When a very dear and close friend wanted to meet up for a long overdue brunch, I was so happy that I could finally pull Brass Bell out of my box of magic tricks. This iconic Kalk Bay institution has literally been on my road to and from work every day for many years, but I have never been. I was waiting for the right occasion, the right person. I decided this is the perfect place to take a breath, have a heart-to-heart and just enjoy the views.
Setting the scene
James Beard, famous American chef and cookbook author, once said: “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” I found this quote to resonate a lot with me, looking back on our brunch at Brass Bell that day. People bond over food; they laugh and cry over food. They plan and dream and argue over food. They sit in silence over food. They celebrate over food. It’s the one thing in this world that we all must do; albeit to different extents. It’s the ingredient that binds us; and once we’ve bonded, that’s when the magic happens.
To my utmost embarrassment, I never really completely appreciated where Brass Bell was situated. I knew it was in Kalk Bay Main Road close to the train station, but I could never spot it. Little did I know I had to duck underneath the railway tracks to enter the magic world on the seafront.
Brass Bell, at first glance, is so much more than just another seafront restaurant; it’s a full experience. From the sandy beach bar, to the panoramic indoor eating areas, it boasts with multiple dining venues on several terraced levels, as well a bar and other attractions for the ultimate summer experience.
Built in 1939, it’s a far cry from the humble little bistro it started out as. I walked around in utter amazement, taking in the gorgeously reflective tidal pools, the happy flurry of staff setting up for the Sunday diners, the incredible views over the ocean; the beautiful beach house décor. We were supposed to have a table outside, but it was a bit chilly, so we ended up with a cozy window table upstairs in what I know now to be The Pavillion, right next to 180-degree panoramic windows over the tidal pools and ocean. It was still early, but groups of hungry breakfasters were slowly trickling in.
An intricately tiled staircase leads you up to a space that reminds of an olden day barn loft. Once you reach the top of the stairs, The Pavillion proudly opens in front of you with wall to wall windows, a pitched roof with exposed wooden rafters, and a certain quiet elegance about it. The venue is completely understated in its minimalistic approach, but has that very distinct beach-house feel with shades of blue and grey being the predominant colour palette.
Now, we all know how I feel about a pretty coffee. I was childishly excited when our waitress brought us our steaming cappuccinos. There is no better way to start your Sunday morning than with a lion-hearted cappuccino, or a flower coffee. The barista has mad skills, and delights in sending out different coffees with every order. I still wanted to meet him, but completely forgot when I left all loved-up at the end of our brunch.
As we chatted, I marvelled at the multi-level, multi-venue eatery that is Brass Bell. Never before did I know of this beachy palace right on the water’s edge. There is an expansive covered patio to the one side (called the Oyster Deck), more beach dining spaces on the other side (like Water’s Edge); a snug little pub called The Cabin and clusters of tables tucked into every corner that offers their signature panoramic sea views. And not forgetting The Amazing Beach @ The Bell – a bunch of casual sea-side tables by the main entrance, wedged between the tidal pool and a massive sandy play area for the kiddies. Everyone will find a seat here to their heart’s desire.
You can peruse all their dining areas here, because I just feel I could never do all the venues justice. Having said all that, I was completely smitten with the smart-casual feel of The Pavillion, and was very grateful that my first dining experience at Brass Bell landed me up here.
Brass Bell only serves breakfast on weekends and public holidays. Their breakfast offerings are classic in its approach, with a vast variety of egg, bacon and toast options. They also offer lighter meals for those looking for something less sturdy, and also a handful of veggie options. We both simultaneously decided on The Golden Reef – two poached eggs served on a bed of sliced avocado, topped with crispy bacon, sprinkled with creamy Danish feta and fresh basil leaves. This is right to my taste.
When our food arrived, I had to resist the urge to clap my hands together in glee and pull out my party blower. It looked amazing: fresh, colourful, healthy, and stunningly presented. This was a plate of food I wanted to eat. The creamy rocket and Danish feta was perfectly offset against the slightly mustardy rocket leaves. The pops of cherry tomato and crispy bacon sprinkles added a certain indulgence to the poached eggs. The combination of fresh basil leaves and basil pesto added a green freshness to the meal that left you feeling good about your life choices.
So, for the next hour we chatted and ate and drank pretty coffee, but we also spent quiet moments staring out at the hypnotic waves and mirrored tidal pool. We reflected on the overcast skies, on life and love and its fragility. We celebrated life; but we also mourned life.
Admittedly, my photos are very moody and not very summery at all. It was an overcast day, with rain threatening to break loose from the heavens. I’ve promised myself to go back to experience the venue in it’s full summer attire. Brass Bell lends itself for some incredible photo opportunities; make sure you take your camera with and spend a few minutes walking along the wall of the tidal pool to get sweeping angles over the bay and mountains. From there you will appreciate exactly how close to the water the restaurant has been built!
I left later the afternoon feeling proud and content. Proud of this beautiful showcase of first class fare right on our doorstep in the deep South and content in the company I kept for the morning. It was the perfect place for a lazy catch up that requires nothing more than a commitment to spend time, a commitment to good food and delicious coffee. Not a very tall order, in my books!
I’d love to experience Brass Bell over season, and with my house just around the corner, I think I might indulge myself in this pleasure every now and again! I can imagine scores of sun-seekers casually draping themselves over the beachy tables, sipping drinks and laughing merrily. This is definitely not my first and last visit to Brass Bell; in fact, I’m already planning my return trip!
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.