Jenny Handley explores the hop, hot and happening Bree Street restaurants of the Mother City to meet some of the chefs who make it come alive!
Recipes and styling by: Migalia Bellorin, Richard Bosman, Roberto Carluzzo, Lauren Case, Luca Di Pasquale, Liam Tomlin and Gareth Walford
Photographs by: Bruce Tuck
Bree Street, at the foot of Table Mountain, has earned itself a reputation of being the culinary road of Cape Town. Here, both local and international chefs are creating a culture of five-star food served in settings that vary from edgy and elegant to casual streetside dining. The emphasis is often on fun, and on the first Thursday of every month, restaurants and art galleries stay open late with young and old spilling out onto the street, glasses in hand, as the sun sets behind the mountain…
The bottom of Bree Street may be the best place to embark on a culinary journey but, if you begin at True Italic, you may never want to move on!
Here, chef Luca Di Pasquale has earned a reputation for serving the best aubergine Parmigiana in Cape Town. This dish has attracted ‘flexitarians’ who wish to eat vegetarian food in this rustic, soulful space. While the menu changes constantly, you know this dish is a certainty. Luca and his sister, Natasha, started this authentic osteria (in Italian terms, a restaurant that serves a small menu of simple regional specialities) when the street was quiet and mainly offices. Luca works in the kitchen, but does come out to charm guests, and Natasha manages the front of house. Their mother comes from Ferrara, just 40km from Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region, and their father from Ragusa in Sicily. Their heritage has created a blend of the best Italian flavours, which are showcased in signature dishes such as their sausage ragù. And one can taste the passion. Their desserts are to die for.
15 Bree Street; 021-418-7655; trueitalic.co.za
Bacon on Bree
It’s with a gentle smile that he declares that his perfect dish (and woman) embodies balance – a combination of spiciness, savouriness and sweetness, without one dominating the other. Richard’s bacon chocolate brownie, in which the bacon is caramelised first with brown sugar, is one of the most innovative dishes on his menu. While the hero of every dish on their menu is pork bacon, he is currently experimenting with lamb and beef bacon, and is not averse to considering duck bacon too. Richard’s reputation lies in the quality of his bacon – he chooses livestock from three top-class suppliers who breed pigs in pastures. They are fed on natural food and live a good lifestyle. The result is that the meat is dark red with firm white fat, and easy to work with. He claims that it is of such high quality that one could almost eat it raw. And it is not all about the breakfast – wander downstairs and enjoy art, buy Richard’s superlative bacon and spices, or even order a salad called The Rabbit.
217 Bree Street; 021-422-2798; bacononbree.com
Venezuelan-born Migdalia Bellorin comes from the exotic island of Margarita. While Venezuelan women are renowned for their beauty, she claims their worth lies in their personality and strong character. They are hard workers whose primary focus is to look after their families… “and they have to wear the pants,” she declares with a smile.
The foods of Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Venezuela, that feature on Migdalia’s tapas menu, showcase the exotic exuberance of South America with fun and flavour. Of all the South American countries, she swears that Mexico produces the best food. Migdalia believes the way to experience a country is to taste all the food on offer and, at Orinoco, there is even a Japanese influence in the food – like the fish tacos, which boast a combination of Mexican chilli and teriyaki sauce. Playful and passionate, this qualified chef studied in Mexico for two years (where she ate fried crickets and ant eggs), but claims that her best skills were learnt in the kitchen from her family, especially her grandmother. After spending seven years in South Africa, Migdalia opened this restaurant three years ago using beautiful things from her home. She keeps it simple, serving food of an international quality. “This is my job and my passion… it belongs to me.”
17 Bree Street; 021-418-4544; orinocoflavours.co.za
Roberto Carluzzo offers a small slice of the Italian Riviera at the top of Bree Street. More formal in feel than most of his neighbours, the understated entrance belies what lies behind the door.
Roberto came to Cape Town, fell in love with the city and, in 2014, opened Palma. The restaurant is named after his mother, who, in spite of not speaking English, took a break from running her restaurant in Santa Margherita Ligure,
to come and train the cooks before the restaurant opened. Roberto’s sister, Federica, works in the elegant restaurant where they serve bonafide Ligurian food made from family recipes. Together, they came to learn the language and show their family that they could do this on their own, proving their independence. Roberto believes that to work at the foot of Table Mountain and live near the sea is heaven. “I know what food I love and to see other people loving it too; making them happy makes me happy.”
213 Bree Street; 082 294 7015
Local lass, Lauren Case, fuelled by cherished memories of childhood baking and cooking with her mom and grandmother, stopped studying for a BComm and enrolled at the South African Chefs Academy in 2011.
In 2013, along with a fellow student, she won the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars award. Hard work and sacrifice paid off and she is now head chef at Bocca, having honed most of her talent under the wings of chef Peter Tempelhoff, at the Greenhouse and Mondiall. Her inspiration comes mainly from Mediterranean countries Italy, Greece and Spain, and she plans to explore, drink wine and eat as much as possible in Italy next year.
“ I love our food at Bocca – it is so warm and comforting and that’s why it’s always tricky to choose a favourite. The spaghetti carbonara is one of my best – I haven’t tasted another one like it, and our homemade spaghetti makes all the difference! “I love working in Cape Town; it’s forever changing. There is such a strong food culture here, and people are willing to experience new things; well, most of them.” Bocca hits the spot when it comes to sharing Italian-inspired informal food, or a pizza cooked in their hand-built pizza oven from Naples.
The Block, corner Bree and Wale streets; 021-422-0188; bocca.co.za
Liam Tomlin has a devoted following, and fans love his laid-back warehouse and deli in Bree Street.
Here, standards of fine dining have been adhered to in an unpretentious setting. Despite shedding the affectations and rituals of fine-dining establishments, where he cut his teeth, there are some core principles of being a restaurateur that Liam will never relinquish. At Chef’s Warehouse, he does everything the same, without shortcuts, but in an informal environment. “With the setting being more relaxed, everything is now on our terms and we don’t have to stick to one cuisine. No need to stay open late and no reservations.” Liam has worked hard to ensure that his superb food is presented to his cosmopolitan clientele with the equivalent standard of service. While he may dislike how South Africans sweeten breads, Liam loves the way we pickle fish. Ask him about his favourite ingredients and cookbooks, and he will tell you he’d be happy if he never sees okra again, but could cook out of David Thompson’s Thai Street Food cookbook for the rest of his life.
The industrial-feel, relaxed dining area can be reached by walking through his well-stocked emporium of to-die-for kitchen equipment and recipe books, and, while sitting savouring his tapas, you can shop on a wide range of high-quality deli-style ingredients.
92 Bree Street; 021-422-0128; chefswarehouse.co.za
Gareth Walford, who hails from Joburg, can be found translating five-star foodie ideas into everyday signature dishes.
At Latitude 33, fashion, food and art combine. Gareth’s business partner, Charlie Post, manages the fashion side of the business upstairs, which showcases exclusive Aussie fashion labels. The two constantly inspire one another, but know to keep their feet on their own floors – “Charlie can cook but, fortunately, I have, as yet, not had to throw him into the kitchen in the shop,” says Gareth. School mates, they came up with the concept of combining their respective passions – food and fashion – and then found this property at the top of Bree Street before the buzz, three and- a-half years ago.
Gareth studied at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, then notched up stints at the Hilton, Michelangelo and Saxon hotels before working behind the scenes on MasterChef SA. He came south in search of the sea and the chilled, laid-back coffee-shop culture in Cape Town. “It was the food that was the main drive behind the opening of the restaurant, but we were fortunate to find a great working relationship with some amazing people from Truth. Coffee who made that section of the business as successful as it currently is.” Now, he watches people run their businesses from his restaurant.
165 Bree Street; 021-424-9857; lat33.co.za