A boot tapping good time
Saddle up for a night on the town! Located in the vibrantly bustling village of De Waterkant, Café Manhattan is the place to be when the sun sets. Gallop on over and immerse yourself in feel-good vibes with a scrumptious meal and deliciously jaunty cocktails at your friendly neighbourhood saloon. It’s naughty, but oh-so-very nice.
Three course meal…
At this point in my life, I have no qualms with Netflix and chill on a weekend evening. In fact, I relish the opportunity of a dangerously bare weekend. My perfect weekend, you might ask? Coming home after work on a Friday, locking all doors and windows, disconnecting from the wi-fi, putting my phone on mute and only emerging again on Monday morning. As I’m typing this, I’m wondering if it sounds a bit sad. But then again, when it was expected of me, I very much participated in the “young adult” behaviour as a student and I’ve got a wardrobe full of t-shirts to prove it. I’m not having sleepless nights about my waning social life; rather, I’ve grown to embrace the slower pace.
So, when the Madame Zingara Group invited me to dinner at their Café Manhattan, I was feeling excited and apprehensive at the same time. I had seriously mixed emotions about the prospect of leaving my house after dark on a Saturday night. Living by the motto, “have no regrets,” we got ready for our Saturday night dinner outing.
We braced the torrential Cape Town storm to drive to town. By the time we parked, the sky was ominously dark, threatening to break under the weight of the rain. Luckily, we found parking very easily down one of the side streets, and it was a short walk to the entrance. All thoughts of the Cape Town winter were banished when we pushed open the doors to Café Manhattan; inside it was summer, and we were invited to the party!
It was warm and inviting and just the right amount of busy. Oh, and how I loved the rustic cowboy design elements that immediately lured me inside. The saddles-turned-bar-stools and the worn leather bridle work on the walls competed for my attention. The décor came together so beautifully; at first glance, Café Manhattan is a modern, uptown meeting place with a cheeky nod to the Wild West.
My first impression of the staff was that they were sincere and friendly. We sat down and had a chat with our waiter about their cocktail and food specials. On his recommendation, we opted for the Berry Tulip and the classic Mojito. Café Manhattan runs an amazing 2 for 1 cocktail offer on weekends (between 4-6pm and 9-10pm). It doesn’t get much better than that, especially because their drinks are very reasonably priced to start with.
This was exactly what I needed. A cocktail. I forgot how much I appreciated the delicate harmony of a well-made cocktail, from the vibrant colours to the clinking of ice and fruity garnishes. As we settled into our surroundings, I realised this Saturday night thing not be as bad as I thought. The music was upbeat, the vibe was authentic and buzzy, the atmosphere was just a tad mischievous and, if I had to judge by the menu, the food was bound to be good. I was slowly losing my apprehensions, along with anything in life that was worrying me up to that point.
Our cocktails arrived. The Berry Tulip is made with bourbon, lemon and lime juice, lemonade and a touch of grenadine. If you’re like me with a taste for bourbon and citrus, this is perfect for you. It looks incredibly pretty, with the blush of grenadine adding a splash of colour. And we all know how I feel about pretty little things! Served in a tall glass with lots of ice and fresh mint sprigs. Karl’s Mojito was as good as it gets: strong, sweet, minty and muddled. One of the best classic Mojito’s I’ve tasted in a while. Served in a highball glass, it perfectly fits my mantra of simplicity. Five quality ingredients; one taste experience.
Jumping to the end of the night, we decided to finish the meal with another round of cocktails instead of dessert, as they were delicious and the special way too good to pass up on. I couldn’t get Karl to try a different cocktail, so he stuck with the Mojito, but I went for another classic; the Cosmo. The tartness of the cranberry juice and the zesty citrus complemented the smooth velvety undertones of the vodka in a dream-like fashion.
But back to the present and to our food! For starters, we shared the halloumi mezze and the jalapeno poppers. Both dishes were beautifully presented on large, white platters. The poppers were the perfect bite-sized zingers. Wrapped in bacon and served with butternut crisps. I don’t need to sing the praises of the humble, but tantalising combination of cream cheese and spicy peppers, but I could easily have finished a few plates of these myself. Super addictive, and perfect whilst sipping a cocktail. The halloumi mezze was just as good. Creamy home-made hummus and refreshingly green tzatziki dips, served with pita bread slices, calamata-style marinated olives and generous wedges of salty, grilled halloumi. I was seriously doubting all my life decisions before this point. I wanted this experience to last forever.
By now, the lights have dimmed, the crowds were larger, the chatter a bit louder, the music a bit more energetic. There was a pleasant hum at Café Manhattan, without threatening my eardrums or sanity. I could feel my boot starting to tap to the tune and my shoulders did a little spontaneous wiggle.
My eyes skimmed over the patrons. It proudly boasted a clientèle as diverse and cosmopolitan as our Mother City. There were no boundaries or exceptions; everyone met here around a common goal; enjoying this fragile thing called life. Enjoying good food, good company, good vibes and good music all under one roof.
Our main courses arrived promptly and steaming. Karl was very excited about his 300g grass-fed sirloin steak on cauliflower mash. It looked every bit the star of the show, dressed in a fragrant tomato and walnut salsa. Again, simple food, with a touch of elegance. That is what I appreciate of Café Manhattan the most; it gives patrons a chance to experience elements of fine dining at affordable prices. The steak was good quality, without any cheap basting sauces to disguise the natural sweetness of the meat. The salsa was completely unexpected and elevated the unassuming steak dish to a graceful meal. My “burger of the day” was infused with smoky paprika, served with a spicy tomato relish and topped with fresh basil leaves. It was simply beautiful. And despite having a steak in front of him, it made Karl jealous!
So, we ate and we spoke and we ate and we laughed and we ate. We sipped our cocktails and delighted in this unlooked-for Saturday night adventure in the middle of Cape Town. Café Manhattan restored my faith in the “Saturday night rendezvous” culture. I found a place where one could do exactly that – indulge in the party vibe, without compromising on quality or your personal space. Where stick-to-the-ribs food is presented with flair and the barmen can mix proper, cowboy cocktails. Where you can chill and meet and eat and make decisions. Where you can lay your hat down for a few hours and give your feet a break from the stirrups of the working week.
(This post was sponsored by the Madame Zingara Group who generously wined and dined us for the evening at Café Manhattan. All opinions and words are my own.)