Caveau Wine Bar and Deli

Caveau has long been a favourite for drinks: great variety of wine by the glass and warm atmosphere, often leading to a nibble on tapas and even on to dinner.  While from personal experience the once fantastic food has slipped a little of late, on a Saturday night they plumbed to new depths.  Nancy, who is new in town, and I both had tasters of wild mushroom with truffle oil on bruschetta but they were smothered in vinegar (from pickled artichokes).  All you could taste was the tart vinegar.  Very nice with a couple of rands worth of slap chips but unfortunately we weren’t at a sleazy Salt River takeaway.  I complained, waiter said he would tell chef.  We didn’t hear anything from either.  Nancy, who knows her truffles from her tomato sauce, doubted the existence of truffle oil too.

Bought biltong from their deli the other day, nestled among the limp vegetables and pate de foie gras.  (Sometimes one just has to say “thank God for Woolworths” fresh produce, even if there is hardly any bird left in their ready-made chicken pie.)  The Caveau deli biltong was inedible, though my dogs managed to stomach it.  Has this tapas bar lost it (apart from on the wine side)?

Back to the meal: the prawns and corn deep fried in batter were better than the mushroom thing, though were bland.

My girlfriend had calamari and pronounced herself happy.  We didn’t stay for mains though this had more to do with our logistics than the poor starters.

Despite this the stoep is still great for after work drinks in fine weather and the historic semi-open courtyard with braziers was warm on a winter’s eve.

Went back for lunch on the unhappy first day of spring (on account of the foul weather, so indoors) to try a main course.

Rump steak was perfectly acceptable and redeemed the kitchen (for the day at least).  Its accompaniment, a turnip and zucchini gratin, was better than that and I don’t like this acrid root.  I can see why my Northern European cousins have moved on to better staples as they have become wealthier, leaving turnips to the pigs.

Returning to the gratin at hand: the zucchini diluted the turnip and the strong cheese outbid it, allowing its flavour to shine as opposed to overpower.  The rump juice was eagerly mopped up with fresh bread and butter.

The cosy interior was jam-packed with entrepreneurs having jolly meetings.  Who says the business lunch is dead?  Here businesspeople even still drink over lunch.

Tom Robbins
July 22 and September 1, 2009

Caveau Wine Bar and Deli
+27 (0)21 422 1367
92 Bree St
Heritage Square
Central Business District
Cape Town

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