The Woodlands Eatery, a new Deer Park neighbourhood bistro

Stepping into this new little bistro, I am swept up by a warm fuzzy glow radiating from parties big and small.  There is a family celebration, a table of businessmen and more intimate tables of girls with their BFF’s.  Will this neighbourhood joint in Deer Park be as successful as capturing the girl’s night out crowd at the rowdier nearby Carlyles on Derry Street?

The Woodlands Eatery
+27 (0)21 801 5799
2 Deer Park Ave West
Deer Park
Cape Town

Deer Park is a bit of an urban forest as far as the City Bowl goes and there is a bit of raw looking wood on the ceiling which may have inspired the name.  Across one wall is a padded bench illuminated by a bevy of outydse lampshades.  Oranjezicht’s very own Sarah Palin groupie remarked that despite the small space tables are set far apart enough to have a private, or romantic, chat while seated at the pastel chairs.  The décor has got an agreeable balance between modern New York minimalism and busy.  Bare bricks give texture while another wall is crowded with traditional paintings of birds and flowers.  There is pleasant outdoor seating under a rietdak ceiling but remember this is Vredehoek and the wind can howl in summer.

Then there is the shocking menu.

Main courses start from R40 (for a chickpea and lentil) burger and a glass of Polkadraai white is only R17.50.  Larry’s lean mince Cheese Burger and roasted potatoes R55.  Don’t recall any mains on the day being over R100 (on another day rib of veal advertised at R130).  Fillet with Béarnaise Sauce (with the luxuriant herb tarragon) R90.  Pizzas from R55 to R75.  This is no Costaplenty, more like the soulful Michelle Shocked than a nasty surprise.  While there is no doubt that there some other restaurants with similarly low price points, nine times out of ten the dishes at them aren’t worth the menus they are written on.

The menu prices are not described as opening specials unlike the next door D’Angelos where they had half-price pizzas for the first month.  Nevertheless it will be interesting to see if Woodlands Eatery stick to them.  

A charmingly efficient waitress delivers a huge bowl of pickled artichoke and brinjal salad perched on a bed of the crunchiest greens.  There are toasted pine nuts for Africa and loads of avo.  (Can you harvest these nuts from the nearby Stone Pines?)  Only complaint is that the pairing of the vinegary artichoke and the gentle but appealing astringency from the brinjal is battling to win over my taste buds.  It may be better to have one or t’other but not both.  Even the best of us sometimes need a marriage counselor to smoothe out our differences.

A fat chunk of deep water blue nose fish* is as fresh tasting and honest as you’ll ever find for what is not one of the most popular dining species.  It is a fish we may see more regularly on our tables as we denude the tastiest species.  Unusually for fish, the power of rosemary is the most prominent of herbs but no complaints there – it works.  It is all seated on Parmesan mash potato but the cheese is barely discernable which may have been the plan for this potent cheese would kill the delicate flavour of the fish.  Then there is plenty more avo but by now I’ve more than had my fill from the salad.

A friend seated nearby is thrilled by her thin-crust pizza.  An enticing starter option is an in-season gooseberry and goat cheese salad with roasted cherry tomatoes, spring onions a pine nuts (R55).  For dessert there is a rare plum pie (R30); chocolate fondant (don’t know if this is the sauce or icing version) on ice cream (R35); and if you too stuffed for a whole pud a little truffle (presumably chocolate-based) of the day for only R10.

Is Woodlands Eatery one of the new affordable bistros offering limited choices of the best but not most expensive ingredients with innovative flavour combinations?  It certainly is honest with some of the brightest ingredients on any Cape table but I’m not sure there is enough of a twist to make the menu unique.  Only time will tell.

Larry the chef-owner (I have no idea what his surname is) is promising simple seasonal bistro dishes and according to my sources ran a good shop at the previous venture where he was a part-owner – Emily Moon in Plettenberg Bay.

4/5 stars for a neighbourhood restaurant offering great value-for-money on the night. 

* I can’t find blue nose, also known as black butterfish but not to be confused with oily butterfish on the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) list.  According to Paul Joubert of Southern Cross Seafood Deli would most likely have been frozen on a trawler at sea immediately after being caught, meaning it was professionally frozen.  Joubert believes it is a relatively plentiful species and describes the flakey fish as similar in taste to mussel cracker.  Sassi did not respond to my enquiry at the time of going to press.

Tom Robbins
Posted December 2, 2010

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12 Responses to “The Woodlands Eatery, a new Deer Park neighbourhood bistro”

  1. Tom Robbins says:

    Have now extracted comment from Sassi on blue nose. It is not on the list because the population size of this species is yet to be assessed. Sassi fisheries officer Alice Johnson said there are plans to assess it and other species not on the list. Johnson confirmed that it is legal to sell blue fish. This suggests that as far as is known it is not one of the more threatened species. Johnson also said some species, including blue nose, are sold under different names. So one person’s blue nose could be another person’s mussel cracker. Indeed after being tipped off by Paul Reichl, a reader of the eatcapetown facebook page, about the excellent fish species search engine ( it shows there two be two black butterfish (the same thing as blue nose) species in Southern Africa that are entirely unrelated. The one is from Namibia and the other from South Africa. I don’t know which one I ate and I stupidly did not ask Woodlands Eatery where it came from, something we should all try and do. I am in no way suggesting that Woodlands Eatery are selling threatened fish but what I don’t have is full information.
    Tom Robbins

  2. lisa malcomess says:

    It’s been a very, very, very long time since I’ve enjoyed a restaurant in Cape Town so much. From the moment we first drove past and saw the heart shaped burglar bars used as décor and fairy lighting holders for the outside verandah, I knew this was going to become our second home. The quirky foresty décor immediately sets a humorous mood.

    The warm welcome and almost extinct family style service, which is so lacking in Cape Town restaurants lately, really made us feel at home. Super efficient service from the owners and staff left us gob smacked, and realised what we’ve been missing.

    I had the starter prawns and an artichoke and brinjal salad that were so delicious, my mouth is watering just writing this. It’s a small menu, but everything is fresh!! We quietly mentioned that we love to see a vegetarian option for main meals. The owner profusely apologized for his oversight and since then has had delicious veggie dishes on the menu.

    Tea and their blissful chocolate fondant, which almost brought me to tears, are a perfect end to a perfect evening. Since then, in the short time they have been open, we have been back as much as possible before the crowds descend. This will no doubt, very soon, be a very popular restaurant in the city.

  3. Tudor says:

    We ate there last night and for a new restaurant it was surprisingly good. The artichoke salad as well as a caper berry Parmesan salad were both good (though the aubergines probably could have been degorgeed longer to lose the bitterness). Bacon, chili, avo and blue cheese pizza was a hit followed by a superb chocolate fondant. Apparently the chef/owner was the guy from Emily Moon’s, one of Plett’s better restaurants. Cool staff, great music (The XX) and a quirky style. I likey.

  4. Ivan says:

    Agree with the 4 out of 5 star rating. Eaten here twice sincee it opened and have been impressed. The pizza must be close to some of the best in the city bowl area. My partner likes the steak bernaise, which I have tasted and agree it is very good. The second time we went we shared a gooseberry salad as a starter and that was really unusual and great. My only criticism to the place is that on one occassion my partners veal was slightly overdone. Its a difficult meat to cook so we forgave them because the restaurant is new and still finding its way… Otherwise the staff are friendly, the service is efficient and the decor just fab. We will definitely be visiting again in January and I will try the burger which looks enormous.

  5. The location, food and service is great. I would recommend this fine restaurant to the STIG, the Duke of Chechester and even my old fogies.

    Thanks Larry for creating a new corner in our town.

    Bob the plumber

  6. Jolize says:

    Great new addition to the area. I think Carlyle’s will have to pull up their sock.
    Had a lovely meal, with excellent service the first time we went. Taking friends from UK and NZL there this evening and can’t wait for scrumptious dinner.
    Cozy & friendly vibe will soon make this my new local.
    Well done!

  7. Lori says:

    Ate there for a friends birthday lunch yesterday and I was blown away by the affordability and the divine fresh food. Sam had the lamb pizza and I will admit I had order envy! I had the artichoke and mushroom pizza which was also divine but that lamb was amazing.
    Will def be going back again and again to taste the ever changing menus.

  8. Sir Luke says:

    They seem really good. Right location too. I honestly had absolutely NOOO idea that they did Pizza?? Must give it a try. Just staying out of D’ Angelos might be a bit of a challenge for me 🙂
    Nice review Tom

  9. Morne says:

    I enjoyed Larry’s input at Emily Moon and visited him at The Woodland Eatery a few weeks ago. The meal I had, prawns and calamari on pita bread with mango and peach salsa topped off with copius amounts of avo, was probably the best meal I had in a very long time. Full marks for presentation and flavours. Really, really good! We live in PE and can’t wait to be back.

  10. Tom Robbins says:

    Correct telephone number and email address of Woodlands Eatery added above

  11. Jilly says:

    After reading these reviews I was so excited to go. However, food was so mediocre and wine list terrible. Probably the worst burger I have had in CT in a while. Nice decor and friendly owner, but waiter moody.

  12. Manu says:

    I ate here the other day for a friend’s birthday lunch and was pleasantly surprised by the great service, the delicious food, served fairly quickly and all at the same time (table of 20!).
    The presentation of the food was particularly impressive. You can see that these guys love food and have a real sense of style. I hope you keep it up as I will definitely be back with more friends and family and will be recommending it to all my clients (tourism business). Thanks!

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