Quality ingredients and eateries that cater to fussy tastes impress over “smart” spots

With money ever tighter there have to be compelling reasons to invest in dining out. When I wrote reviews about dining out I’d often suggest saving three or four ordinary meals to enjoy an extra-ordinary food experience believing instead that more value was delivered at the top end. Following a recent experience at Waterkloof Restaurant on Waterkloof Estate in Somerset West I’m no longer of that opinion.

The cured trout at Waterkloof was the only dish that impressed me.
The cured trout at Waterkloof was the only dish that impressed me.

A table for three was booked in writing. With a week’s notice I let them know I followed a no sugar, no starch, low carb, no alcohol diet. When they confirmed the reservation they also generously noted that they’d recorded my dietary requirements.

With one of the most dramatic tasting rooms and restaurant locations, Waterkloof has every right to bill a premium and I knew it was R350 per head for three courses (R40 is added if you order cheese) when I booked. Beverages and tips are extra.

However, when what’s on the plate doesn’t match up to the view or the price I feel cheated. The fact that they had us down for two and not three when we arrived was irritating but not the end of the world. Despite me telling the waiter about my limited diet they still, unthinkingly, served a sorbet between courses and my monk fish main arrived with the advertised samp despite me asking the waiter when I ordered it to provide an alternative.

I left the restaurant very disappointed by an experience where I feel that my fussy requests were ignored and, to add injury to insult, the monk fish was overcooked.

By contrast, two recent meals at little, unassuming bistros, impressed me.

Salmon, cream cheese salad at Just Pure Bistro
Salmon, cream cheese salad at Just Pure Bistro

At Just Pure Bistro, attached to Just Pure cosmetics in Hermanus, the quality of the ingredients and flavourful dressings make an ordinary-sounding salad something delicious. Great sea views didn’t hurt either nor did a under R100 for lunch bill.

Treat at Hertex Fabrics in Durbanville impressed me when I  enjoyed cakes and pastries and it continues to now. As a temple to sugar and carbs, if anyone had a right to return attitude when asked for no-carb no-sugar options they do but requests are met with the same genuine affection offered to all clients. Despite being busy they were open to serving the pulled pork sandwich as a salad instead and wow, was it delicious – juicy and flavour-packed pork with Tex-Mex attitude and condiments. For under R100 a person we each had a main dish and cappuccino.

Pulled-pork salad at Treat
Pulled-pork salad at Treat


Look, I’m not naive. Obviously the overheads at an establishment like Waterkloof are many times that of a regular restaurant but if their business model is based on the income of a plate of food from the restaurant alone it is doomed to fail.

As more of us change the way we eat those restaurants that don’t make the effort to happily accommodate the fussy eater may find a To-Let sign in the window in time to come. If you’re also a fussy eater I’d certainly recommend you have four meals at Bistro and Treat before you have one at Waterkloof.

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