customers personally, leaving the cooking to his very competent staff. “I believe that in a small restaurant, being owner-run adds a dimension of charm,” he says. “It changes the character of the business.” Like its forebear, the new Dutch has an atmosphere that encourages lingering, with patio tables overlooking pebbles and a picket fence.
Familiar menu favourites include homemade crumbed organic beef kroketten served on rye bread, and in winter there’s rich pea soup with smoked sausage. There is tasty nasi goreng: rice stir-fried the Dutch way with Indonesian chilli and spices, chicken satay, homemade peanut sauce and prawn crackers. And of course there’s the iconic, all-day, fried-egg uitsmijter. In Dutch this means “bouncer”, but has nothing to do with the hardness of the egg – the dish got its name from being served to Amsterdam café patrons late at night, shortly before bouncers threw them out at closing time. Stephan says the Dutch culinary tradition tends to focus on comfort food, and because of his heritage, his menu will always contain a Dutch element.
There are also a few non-traditional highlights, such as wild mushroom tart with rocket and Parmesan shavings, or salmon fishcakes with dill mustard sauce. Both were popular at Dutch number one, but Dutch number two has a few new surprises lurking, such as a bittersweet dark chocolate dessert with orange curd, served in a coffee cup. It’ll knock your clogs off.
Dutch, 51 Waterloo Road, Chelsea Village, Wynberg. Open Monday to Friday from 8am – 4:30pm, Saturdays from 9am – 2pm. Tel 021-797-5838.