A place where friends meet
Charming, rustic gem of a coffee roastery for those indulgent weekend mornings. It oozes buckets of character and ridiculously good coffee for such a tiny place. Don’t make the same mistake I did and pass on the scones at Houtbay Coffee.
Three course meal…
When a friend of a friend invited us to have a lazy Saturday morning coffee in Hout Bay, I immediately perked up with delight. I love everything about Hout Bay; the harbour, the markets, the mountains, and especially the drive around Chapman’s Peak from Fish Hoek. Having grown up in a sleepy fishing village myself, I find such unadulterated joy in the gentle swaying of the fishing boats and the squawking of seagulls. To my shame, I should admit I’d never heard of Houtbay Coffee before that fateful day, and I had no idea where it was located.
My excitement was somewhat clouded as the GPS lead us straight into the parking lot of a shopping mall, complete with a big supermarket and multiple bank branches. There were loads of little shops huddled together in this modern flat roofed building and I could not see any sign of the roastery. We asked a security guard to please point us in the right direction, my enthusiasm now dwindling down. “You will find the best coffee in South Africa at Houtbay Coffee,” was his jovial response to my somewhat nervous question. “You have to go around the back of the shopping mall, all the way to the front, there you will find the best coffee.”
We wound our way along the outskirts of the mall and there, tucked into a little corner under leafy shade trees, we found a small sign pointing to Houtbay Coffee. There was hope! It’s not located in the mall – in fact, it’s just off the main road in Hout Bay, carefully wedged between other similarly uniquely local shops.
We were greeted by a display of blackened cast-iron kettles and the deliciously bitter-strong smell of ground coffee beans, slowly brewing away somewhere in the dark and cosy interior of the café.
To the left as you enter the property, you will see a covered outside seating area, which was already full this early on a Saturday. They only have a handful of tables in the outside seating area, so the atmosphere is homely and snug with patrons reading their weekend newspapers, their hands wrapped around steaming cups of coffee. I see trays of mountainous warm scones and whipped cream being carried out, and my mouth starts to water; the morning’s drama long forgotten.
We continued along the outside of this magnificent old building to the back of the café, where we found some rustic seats and we propped ourselves up here for the morning. There were sun umbrellas perched ready for the African heat, and plenty of little nooks and quiet spots if you didn’t feel like facing people. We looked out over a small stream, lined with lush natural flora, and it felt as if time stood still in that moment. Our cappuccinos arrived with delicate little gold and silver collectable spoons and a shot of water, to cleanse the palate.
I knew from the moment I picked up the frothy cup of coffee that it was going to be good. The pure toasty, heady smell of the ground beans, and the oh-so-dense micro-foam that touches your lips as if in a gentle caress. It was so deliciously indulgent. Coupled with good company, a great view and lovely sunshine, I was in my personal piece of heaven. I thoroughly savoured this cup of caffeine, ooh’ing and aah’ing over the intricate foam art that topped it all off.
I love rustic. I love natural wood and upcycled stuff. The outdoor furniture has been crafted from old fishing boat planks and hessian coffee bean sacks. It creates its own unique atmosphere without trying too hard, and combined with the dappled shade from the huge Norfolk pine and the low-buzz chatter of happy coffee-drinkers, this is a must if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the chain coffee shops.
When we reluctantly got up to leave, we decided to quickly take a peek into the actual café. Inside there is another handful of tables and a lovely display of freshly baked goodies, bags of coffee beans and other handmade delicacies for sale. The kitchen is in full view of the dining area, as well as the coffee grinders and roasters. You’ll find a happy bunch of staff clustered together in the confines of the serving area, but they are all cheerfully doing their thing shoulder-to-shoulder, from balancing laden trays of yummy goodness to baking mini loaves of bread.
The owner, Paul Myburgh, is a very interesting person and his painstaking attention to detail is obvious in every aspect of his roastery. From the arty chalkboards that line the wall to the giant heads of browned meringue on the lemon tarts, his love for this place is apparent.
I’m not sure what the going-rate is for a cappuccino these days, but it seems reasonable at R28 at the roastery. I can guarantee you it is money very well spent. You are not only paying for a cup of ridiculously good brew, but also for an experience that is as delectable as the cakes on display. You pay for 30 – 45 minutes of peace and quiet, filled with lasting memories as you try and scoop the last of the froth from the bottom of the cup. This is where friends meet; where you laugh and chat and smash scones in your face. And for a few minutes, this is where you forget all about whatever is bothering you.