Written by Linda Truscott | Photos by Alicia Taylor
Variety is the spice of life. Life in Melkbos is laid back, hurried, serene, suburban, cool, sophisticated. Whatever your taste of spice, you will enjoy a cuppa or a glass of wine, a decadent piece of cake or a plate of culinary delight in an environment filled with character, uniqueness and care for detail and attention in the variety of restaurants, coffee shops and take-aways around Melkbos.
After a couple of grey rainy days I found myself sitting outside at Melkbos Kitchen, my view white waves spraying over a silver blue sea. No traffic noise, quiet banter with delectable dishes being served around me while I am at peace with my cappuccino and a slice of carrot cake. Melkbos Kitchen is located in an historical seaside cottage nearly right on the rocks with a beach view stretching out towards Koeberg nuclear station in the distance. Ever thought you can start a day with Shakshuka or end with a tender lamb shank served with butternut and potato mash? Following them on Facebook, new additions to the menu appear regularly and it is advisable to book ahead if you want to experience an unspoiled sunset. Upon entering, do feast your eyes on their homemade confectionary to end of your meal or accompany a Simple Bru cuppa.
‘Melkbos’ literally translates as “milk bush’, the Euphorbiaceae bushes that gives off a milky latex substance.
Just up the avenue is the old Mira Mar centre with The Hart, Simple Bru Coffee Co., I Love Melkies and the Seafood Lapa shoulder to shoulder. I remember early Saturday morning runs ending at The Hart as they open and the waiter offering cold lemon water before taking the order for various cups of coffee. The trendy family style restaurant with its classy green and white stripe cushions outside is very popular for its burgers, craft beers, coffee dates and signature sunset cocktails. Not forgetting the water bowl for a furry friend on the deck. The cosmo-décor atmosphere inside makes for long leisurely visits with choices such as Honey glazed pork hot press mini loaf to a salted caramel cheesecake on the menu. However, the breakfast menu is also something to die for, my dear.
“Restaurant” was once used to describe the rich bouillons, a broth, served at taverns and public houses in France, which were meant to restore the spirits and relieve ailments.
A local favourite I Love Melkies with its red heart offers a variety of flavourful pizzas, tapas & tacos in a communal relaxed atmosphere. Being a runner a favourite of mine is the Peanut Butter Bliss smoothie while the Bacon and mascarpone waffle with strawberries could be so tempting on any given day. CBC Happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, Ag, please daddy milkshakes, there is always a reason to go to I Love Melkies and experience the soul of Melkbos.
Islamic Sufi monks during the 15th century used coffee to heighten their spiritual intoxication during midnight meditations.
Simple Bru Coffee Co. is the place where you will be served by a passionate barista team to marvel at the complexity of a cup of coffee. On any given early morning at Simple Bru Coffee Co. a few patrons conduct their business of the day typing away on the laptops or speaking on the phones, oblivious of the sea across the road and automatically reaching out to the cup of intoxication on the table. But maybe sometimes you just want things to be simple and then life feels good here with a smashed avo on toast.
Jobless chefs after the French Revolution started serving selective food at their own establishments, hence fine dining started.
It’s Friday! Hambile Lapa side! The Seafood Lapa on the corner of 6th Ave and Beach Rd with its white painted benches is where you will find a bustling wind down vibe at the end of the day or the week with a menu that caters for tastes and wishes, be it seafood, sushi or meat. The sushi chef fulfilled my wish once for a 21st birthday cake made up of all my son’s favourite pieces, a first for the chef, but confident in her capability. A rack of pork ribs, crumbed beef fillet, prawns, beers and good company all blend together with sincere friendly service had been making the Lapa popular since 1992.
Around 1785 children would have been playing around the visschuur, later known as the damhuis, of Christiaan Brand at the dam near the beach. Then in January 1806 two British infantry brigades landed at De Melkbosch, probably close to the visschuur, for what became the Battle of Blaauwberg. Today children again play safely at the back of The Damhuis Restaurant, now a national monument, while the dam unfortunately made way for Beach Road. The cannon resting on the wall is a quiet battle reminder pointing towards the sea.
It is fitting that their hake and chips is a best seller at The Damhuis, but the diverse menu will surprise with traditional meals like Bobotie and Curried Afval to vegetarian dishes to a deconstructed Damhuis cheese cake. Recipes of many of the dishes can be found in the Damhuis Cookbook: Recipes and Memories of a Home compiled by Dirk and Late Reinet Nagtegaal and chef Stèfan Meintjes. The Fishermen’s Tent, Voorhuijs and die Stampkroeg portrays their love for fine dining and delicious food mixed with history.
“As long rollers come in across the shallow bathing beach, all the thrills and joys of the ever popular surfing pastime may be enjoyed to the full.” (Resident in 1924)
Café Orca used time to become an unpretentious part of Melkbosstrand. Their constant is the changes to complement their patrons since 1997. I have memories from 20 years ago having meals on the patio, calling the kids from the beach across the road for their thick milkshakes.
Years later it became dinners for two or with selective friends, trying out a new fine dish carefully presented on modern dinnerware. Seafood platters, Moroccan line fish, Princess prawns or fried hake combined with specially chosen wines and a unparalleled beach view result in this seafood restaurant being full nearly every night. The iconic beach cottage restaurant with its weathered Café Orca sign next to the entrance door only opens at 12 Wednesdays to Sundays for an unhurried eat out experience.
Another popular spot to watch Melkbos go by is the deck at Trattoria Maranello’s. The Ferrari flag outside, the collection of Ferrari memorabilia inside and the occasional red, yes, you guessed it, Ferrari park across the restaurant drawing attention, show the owners’ passion and makes this a favourite location for other luxury car enthusiasts to see and be seen.
The menu with dishes like Fegatini all’ Diavola, Spaghetti alla Vongole, Prosciutto, Cassata Siciliana Originale also draws patrons to saviour fine Italian cuisine. Happy hour cocktails has become a trend to watch the sun sets every day where sea meets horizon.
“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”
Tucked away in Duynefontein suburbia is another Italian pizza restaurant Forneria Italia for authentic Italian pizza, pasta and more. When their Facebook post starts with “ciao everyone” you know there is a limited special for the day, maybe Beef carpaccio with mozzarella fior di latte truffle paste and fresh baked bread or beef stew with potatoes slowly cook with onions, rosemary and red wine served with a garlic focaccia. Open every day, it is the perfect place to slip away and have a really good meal every time where mostly locals relax unhurried, chatting across tables, enjoying a crispy based pizza or generous pasta dish ending with a decadent Tiramisu.
Life is too short to do take-aways, but if you have to, Melkbos Fisheries just up from the beach offers generous portions of hake, calamari and chips sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Of course you have to sit on a bench on the grass at the beach and soon the seagulls will gather around you, patiently calling out for a bite. That vinegary fried fish smell mixed with the sea air is a sure memory moment. But not forgetting the usual fast foodies, Melkbosstrand boasts with KFC, Debonairs, Fishaways and Steers too.
“Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships.” As has life, as has Melkbos. And like preparing a dish, all the ingredients need to meet and simmer unhurried to give you a lasting memory of mouth-watering tastes mixed with salty air smells and the feel, sights and sounds of the beach.