Cape Town’s culinary scene is anything but forgiving, and so many promising new eateries open their doors in the summer season, only to be nothing but a distant memory by winter. Happily, there are some that stand the test of time – one of these is Hemelhuijs.
Having celebrated its fifth birthday in October, Hemelhuijs can almost count itself an institution in the city. Its nostalgic, honest cuisine is certainly celebrated by many. But while the food is excellent, it’s the combination of that and the soulful interior design that makes it a place to return to again and again.
Lingering over a meal here, there’s always something new to notice. In fact, if you waited six months before you returned (and really, that would be foolish), you’d probably find the walls a whole new shade, different installations attracting your eye, and certainly a fresh crop of foliage crowning the hunting trophy that watches from one wall.
This same attention to detail is even taken as far as the plates (we’ll get to what’s on them in a moment, I swear), which are designed by owner Jacques Erasmus and made specially for the restaurant, from the aged-looking Boerendelft to shimmering gold and the Sepia collection. And if you suddenly don’t fancy eating off anything else again, you can purchase your own set of crockery and other homeware on your way out.
But visuals aside, you go to a restaurant to eat, and here you eat well. In fact, the only disappointment is that you can’t book a table for dinner – Hemelhuijs is open for breakfast and lunch only. Tossing a coin at 11 am, we opted for brunch, and were so glad we did. While the whole experience feels like an incredibly indulgent moment, nothing about the breakfast offering is over the top – least of all the price, relatively speaking.
While I hovered over choosing the lightly-toasted mosbolletjies with honey-butter and marinated biltong for a while, in the end the home-made potato rosti won, and when it arrived with herbed, whipped cheese and perfectly poached eggs, I felt like I had too.
Across the table from me another pair of poached eggs on artichoke hearts with Hollandaise came as close to inducing order envy as anything could. And at R60 each, given the quality and quantity (we left quite full), I’m going to go ahead and call that a bargain brunch. (The smoked trout pictured above is charged at R35 extra.)
While Hemelhuijs’s inner-city location makes it ideal for a business lunch, you kind of don’t want to tear yourself away from the cosy stillness of its interior too soon. We whiled away another happy 30 minutes over decadent cups of chai, served in beautiful stoneware mugs that are just begging to have chilly hands wrapped around them.
So, really, the only question that remains is, who’s free for lunch today?
Where 71 Waterkant Street, CBD
When Monday to Friday 9 am – 4 pm, Saturdays 9 am – 3 pm
Contact +27 21 418 2042, www.hemelhuijs.co.za
Photography courtesy Jade Taylor Cooke and Hemelhuijs