Damhuis, 32, Beach Rd., Melkbosstrand, WC.
On a freezing cold Tuesday with high winds, rain showers and pounding surf, some friends and I took a drive up the west coast, passing through Melkbosstrand at lunchtime. I remembered people raving about a restaurant there, so we stopped and, by chance, got a table for four near the beautiful fireplace in the middle of the old restaurant.
Damhuis is a Melkbosstrand institution. In operation under the current owners since 2009, it boasts what must be some of the best food in Western Cape and at very unfancy prices. The ambiance is olde world charm, wooden roof beams, warm lighting and the fireplace, of course. The menu is spectacular. Although famous for fish and seafood, chef Stéfan Meintjie is clearly no slouch when it comes to meat. And on this cold, cold day, most of our party opted for meat.
We started with a Greek platter of calamari strips, which just melted in the mouth, grilled halloumi, hummus, kalamata olives and pitta. This was filling in itself, every morsel a delight. But the mains were incredible. The pork belly, resting on a pool of perfectly cooked and seasoned mash, crispy, with deep flavour, the fat melting but not overwhelming. The oxtail, pronounced a delight, falling apart, richly sauced. But the standout on this occasion were the sticky smoked pork ribs- our friend ordered a half portion, which was an unbelievable 750g, way more than she could eat, but probably the best ribs any of us had ever tasted. Tender, beautifully seasoned, the rich umami flavours of the marinade and the chipotle-like smokiness of the meat coming through in a very satisfying way. The quantity of meat on the ribs was also very impressive. We took half the portion home with us, and it was lunch for two people the next day!
The odd person out was the one who ordered the fish and chips, but even that came in a large portion, very fresh hake in a light, herbed vodka batter (there was also the option of grilled) with a home- made tartare sauce and lemon wedges. There was a choice of sides – sweet potato wedges, chips, basmati rice, mash, seasonal veggies, salad. All got the thumbs up. The selection of drinks was also impressive- a well- chosen wine list, a good range of local beers and a comprehensive array of liqueurs and spirits.
We should have been full, but the desserts were beckoning, so we opted to share rather than order a full portion each. From the three we ordered- chocolate torte, crème brûlée and the Damhuis cheesecake, there was not a false note anywhere. The torte was exactly as described, a “death by chocolate” experience, with ice cream and a drizzle of liqueur to round it off; the crème brûlée was accompanied by “angel hair” of spun sugar; and the deconstructed cheesecake with salted caramel and pecan nut praline was beyond delicious.
I should also mention that the service is outstanding. The wait staff were friendly, good-humoured, attentive and made the whole experience perfect. And after all that perfection, the bill was a very pleasant surprise.
Damhuis probably needs no introduction to many of you living in and around Cape Town, but for those who haven’t visited, it’s well worth the drive. We got lucky on a midweek day, but bookings are advised. There is also now a range of midweek winter specials that will make the visit even more cost effective.