Photographer Paul Weinberg’s exhibition opening on the first floor Kalk Bay Modern gallery was so jam-packed that I decided to drop downstairs to Olympia in order to make sure a table could be secured for dinner (well aware that they don’t take bookings).
Positioning myself at the counter with a glass of white, I cast a beady eye over the occupied tables. As soon as I saw one had become available I pounced like a starving lioness, only to be admonished for a serious violation of Kalk Bay etiquette.
“Write your name on the blackboard waiting list,” the waitron told me.
With my tail between my legs I did, securing a prized place at number two in the queue.
From then on things only got better, in fact close to bestest.
The kabeljou*, my favourite Cape fish, was a sublime chunky stuk. It set the bar for piscatorial pursuits. The thing I like about kob is that you can still taste the sea in it but stops well short of smelling like a fisherman’s bait bag (which explains why so many anglers are deserted by their wives). Too often pesce either has the fishiness processed out of it or it is at the smelly end of the spectrum. This was perfectly in-between.
The accompanying mash, a favourite comfort food, let the fish speak for itself. Mussels in a traditional creamy wine and garlic sauce I have previously eaten here are to date unrivalled (and a far cry better than those horrible Belgian ones in beer at Den Anker).
One of my fellow diners, the Kalk Bay local, was big enough to chuckle at my table indiscretion. She was served thickest lamb tjops I have ever seen. This is the only way to butcher them if you like them juicy. (Why can’t supermarkets include these less economical cuts as an option on the shelves?).
A running joke about Olympia is that the food is great if you can stomach the dirty looking kitchen and toilet. The toilet has been spruced up but not much appears to have changed in the open-plan kitchen. Walking through a restaurant kitchen to pee immediately next door is almost a tradition in Cape Town (where there is little space to build a wing for the WC). Uninitiated visitors take a little time to get used to this.
Unlike so many restaurants on tourist strips, the Olympia is a favourite among Kalk Bay locals (despite the unhygienic appearance).
It’s a legend in its own lunchtime, as its own slogan on a board outside has proclaimed.
Now that I have learnt my local etiquette I (for once) buy into the PR.
* Kabeljou (Kob) is on the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (Sassi’s) orange list. Sassi cautions that it can be legally bought but that over time the population may be threatened. This puts it in the middle between green (relatively plentiful) and red (illegal to buy).
October 7, 2009
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