A Skinny Legs café in town, Beefy Boys stick to the Burbs

I had presumed the launch of this “luxury café” was a move to draw more customers into the contemporary art gallery here.  Selling the works of dead painters such as Pierneef and Irma Stern has become a good business, barely affected by the recession but the promising market in South Africa for living artists is still tough.

Skinny Legs & All
3/5 stars
+27 (0)21 423 5403
70 Loop St
Cape Town

Walking down Long Street past the hipster and skater-fashion outlets only reinforces this ‘walk-in’ view.  Almost all now have a coffee machine and a couple of tables selling Americanos to Flat Whites.  When done properly it pulls the target market in (as Woolworths have done so well at the Waterfront Store). It can also create a vibe.  When executed as an afterthought it is a waste of money and suffices only to give the staff better coffee than the retail-standard: Ricoffy.

This is not the case at Skinny Legs.  The fine João Ferreira Gallery is no longer at its Loop Street home, though Ferreira is invested in the venture (and continues to deal art without a physical store).  But the name is no misnomer.  The lissom legs of French Brunettes and homegrown one-time brunettes dangle from a mish-mash of wooden chairs in this tranquil space.  Despite this pleasing demographic there’s not a man in sight.   White dominates, from ceiling to table-top, with ash and beige thrown in to keep at bay any clinical thoughts.  It would be hard to have an argument here.

Artworks (from Ferreira’s private collection) are black, grey and charcoal-themed with the hot-panted pastel ass of a roller skater for colour.  The banner website for the café has a beautiful sketch too.

In keeping with the lean theme I order panzanella, a Tuscan salad of stale chunky bread soaked in olive oil and almost any other goodies you wish to add.  Ordinarily I would go for a heartier main course lunch in winter but the focus here is on light meals with greens, apart from the fluffy scrambled eggs and steaming bowls of soup.  I also plump for this salad as I’ve only made it successfully once before.

Leftover bread from a real bakery is best (so no branded preservative-packed supermarket slices).  If the bread is too fresh it becomes soggy.  If fresh you can briefly grill it to artificially crisp it.  My downfall is that I don’t keep an eye on the grill, ending up with toast and salad.  (A green leaf salad on toast has never been seen on a menu for good reason.)

Another cause for the curious incident of the salad in wintertime is that bunny food, no matter how simple, can also be a good test of a menu.  Here the panzanella is served with brown country bread glistening with oil, goaty feta, peeled cucumbers, strips of olive, basil and mint.  A fresh and well balanced meal.  Often mint to a cook is what a Kalashnikov is to a terrorist – liberally sprayed around with no chance of hitting the mark.  Commercial mint jelly for roast lamb is the worst offender.  Here the snipers in the kitchen are spot on.

For something sweet it’s a choice between carrot cake, banana loaf and pear and Amaretto cake.  The novelty of the boozy-almond cake gets my casting vote.  Moist inside with discernable pears and crunchy nuts I can’t identify, but it is a little dry for me on the outside without the welcome dollop of crème fraiche they provide.

While the menu is biased towards wispy meals that will keep you nimble, if you want some heavier winter food there are Moroccan Meatballs.  So – apart from the meatballs – not really the place to bring your hunter-uncle from Louis Trichardt.  He will probably be happiest if you leave him to drink port with the farmer-winemakers in Calitzdorp.

Other breakfasts include French Toast with cream; and muesli with sheep’s milk yoghurt.  Another salad is constructed from fior di latte mozzarella (full-cream), prosciutto and roasted almonds.  To drink warm almond milk and cardamom lassi (Punjabi yoghurt milkshake).

Coffee is good with a rich crème and all mayonnaises, juices and pestos are made in the kitchen.

The panzanella is R65 and the cake R25.

The better known Skinny Legs and All is a novel written by the famous American author Tom Robbins.

Other newish upmarket lunch spots to spring up in the CBD recently include Dear Me with its, atmospheric Tjing Tjing Bar upstairs, and What’s On.

3/5 stars. Comfortably.

Tom Robbins
June 7, 2011

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