The Lookout Deck, fried eggs and models in the Republic of Hout Bay

In my experience lovely Hout Bay has strangely been a bit of a Bermuda Triangle of food.  The calamari at Chapmans Peak Hotel was once legendary.  They rolled it through an old-fashioned wringer washing machine to tenderise, forsaking the common chemical approach, said friends who once disastrously waited tables there between glugs of vodka.  I’ve eaten a pretty good meal there with my family in the last couple of years and one very ordinary one.

The Lookout Deck
+27 (0)21 790 0900
North Shore Rd
Hout Bay Harbour Waterfront
Cape Peninsula

Dining at the nearby Wild Woods with my then girlfriend and me mate Le Blonde was simply a disaster.  Don’t go when the talented chef isn’t in the house though I’ve had good enough dim sum at Kitima.

Food writer Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious said the takeaways from La Cucina were excellent and suggested I try it for breakfast when I enquired as to where to start the day in the little Republic.  Despite the many variations of Eggs Benedict offered here, the day is far too beautiful to be wasted on a mini-mall.  It cries out for either mountain or sea views, preferably both.  So the Lookout Deck in the harbour seals it.

I’ve eaten here many times, most memorably at the Friday night dinner dance.  It is a family affair with kids big and small welcome to join in.  The environment is safe and comfortable, allowing parents to sneak a shuffle on the dance floor between draught beers while the little ones trundle about.  The ‘unmodel’ 80’s model Josie Borain is among those I’ve seen enjoy it.  Quite why the intelligent former Leigh Downing agency models I once dated dreamt of being as beautiful and successful as Borain I don’t know.  Which is not to knock her.  (For the record: my success rate was checkered at best.)  But then I am a man and have no inside track on the dreams of teenage girls.

The interior of this restaurant is predictably themed in white and marine-blue hues.  The market wouldn’t have it any other way and why should they.  The ceiling is low and the high-backed chairs offer a plush place to plonk your derrière, even if they are over designed for the setting.  But it is the deck that pulls them in.  A couple of women take Cheryl Crow’s “I like a good beer buzz early in the morning” to heart, downing pints of fresh lager. 

Today the water is crystal clear with great visibility, showing no signs of the much-disputed pollution here.  Boat hands are busy washing off the corrosive salty sea from gleaming motor yachts while Chapmans Peak looks innocent in the distance.  Closer to home the Sentinel, sight of running battles last year between police and some of the bay’s poorest residents, looms ominously over the deck.

The building of luxury housing beyond the Urban Edge on the World Heritage site has been a blight on the reputations of politicians of all persuasions.  Greedy to grow the rates base, and no doubt corrupt at times, the guilty parties have ranged from the Nats to the ANC and now the DA.  The Cape Times recently reported that while the DA-led council was attempting to demolish shacks on the Sentinel it was approving an upmarket development nearby in violation of environmental regulations. 

But we are at the Lookout for brekkie, not politics.  Despite its welcome resurgence, British Cuisine, destroyed for decades by war rationing, has been derided by almost everyone.  The critics have obviously never enjoyed fried eggs and bacon, one of the great contributions to global cuisine.  The quality of a restaurant or hotel’s eggs and bacon is one of the best ways to judge it.  Are the eggs fried in butter?  Are they cooked through even if soft?  Is the streaky bacon crisp?  Most fail the test.  Price is only occasionally an indicator of excellence. 

Unfortunately breakfast is the part of the menu where some of the greatest accountant-chef skimping goes on.  The bacon is too frequently well below the standard of even that of the Eskort supermarket product.  The pork sausages are never even close to the same brand’s version.  Despite some recent consumer complaints, this KwaZulu-Natal farming town continues to set the standard in white pepper laced pork bangers.  For this reason the fry-up you make at home is usually the best one you will ever eat.  And you get that delicious smell wafting out of your kitchen too. 

At the Lookout the back of the pig is worth its bacon, even if it isn’t crunchy and thankfully, Mr Ackerman take note, still has the rind on.  The beef sausage, an animal that should never meet casing unless in boerewors, is a pleasant surprise.  The eggs are over-easy but one is broken, a mild irritation.  I seem to recall it was Anthony Bourdain who once said that frying eggs properly is one of the most difficult tasks a chef ever has to perform.  The frying is done in sunflower oil and not butter but there is minimal grease.  The mushrooms are…well mushrooms and the tomato a bit unripe. 

Overall it is better than average but at R58 you may say a tad expensive.  It is.  But then when you eat or drink at the Lookout you are paying for the views and the tranquility.  A far superior option to the Camps Bay strip where you have a busy road between you and the sea, not to mention the mindless models there.  They can’t see life beyond the runway or a rich husband. So, unlike Borain, who used the catwalk to build a platform for a more meaningful life.  Beyond the ramp. 

I’ve previously had good fish at the Lookout though sometimes the food is ordinary.  Everything is on the pricey side for a family restaurant.  Coffee good.  As you would expect there is a lot of seafood including many prawn and mussel options and of course steak and burgers.  Plenty of predictable wine options to chase those prawns down.  The all to rare kipper breakfast available.  Many kiddie-friendly dishes too.

The most galling experience is to have to pay a R5 parking fee to the useless government department, Marine and Coastal Management.  These dunces sit idly by while the leathered larnies of nearby Llandudno, gin and tonic in hand, cell in the other, call in to say they are watching abalone being poached before their very eyes.

MCM once set the National Intelligence Agency on top wine and fishy business writer Ronnie Morris because this dear late colleague reported that they totally blew their budget on a party.  Now if the late Ronnie was a threat to national security then Paddington Bear is an evil Nazi.  Ronnie loved this country, was a true patriot, and fighter for the trampled underdog.  The business press is poorer without this charming raconteur.  I’m only sorry I never got to say Hamba Kahle umKhonto.

3/5 stars over breakfast

Tom Robbins
Posted February 25, 2011

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