If there is one lesson Lockdown has taught us, it’s to be more appreciative. It’s been four, very long months, since we’ve ventured out as a family for a meal. I was uncertain of what to expect from the new norm of dining but agreed to be honest for the sake of fellow foodies who are still toying with the idea of eating out.
A good omen was the first day of full sunshine since the series of cold fronts hit our shores. I couldn’t think of a better corner of the Cape to lunch in than Kalk Bay. Harbour House Restaurant holds a prime location in the waterfront, right on the shoreline. The view doesn’t get any better than this. To add more sunshine to this bright day, my favourite Cape Town duo, Acoustic Element, were the entertainment.
Part one of the new normal includes a temperature check on arrival and completion of your contact details. All done quickly, professionally and with patience with the children. The restaurant walls are glass to invite the exceptional views of the sea and mountain into the room. As we walk to the table, I inhale deeply, I have missed the scent of salt water from being so close to the ocean. The beaches might still be closed, but this is as good as a walk on the beach, without the fear of breaking any lockdown rules.
We are seated at our table and guided through the rules of dining out – no alcohol, no walking around without a mask, and minimum staff for patrons’ safety. The tables are spaced further apart to allow guests to remove their masks while eating. If my children can follow the rules, then so can you. It really isn’t too much admin to deal with and far easier than I anticipated.
The water crashes against the rocks metres away and the kids are mesmerised by the close proximity to the ocean. A few seals pop in and out the waves stirring up more excitement.
Harbour House specialises in seafood, so when in Rome…
Starters range from oysters, fairly priced from R35 each, to a smoked mackerel paté (R70), the famous seafood stack (R110) and the undeniably best scallop preparation this side of the Cape (R125). The plating is as remarkable as the flavour combinations.
Surrounding the succulent sweet scallop is a light salsa of lime, chilli and mango. Fresh and fragrant, the scallop dissolves immediately into an ‘aha’ moment. This is what I missed most about dining out – the surprise of new flavours to taunt my palate.
The seafood stack comes in as a close contender for the top spot. Tempura prawns sit atop layers of salmon tartar, avocado mouse, tomatoes, cucumber, peppered with caviar. It smacks of the sea, with delicate tones and smooth mouthfuls.
All the while, the masterful musicians are gradually elevating your mood – without you even knowing it. Music is the perfect supplement to a glass of wine – consider it a lifeline in these alcohol-free days.
By the time we order our main meals, we are more than comfortable at our socially-distanced table. In that moment I realise that this new-normal is absolutely ok, and can be enjoyed as much as any other meal pre-coronavirus.
There is no kiddies menu but they are more than happy to prepare meals off the main menu in smaller portions for the youngens. The kids devoured their fish and chips in a flash, that is real testament to how good the food is – that and they are probably so tired of home cooked meals.
The seafood pasta dish (R225) immediately swayed me at the words “handmade pappardelle” and rightfully so. It didn’t disappoint, the pasta could very well have been prepared moments before, and it was drenched in a magnificently rich parmesan sauce with mussels, prawns, calamari and line fish. Each element brought a new pop of taste and each mouthful was sinfully delicious. It’s that one meal we all couldn’t wait to throw ourselves into the minute lockdown was over.
The other dish I had the pleasure of taste-testing was the prawns in a spicy Mozambican sauce (R325) with a side of parmesan mash. There wasn’t anything spicy about it, but it really didn’t matter because the flavours were intense and sublime. The prawns were plump and cooked to an inch of perfection, paired with creamy mash to sop up every last drip of the flavorful sauce.
The dessert menu is limited, there were four options to choose from but very little space to put it after a huge meal. This gives you a perfect time to pause for a few moments and take in your surroundings – filled with happy tunes strummed from the guitar and violin. It has been such a long time since I thoroughly enjoyed being “outdoors”.
Dessert ended up being the Harbour Eton mess – a plate of raspberry sorbet, strawberry meringue, wild chocolate mousse, almonds and macerated strawberries. All the elements of a great desert were represented on the plate – sweet, tart, crunchy, soft, smooth and finally delicious.
The waiters were efficient throughout our meal, they didn’t let their masks or visors slip once and kept their fair distance even when handing over meals. Harbour House in Kalk Bay has so many pockets of dining areas to accommodate guests, it was built for social distancing.
For a few hours you get to forget the madness and indulge all your senses in a relaxing afternoon of the fine food, finer tunes and the finest views – I don’t see anything wrong with that…
Contact: 021 788 4136
Address: Kalk Bay Harbour, Kalk Bay
Website: Harbour House
Pictures: Nidha Narrandes