The Duchess of Wisbeach
By Jonathan Byrne
South Africa is a delightful country to visit; stunning countryside, magnificent views, iconic landmarks, warm welcoming people, excellent wines and not one bad food experience. Everywhere there is great food and drink on offer. The local street café we visited soon after we arrived. The famous Grill chain restaurants featuring all types of meats and wild game. Truth Coffee Shop in De Waterkant. Exotic Sundowners at Camps Bay. Even Nando’s fast food shops, in my opinion the better end of fast food, originated in South Africa. Our friend, Norma, who runs specialist South African travel company, Follow Me 2 Africa, recommended The Duchess of Wisbeach as an experience not to be missed. How right Norma was! Not a place for the fainthearted.
Norma’s team had found superb accommodation for us at Moullie Point making The Duchess of Wisbeach a 20 minute warm evening stroll away along the seafront to Seapoint. A gentle stroll was all Andrew, my closest friend, Perfume Alison (a fragrance designer, hence our nick name) and I could manage ‘recovering’ from an ‘exhausting’ day touring Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope and the Penguins at Boulder Beach. As we approached, the crowds outside the bar and restaurant indicated we were in for as much fun as Norma had suggested.
Despite a small bar area, service was fast, friendly and humorous taking time to help us choose a light refreshing Chenin Blanc from one of the Cape’s longest established farms and vineyards, Babylonstoren. Not a particularly complex wine with a flinty background, this was ideal in a hot climate with three different pallets to satisfy. All three of us have definite views about what we like so finding a wine so please us all can be a challenge. It was also safer to stick to this wine for the evening.
In my experience, the welcome you receive and the care people take in looking after your needs are as important to the meal experience as the food and wine. Well, at The Duchess of Wisbeach you get attention of theatrical proportions! The Restaurant Manager is hilarious, welcoming, over the top, yet efficiently charming. While you don’t feel ‘herded’ he keeps the place flowing fast. We were welcome to stay at our table all evening; although we did not stint on ordering. The demand for tables is great and several tables around us hosted two or three groups during our visit. I recommend you or your travel company book in advance. Every member of staff had a similar theatrical personality making great show of their service skills and the occasional shot of liquor.
Matching the atmosphere of fun and entertainment was truly lovely, impressive food. After previous meat heavy dinners at the famous Grill, we all stuck to lighter choices dipping into each other’s orders, as we had throughout the trip. Maybe the location and euphoria of a trip away enhances the taste buds but there was not a dish that did not delight. Salmon Tartare was a perfect example of a raw serving bringing out the true flavour. Soya and lime dressing on grilled Calamari tubes captured the essence of the dish. Deep fried Calamari were crisp but the fried flavour hides any taste of fresh seafood.
We continued to be delighted for main course. I made the best choice of Tuna Nicoise and can only assume Cape Town lands the freshest fish. Perfume Alison came a close second with her Roasted Peri-Peri Baby Chicken. Even Andrew’s health conscious grilled flattened Chicken Breast had a flavour to enchant. Alison and I were tempted but then slightly disappointed by The Duchess Famous French Fries which were good but not overly impressive. Our order elicited an impassioned cry from ever healthy Andrew “Crikey! Carbs! Are you mad?” who went on to order Duchess Salad with Avo, Feta and Egg.
Now those who have read my musings before may be surprised that we even progressed to puddings. Vanilla Pod Panna Cotta had the perfect balance of a melting creamy texture yielding to every dip of the spoon and enough texture to stand firm. Enhanced with fresh coulis rolling with tangy strawberries I enjoyed a pudding more than I can remember. After his psychotic reaction to “carbs”, Andrew surprised me in joining Perfume Ali in a sugar fest of homemade ice cream. I tried a spoonful in the name of research and was duly impressed as well.
Excluding service a total of R1,447 South African Rand, approximately £85 for an evening of enjoyment and excess between three people seems like robbery.
To paraphrase Andrew: “Crikey! Less than £30 each.” It’s Andrew and my third visit to Cape Town and, with Norma’s good guidance, we will certainly be going back. The Duchess of Wisbeach will definitely be on our list.
Duchess of Wisbeach
Tel: 021 434 1525