Whenever my partner and I want to eat out, but can't decide on a particular spot, we drive to Cape Town’s hilly Kloof Street, park near the bottom and go walking - poking our heads in at places we might not have visited before to look at their menus. There are many restaurants along the street that seem to pop up and close before you can blink - the result of tough competition - but then there are those that have become part of the scenery.
One particular place that's been around for some time - more or less twenty years, in fact - is Café Paradiso. Nowadays the restaurant is run by the Madame Zingara group, which has also taken over Sidewalk Café, opened a quirky little costume store called the Post Office on Kloof, and also now runs long-time Woodstock favourite Don Pedros, among others.
As my partner and I arrived at Café Paradiso, the air was filled with the clinks of cutlery against plates and chatter as people enjoyed their evening. Fairy lights twinkled atop tables that were placed out in the garden, while two fires burned cheerfully at the entrance.
The ambience was warm and inviting, even in the garden that's open to the busy road - a huge achievement given the street noise. We settle down at a table here rather than in the main restaurant and waited a while, watching the waiters move busily between crowded tables. It took a few minutes for one of them to take our drinks order … never a great start to the evening.
With drinks eventually in hand, we got down to scrutinising the menu. Café Paradiso's menu changes with the seasons and offers a good selection for carnivores and vegetarians alike.
For starters, we shared a vegetarian antipasti platter (that we didn't have to wait long for) and which included grilled veg, artichokes, small mozzarella balls known as bocconcini and olives. There is also a meat antipasti platter on the menu, which offers a selection of cured meats, cheeses and olives.
It was a lovely and light way to start off the night while we sipped at our wine and enjoyed the ambience. We had opted for a Morgenhof Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass - a well-rounded wine that we both enjoyed thoroughly.
Moving on to mains, both of us felt like something light. I opted for the line fish of the day, which turned out to be kingklip served on a bed of lemony couscous with a vanilla sauce. The fish was done beautifully and the dish as a whole offered up delicate flavour and texture. My partner went with a pasta - a chicken penne dish that was served with basil, mushroom and cream. While the dish sounded great on the menu, it turned out to be a little bland - perhaps the result of too much haste taken in its preparation.
The cost of our meal seemed fairly standard for Cape Town - R80 for my partner's dish and R110 for my fish dish.
I loved the rustic style in which Café Paradiso serves its meals, particularly the antipasti, which is laid out nicely on a wooden board. With more attentive service and a slower, more considered attitude in the kitchen during busy periods, I believe Café Paradiso would be outstanding. I'll certainly be back to give it a try again, especially as I hear their breakfast menu is a treat.