Friday, July 10, 2009

Dinner For One: Michael's Cafe & Deli

Thursday 09 July 2009

Michael’s Cafe & Deli - 88 Campground Road, Rondebosch Tel: 021 689 9188 email:

There are two things that I missed dearly whilst in India: a clean, fresh, uncomplicated meal, and a medium-rare steak.
My last real meal was a rich chicken biryani at Mumbai International, which was excessive down to the last elachi.

On my first night out on Cape Town’s lonely Rondebosch I stopped at a corner on Campground road that I’ve been eying ever since I relocated here in January.

Upon getting out of the blackbird I noticed a inviting black-board advertising a dinner steak-special in the glowing eaves of a mysterious and crisp diner.
The cafe turned out to be the 3-month old Michael’s Cafe & Deli (Michael was behind the counter, doing time during the tough winter vacation).

The service is young and inexperienced - I had to ask for a steak-knife and a sugar bowl for my coffee; they make up for it, however, with sharp eagerness and a sense of humour that, though generally lacking in many South African cafes and bistros, seems to be a signature of the cosy restaurants in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

Not knowing what to expect (and more than a little nervous at allowing my first steak back to be in untested territory), I ordered a medium-rare 250gram fillet (which wasn’t part of the special, actually - that was for the rump and sirloin), which was accompanied by potato wedges and a light, fresh salad.

My stern policy of “Rocket should be seen and not heard” was, unfortunately,violated as the bitter taste of the thick, unassuming rocket stems threatened to overpower the entire meal.
I refused to be daunted, though, and plunged into my steak with a verve and rigour comparable to a neanderthal raw-meat appetite.
I wasn’t disappointed.

The steak was warm enough for the smell to be palpable (i.e. enough for the palate to be guided by olfactory direction), yet cool enough to taste the gentle (honey?) and pepper. My idea of a perfect steak has the consistency of several layers of cold meat, gently heated with crisp peppercorns on the top. This was close to it, and it got better as I reached the centre.
A pleasant house shiraz completed the unexpectedly lovely meal

The cafe is quiet and cosy; with delicate globe lamps lending the place a romantic atmosphere. The table-clothes were covered with crisp brown-paper and I had struggled to negate the effect of the inviting leather couches that sat next to my table.

So the meal was surprisingly good and economical; my only gripe due to the salad (this is probably more a personal quirk than a gripe) and the weak cappuccino (which was, to its credit, topped with perfectly frothed milk).

Michael seems like an earnest and pleasant young restaurateur with a keen eye for marketing detail. His cafe is open and uncluttered; it does, however, manage to retain a cosy and personal composure. This might be due to the imperceptible energy and eagerness resonant in the fine print all about the place, clear in the sincerity with which Michael enquires about whether you’re enjoying the meal and in the easy laughter of my waitress.

I hope that this place retains its immediate, romantic charm redolent with the freshness epitomized by the crisp, clear Cape Town air that embraced me as I left the deli with the taste of cheap wine on my breath.

Beef Fillet (with a side of potato wedges + salad): R89
Glass of House Wine (Red - Shiraz): R30
Cappuccino (Regular): R14
Total R133


  1. Oh my Brad, you're a foodie! And a snob to boot.
    Welcome to the brotherhood. And if you go winetasting a couple of times (I recommend ~100+) you will also never be able to order the cheap stuff. Excellent.


  2. As I was delivering a lecture the other day, two large crabs walked in, sat down, and watched me. Anyone know were I can meat a Cray fish at first light?